Review: Luke: A Commentary

Fowl_Ephesians_NTL CoverJohn T. Carroll is the Harriet Robertson Fitts Memorial Professor of New Testament and Director of the Program for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Union Presbyterian Seminary. Carrol received an M.Div. and Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from Princeton Theological Seminary, and has since spent the bulk of his academic career primarily within the arena of Lukan studies. Carroll authored and/or edited a number of books, including, Response to the End of History: Eschatology and Situation in Luke-Acts (1998), The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity (1995), The Return of Jesus in Early Christianity (2000), and The Word in This World: Essays in New Testament Exegesis and Theology (2004). Carroll has also published a long list of articles on Luke-Acts and various topics within New Testament Studies. Most recently, Carroll has contributed this present commentary, a good-sized volume on the Gospel of Luke, released as part of the critically acclaimed New Testament Library series: Luke: A Commentary 

Carroll is a fairly well-known scholarly voice within the world of New Testament and Lukan studies, and this commentary visibly parades his expertise. The commentary begins with a bibliography of up-to-date commentaries, monographs, books, and essays related to the Gospel of Luke. If you enjoy these sections, peruse them often, and are well acquainted with Luke-Acts material this section will be reviewable and up-to-date, but far from comprehensive. If none of the above describes your interest, then you can rest assured that Carroll has at least provided a solid and current bibliography of the Third Gospel to catapult your studies. Subsequently, Carroll provides the reader with a useful introduction. Carroll briefly surveys the traditional introductory categories (i.e. authorship, date, purpose, etc.), and addresses how to approach the reading of the Third Gospel and previews the central theological and ethical concerns and commitments therein. The reader will find the introductory section to be a goldmine of helpful information for interacting with Carroll in the commentary ahead. It is an essential and recommended first stop.

The commentary itself is wrought with exegetical and theological insight. Carroll is excellent when it understanding the literary themes and intertextuality within the Gospel of Luke. Each section in the commentary is based on the authors original translation of the Greek text and littered with textual notes. Carroll follows closely with the textual basis of the NA28 and notes clearly when he favors alternative readings. Interestingly, in a number of sections in the commentary Carroll favors the shorter readings attested by the Western text, especially Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis (D). This is seen in his commentary and translation of several verses within Luke 22 and 24. For example, Carroll does not find Luke 22:43-44 original, but provides a lengthy textual note detailing his decision (p. 444). Because of the flexible text choice within the commentary, many readers will be reluctant to engage Carroll’s work. But this would be an unwarranted endeavor. If anything this should provide added value to your library.

Still the textual decisions may not be the only hindrance for the conservative reader. Carroll affirms “Luke” as the author, but neglects to affirm traditional Lukan authorship. In other words, Carroll names “Luke” as the author but is unwilling to tell affirm that the “Luke” writing the gospel is the individual traditionally understood to be the author (p. 2). Moreover, Carroll is comfortable dating the Third Gospel well into the early second century (75-125 CE). This assertion is largely based on his assumption that Luke consulted the Gospel of Mark (a fair assumption), and that Mark is dated around 70 CE. Therefore, Luke would have had to consult Mark sometime after 70 CE. The problem most will recognize is that there is no real difficulty dating Mark in the mid-50’s. In other words, Luke could have still consulted Mark and completed his gospel account by the early 60’s. Many conservative scholars have argued this point well and in much more depth. But, similar to the textual issue in the prior paragraph, to overlook interaction with Carroll because of these disagreements would be naïve and unwarranted.

Luke: A Commentary is an up-to-date examination of one of the most significant accounts of the person and work of Jesus Christ in all of Scripture. John T. Carroll has provided a well-researched presentation of the current conversation among New Testament scholars, and added additional ground with his sensitivity to literary themes and intertextuality. Carroll’s translation and textual notes are indispensable, and his selective favoritism of Codex Bezae is interesting and helpful for the trained reader. If you are looking for a strong commentary on the Gospel of Luke from a critical perspective, then John T. Carroll has provided you with a commentary that cannot be overlooked. It will be off my bookshelf often.

