Phillip J. Long

Phillip J. Long

I have taught full time at Grace Bible College since 1998, specializing in Bible and Biblical languages. I have two Masters degrees from Talbot School of Theology (BIOLA), one in Biblical Exposition and another in Old Testament and a PhD in New Testament from Andrews University. My dissertation was entitled “Messianic Banquet Imagery in the Synoptic Gospels: An Intertextual Study” and was published as Jesus the Bridegroom by Pickwick Books in 2012.
Occupation Professor
Education PhD

Reviews

Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew. NIGTC. Eerdmans, 2005.
Phillip J. Long May 22, 2012
5 5
This commentary is on the Greek text of Matthew and is another magisterial commentary. For Nolland, Matthew is based on Mark and Q and was composed before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, although he does not think that the apostle Matthew is the author of the final form of the book. The body of the commentary includes brief bibliographies for pericopes, comments on text critical issues, and phrase-by-phrase comments. Greek is normally translated so that a reader without Greek can use the commentary without too much difficulty. It is the style of the NIGTC commentary series to use a smaller type for detailed which may be less important, although I find these sections excellent. Nolland does an excellent job setting the words of Jesus into a Second Temple Period background, his footnotes contain copious references to the literature of the first century. [Full Review]
Blomberg, Craig L. Matthew. NAC. Broadman & Holman, 1992.
Phillip J. Long May 22, 2012
5 5
I have always enjoyed reading Blomberg, his work on the parables is one of my favorites. His commentary on Matthew is the most brief of the five I have listed here (432 pages), but Blomberg has a knack for unpacking a text with brevity without sacrificing depth. His footnotes interact with a wide variety of scholarship. He argues for apostolic authority and an early date (A.D. 58-69) for the gospel. He is certain that there is some literary relationship between Matthew and Luke, but is not dogmatic on the synoptic problem. [Full Review]
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. SRC. Eerdmans, 2009.
Phillip J. Long May 22, 2012
4.9 5
This is the most recent of the commentaries I have chosen and is part of a series published by Eerdmans which attempts to read the biblical books against both a social and rhetorical background. What this means is that the commentary works hard to place Jesus in a proper context (Second Temple Period Judaism) but also to place Matthew as an author in his (later) context. In fact, Keener is “more inclined to accept the possibility of Matthean authorship” than in his earlier work on the Gospel (p. 40). The gospel was written in Syro-Palestine in the wake of the Jewish War, and “within the range of” develop rabbinic influence. Keener therefore reads Matthew as a Jewish Christian voice responding to the tragedy of A.D. 70. One of the advantages of the Socio-Rhetorical series is the use of Excursus to treat issues which are outside of the normal scope of a commentary. For example, Keener has more than 3 pages on demons and exorcism in the Greco-Roman word, a section dense with primary sources. These excursuses are the highlight of the commentary. [Full Review]
Hagner, Donald A. Matthew. 2 Vols. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1993.
Phillip J. Long May 22, 2012
4.9 5
Hagner’s contribution to the Word Biblical series follows the pattern of the whole series. Each pericope begins with a detailed bibliography, followed by a translation with textual notes and a form / structure section. It is in this section that Hagner treats synoptic issues, leaving the commentary to a detailed examination of the Greek text of Matthew. Greek is not transliterated or translated, making the commentary less accessible for those without Greek. Hagner uses the literature of the Second Temple Period as the context for Jesus as a teacher. The Word series concludes each pericope with an “explanation,” usually brief reflections on the contribution of the section to the overall theological themes of Matthew’s gospel. My suspicion is that most pastors will skip over the details and read only the commentary and explanation sections. Perhaps Hagner’s introduction to the gospel the best of the commentaries surveyed here. [Full Review]
France, R. T. The Gospel of Mark. NIGTC. Eerdmans, 2002.
Phillip J. Long May 23, 2012
5 5
As with all the writers in the NIGTC series, France is an expert on the Greek text of Mark. The commentary has less background material that Evans, but is rich in exegetical detail. That is not to say that France is ignorant of the Hebrew Bible or other Second Temple Period literature, but only that his main interest is the Greek words in the context of Mark. France surveys the synoptic problem briefly, giving quite a bit of weight to John Robinson’s theory of cross-fertilization. In the end France concludes “I do not need a solution to the synoptic problem.” He approaches Mark as a storyteller who has created a long narrative in three “acts.” Like many commentaries on Mark, Peter’s confession in chapter 8 is the clear turning point of the book, dividing France’s first two “acts,” Galilee (1:1-8:21) and On the Way to Jerusalem (8:22-10:52). The third act in the drama of Mark at Jerusalem, beginning in Mark 11. [Full Review]
Evans, Craig A. Mark 8:27-16:20. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 2001.
Phillip J. Long May 23, 2012
5 5
Evans finished the Mark commentary for the Word series after Robert Guelich died unexpectedly in 1991. Guelich’s commentary is excellent, but Evans’ work is even better. The commentary follows the general pattern of all WBC volumes (bibliography, translation and text, form and structure, commentary, explanation). Although Evans is contributing to a commentary begun by another scholar, he has included a 63-page introduction to Mark which covers a number of issues not covered in Guelich’s original commentary. Evans only briefly comments on typical introduction issues, preferring to up-date and extend the original introduction. His section on the theology and purpose of Mark is excellent. But what sets this commentary apart from the rest is Evans’ use of Second Temple Period literature to illustrate the world of historical Jesus. For example, his comments on the Parable of the Vineyard provides references to several rabbinic parables which may be considered as parallels Jesus’ own parable. The section of Jewish divorce practices is brief, but contains a wealth of secondary material (p. 84-6). Bibliographies for each pericope are extensive, there are five pages for the Parable of the Wicked Vineyard tenants! [Full Review]
Gundry, Robert Horton. Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross. Eerdmans, 2000.
