Reveiw: Mark (NTL)

1246889M. Eugene Boring is I. Wylie Briscoe Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University. Boring is an accomplished New Testament scholar and the author of numerous books, including, An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology (WJK, 2012), Revelation: A commentary for Teaching and Preaching (WJK, 2011), The People’s New Testament Commentary (with Fred B. Craddock; WJK, 2010), The Continuing Voice of Jesus: Christian Prophecy and the Gospel Tradition (WJK, 1991), as well as Mark (WJK, 2006) and I & II Thessalonians (WJK, 2015) from the highly acclaimed New Testament Library series—the former of which being the focus of the present review.

Mark: A Commentary opens with a fairly healthy bibliography and introduction to orient the reader towards the intended direction. Boring covers all the standard introductory matters the reader would expect (i.e. authorship, date, provenance, purpose, genre, text and transmission, etc.), however, most of the technical details have been delegated to the footnotes, resulting in a much briefer introduction than some would expect. The organization of the commentary will be familiar for those acquainted with the New Testament Library series. Boring includes within each section the translation and translation notes, and the commentary proper, which tends to begin with an examination of the unit before the translation and then the verse or multiple verse-units.

Boring’s approach to the Gospel of Mark as a whole is quite unique. For Boring, the Second Gospel is primarily shaped by the creative storytelling of the Evangelist rather than history. In other words, for Boring, the author of Mark is far more concerned with presenting a portrait of Jesus that will resonate with his community than recounting the life events of a historical figure. Thus, a chasm exists between the Markan and Historical Jesus. Of course, the keen reader will recognize that some level of such characterized presentation of Jesus is inevitable for the Gospel writers, indeed for any New Testament writer, but such does not necessarily require a divorce from the Jesus of history. Still, despite the reluctance that some may have to his approach, it is clear that there is much insight to be gained if sifted with the appropriate balance.

The reader will appreciate the attention to detail offered in this volume. Boring has clearly done his homework and does the reader a service by allocating much of the technical details to the bottom of the page. Indeed, Boring properly utilizes the footnotes throughout the volume, and the attentive reader will do well in mining such riches. The translation notes are also full of important information. Interestingly, however, Boring follows the reading of Codex Bezae in 1:41, explaining, “Most MSS read . . . ‘having compassion’ and the reading is followed by most English translations . . . Most commentators, however, regard . . . ‘having become angry’ as original” (p. 70). This is simply not the case, as even his preceding statement attests. The former reading is found in virtually all English translations, critical editions of the Greek New Testament, and extant manuscript support for the Second Gospel.

M. Eugene Boring is a respected New Testament scholar who has consistently provided well-researched and well-written academic work for a broad ranging audience. Mark: A Commentary is no different. Boring offers a unique approach to the conversation that is certain to complement other Mark commentaries on the market. Moreover, the translation and translation notes Boring has provided are indispensable for any serious study of the Second Gospel, and his bibliography is thorough as always. In sum, if you are looking for a commentary on the Gospel of Mark that is both readable and informative, this is a volume you will enjoy and use often. Still, as has been briefly noted above, the emphasis that is taken therein may be cause enough for some readers to reconsider.  

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an 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: Romans (SGBC)

27263087The Story of God Bible Commentary is an exciting and practical commentary series that seeks to explain the biblical text in light of the grand story of the biblical narrative. The editors and contributors for this series are top-tier scholars with seasoned insight and experience into the world of biblical interpretation and proclamation—making this series an attractive addition to the minister’s library. Most recently, Romans by Michael F. Bird, adds a much anticipated and sizable volume to this growing series.

Bird opens the volume with a brief introduction. Attention is directed towards the standard introductory material, but it is curated in such a way as to position it within the overall theme of the series. As the commentary proper opens the reader is guided passage-by-passage through three major sections: (1) LISTEN to the Story—includes the NIV translation with additional references to encourage the reader to hear the story within its broader biblical context, (2) EXPLAIN the Story—explores and illuminates each passage within its canonical and historical setting, and (3) LIVE the Story—reflects how each passage can be lived today and includes contemporary stories and illustration to aid teachers, preachers, and beyond.