 

I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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Review: The Chosen People

9780830840830The Chosen People: Election, Paul and Second Temple Judaism by A. Chadwick Thornhill (PhD, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary) is an exploration assigned the task of carefully guiding the reader through the early Jewish literature of the Second Temple period, specifically to examine how it discusses the concept of election in relation to the people of God. Thornhill seeks to answer two foundational questions: (1) How did Jews during the Second Temple period understand the nature of their election? And (2) how does one’s understanding of Jewish idea(s) of election influence how one might understand the key Pauline texts that address election? (p. 20-21).

For Thornhill, the early Jewish literature of the Second Temple period (namely the Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocryphal, and Pseudepigraphal works) predominantly display an understanding of the concept of election that is firmly positioned both corporately and conditionally. Still, when the concept of election explicitly relates to the individual, Thornhill argues that the literature of the Second Temple period predictably emphasizes the character or role of the individual, rather than the salvation. Although Thornhill rightly acknowledges the artificial nature of distinguishing between “individual” and “collective” from the text itself (p. 28).

Thornhill does an outstanding job systematically walking the reader through the literature of the Second Temple period in relation to the concepts of election. The reader will certainly learn a lot as the framework is being built to discuss Paul. Nevertheless, as someone who is not well-read in Second Temple literature, I often found myself wondering if any literature of the period actually disagreed with the central premise of the book. Of course, this may be the very point that Thornhill is seeking to bring to light. Still, the reader does not encounter much by the way of interaction with Jewish texts that seemingly oppose the argued concepts of election, nor is much attention given to opposing interpretive positions of the literature.

Following the construction of the framework of the Second Temple period, Thornhill directs his attention towards a number of important Pauline “election” passages. If the reader is familiar with the soteriological debate that stands in the foreground of these passages, then Thornhill’s exegetical conclusions will be nothing new—how he gets there may be a different story. For example, Thornhill argues for a corporate election view “in Christ” of Ephesians 1-2 based largely on the verbal forms in vv. 1:3-12 (p. 180), as well as a corporate election view of Romans 9. Thornhill functions extremely well within the framework of first-century Jewish thought as he exegetes the Pauline passages, and argues quite persuasively for his intended position.

To be honest, I was a bit surprised not to find any references or interaction with The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23 by John Piper (Baker Academic, second edition, 1993). This was one of the main disappointments for me. The judicious exegesis of Romans 9:1-23 presented by Piper in The Justification of God is in many ways definitive in the theological community Thornhill is arguing against. Thomas Schreiner is well-represented and engaged, and to Thornhill’s credit, but not a word is given about the important work by Piper. Nevertheless, Thornhill’s work is very well-documented and his interaction is admirable.

The Chosen People has offered the scholarly community a unique and important contribution to the conversation within Pauline studies. Thornhill has effectively probed through the forest of an old theological debate with fresh and exciting lenses. Even someone, like myself, who disagrees with the many of the conclusions that Thornhill advocates will find great benefit in this book. It has helped me re-engage a seemingly stagnant discussion with a renewed perspective and desire to invest more time in the understanding of early Jewish literature of the Second Temple period for New Testament studies. Those interested in a similar fate will embrace this book with open arms. The Chosen People comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review:Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian Context

00_PICKWICK_TemplateThe Bauer Thesis is an undergirding hypothesis running through the minds of individuals worldwide, but especially in the western world. It has been popularized on a large scale by scholars such as Bart D. Ehrman, Elaine Pagels, and Karen King. In fact, the Bauer Thesis is so widespread that it even witnesses some acknowledging support among laity and leadership in the Christian church. Still, the majority of individuals are familiar with the Bauer Thesis without even knowing it. So, what is the Bauer Thesis? The Bauer Thesis is a theory of Christian origins developed by the prolific intellectual voice of German scholar Walter Bauer. In essence, as Bauer peered over the landscape of early Christianity he saw a chasm of diversity with many forms of Christian orthodoxy and heresy. Bauer argued that the existence of a central Christian orthodoxy was nowhere to be found, rather with the superior influence of the Roman church, what we know today as Christianity is merely the outpouring of the victory of one form of Christianity over many others.