Phillip J. Long May 23, 2012
4.9 5
Unlike his original Matthew commentary, Gundry’s Mark commentary is more focused on the text of Mark alone. This would have to be the case given his interest in Matthew as an editor of Mark, there is no real “redaction criticism” possible for Mark. The result is an exegetical commentary which is sensitive to the text and aware of the broader theological issues at stake. What sets this commentary apart from the rest is the “notes” section for each pericope. In the main commentary section, Gundry makes scant reference to other scholars, he simply lays out the meaning of the text. After his section, he includes a section of “notes” in which he surveys the opinion of virtually every modern scholar on the topic at hand, including major German and French scholars. The type is smaller in these sections and he cites his sources only briefly, making these sections dense but rewarding. [Full Review]
Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark. PNTC. Eerdmans, 2001.
Phillip J. Long May 23, 2012
4.9 5
Edwards’ commentary is in the Pillar series, edited by D. A. Carson. While the series is designed for pastors, most of the volumes will have an appeal to scholars as well. Edwards has an excellent introduction to the gospel of Mark, the highlight is his discussion of Mark’s Christology. Since the commentary is aimed at pastors, Greek is transliterated and text-critical issues are relegated to footnotes. I especially appreciate his use of the Hebrew Bible and other Second Temple Period literature. The result is a very readable and useful commentary which will serve the busy pastor well. [Full Review]
Taylor, Vincent. The Gospel According to St Mark: The Greek Text with Introduction, Notes and Indexes. Palgrave Macmillan, 1966.
Phillip J. Long May 23, 2012
4.9 5
Originally published in 1952, this commentary was republished in the early 1980s by Baker as a part of their Thornapple commentary series. This is how commentaries used to be written for pastors – with the Greek text running across the top of the page and textual notes in two columns beneath. Vincent’s comments on the Greek focus on syntax, citing Blass, Moulton, Turner, etc. His 150 page introduction is a window into the state of Gospel studies in the mid 20th century, critical yet respectful of the text – Mark is “an authority of first rank for our knowledge of the Story of Jesus.” [Full Review]
Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. NICNT. Eerdmans, 1997.
Phillip J. Long July 29, 2017
5 5
Green’s commentary on Luke in the NICNT series represents something of a renaissance for that series. The earlier contributions were good, but not as highly detailed this excellent commentary. Green’s commentary replaces Geldenhuys’ in the series. The commentary is primarily based on English, lexical and syntactical details are found in the footnotes. This makes for a very readable commentary and one that will be the “first off the shelf” for me for years to come. One aspect of this commentary which I appreciate are the short excursus-style sections which focus on Greco-Roman backgrounds. These are in a smaller font which might imply they can be skipped – but these sections are excellent! Green is now the general editor of the NICNT series, following Ned Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee.
Bock, Darrell L. Luke. 2 Vols. BECNT. Baker Academic, 1994.
Phillip J. Long July 29, 2017
5 5
Bock’s commentary on Luke was one of the first offerings in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament and is an extremely useful commentary for preaching and teaching. Each section begins with a few paragraphs of summary followed by a section entitled “Sources and Historicity.” Here Bock deals with “historical Jesus” issues as well as how Luke handled his sources (Mark, Q, “special sources.”) These sections are not long, and I find his comments on Luke as a historian helpful. After the sources is the exegesis proper, beginning with fresh translation of the text. Greek words and phrases appear with transliteration. More technical matters are relegated to the “additional notes.” Each section concludes with a “summary,” drawing out the contribution of the pericope for the overall theology of Luke. I have used several volumes in this series and have found them stimulating, but I find myself frustrated with the combination of in-text citations and footnotes. While it is not particularly distracting, I do not like the use of gray-scale boxes behind some sections of the text.
Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The Gospel of Luke. 2 Vols. AYB. Yale University Press, 1982.
Phillip J. Long July 29, 2017
4.9 5
This two volume work on Luke is worthy of the adjective “magisterial.” Like other volumes in the Anchor series, the commentary section begins with a new translation of the pericope, followed by phrase-by-phrase commentary on the English text. Here Fitzmyer deals with redactional matters as well as the overall theology of Luke. In the “notes” section he goes back through the text dealing with textual criticism, lexical, syntax issues. All Greek is transliterated. Each pericope concludes with a bibliography which includes a wealth of German and French scholarship. Fitzmyer is an expert in the literature of the Second Temple Period, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Aramaic as well the New Testament. These interests appear frequently in the commentary and he suggests possible Aramaic words / phrases which may lay behind the Greek.
Bovon, François. Luke. 3 Vols. HERM. Fortress Press, 2012.
Phillip J. Long July 29, 2017
4.9 5
Bovon is one of the major lights in the study of Luke, anyone who does research on the gospel of Luke would do well to read the essays collected in Luke the Theologian: Fifty-Five Years of Research (1950-2005). Bovon’s full commentary is not yet complete. Luke 2 will cover the travel narrative (9:51-19:27) and is due out this year, the third volume is planned with no date announced. The Hermenia series is a bit different than most, beginning with an unusual book size.
Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke. NIGTC. Eerdmans, 1978.
Phillip J. Long July 29, 2017
4.8 5
It is hard to believe that I am including this volume as a “classic,” but the fact is that it is already 34 years old! The commentary has very little introduction, Marshall simply tells the reader to read his Luke: Historian and Theologian (which was one of the first books I read on Luke and Acts when I was a undergraduate student). Marshall assumes that Luke used Mark although there is more skepticism for Q. In the body of the commentary he assumes Q’s existence frequently. Since this is a Greek text commentary, Greek words are given without transliteration. Marshall tends to be more interested in lexical matters than syntax. All sources are cited in-text (there is not a single footnote in the book), making for difficult reading at times. Marshall frequently makes used of rabbinic sources to illustrate the text, something which I appreciate although I wonder about the dating of the citations.
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Hendrickson Publishers, 2003.