Despite the possibility of some foreseen theological and interpretive disagreements, I think the reader will find the commentary itself to be extremely useful. Bird is well-informed in regards to the contemporary theological conversations that surround the Book of Romans, and his writing style is fresh and engaging. I found the “Live the Story” section to be helpful, but it was a bit inconsistent in this respect—meaning some passages are better than others. Where I found Bird to really shine was the “Explain the Story” section. Bird is consistently helpful here, and his clever illustrations and humorous wit keep the reader engaged throughout. Theologically, I found Bird to be significantly more sensitive to the issues surrounding the New Perspective on Paul than myself, and I presume the same will be true for other readers as well. Still, his interaction was well worth reading. The reader will sense an unusual acquaintance with Bird while reading his commentary, and I found that his conversational tone really bolstered his intentions therein.

Commentaries on the Book of Romans are almost more plentiful than the sand of the sea. Do we really need to add another commentary to the already mountainous pile? Is there anything worth unearthing that hasn’t already seen the sun? These are good and appropriate questions to ask. But a sufficient answer isn’t as easy as it may seem. The Story of God Bible Commentary: Romans by Michael F. Bird is a unique contribution that offers a unified presentation of one of the most important Pauline epistles within the grand scope of the biblical narrative. Bird is well-informed and easy to read, and any lack of distinctive interpretive contribution is made up for in his keen ability to keep sight of the whole amid the details. Moreover, Bird does well in distilling the technical jargon that plagues much of the preexisting mountain of Romans material into a practical package that almost anyone can enjoy and understand. Do you need another commentary on Romans? I don’t know. But you certainly need this one!

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an 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: Proverbs

9780801030970Tremper Longman III is no stranger to the world of Old Testament wisdom literature. Longman has already authored a number of excellent, top-tier commentaries within this genre, including The Book of Ecclesiastes (1997) and Song of Songs (2001) in the acclaimed New International Commentary on the Old Testament series, as well as the present volume on Proverb (2006; paperback edition 2015) and the volume on Job (2012) in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms series, for which he also serves as editor.

The commentary begins with a sizable introduction (66 pages) to orient the reader in the right direction. I have always been an enthusiast of introductions in commentaries and Longman seems to always provide excellent start points. Longman tackles the traditional introductory matters with sophistication, including title, canonicity, place in canon, authorship and date, social setting, text, genre, literary style, structure, ancient Near Eastern background, theology of proverbs, and much more. The discussion surrounding the authorship and date of the book is outstanding and informative, and Longman’s keen awareness of the connection between Proverbs and other ancient Near Eastern proverbs will be eye-opening for the unfamiliar reader.

The commentary proper divides Proverbs into five major parts: (1) Extended Discourses on Wisdom (1:1-9:18), (2) Proverbs of Solomon: Collection I (10:1-22:16), (3) Sayings of the Wise (22:17-24:34), (4) Proverbs of Solomon: Collection II (25:1-29:27), and (5) Sayings of Agur and King Lemuel and Poem of the Virtuous Woman (30:1-31:31). Each chapter of the commentary begins with Longman’s translation of the text and includes a number of helpful explanatory notes. As each chapter unfolds, the reader is guided between interpretation and theological implication, thus serving to build the readers understanding and application of the text. Longman concludes the commentary with a 28-page topical study of Proverbs, including several important themes found threaded throughout the book.

Longman displays a unique familiarity with the Book of Proverbs. His interpretive insights and theological suggestions are exceptionally useful for readers of all backgrounds, and his interaction with other commentators is unparalleled. Moreover, Longman provides plenty of contact with other ancient Near Eastern proverbs—exposure that is beneficial to the reader lacking such previous knowledge. Still, I think one of the most exciting features of the commentary is the topical appendix material. It appropriately addresses the lack of a clear overarching structure within the book and allows the readers to study the Proverbs thematically. Each topic within this section begins with a list of passages addressing the subject, followed by a brief discussion that seeks to synthesize the given topic across Proverbs holistically. Of course, lengthier discussions on each passage can be found in the commentary proper, but this is an indispensable addition to the commentary that the pastor and teacher should covet for years to come.

The Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms: Proverb by Tremper Longman III is easily one of the best single-volume commentaries on Proverbs available. It presents everything needed in a commentary of this size and executes the task with precision. It is readable, informative, and practically useful for readers of all interests and backgrounds. It will benefit both the seasoned and novice reader, and continue to do so for years to come. If you are looking for a commentary that is both engaging and edifying, and one that won’t elude value for such reading, this is a commentary full of riches that you will not want to overlook in the process. It comes highly recommended.

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an 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: Women’s Bible Commentary

066423707XThe Women’s Bible Commentary has continued to provide a unique opportunity for students of the Bible to observe the hermeneutical outcome of feminist scholarship for over two decades. It has brought together some the best feminist scholars in the field, which has resulted in a timely and lasting volume that has demonstrated itself as beneficial for a many. The present twentieth anniversary edition features a number of brand new or thoroughly revised essays that reflect newer thinking in feminist interpretation and hermeneutics. The scope of this volume is comprehensive and its significance is evident, regardless of an individual’s gender or theological persuasion. It covers every book of the Old Testament and the New, as well as the Old Testament Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books.

The book opens with two important essays to position the reader with the understanding needed to discover value in the volume. The reader will find Carol A Newson’s essay on women as biblical interpreters prior to the twentieth century well-written and intriguing given the task of the present volume. As the reader enters into the commentary proper, he or she will find traditional introductory material for each book, comments on various passages in each book, and a number of brief excursuses on female figures (such as Eve, Ruth, Rahab, etc.) and their interpreters. Each chapter helpfully concludes with a bibliography to orient the reader properly for further study.

The commentary and treatment of the text therein was met with a variegated presentation of its usefulness. Some of the books are handled more judiciously than others, and some of the essays are certainly more useful than others. Moreover, there was little consistency throughout by way of interaction with opposing positions. Not that this negates the value of the resource, but I find interaction more helpful than blanket assertions, and I assume other readers do as well. Also, given the nature and focus of the volume itself, the conservative evangelical reader should anticipate disagreement. But, again, this should not negate the value of the resource. In fact, if anything, it should ultimately encourage the value of the resource as the reader should seek to interact with and dialog alongside the material and arguments that it seeks to present.

The Women’s Bible Commentary is a unique resource. It provides readers of all theological persuasion and backgrounds an opportunity to interact with and observe the best that the feminist movement has to offer by way of biblical scholarship. The volume itself is helpful in many respects, but it will also provide serious concern for some readers. Regardless, it provides a hermeneutical perspective unavailable in other resources on the market, and I am more than happy to have it on my bookshelf and look forward to consulting it often. It brings much to the table for discussion and comes highly recommended for any serious student of the Bible seeking to engage the world around them.

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an 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: John: A Commentary

John-2015Marianne Meye Thompson (PhD, Duke University) is George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of Theology where she has been on the faculty for over three decades. Thompson is the author of several books, including, 1–3 John (IVP New Testament Commentary, InterVarsity Press, 2011), A Commentary on Colossians and Philemon (The Two Horizons Commentary, Eerdmans, 2005), The God of the Gospel of John (Eerdmans, 2001), The Promise of the Father (Westminster John Knox, 2000), and co-author of Introducing the New Testament (Eerdmans, 2001). She has also published numerous articles and reviews in scholarly journals with specific emphasis on Johannine literature. Most recently, Thompson released her much-anticipated commentary on the Fourth Gospel in the highly acclaimed New Testament Library series.

John: A Commentary begins with a substantial bibliography of up-to-date commentaries, monographs, and essays related to the Gospel of John. At 24 pages, a quick glance of the bibliography displays a well-researched commentary, and the content therein embodies the reality of this information well. Still, Thompson is clear that her efforts are not primarily about interaction with the scholarship of the Fourth Gospel. Instead, she seeks to present an understanding of the text within a narrative framework, as she traces and explores the holistic understanding of the ministry and significance of Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John. This unique approach to the Gospel of John makes this commentary both accessible and useful to the specialist and nonspecialist alike. Thompson has effectively guided the reader through the depths of the narrative without losing sight of the cultural context and scholarly concerns required for a top-tier commentary in a growing market.