Many challenges have been directed towards the claims of the Bauer Thesis and its wide-range of scholarly support. Most recently, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian Context: Reconsidering the Bauer Thesis edited by Paul A. Hartog (Pickwick, 2015) seeks to reevaluate the grounds for Bauer’s assessment of early Christianity through the interdisciplinary effort of both New Testament and Patristic studies. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian Context has brought together specialists from both fields of study to reexamine the Bauer Thesis “by taking a fresh look at orthodoxy and heresy, unity and diversity, theology and ideology, and rhetoric and polemic within early Christian context” (p. 4-5).

The essays are rich with content, “supplemented by post-Bauer discoveries and refined by post-Bauer scholarship, [and] reveal new insights through careful attention to historical detail and geographical particularity” (p. 5). If the reader is unfamiliar with Walter Bauer and his contribution to biblical scholarship, the introduction by Hartog and the first chapter by Rodney J. Decker has provided an excellent overview of the Bauer and the Bauer Thesis in general. Decker also provides an annotated list of scholarly contention with the Bauer Thesis. These two chapters work well in orienting the reader in the right direction. While all ten essays are collectively beneficial in their own respect, some sure highlights for the reader will include an essay by William Varner titled “Baur to Bauer and Beyond: Early Jewish Christianity and Modern Scholarship,” and an essay by Bryan M. Litfin titled “Apostolic Tradition and the Rule of Faith in Light of the Bauer Thesis.”

The Bauer Thesis has proven itself to be a lasting plague upon the conversations that surround early Christianity. Despite dozens upon dozens of critiques directed at Bauer and the growing number of contemporary proponents to the Bauer Thesis, the conversation shows little signs of slowing down in the near future. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian Context: Reconsidering the Bauer Thesis edited by Paul A. Hartog helpfully brings together an interdisciplinary team of scholars unified in the effort of honest discussion about the landscape of early Christianity. If you are looking for an up-to-date engagement with one of the most important and widespread theories related to both New Testament and Patristic studies, then Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian Context will provide you with a wealth interaction that is certain to keep your appetite under control.

 

I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: The Rule of Faith

PrintEverett Ferguson is no stranger to the many discussions that center around the life and theology of early Christianity. Ferguson is Emeritus Professor of Church History at Abilene Christian University and holds numerous academic and scholarly honors. Ferguson has a doctoral degree with distinction in History and Philosophy of Religion from Harvard University. He is also the author of a long list of important works pertaining to the history of Christianity, including, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, 2nd edition (Routledge, 1997), Church History, Volume One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context, 2nd edition (Zondervan, 2013), Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context (Zondervan, 2013), and Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 3rd edition (Eerdmans, 2003).

Most recently, Ferguson has brought together a small but welcomed addition to the growing Cascade Companion series. The Rule of Faith: A Guide fits well within the overall aim of this ambitious series, as it couples academic rigor and readability with intentional precision. Ferguson presents the “rule of faith” (or regula fidei) as a necessary companion to the well-known creeds of early Christendom and something that developed as an outcome of the written Scriptures. It is the summary of apostolic preaching and teaching, found most authoritatively in the canon of Scripture (p. xi). But, interestingly enough, as Ferguson articulates clearly in the initial chapters of the book, the “rule of faith” obtained ecumenical support far before the fourth and fifth centuries. In other words, Ferguson demonstrates without a shadow of a doubt, a clear consensus among early Christian writers concerning some of the most foundational tenets of the Christian faith prior to the traditionally agreed upon date for the canon of Scripture.

Ferguson begins the journey with a survey of the “rule of faith” in early Christian literature and guides the reader through the fluidity of terminology that unites the underlying concept among the primary sources. Chapter one and two are necessary starting points for the unfamiliar reader, but I think Ferguson’s handling of the passages will benefit the familiar reader as well. Chapter three brings clarity to the concept as Ferguson guides the reader through interpretation of the “rule of faith” among the various early Christian authors. This section is well written and appropriately placed within the book. Chapter four outlines the history of the study of the “rule of faith” and familiarizes the reader with the various theories that emerge within the discussion. This section is helpful and builds a context for the fifth chapter in which Ferguson carefully summarizes and articulates the function of the “rule of faith” in the life and practice of the early Christian communities. Lastly, Ferguson applies the academic investigation of the “rule of faith” to the contemporary church, suggesting it’s usefulness in bringing to bear a succinct statement of core doctrine, discerning a center from the periphery in Christian doctrine, testing teaching, as well as keeping the focus on Christ and his story.