Phillip J. Long May 25, 2012
5 5
Keener’s introduction to John runs 330 pages, then he tags another thirty pages of introduction to the prologue. This introduction ought to be required reading for anyone who wants to seriously study John. In fact, it should probably be separated from the commentary and sold separately as a monograph on interpreting John’s gospel. His section on the Jewish Context of John’s gospel (pages 171-232) is excellent. The body of the commentary deals with every imaginable aspect of the Greek text, drawing on the Hebrew Bible as well as the literature of the Second Temple Period. A scan through his footnotes demonstrates Keener’s mastery of both Jewish and Hellenistic literature. He deals with problems of historicity as well as special Johannine features in the body of the commentary. The main criticism of this commentary is related to its strengths – there is so much material here it is difficult to digest to all. [Full Review]
Carson, Donald A. The Gospel According to John. PNTC. Eerdmans, 1990.
Phillip J. Long May 25, 2012
5 5
This is a remarkably useful commentary on John for exegetical details. Carson states in the introduction that he does not intend to interact with all of the scholarship on John, but rather “a small representative part of the massive secondary literature on John.” In the body of the commentary he treats the Greek text well both in terms of lexical and syntactical issues. All Greek words are transliterated so the non-Greek reader will have no problem reading the commentary. Footnotes are rare, sources are cited in-text. Carson is best when he is comparing several options for understanding a text. In the end, it is always very clear what his view is! Of the five commentaries listed here, Carson is in the most likely to draw implications for systematic theology. [Full Review]
Bruner, Frederick Dale. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Eerdmans, 2011.
Phillip J. Long May 25, 2012
4.9 5
At nearly 1300 pages, Bruner’s commentary on John is a massive contribution to the study of the fourth gospel. This is not an exegetical commentary. In fact, rarely will Bruner comment on a Greek word or a syntactical detail. Where this commentary excels is in the section labeled “historical interpretation.” here Bruner gathers trenchant comments from a wide variety of interpreters, from the church fathers to modern scholars. Some of these are the usual suspects (Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Brown, Schnackenburg, Bultmann), but often Bruner cites obscure scholars or preachers, sending me to Wikipedia for a little biography. One of the things I really like about this commentary is the list of key quotes from scholars which serve as an introduction to the interpretation. These are thought provoking and focus my attention on important aspects of the text fort preaching and teaching. [Full Review]
Köstenberger, Andreas J. John [Plagiarism Acknowledged]. BECNT. Baker Academic, 2004.
Phillip J. Long May 25, 2012
4.8 5
Of the five I have chosen, I have used Köstenberger the most over the last year as I prepared for my preaching on John. For the last year, this has been my “first off the shelf” commentary, although there are more detailed commentaries available. Like most of the BECNT series, each pericope begins with a synopsis of the section followed by a translation and exegesis. He deals with lexical matters int eh body of the commentary, syntactical issues tend to be placed in footnotes. Textual critical comments are covered (briefly) in the “additional notes” at the end of a pericope. Köstenberger’s commentary is excellent for its interaction with other literature on John. The footnotes are packed with detailed notes drawn from a wide variety of scholarship. Köstenberger does not have a conclusion to each pericope to draw out theological implications, this is done in the body of the commentary where necessary. For the most part, the theological results of his commentary are to be found in his Theology of John (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2009). [Full Review]
Blomberg, Craig L. The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel: Issues & Commentary. IVP Academic, 2011.
Phillip J. Long July 29, 2017
4.9 5
This is the more brief book on this list, about a quarter of the size of Bruner. Yet this book has been extremely helpful to me in working through the book of John. Blomberg’s goal is not an exegetical commentary, but rather to assess the value of John’s gospel as a contribution to the study of the historical Jesus. Usually John is left out of discussions of the historicity of Jesus because it is assumed the book was written late by someone who was far-removed from the eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus life, as a theological document rather than historical. Blomberg wants to read the stories in John and evaluate them on a historical level. What this means is that he places Jesus in the context of the Second Temple Period, and in the end, John’s gospel is very Jewish, John’s version of Jesus is very Jewish, and the story told in John is not as a-historical as is often assumed. This book is written in a non-technical tone and can be read by scholars, pastors, and laymen, yet is a valuable contribution to the study of the fourth gospel. [Full Review]
Witherington III, Ben. The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. SRC. Eerdmans, 1997.
Phillip J. Long July 29, 2017
5 5
This commentary is one of the best for cultural background material for reading Acts and has been the “first off the shelf” for me for several years. Witherington provides some exegetical commentary, although the general reader will have no problem reading the commentary since this is not the main thrust of the book. Where the commentary excels is the massive amount of Greco-Roman material which is brought to bear on the text of Acts. As with all the Socio-Rhetorical commentaries, Witherington uses lengthy excursuses in a slightly smaller font to develop special themes. These “closer looks” are worth the price of the book alone! For example, after introducing Aquila and Priscilla in Acts 18, he provides five pages on Judaism as a religio licita. This detailed section is worthy of a major Bible Dictionary article. One of the criticisms I have of other volumes in this series is the somewhat forced use of Greco-Roman rhetorical forms, but this is not a problem here in Acts.
Fitzmyer, Joseph A. Acts of the Apostles. AYB. Yale University Press, 1998.
Phillip J. Long July 29, 2017
5 5
As a companion to his two-volume Luke commentary, Fitzmyer’s Acts commentary is readable and useful for scholar, pastor or layman. The Anchor Bible format begins with a fresh translation followed by a comment on the text and then a “notes” section for exegetical detail. All Greek is transliterated and all citations are in-text. What is remarkable to me is how efficient Fitzmyer’s commentary is. He is able to cover the necessary issues in the text in a few paragraphs, despite having an encyclopedic knowledge of the Greco-Roman world! While the commentary is 800+ pages, it is not overly burdensome. For each section there is a bibliography covering secondary literature in English, German, and French. This makes the commentary invaluable for the scholar.
Dunn, James D. G. Christianity in the Making: Volume 2: Beginning From Jerusalem. Eerdmans, 2009.