The introduction to the commentary is filled with helpful information for the trained and untrained reader. Some readers will likely just skim over this section or skip it altogether. However, this approach is not recommended. Thompson has an excellent and stimulating discussion on the relation of the Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels. For Thompson, the Fourth Gospel is to be understood as an ancient historical biography, and thus the author maintains the complete liberty to expand and correct the material for his purpose (p. 8). Consequently, Thompson acknowledges that John did not intend to write a history about Jesus that would be “understood by all,” but rather understood by John (p. 13). This is thought, according to Thompson, to explain the divergence of the Fourth Gospel from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Thompson’s arguments are convincing, but the reader will need to be the judge of such claims.

Thompson has done excellent work illuminating John’s understanding of Jesus, but there are a few likely concerns the reader will encounter. For the sake of space here, I will list only two. First, despite the almost universal internal and external attestation of Johannine authorship being attributed to John, the son of Zebedee, Thompson views the traditional understanding of the authorship of the Gospel as unlikely. Her reasons are explained and the case is well made, but she still doesn’t give a clear answer to the question of authorship. Second, the reader may be stunned to see some of the textual decisions that Thompson makes in her translation of the Gospel. For example, Thompson finds “the only son (huios)” to be the most natural reading of John 1:18. This reading is certainly possible, but the most difficult reading of “the only God (theos)” has both early and important attestation. In fact, it is almost universally understood that theos is the correct reading of the text, and huios was the result of later scribal assimilation to other passages in the Gospel (John 3:16, 18).

John: A Commentary by Marianne Meye Thompson is an up-to-date commentary on one of the most important and influential biblical books in the New Testament. Thompson approaches the author of the Gospel on his terms and guides the reader through the depths of the narrative. The reader will find Thompson’s reading of the text fresh and inviting. The introduction is a worthy starting point for readers of all background and expertise. Her exegesis is sometimes prematurely saturated with theological bias, sometimes making theological statements about the text that directly oppose even a mere reading of the text itself (e.g. John 6:44). Her textual decisions are also sometimes interesting, but the reader should find her conversation on such decisions as an added benefit to their library. Nonetheless, despite the pros and cons, this is a much-anticipated commentary by a seasoned and experienced Johannine scholar. It is true that in some cases the anticipation has outshined the publication, but this is certainly not one of those cases. If you are looking for an up-to-date commentary on the Gospel of John, this volume by Marianne Meye Thompson should be at the top of your wishlist.

 

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: Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary

23493027The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is a comprehensive reference tool produced with the Bible teacher, pastor, and student in mind. This new one-volume commentary covers both the Old and New Testament. Each book of the Bible includes a brief introductory section that aims to provide a detailed overview of the circumstances of writing, including the author and background, the message and purpose, contribution to the Bible, structure, and outline of the specified book. The content of the commentary is arranged in a section-by-section format that seeks to help the reader gain a greater sense of understanding of the bigger picture of the biblical book, and the numerous illustrations throughout helpfully drag the reader into the biblical world with minimal effort. Each book of the Bible closes with a healthy bibliography that allows the reader to further explore specific interests of study.

Many readers will undoubtedly find the content of The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary strangely familiar. That is because the basis of the commentary itself is the HCSB Study Bible. E. Ray Clendenen and Jeremy Royal Howard explain such in the preface, writing, “The basis of this one-volume commentary is the award winning HCSB Study Bible. Those verses that escaped comment in the original work due to space limitations have been included in the present work, with comments provided by E. Ray Clendenen” (p. IX). In other words, The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is essentially the study note content of the HCSB Study Bible with some additional comments and complementary illustrations reformatted and repackaged.

Should the reader who already owns the HSCB Study Bible seek to add The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary to their library? This is ultimately going to be a decision that the reader must make. Still, two comments are in order that may help the decision process. First, after spending a good hour and a half intentionally flipping through the pages comparing content between the two resources I found little that differed from the HSCB Study Bible. There is additional content, but it’s minimal at best. Second, for most readers, I think that the format of The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is to be preferred over the HSCB Study Bible. It’s clean, easy to read, and user-friendly. Not that such characteristics are absent from the HSCB Study Bible, but rather The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is going to be a much better option if the study note content is your primary target for pulling the HSCB Study Bible off the shelf.