The Rule of Faith: A Guide is a helpful little book that successfully examines an often overlooked reality within early Christianity. Despite the lack of the Bible as we know it today, the early community of God’s people overtly gathered themselves around a common core of beliefs—the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Everett Ferguson was an ideal candidate for the task that a book of this caliber required, and his contribution is sure to be enjoyed by readers of all educational backgrounds. It’s an intentionally short read that is guaranteed to perk interest in the right places. If you are looking for an intriguing and well-written study on one of the most foundational aspects of early Christianity, then look no further.

 

I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box

527176Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box is the result of the intentional gathering of some of today’s leading theologians and biblical scholars for the purpose of training and equipping the church with expert guidance. This collection includes four introductory books that will provide the reader with everything needed to understand the Bible and apply its teachings to everyday life—Christian Beliefs (Zondervan, 2005), Journey into God’s Word (Zondervan, 2008), Introducing the Old Testament (Zondervan, 2012), and Introducing the New Testament (Zondervan, 2010). Each of these four books are abridgments of larger works that have functioned as standard seminary textbooks for years. While Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box is certainly no substitute for a seminary education, it does present itself as a useful product to be used within in the context of adult education. However, before I speak to the usefulness of the product, I would first like to summarize the four books included.


283692Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know
by Wayne A. Grudem (edited by Elliot Grudem) is an abridged version of Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith (Zondervan, 1999), which is itself an abridgment of Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Zondervan, 1994). Both earlier editions remain bestselling textbooks for both undergraduate and seminary courses. In essence, Christian Beliefs is a refined collection of the twenty most need-to-know beliefs of the Christian faith. Elliot Grudem has done a fantastic job synthesizing the larger work of his father, making it more accessible for the target audience. The book also includes two helpful appendices. The first includes historic confessions of faith (i.e. Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Chalcedonian Creed, and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy), and the second includes an annotated bibliography of various systematic theologies for further study.

Journey-Into-God-s-Word-Duvall-J-Scott-9780310275138Journey Into God’s Word: Your Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays is an abridgment of Grasping God’s Word, 2nd ed. (Zondervan, 2005; third edition in 2012). Duvall and Hays are both excellent teachers and their textbook is used at the college and seminary level around the English-speaking world. Journey Into God’s Word is the product of a frequent request of the authors by pastors and leaders for something more accessible to the local church (p. 9). Consequently, Journey Into God’s Word was created with for the adult education setting, and the content therein displays such consistently. It is both accessible and practical for the average reader. Moreover, for the leader or teacher, Duvall and Hays have a suggested 8-week teaching schedule for optimal use.

51THcwHobLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Introducing the Old Testament: A Short Guide to its History and Message by Tremper Longman III is based on the bestselling textbook An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Zondervan, 2006). Longman uniquely and individually covers all the Old Testament books, discussing each book’s content, authorship and date, genre, and connection to the gospel. This last section, connection, creates a helpful and unique reading experience for the reader. Helpful in the sense that Longman guides the reader to the immediate benefits of studying the Old Testament, unique in the sense that few Old Testament introductions provide this information with the precision of Introducing the Old Testament. This makes comprehension and enjoyment an immediate benefit for the reader.

Introducing_the_New_Testament-_A_Short_Guide_to_Its_History_and_MessageIntroducing the New Testament: A Short Guide to its History and Message by D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo (edited by Andrew David Naselli) is based on the widely used textbook An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. (Zondervan, 2005). Similar to the companion volume on the Old Testament, Carson and Moo guide the reader through the New Testament as they individually discuss all of the New Testament books, including, content, authorship, genre, date, place of composition, audience, purpose, and contribution to faith. This last section, contribution, like the volume on the Old Testament, brings immediate application and benefit to the study of the New Testament. Each chapter closes with a helpful bibliography to guide the reader into further study.

As director of adult education at my local church, I was immediately intrigued by Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box. I had previously used Christian Beliefs for a course that I taught but never required the students to purchase the book. It functioned more as a personal guide for gauging the appropriate level of content for the course rather than a textbook. Still, after the course was finished I wished that my students had something that could catapult them in the right direction for further engagement. In other words, I wish that I used the book more immediately in class and had the students purchase a copy for themselves. The other volumes in this collection display an equal level of usefulness, and at approximately 160 pages each is easily digestible in an 8-week course.