Phillip J. Long May 29, 2012
5 5
This is the second volume of Dunn’s epic Christianity in the Making, so technically speaking it is not a commentary on Acts. Dunn wrote a brief commentary in the Epworth series (1996) and it appears to me that most of that commentary has been assumed into this larger book on the origins of Christianity. (There are some passages which are word-for-word the same, and a handful where significant changes have been made). I find Beginning at Jerusalem to be the most highly detailed commentary on Acts available today (pending Keener’s due summer of 2012). After 130 pages of introduction, Dunn steps through the book of Acts dealing with each pericope on an exegetical level, but much more attention is paid to historical and theological matters. Dunn’s style is not a verse-by-verse commentary, but rather a series of questions which need to be addressed in order to come to a full understanding of Acts. Each of these subsections are important, but a reader may skip over some if that particular question is not of interest. One of the features of this book I appreciate are chapters on topics which cannot be included in most commentaries. For example, chapter 30 is on Paul’s Churches. This sixty page essay on churches in the middle of the first century is excellent and will help any interpreter of Acts (or the epistles) unpack Pauline mission more accurately. The average commentary simply cannot spend the effort on such detail. [Full Review]
Polhill, John B. Acts. NAC. Broadman & Holman, 1992.
Phillip J. Long May 29, 2012
4.9 5
This is an efficient commentary on Acts. By far the smallest on this list, Pohill does an excellent job covering exegetical details in the text along with providing cultural and historical background. The introduction is a only 50 pages, yet manages to give the reader a basic orientation to major issues for reading and understanding Acts. Most of the background material is found in the footnotes, although even these are not so copious that a casual reader will become overwhelmed. All Greek is transliterated. A possible criticism here is that Polhill did not write the NAC commentary on Luke, so there is less awareness in the commentary of overarching Luke-Acts themes. [Full Review]
Bock, Darrell L. Acts. BECNT. Baker Academic, 2007.
Phillip J. Long May 29, 2012
4.8 5
Bock also write the BECNT on Luke, so this commentary has the same look and feel as his previous work. Bock also has a work on the Theology of Luke / Acts due from Zondervan in the Summer of 2012. His 46 page introduction briefly covers essential issues, and while I particularly like his theology of Acts section, I look forward to more detail and expansion in his upcoming biblical theology text. As with his previous commentary, each section begins with a summary of the larger unit and a translation of the text. The exegesis section includes both Greek and a transliteration of the Greek. He deals with both lexical and syntactical issues in the body of the commentary, spending more time on identifying grammatical categories than other commentaries on this list (I think that is a DTS thing!) Unlike the Luke commentary, Bock does not have a final summary at the end of the pericope, by guess is that these were dropped by the commentary series. [Full Review]
Cranfield, C. E. B. . Romans. 2 Vols. ICC. T&T Clark, 1975.
Phillip J. Long June 4, 2012
5 5
Cranfield replaced the venerable Sanday and Headlam volume on Romans in the ICC series (available for free via Google Books). Since that volume appeared in 1904, much has happened in Pauline studies! Cranfield’s commentary is a masterpiece of exegesis, covering the nuances of the Greek text of Romans with detailed syntactical comments. Cranfield excels in bringing the syntax to bear on theology. For example, in Romans 5:12, he gives six options for understanding the relative clause “in whom all sinned.” He shows why some ought to be dismissed on exegetical grounds, but others are dismissed for theological reasons (one is too Pelagian, for example!) [Full Review]
Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. NICNT. Eerdmans, 1996.
Phillip J. Long June 4, 2012
5 5
Moo’s commentary on Romans is massive, just a bit over 1000 pages. Remarkably, the introduction is a mere 35 pages! Like many of the newer contributions to the NICNT series, this commentary on Romans engages the Greek text, making exegetical observations primarily in the footnotes. I find that too many of these notes are simply the Greek word. If they had been allowed in the main text, the notes would be far fewer. Moo has a handful of favorite dialogue partners, often playing one off of another; occasionally a footnote is simply the name of the scholar who suggests a certain reading. Moo includes systematic theology as a part of the discussion on a few occasions, especially in places where theology is effected by an exegetical point in the text (imputation of sin in Rom 5:12, for example). [Full Review]
Dunn, James D. G. Romans. 2 Vols. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1988.
Phillip J. Long June 4, 2012
4.9 5
One would think that Dunn’s commentary on Romans would be the flagship of the new perspective on Paul, and it a large extent it is just that. Dunn says in his introduction that he intentionally writes his commentary to read Paul in the context of first century Judaism, specifically as described by Sanders. His commitment to this is seen from the very first line of the introduction, “Paul was a Jew. He was born a Jew and brought up a Jew. He never ceased being a Jew.” In fact, the Jewish literature of the Second Temple Period appears more often in this commentary than any other surveyed here. In the exegetical section of the commentary Dunn deals with the details of the Greek text, but in his explanations he begins to create a Theology of Paul (his Pauline Theology is the fruit of his labor in the text of Romans). [Full Review]
Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans. BECNT. Baker Academic, 1998.
Phillip J. Long June 4, 2012
4.9 5
Like most of the Baker Exegetical series, Schreiner’s commentary is aimed at the busy pastor and layman. He states in his preface that he intends the commentary to be “meaty,” but not so dense that reading distracts from Paul’s own words. With respect to “new perspective” issues, this commentary is decidedly traditional. Schreiner in fact dedicates the book to John Piper. But this does not mean that the commentary is a parroting of Calvin or Reformed theology. Schreiner carefully weighs the sometimes dense syntax in order to develop Paul’s thought. In the section on Romans 5:12 (“in whom all sinned”) he develops the a number of views on the difficult phrase yet settles on a more or less reformed view of the text (original sin, imputation). [Full Review]
Donfried, Karl P. ed. The Romans Debate: Revised and Expanded Edition. Baker Academic, 1991.
Phillip J. Long June 4, 2012
5 5
Including this book instead of another commentary might be a criminal misuse of my prerogative as the list-maker. My reason for including this non-commentary in a list of key commentaries is that the books listed above are noticeably light in introductory matters. Given the importance of the text of Romans, it is understandable that a commentary simply move through the text in order to tease out Paul’s meaning. But each book in this list comes from a perspective theologically and the writers make many assumptions about what Paul says before they approach the text. The Romans Debate collects important articles and book sections on the problems one faces trying to build a “theology of Paul. There are some real classics in this collection, it is well worth the price of the book to have these essays gathered into one place. [Full Review]
Thiselton, Anthony C. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. NIGTC. Eerdmans, 2000.
