Colossians, Philemon [Plagiarism Acknowledged]
Publisher Thomas Nelson
N.B. In 2016, accusations of plagiarism were leveled against several works by Australian New Testament scholar Peter T. O'Brien. After a careful investigation by the respective publishers, it was concluded that—whether intentional or not—the volumes in question failed to conform to the appropriate standards for the use and documentation of secondary resources. Following this conclusion, the decision was made to immediately remove the works from print and destroy the remaining stock. This particular monograph is included among those works. The official statements from the three publishers of O'Brien's works can be found here: Eerdmans; Zondervan; InterVarsity Press.
This book appears in the following featured collections.
- John Piper's NT Commentary Recommendations by John Piper (Desiring God)
- Favorite Advanced NT Commentaries by Jeremy Pierce (parableman)
- First Commentary Set by Brian LeStourgeon
- Recommended NT Commentaries by Denver Seminary Journal
- D. A. Carson's Commentary "Best Buys" by D. A. Carson
- Best Exegetical Commentaries by Jim Rosscup
- Ultimate Commentary Collection: NT Technical by John Glynn
- Essential NT Commentaries for a Preacher's Library by Derek W. H. Thomas
- Essential Pauline Commentaries by Marcus Maher
- New Testament Advanced Commentaries by Moore Theological College Journal: Societas
- Cambridge Chinese Christian: Recommended Commentaries by Calvin Cheah
- Building an NT Commentary Library by Invitation to Biblical Interpretation (Kostenberger & Patterson)
- The Pastor’s Bookshelf by Scot McKnight
The consensus favorite for the best commentary is O’Brien’s contribution to WBC. D.A. Carson commends it, saying: “Based on an exact exegesis of the Greek text, it is nevertheless presented with sufficient clarity to satisfy most readers who do not know the language. It is a mine of useful bibliography and helpful interaction with secondary literature.” He suggests hopefully that the author should update the work (which was first published in 1987). [Full Review]
Peter T. O'Brien's commentary has long been considered by many the very best on Colossians, and this is for good reason. Let me begin with a few critiques before talking about everything that makes this commentary great. This was my first commentary in the WBC series, so I was curious to see what the formatting complaints were all about. I personally don't mind the three sections in the commentary. As I will elaborate on later, I really appreciated the summary section. As another reviewer has observed, the parenthetical notes constitute the biggest problem. Three to four lines of a parenthetical comment in a sentence make following the author's thought very difficult. Footnoting would make this a much more usable commentary. The commentary is getting dated, as a great deal of research has been done in 30 years, so if having the most up to date research is important to you, you will want to consult something newer (Dunn or Moo, perhaps). However, those few critiques hardly cast a shadow on this excellent commentary. As someone teaching through Colossians in my church, this commentary had nearly all of the qualities I was looking for to help me through Colossians. Having just started my Greek studies, I was nervous about how accessible this commentary would be, but I rarely ran into problems. What makes O'Brien's work so helpful is the way he clearly outlines potential exegetical choices, fairly represents each position, and makes a case for his position. He will often list positions in a numbered outline, making them very easy to follow. He employs a healthy balance of background, grammar, and literary analysis. His conclusions seem reasonable and sound. Even when I disagreed with him, I walked away understanding the issues better because of his analysis. He argues for Pauline authorship and takes a somewhat agnostic approach to identifying the "Colossian Heresy," though notes the value of recent scholarly work on "Jewish-Christian ascetic and mystical background." The summary sections at the end are very helpful. I often miss the forest for the trees in more technical commentaries, getting lost in exegetical details and missing the line of the author's argument. In the summary section, O'Brien does not introduce new information but concisely summarizes his exegesis. At times I wish the author would have taken a step further back from the text to do more theology, but that was not his aim. Overall, I cannot recommend this commentary highly enough. It is my first stop for Colossians. [Full Review]
Moo’s commentary is fairly traditional with respect to introductory matters (Paul wrote the letter during his Roman imprisonment). He deals with objections to Paul as the author, primarily perceived differences in theology when Colossians is compared with Romans, Corinthians and Galatians. The main problem with non-Pauline authorship, for Moo, is that he is not comfortable with pseudepigraphical authorship. It would be quite remarkable that the author would prohibit lying in 3:9 then claim to be Paul! With respect to the opponent, Moo engages Dunn’s arguments that Paul has a “standard Judaism” in mind. The fact that Colossians lacks the sort of engagement of the Hebrew Bible found in Galatians is a good argument that the opponents are not Judaizers in the Galatians-sense of the word. Moo prefers to see a kind of syncretic philosophy behind the opponents, mixing Judaism and mysticism. The body of the commentary is based on the English text (various translations are compared), Greek words appear transliterated. Moo engages a wide range of scholarship, including Dunn and Wright. The result is a very useful commentary for a pastor or teacher preparing to present Colossians to their congregations. [Full Review]
The commentary itself is excellent - O'Brien is consistently insightful and helpful - but the formatting of this commentary is absolutely atrocious. What do the editors of the WBC have against footnotes? Why did they think that three or four line parentheses separated by half a line of text was an acceptable way to handle O'Brien's style? Frequently a single sentence is interrupted by two or more parenthetical remarks which should have been placed in notes, and the reader struggles to follow the author's argument. If you can overcome this problem, the commentary is worth your time.
Peter T. O'Brien is my favorite commentator on the New Testament, so I fully expected to fall in love with his Philemon commentary, the way I did with his works on Ephesians and Philippians. This wasn't the case. This certainly wasn't a bad commentary, but it wasn't outstanding. He is at his most helpful in the 'form/structure/setting' section of the commentary, especially, as one might expect, when discussing the introductory thanksgiving. These sections helped me orient my reading. However, the 'comment' and 'explanation' sections were weak in my opinion. They contained helpful information, especially on grammatical issues, but I did not see the depth of thought in this work like I did in his other commentaries or the commentaries I reviewed earlier in this post. It's solid, but I wonder if there might be better advanced commentaries for the study of Philemon. 3.5 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
I taught Colossians for years, used a commentary I really liked, and so I still turn first to Peter O'Brien, Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 44, Colossians-Philemon. Exegetically rigorous and theologically sensitive. [Full Review]
O'Brien has written the best all around commentaries on all of Paul's prison epistles. He is able to explain well both the details of the text as well as the big theological picture. He doesn't lose the forest for the trees. His commentary on Colossians and Philemon in the WBC series is less technical than his commentary on Philippians in the NIGTC series, but it is made unnecessarily difficult by the WBC format. In spite of the cumbersome format, all students of Colossians and Philemon should consult O'Brien on these two epistles. [Full Review]
A tad old, but O’Brien is very good and is concerned with contextual meaning. You should enjoy this useful volume.