The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is an excellent one-volume commentary. It’s comprehensive and yet concise. It’s user-friendly and well formatted. It has a clear objective, and it accomplishes that objective with excellence. Takes the award-winning study notes from the HSCB Study Bible, written by some of today’s leading biblical scholars, expand the content slightly, add numerous illustrations, maps, and photographs, pack it between a high-quality hardcover binding, and you have the recipe for something amazing—a future best-seller. Regardless if you own the HSCB Study Bible or not, The Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary is a resource you will want on your shelf. It 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: 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.

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.

Book Review: James (EGGNT)

13212720Chris A. Vlachos is the Ph.D. program administrator and adjunct assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. Prior to joining the staff and teaching at Wheaton College in 2007, Vlachos served in Utah for thirty years, twenty-two years of which as an instructor and professor of Greek and New Testament at Salt Lake Theological Seminary. Vlachos earned an M.A. in New Testament from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in Biblical Theology of the New Testament from Wheaton College. Vlachos is the author (with Marvin R. Wilson) of A Workbook for New Testament Greek: Grammar and Exegesis in First John (Baker Academic, 2010) and The Law and the Knowledge of Good and Evil: The Edenic Background of the Catalytic Operation of the Law in Paul (Wipf & Stock, 2009). Most recently, Vlachos has authored a welcomed commentary in the EGGNT series, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: James (B&H Academic, 2013).

The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series seeks to function as a bridge to narrow the gap between the text of the Greek New Testament (UBS4) and the available lexical and grammatical resources being utilized by pastors and teachers today. The book begins with a brief introduction, discussing issues of authorship, date, occasion and purpose. If you are looking for extensive introductory material on the epistle you will need to look elsewhere, but Vlachos will provide you with a good survey of the need-to-know introductory information. As the commentary opens the reader is met by diagramed Greek text that functions as the roadmap for the commentary that follows. This is helpful for understanding the flow of the epistle and the overall thought of James as his pen hit the page. The commentary is discussed at the clausal level, as Vlachos explains and surveys the grammatical and exegetical discussion amongst biblical scholarship. Overall, I think Vlachos was objective in his evaluation, presenting the evidence in a responsible way in which cultivates contemplation on the part of the reader. Each unit in the commentary closes with a “For Further Study” section that includes a topically organized bibliography, as well as a “Homiletical Suggestions” segment which provides the reader with a number of text-derived preaching and teaching proposals.

The highlights of this commentary are numerous. First, Vlachos is clear, concise, and careful in his treatment of the text. If you are looking for a commentary that delivers sprinkles and frosting to decorate the cake, then you will want to look elsewhere. Vlachos is going to give you the cake alone. But the cake that Vlachos delivers is going to be some of the best cake you have ever tasted. It will be refreshing, enjoyable, and bursting with flavor. In other words, at under 200 pages, Vlachos will give you what you to know rather than what you may want to know. Second, as someone who seeks to engage in conversation with Mormon’s often, and given Vlachos’ prior position in Salt Lake City, I found his interaction on James 2:14-26 incredibly insightful. This is also testimony to the text-centered objectivity of Vlachos’ approach as he seeks to provide you with what the text says (and could say) without diverting into theological name-calling. Lastly, I found the grammatical index at the back of the book to extremely helpful for consulting the grammatical ideas flow across the letter. Not to mention, I seem to remember grammatical phraseology well, and thus can find the section I need quickly.

It is certainly no easy task to follow up the inaugural volume of what has come to be recognized as one of the best exegetically oriented series on the Greek New Testament. But if that wasn’t enough pressure on Vlachos, the introductory volume was written by one of the world’s foremost respected biblical exegetes Murray J. Harris. Still, despite these mental challenges that inevitably entered into his mind, Vlachos has produced a clear and concise compilation of some of the best work on the letter of James and did so while walking the reader through the grammatical and exegetical forest of one of the most important New Testament writings. If you are a pastor, teacher, student, or trained laymen, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: James is a resource you will not want to see missing from your bookshelf. It follows closely in the footsteps of Harris’ work and has become the first book off my shelf when studying the letter of James.

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.