Phillip J. Long June 6, 2012
5 5
Like most of the NIGTC series, Thiselton’s commentary is magisterial. At over 1400 pages, the commentary contains highly detailed exegesis and theological interest. Thiselton also includes what he calls a “posthistory reception” of the text (Wirkungsgeschichte). Here he draws on the apostolic fathers, patristic, medieval, Reformation, and modern eras and briefly summarizes how each age has read the text of 1 Corinthians. These are interesting, although they go beyond what is typically included in a commentary (although Bruner does this in his Matthew and John commentaries). Eerdmans did publish another version of this commentary, A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary. For most pastors, the shorter commentary will be sufficient. [Full Review]
Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. NICNT. Eerdmans, 1987.
Phillip J. Long June 6, 2012
5 5
Fee’s commentary replaced the NICNT volume on 1 Corinthians by F. W. Grosheide (1953). If I recall correctly, this was the first of the NICNT replacements, and is a considerable “upgrade” to the older commentary; mine is unfortunately in the older format (short and fat), making it very difficult to read! Fee’s commentary is a good example of why long series update their volumes from time to time. Grosheide was a fine commentary, but much has been said on 1 Corinthians since then, especially with respect to the impact of cultural and sociological studies. The text of the commentary is focused on the English text, but the footnotes contain the details of Fee’s Greek exegesis for those interested. There are some oddities in Fee’s observations, especially his contention that the difficult command in 1 Cor 14:34-35 is an interpolation into the text. [Full Review]
Garland, David E. 1 Corinthians. BECNT. Baker Academic, 2003.
Phillip J. Long June 6, 2012
4.9 5
Garland’s commentary begins by setting the letter in the context of Roman Corinth. This is a brief but very readable introduction to the social / cultural issues lurking in the background of the letters. The format of the commentary follows the pattern of others in the series, Greek is include in the commentary but always transliterated, textual notes are placed the “additional notes.” Garland’s commentary seems more in tune with the Hebrew Bible and other Second Temple Period literature than Greek and Roman sources, providing a helpful correction to other commentaries in this list. [Full Review]
Witherington III, Ben. Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. SRC. Eerdmans, 1995.
Phillip J. Long June 6, 2012
4.9 5
Like Witherington’s other commentaries in this Socio-Rhetorical series, there is a wealth of background material here which will enhance one’s reading of 1 and 2 Corinthians. In this series I particularly appreciate the excursuses, labeled “A Closer Look At.” His five pages on glossolia in Corinth are excellent, likewise his section on Rules for Meals. The introduction to the books isone of the best I have read. Since these books are letters, Witherington attempts to develop Paul’s rhetoric, employing technical language of the Greco-Roman orator. This is not overly burdensome but may confuse readers not familiar with terms like Probatio. [Full Review]
Winter, Bruce W. After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change. Eerdmans, 2001.
Phillip J. Long July 29, 2017
4.8 5
This is not exactly a commentary, but it is one of the most helpful books I have ever read on the social and political situation of Corinth in the middle of the first century. Winter is a historian who asks the simple question, what happened in the church at Corinth after Paul’s 18 months there? His answer is that the members of the church were swayed by the social and ethical world of Roman Corinth, as well as enormous political pressures on members of the congregation to participate in civic duties. There is a wealth of background material in this book which everyone trying to deal with the problems of the Corinthian church must take into account. [Full Review]
Harris, Murray J. The Second Epistle to the Corinthians. NIGTC. Eerdmans, 2005.
Phillip J. Long June 7, 2012
5 5
Harris’s commentary is another excellent contribution in the New International Greek Text series by an expert on the second letter to the Corinthians. He also contributed the commentary on 2 Corinthians for the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan, 1976). He has a lengthy introduction dealing with the problem of the sources, concluding that “here are fewer difficulties with the hypothesis of the letter’s integrity” than with any of the suggested theories he surveys (p. 51). The introduction also deals at length with the “painful visit” and Paul’s travel plans. Harris also has a lengthy piece on the opponents of Paul in the letter, surveying all the major suggestions and offer what is (to me) a judicious understanding. He states in summary, “although claiming to be Christian, were in reality ‘Judaizers’” (p. 85). I would recommend this 125 page introduction to anyone wishing to study either of the Corinthian letters. The body of the commentary is a detailed exegesis of the Greek text of the letter, treating lexical and syntactical details. I particularly appreciate his tendency to lay out three or four options before setting on his own. Eerdmans published Harris’s “Expanded Paraphrase” of 2 Corinthians, which is simply the text of the letter. [Full Review]
Martin, Ralph P. 2 Corinthians. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1986.
Phillip J. Long June 7, 2012
5 5
This is something of a classic commentary on the letter and one of the better WBC volumes. Word commentaries excel in giving bibliographies at the beginning of sections, Martin’s commentary provides complete bibliographies on exegetical problems (literature on composition issues other than commentaries, for example, or the section on Paul’s vision in 12:1-10). These are complete through the early 1980s and include German and French articles as well as English. The actual commentary follows the format of the series, giving a bibliography for the section followed by textual notes, form/structure, and then the actual commentary. Martin’s brief “explanations” after the commentary draw out implications of the text for a larger Pauline theology. [Full Review]
Kruse, Colin G. 2 Corinthians. TNTC. InterVarsity Press, 1987.
Phillip J. Long June 7, 2012
4.9 5
I have not included any from the Tyndale series yet, but this slender volume by Kruse is worth reading. Kruse replaced the commentary by R.V. G. Tasker in the Tyndale series (1963), both are handy although exceptionally short compared to Harris. Kruse does a nice job dealing with the composition questions in just a few pages. His comments are on the English text although they reflect the Greek as much as possible. This is a excellent choice for the busy pastor who wants a brief overview of the main problems of a text for preparing a sermon. [Full Review]
Garland, David E. 2 Corinthians. NAC. Broadman & Holman, 1999.