More recently, I have taken up the task of developing a sturdier foundation for our adult education program. This has involved writing new course curriculum, worksheets, PowerPoint presentations, etc. The goal has been to build out 3-4 foundational course to function as the framework of our adult education effort, and Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box just made that task a whole lot easier. Churches and members will now have the option to purchase the box set, including all four volumes, and the students will have then bought the course material for the foundational classes being offered. This would work extremely well accompanied with a certificate of completion for each course or the entire core program.

Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box includes everything the reader will need to learn the basics of Christian theology, biblical interpretation, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. This collection brings together four introductory books by some of today’s leading theologians and biblical scholars. Each of the four books is an abridgment of a larger and more technical work, and each of them remains widely used in colleges and seminaries around the world. While Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box is certainly no substitute for a seminary education, it is an ideal collection of core resources for the context of Christian adult education. Still, even if you are not a teacher or pastor looking to bring substance to your adult education program, this collection will provide you a sure foothold for understanding the Bible and applying its teachings to your life.

 

I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Introducing World Religions

22504659Charles E. Farhadian is professor of world religions and Christian Mission at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. Farhadian has studied at Seattle Pacific University (BA), Yale University (MDIV), and Boston University (PhD). He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Christianity, Islam, and Nationalism in Indonesia (Routledge, 2005), Christian Worship Worldwide: Expanding Horizons, Deepening Practices (Eerdmans, 2007), The Testimony Project: Papua (Deiyai Press, 2007), Introducing World Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), and the Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion (Oxford University Press, 2014). Most recently, Farhadian has released what is sure to be the standard undergraduate-level introduction to world religions from the Christian perspective—Introducing World Religions: A Christian Engagement (Baker Academic, 2015).

Introducing World Religions begins with an excellent introduction to prepare the reader for the forthcoming journey into the religious landscape of the contemporary world. This initial section, the persistence of religion, appropriately positions the reader and introduces the study of religion as an academic discipline. First, Farhadian acknowledges the difficulty that arises when one seeks to definitively define “religion.”  Consequently, Farhadian follows the eight characteristics of religion articulated by Watson King (Encyclopedia of Religion, “Religion,” 12:284): (1) traditionalism, (2) myth and symbols, (3) ideas of salvation, (4) sacred objects and places, (5) sacred actions, (6) sacred writings, (7) sacred community, and (8) sacred experience. Second, Farhadian briefly explores the numerous contexts in which the study of religion is discussed (psychological, social, cultural, historical, and environmental), as well as the various theories of religion (psychological, sociological, anthropological, and economical) articulated and affected by figures such as Sigmund Freud, Emile Durkheim, and Karl Marx.

Introducing World Religion covers eight major world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism and Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and dedicates an entire chapter to new religious movements (i.e. Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, etc.). Each chapter has four dedicated sections (contemporary snapshot, origins and concepts, worship and practice, and modern movements) and closes with an annotated timeline, key terms, and a further reading bibliography. Throughout each individual chapter, the reader will encounter a number of important terms that Farhadian has highlighted and defined. These terms are also listed at the end of each chapter and included in the glossary with a brief definition for quick reference. Also, as the subtitle alludes, the reader will encounter frequent “Christian Reflection” sections in which Farhadian helps aid the reader to think through various issues from a Christian worldview. These sections are brief and differ in usefulness, but the reader is sure to appreciate the sensitivity of their inclusion for the overall purpose of the book.

There are always limitations with the amount of content that can be included in an introductory work such as Introducing World Religions. This is especially the case when an author is looking to engage with other religious systems from a specific worldview. Still, I believe that Farhadian has maintained the needed balance between introduction and reflection with precision, and the reader will benefit greatly from his attention to detail. Furthermore, consistently Farhadian exhibits a clear desire to engage the landscape of world religions from a Christian worldview, and do so in such a way that the reader is encouraged to think critically as they interact with other religious systems near and far. The content within the book is clear and well organized for this task. Add a whole host of full-color illustrations, photographs, tables, maps, and sidebar discussions, and you have the recipe for a world-class textbook.

