Review: I, II, & III John (NTL)

3791899Judith M. Lieu is Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge in England. Lieu is the current President of the Society of New Testament Studies, as well as the University Gender Equality Champion with special responsibility for Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Lieu is the author of numerous books and the Editor of the journal of New Testament Studies.

I, II, & III John: A Commentary is a classic example of the New Testament Library series. The commentary begins with an introduction that covers all three Johannine Epistles and tackles the standard introductory matters with clarity. Lieu is well aligned with the current critical consensus concerning the date and authorship of the epistles, and thus concludes no compositional relationship with the author of the Fourth Gospel.

The commentary proper stands in the top rank of critical commentaries on the Johannine Epistles. Lieu is judicious in her interaction with the text and appears to be well-acquainted with the peripheral issues. Two features deserve mention here. First and foremost, like the other volumes in the NTL series, Lieu provides the reader with an original translation and textual notes. I have stated this many times before and I will state it again, I have continually found this to be one of the most helpful features of the NTL series, and Lieu does not disappoint. Second, the exegetical handling of the text is brief, pointed, and full (336 pp.). Lieu demonstrates a keen awareness of the theological issues and firmly ground them in the text of the Johannine epistles. That said, more discussion surrounding textual issues would have been welcomed.

There is no shortage in sight when it comes to choosing a commentary on the Johannine Epistles, and I, II, & III John: A Commentary by Judith M. Lieu is an option well worth discovering. Lieu is both clear and to-the-point in her exegesis, and her presentation is helpfully critical in an approach will compliment other available options. While I don’t see this volume superseding Marshall (1978), Smalley (1984), or Kruse (2000) in usefulness, I do see it being positioned as one of the better, more recent examinations of the Johannine Epistles from a critical perspective. It comes highly recommended!

Review: Ephesians (NTL)

13746539Stephen E. Fowl is Professor and Chair of Theology in the Department of Theology at Loyola University, Maryland. Fowl received his MA from Wheaton Graduate School and PhD from the University of Sheffield, where he completed his dissertation on the Christ-Hymn material in the Pauline corpus. Fowl is the author of numerous books and articles, including a commentary on Philippians in the Two Horizons New Testament Commentary series. Most recently, Fowl joined the ranks of the top contributors in the New Testament Library series with his excellent volume on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians: A Commentary is confidently positioned as one of the most useful volumes to arise out of the New Testament Library (NTL) series in recent years. The commentary begins with a quick introduction that tackles all of the expected introductory matters with precision. Fowl is fairly conservative in his approach, but he hesitates to take a firm position on Pauline authorship. Fowl explains, “I find the arguments so finely balanced that my decision about this could vary from day to day” (p. 28). One of the more interesting angles Fowl takes to discuss the authorship of the letter is the use of the Old Testament and its relationship to the undisputed letters of Paul. Fowl concludes the introduction with a section on the recipients and occasion of the letter, and again, he remains largely agnostic after evaluating the evidence.

The commentary proper is judiciously presented. Two features deserve mention here. First and foremost, like the other volumes in the NTL series, Fowl provides the reader with an original translation and textual notes. I’ve continually found this to be one of the most helpful features of the NTL series, and Fowl does not disappoint. Fowl’s textual notes are lengthy and well positioned to provide the keen reader with the information needed to establish the sometimes difficult text. Second, the exegetical handling of the text is brief and pointed, and Fowl quickly moves towards theological exposition. This shift in focus will be predictable for those familiar with Fowl’s work within the theological interpretation of Scripture movement.

There is no shortage in sight when it comes to choosing a commentary on the book of Ephesians. Still, with the market as saturated as it is, Ephesians: A Commentary by Stephen E. Fowl is an option well worth exploring. Fowl is both clear and to-the-point in his exegesis of the text, and his presentation is one of the more balanced critical approaches to the letter. While I don’t see this volume superseding Hoehner (2002), Lincoln (1990), or Thielman (2010) in its usefulness, I foresee its use being well-positioned for the busy pastor looking for theological application that is rooted exegetically within the text. If you are in the market for a well-written commentary that will get you into the text and theological insights quickly, Fowl’s work will outfit you well. It comes highly recommended!

Review: I & II Timothy and Titus (NTL)

14876101Raymond F. Collins is a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Providence and Professor Emeritus of New Testament at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Collins has authored numerous books, including several New Testament commentaries, such as First Corinthians in the Sacra Pagina series (2007) and Second Corinthians in the Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament series (2013). Collins has written broadly in the field of New Testament and Pauline Studies, and thus the present commentary on the Pastoral Epistles is situated firmly within his academic wheelhouse.

As part of the highly acclaimed New Testament Library series, indeed the inaugural volume of the series, I & II Timothy and Titus: A Commentary is exemplar in almost every respect. Collins opens with a brief introduction to the Pastoral Epistles before treating each epistle individually. Unsurprisingly, Collins assumes the so-called “scholarly consensus” concerning the authorship of the epistles as occurring sometime after the death of Paul. Thus, for Collins, the composition of the Pastoral Epistles is pseudepigraphical in nature and the author is appropriately designated by the title “the Pastor.” Those that touchdown outside of this critical consensus concerning the Pauline authorship will appreciate Collins’ survey of the issue, but likely find his conclusions lacking in argumentative substance. Collins likewise discusses the nature of the Pastorals and their difference from other epistles, the literary from of the epistles, etc. Again, the introduction is brief, but Collins does well to cover some of the necessary grounds.

The commentary proper handles each epistle individually and includes a condensed introduction on each epistle, an outline of the content, and the treatment of the text. Collins has also included ten excursus sections scattered throughout the volume. The excursus sections cover topics such as Christians in the world, faith, church order, the Pastor’s perspective on women, etc. Much of Collins’ treatment is flavored with a reliance upon an underlying presence of Hellenistic motifs within the Pastorals. This is brought out several times in the commentary, including the notorious passage on women in 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Collins approach is unique, and the reader will likely benefit from the vantage point that he presents. However, one of the more disappointing aspects of the volume is the lack of an author translation (NRSV is used) and the accompanied textual notes that are present in the subsequent volumes of the series. This is particularly evident with passages such as Titus 2:13, which typically should have provided an alternative translation and commentary around the reasoning of such. Both are unfortunately lacking here.

I & II Timothy and Titus: A Commentary by Raymond F. Collins is an excellent commentary. It provides a clear and consistent treatment of the Pastorals from a critical, Catholic perspective. In any case, the reader should appreciate Collins’ approach, as it will compliment other volumes on the Pastorals extremely well. I don’t see this volume replacing Mounce (2000), Knight (1992), or Towner (2006), but it is certainly worth the investment for those interested in the Pastorals, It comes highly recommended!