Phillip J. Long June 7, 2012
4.9 5
Garland’s introduction to the letter argues for the unity of 2 Corinthians, although the details of that argument is the commentary itself. He finds a great deal more unity in the letter, and shows that the letter is better understood as we have it in the canonical form. The body of the commentary deals with the Greek via the English text (all Greek is transliterated). He does an exceptional job comparing Paul’s rhetorical style with Greco-Roman orators. Garland’s commentary is in dialogue with major commentaries, but the text is readable and useful for pastor or layman. [Full Review]
Furnish, Victor Paul. II Corinthians. AYB. Yale University Press, 1984.
Phillip J. Long June 7, 2012
4.8 5
This is the only commentary on my list that takes a multiple source seriously, suggesting five separate letters as sources for the compilation of 2 Corinthians, although two of his five sources are now lost, a first letter to Corinth prior to the canonical book and the “tearful letter” (letter C). Chapters 1-9 and 10-13 are two separate letters. Furnish also suggests Galatians and chapters 10-13 are composed and sent about the same time, helping to show that the opponents in 10-13 are the Judaizers of Galatians. But these matters should not distract from the value of the commentary, some of Furnish’s “expanded comments” are excellent and shed a great deal of light on the text. Like all Anchor volumes, Greek appears only in transliteration in a “notes” section. [Full Review]
Longenecker, Richard N. Galatians. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1990.
Phillip J. Long June 14, 2012
5 5
The introduction is excellent on the various suggestions for understanding the Judaizers, perhaps this essay should be read to orient one’s thinking. Like all commentaries in the WBC, the exegetical sections are based onthe Greek text without any transliteration, all citations are in-text. Longenecker includes several excellent excursuses, “Antioch on the Orontes,” “Abraham’s Faith and Faithfulness in Jewish Writings and in Paul,” and “The Hagar-Sarah Story in Jewish Writings and in Paul” are all particularly good. The last is rich with Jewish sources and very helpful for understanding that difficult passage. [Full Review]
Witherington III, Ben. Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Galatians. SRC. Eerdmans, 1998.
Phillip J. Long June 14, 2012
5 5
This commentary is almost worth the price for the introduction alone. (It happens that I agree with much of what he says, so that may color my perceptions just a bit!) I find Witherington’s view of the agitators to be well-written and clear, informed by a dialogue with James Dunn yet not he is not simply parroting “new perspective” ideas. However, the emphasis on Paul’s rhetorical style is less helpful (to me), although it seems as though Witherington makes good use of the Greco-Roman rhetorical styles for interpreting the text. A real highlight in this commentary (and others in the Socio-Rhetorical series) is the section entitled “Bridging the Horizons.” Here Witherington attempts to apply his exegesis of Galatians to contemporary theological issues – how does tihs book really apply to the church today? [Full Review]
Fung, Ronald Y. K. The Epistle to the Galatians. NICNT. Eerdmans, 1988.
Phillip J. Long June 14, 2012
4.9 5
This commentary replaces the venerable NICNT by Herman Ridderbos (1953). That volume was written from a thoroughly traditional perspective, Fung’s approach is biblical-theological, following his teacher, F. F. Bruce. His introduction to the book is excellent, dating the book before Acts 15, written to southern Galatia. He deals with major arguments for and against this view, creating an efficient and readable argument. Like most of the NICNT series, Greek is relegated to footnotes, permitting the layman or busy pastor to use the commentary without too much difficulty. In fact, some of his footnotes interact with other views in such detail it is hard to imagine why the material was placed there instead of the main text! I particularly enjoy his “additional comments,” brief excursuses on topics that go a bit beyond the text. I find these brief yet extremely helpful. Fung has written a major Galatians commentary in Chinese, something which I see as extremely promising. [Full Review]
George, Timothy. Galatians. NAC. Broadman & Holman, 1994.
Phillip J. Long June 14, 2012
4.8 5
This commentary is a bit different than others in the NAC series in that George is a professor of Theology and Church History. As such, his commentary is a “work of theological exposition” (p. 13). This does not mean that there is no exegesis in the commentary. On the contrary, George’s theological reflections are solidly based on the text of Galatians. Even so, the commentary is rich with observations from classic Reformation and Puritan writers. [Full Review]
Nanos, Mark D. eds.The Galatians Debate: Contemporary Issues in Rhetorical and Historical Interpretation. Baker Academic, 2002.
Phillip J. Long July 29, 2017
4.8 5
Similar to The Romans Debate edited by K. P. Donfried, Nanos’s collection of essays are drawn from a wide variety of journals and collections. Unlike that previous volume, these articles are collected thematically, illustrating various approaches to Galatians: Rhetorical, Epistolary, Autobiographical, and Socio-Historical. Eight essays are devoted to the “Galatian Situation.” I personally have found the four essays under the heading of Socio-Historical approaches to be the most helpful for my own research in the book of Galatians, especially Dunn’s classic essay on the Incident at Antioch (which was revised for Beginning at Jerusalem) and Nanos’s own article on Eating with the Gentiles. [Full Review]
Hoehner, Harold W. Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary. Baker Books, 2002.
Phillip J. Long June 19, 2012
5 5
Hohner’s commentary on Ephesians is magisterial, demonstrating a mastery of the massive secondary literature on Ephesians. At 930 pages, this is the one of the most detailed modern commentaries on Ephesians available. His detailed examination of the Greek text is excellent, yet not overly technical. He steps through the text of the book phrase-by-phrase, with the Greek text provided without transliteration. He makes occasional text-critical observations in footnotes. The commentary has 130 pages of introduction, half of which concerns authorship (including 16 pages of bibliography on authorship alone!) This includes a chart with virtually every major commentary on Ephesians and New Testament introduction indicating whether they are for or against Pauline authorship (up to 2001). He supplements the commentary with a number of excursuses on technical details, particularly good are his comments on “Mystery” (pages 42–34) and “Slavery” (pages 800-4). Both include extensive bibliographies in the notes. [Full Review]
Best, Ernest. Ephesians. ICC. T&T Clark, 1998.