If you are a teacher or professor looking for an engaging textbook that will help you students shape a Christian worldview while engaging world religions, then Introducing Word Religions by Charles E. Farhadian is certain to be a welcomed addition to your course curriculum. If you are a student, pastor, or interested layman who is looking for a solid introduction to the religious landscape of the contemporary world, then Farhadian has provided a top-contender. Introducing World Religions is clear, stimulating, and bursting with useful information for readers of all backgrounds. It comes highly recommended.

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament

22522806Philip W. Comfort is a noted scholar, author, and editor. Comfort has a Master’s degree in English Literature/Greek from Ohio State University and Ph.D. in Theology from Fairfax University. More recently, Comfort completed his second doctorate under noted textual critic Jacobus H. Petzer at the University of South Africa. He has taught at several academic institutions, including, Wheaton College, Trinity Episcopal Seminary, Columbia International University, and Coastal Carolina University. Currently, Comfort is senior editor of Bible reference at Tyndale House Publishers. He is author or co-author of numerous books, including The Origins of the Bible (Tyndale, 2003), The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Tyndale, 2001), New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Tyndale, 2008), and Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (B&H Academic, 2005). Most recently, Comfort released the much needed and highly appreciated, A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament (Kregel Academic, 2015).

A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament seeks to bring the reader behind the underlying text of the Greek New Testament. It is here that Comfort carefully guides the reader through the ever-changing landscape of manuscript evidence that presently make up the critical editions of the Greek New Testament. The book opens with a canonical listing of early New Testament manuscripts. The list is sorted in canonical order and provides a helpful up-to-date glance at the earliest papyri and codices discussed within the commentary section of the book. In Chapter one, Comfort provides a brief introduction to the manuscripts and text of the New Testament, as well as a detailed discussion regarding the use of the nomina sacra (also see the Appendix article). If the reader has previously read Comfort’s former book, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (B&H Academic, 2005), much of this section will be a review. But, if this is the first interaction with this material it is an essential starting point. This is especially true with the section on nomina sacra, as the commentary that follows interacts with this phenomenon often.

In Chapter two, Comfort provides a lengthy annotated list of New Testament manuscripts. This chapter will prove to be an excellent reference guide for the student and teacher. Comfort provides the reader with an up-to-date bullet pointed list for each significant New Testament manuscript and details the location of discovery, text found in the manuscript, the present location of the manuscript, date and explanation of dating method, as well as the textual character of the manuscript itself. At 83 pages, the annotated list alone is well worth the price of the book. The remainder of the commentary focuses on the relevant passages of the New Testament and comments on characteristics of the manuscripts themselves—where they agree and disagree, where the scribe uses the nomina sacra if significant and what manuscripts used it, where textual expansion or interpolations may have been involved and why, etc. This section is why most of the reader will have purchased the book, and for good reason. The commentary itself is brief, judicious, and well-informed.

I have read and enjoyed almost everything that Comfort has written. I appreciate the intentionality behind his work to bring the complexities of textual criticism to an understandable level. This is important for readers of all background and occupation. A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament continues this legacy well and the reader is certain to appreciate the care taken to make this a reality. Also, as stated above, I think the annotated list of New Testament manuscripts is a welcomed addition to the commentary. This is assuredly not the only place such list could be found if the reader is interested, but Comfort’s list is up-to-date and extensive in its discussion. Not to mention, it makes a quick reference much more beneficial as the reader works through the commentary for any particular passage being studied. On the other hand, I was disappointed by the use of endnotes rather than footnotes. Of course, this is a personal preference and will not hinder the continual use of the commentary, but I know that I am not alone in this preference. Footnotes are much easier to consult and make the reading experience more enjoyable for the attentive reader. Nevertheless, at least the endnotes are located to the rear of the chapter rather than the book.

A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament by Philip W. Comfort is an excellent commentary that was birthed out of a noble desire. It brings the reader into unchartered territory for most commentaries and unearths a goldmine of riches within the New Testament manuscripts themselves. This is a much needed and highly appreciated work. If you are a student, pastor, teacher, or interested laity, Comfort has yet again delivered an essential resource for your growing library. It will no doubt be off my bookshelf often.

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.