Review: Commentary on Romans (BTCP)

32611690David G. Peterson is Emeritus Senior Research Fellow and Lecture in New Testament at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. Peterson has an MA from the University of Sydney, a BD from the University of London, and a PhD from the University of Manchester. Peterson is a prolific scholar and the author of numerous books, including a commentary on the Acts of the Apostles in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series and Possessed by God: A New Testament Theology of Sanctification and Holiness in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series. Most recently, Peterson has released a much-anticipated commentary on Romans in the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series.

Commentary on Romans begins with a somewhat brief introduction to Paul’s infamous epistle. Peterson addresses some of the usual introductory issues, but surprisingly omits meaningful interaction with others (e.g. authorship, date, etc.). Peterson provides useful detail concerning the character and structure of the epistle, including comments on various approaches to the epistle. The purpose of Romans, according to Peterson, “was to secure the support of the Roman Christians for his proposed mission to Spain . . . [thus] Paul’s theological, pastoral, and mission agendas were brought together in the writing of this extraordinary letter” (26). The introduction closes with a short outline of the letter, which structures the commentary that follows.

The “Biblical and Theological Themes” section that characterizes the series immediately follows the introduction. This is unique from the other volumes, which both position the section after to the commentary proper. Peterson does a phenomenal job communicating the major themes of the epistle, including Israel and God’s election, God’s promises to Abraham, God as Trinity, the Gospel, Israel and the Church, and more. That said, while Peterson provides readers an excellent survey of the major biblical-theological themes of Romans, those familiar with the other volumes in the series will find his treatment somewhat bland. The section is significantly shorter and the treatment isn’t nearly as consistent as the others. These thoughts could be the result of reading more broadly on the epistle and its theology, or it could be a familiarity with the depth of the other volumes. Regardless, it’s mediocre at best.

The commentary proper is where Peterson demonstrates the value of careful exegesis that has been informed by countless hours of biblical-theological reflection. To be fair, the task of writing a commentary on Romans is no easy undertaking. Not because the epistle is difficult or long (which it is both), but because the amount of material on the market overflows with rich insight and usefulness. That said, the mere fact that Peterson has written a commentary that carts a potential to stand out among the crowd is impressive in itself. Peterson is strong on grammatical matters and he does a tremendous job providing accessible and insightful information to the reader. Peterson is also intentional to keep the major themes ever-before the reader, offering a depth that doesn’t sacrifice breadth.

Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation: Commentary on Romans by David G. Peterson is not just another commentary on Romans. Peterson is both clear and accessible without conceding to the neglect that with matters most—careful and informed exegesis that is firmly grounded in the biblical-theological themes of the Bible. The shortcomings of this volume are largely confined to the introduction and the “Biblical and Theological Themes” section. Beyond that the riches await the diligence of the reader. If you are looking for a commentary on the book of Romans that strikes a balance between scholarly depth and practical accessibility, then Peterson will be a welcomed add to your library.

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