Phillip J. Long June 19, 2012
5 5
Best’s commentary on Ephesians is an excellent replacement to the classic ICC volume by T. K. Abbot (Ephesians and Colossians, available free at Google Books). Best is more or less agnostic on authorship, called the author AE (author of Ephesians). This exegetical comments on the Greek text are excellent, perhaps the best example of how a Greek text commentary ought to work. Best does not stop at reading the Greek, however, his comments draw out implications for the theology of the letter. T&T Clark published a Shorter Commentary on Ephesians which reduces the exegetical detail, this version of the commentary would be more helpful for the busy pastor. [Full Review]
Thielman, Frank S. Ephesians. BECNT. Baker Academic, 2010.
Phillip J. Long June 19, 2012
4.9 5
Thielman is well-known for his book Paul and the Law and a New Testament theology from Zondervan, but this is his first exegetical commentary. He deals with the problem of authorship in only a few pages, finding pseudonymity too unusual in the early Christian community to be a viable option. The commentary follows the user-friendly design of the Baker series, offering exegetical comments on the Greek text with transliteration. Compared to other volumes in the BENTC, Thielman’s commentary has more syntactical detail. I particularly appreciate his use of Greco-Roman sources, especially in the “Household Code” section of the letter. [Full Review]
Lincoln, Andrew T. Ephesians. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1990.
Phillip J. Long June 19, 2012
4.8 5
It is perhaps strange to say, but this commentary is the ‘classic” on this list. Lincoln thinks that Ephesians is a reinterpretation of Colossians (page lv), but also that Ephesians draws on other authentic letters of Paul (page lvi). The book was written by a follower of Paul who attempted to summarize Pauline theology for his generation. His assumptions are worked out in the commentary. In his comments on Eph 2:11-22, for example, he points out several parallels to Colossians and argues that Ephesians is an expansion or commentary on the earlier (Pauline) material. This kind of argument is found in the “Form / Structure / Setting” sections standard to the WBC series. The exegesis sections are structured by longer phrases and is not overly technical in matters of syntax. That sort of material is found in the notes on the translation of each pericope. What is most helpful is Lincoln’s frequent comments on the use of the LXX or Hebrew Bible as foundational for understanding the text. [Full Review]
O'Brien, Peter T. Ephesians [Plagiarism Acknowledged]. PNTC. Eerdmans, 1999.
Phillip J. Long June 19, 2012
4.8 5
O’Brien has written major commentaries on each of the Prison Epistles for different series (NIGTC, WBC) and has contributed much to the study of Paul in recent years. His introduction to Ephesians is more brief than others on this list, but it is quite efficient. He defends a traditional view of Pauline authorship, pointing out that the problems created by pseudonymity are quite difficult, perhaps more so than the problems associated with Pauline authorship. The body of the commentary is based on the English text with Greek commentary relegated to the footnotes, as is the style of the Pillar series. This makes for a readable commentary which will be very helpful for the busy pastor or student preparing to preach the text of Ephesians. [Full Review]
O'Brien, Peter T. Philippians [Plagiarism Acknowledged]. NIGTC. Eerdmans, 1991.
Phillip J. Long June 21, 2012
5 5
Like most of the New International Greek Text Commentary, O’Brien’s contribution on Philippians is excellent and well worth the price. He finds interpolation theories lacking, causing more problems than they solve. The book was written by Paul during the Roman imprisonment to thank the church for their support and to warn them against Judaizing false teachers. He proceeds through the Greek text of Philippians phrase-by-phrase without transliteration, making both syntactical and lexical comments. He integrates into the body of the commentary theological observations as he interacts with a wide range of contemporary Pauline scholarship. He includes three short excursuses on the Christ Hymn (which he oddly called appendices). His comments on the phrase “taking the form of a servant” and Isaiah 53:12 are judicious, ultimately rejecting a certain connection between the two texts. [Full Review]
Martin, Ralph P.; Hawthorne, Gerald F. Philippians. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1983.
Phillip J. Long June 21, 2012
5 5
Ralph Martin updated the original WBC volume on Philippians by adding to the bibliographies and expanding the explanations at the end of pericopes. Martin is the New Testament editor for the series and has written an excellent monograph on the Christ Hymn, as well as a short commentary on Philippians in the New Century series (Eerdmans, 1976). In fact, this section is where the commentary excels. The bibliography is extensive (up to 2003), the comments on the structure of the hymn are detailed and interact well with contemporary rhetorical studies of the hymn. The comments proceed almost word-by-word through this section since virtually every word has theological importance. There is a brief “review” after the main commentary on 2:5-11 summarizing the exegesis of the six verses. [Full Review]
Silva, Moisés. Philippians. BECNT. Baker Academic, 2005.
Phillip J. Long June 21, 2012
4.9 5
Silva’s commentary was one of the earliest in the Baker series, originally a reprint of the 1988 Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary. The second edition adds two sections to the introduction (“Literary Structure” and “Exegetical History”) and the footnotes are expanded to include scholarship since the first edition was printed. The commentary proceeds phrase-by-phrase, with Greek appearing along with transliteration. Text critical notes are included in “additional comments,” which strike me as longer than in other volumes of this series. In fact, at times these notes look more like a Greek-Text commentary than the main body of the work! [Full Review]
Fee, Gordon D. Paul's Letter to the Philippians. NICNT. Eerdmans, 1995.
Phillip J. Long June 21, 2012
4.8 5
This is the first volume from this series I have included thus far, although it is not because others in the series are weak. For the most part, this commentary is more brief than the others and perhaps for that reason more accessible for the layman or busy pastor. What sets this commentary apart is Fee’s use of the Greco-Roman ideal of friendship as a model for understanding the letter. In this he follows closely the work of Stanley K. Stowers (“Friends and Enemies in the Politics of Heaven” in Pauline Theology edited by J. M. Bassler [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991]), 105-121 and Ben Witherington, III (Friendship and Finances in Philippi [Trinity, 1994]). The body of the commentary is based on the English text, Greek appears only in transliteration, with only light comments on syntax only when necessary. Fee interacts with other scholars, but for the most part these are his observations on the text. This makes for a very readable commentary which will be quite useful for sermon preparation. [Full Review]
Dunn, James D. G. The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon. NIGTC. Eerdmans, 1996.
Phillip J. Long June 26, 2012
5 5
Dunn is always interesting to read and the New International Greek Text series is always excellent. Based on the theology of the book, Dunn thinks that the book was not written by Paul, even if it is “Pauline.” The issue of authorship is not as critical an issue as for other books, Dunn refers to the writer as Paul despite expressing doubts that he was the actual author. He is warm to the possibility that the book was written from a hypothetical Ephesian imprisonment, but cannot state this (or any alternative view) with certainty. The opponents addressed by the letter are from the local Jewish synagogue. As Dunn says, to call this a “heresy” is “quite inappropriate” since the “competing philosophy” does not come from within the church. The body of the commentary is based wholly on the Greek text, with detailed lexical and syntactical comments. Dunn is well-versed in Second Temple Period Jewish literature as well as Greco-Roman works and integrates this material into his commentary well. In particular, material from the Dead Sea Scrolls is used to illustrate the “Jewishness” of Paul’s opponents. [Full Review]
Moo, Douglas J. The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon. PNTC. Eerdmans, 2008.
Phillip J. Long June 26, 2012
5 5
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]
O'Brien, Peter T. Colossians, Philemon [Plagiarism Acknowledged]. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1982.
Phillip J. Long June 26, 2012
4.9 5
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]
Wright, N. T. Colossians and Philemon. TNTC. InterVarsity Press, 1989.
Phillip J. Long June 26, 2012
4.9 5
The Tyndale series has been around for many years, Wright’s little commentary replaces 1960 Tyndale commentary by Herbert Carson. At only 192 pages, Wright’s commentary is brief, yet extremely helpful. The style is stimulating to read and will be helpful for any pastor or teaching preparing a sermon on Colossians. As expected, Wright has a fairly unique view of the Colossian heresy. He thinks that Paul is writing against the same sort of Judaizers he encountered in Galatia, considering Judaism as if it was just another philosophy in the marketplace of ideas of first-century Colossae. (This approach is similar to Dunn’s, Wright’s commentary pre-dates Dunn by a decade). This observation allows Wright to read the letter with the lens of the New Perspective on Paul (pages 24-30 make this point clear). As the commentary progresses, Wright consistently highlight’s Paul’s polemic against Judaism, as opposed to other suggested sources. The commentary is on the English text with occasional Greek appearing in transliteration. There is awareness of other scholarship, but the style of the commentary limits interaction with other commentaries. [Full Review]
Walsh, Brian J.; Keesmaat, Sylvia C. Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire. IVP Academic, 2004.
Phillip J. Long June 26, 2012
4.8 5
This is an unusual book, and I was initially hesitant to include it in a list of commentaries. It is an important book to me since this book was the first evangelical post-modern commentary I encountered. In fact, I am not sure I want to call it a commentary in the traditional sense of the word. As the authors imply by the title, they are “remixing” the letter in order to present it to 21st century America. As such, this is part sermon, part commentary, and part prophetic indictment. I recommend a careful study of Colossians, then reading this book from cover to cover – you will be challenged! [Full Review]
Malherbe, Abraham J. The Letters to the Thessalonians. AYB. Yale University Press, 2000.
Phillip J. Long July 31, 2017
5 5
Malherbe’s commentary is a detailed exegetical commentary that takes seriously forms of ancient letter writing. He presents Paul as a model letter-writer who follows the standard forms of letter writing in the Greco-Roman world. He illustrates this throughout the commentary by citing other letters that have similar rhetorical style or vocabulary to 1 Thess. His knowledge of this literature is encyclopedic, yet it is not too distracting to the reader interested in Paul’s meaning these letters. This is true even in discussion the “rapture” in 1 Thess 4:17, where he illustrates the use of the word harpazo in non-biblical Greek by Cicero and Seneca. I find his comments on this apocalyptic section excellent, since he works very hard to show how the Rapture (whatever it is) was intended as a consolation for the church, not a scare-tactic to keep the behaving properly. This is a very readable expert-level commentary, with Greek appearing in transliteration.
Wanamaker, Charles A. The Epistles to the Thessalonians. NIGTC. Eerdmans, 1990.
Phillip J. Long July 31, 2017
5 5
This was a textbook for a class on Exegesis of Pauline Epistles when I was in seminary. Like Malherbe, Wanamaker makes full use of rhetoric studies to unpack Paul’s argument in the letters. He is guided by Malherbe’s earlier work on rhetoric, Malherbe’s commentary then interacts with Wanamaker’s. His seven page essay on the rhetorical analysis of the letters is a good introduction for those who are new to this approach to Paul’s letters. The body of the commentary is based on the Greek text with no transliteration and all citations are in-text. This is true for the NIGTC in general and makes for a challenging read. Like Malherbe there are numerous comparisons to other Greco-Roman letters, although Wanamaker does not quote them at length.
Malherbe, Abraham J. The Letters to the Thessalonians. AYB. Yale University Press, 2000.
Phillip J. Long June 28, 2012
5 5
Malherbe’s commentary is a detailed exegetical commentary that takes seriously forms of ancient letter writing. He presents Paul as a model letter-writer who follows the standard forms of letter writing in the Greco-Roman world. He illustrates this throughout the commentary by citing other letters that have similar rhetorical style or vocabulary to 1 Thess. His knowledge of this literature is encyclopedic, yet it is not too distracting to the reader interested in Paul’s meaning these letters. This is true even in discussion the “rapture” in 1 Thess 4:17, where he illustrates the use of the word harpazo in non-biblical Greek by Cicero and Seneca. I find his comments on this apocalyptic section excellent, since he works very hard to show how the Rapture (whatever it is) was intended as a consolation for the church, not a scare-tactic to keep the behaving properly. This is a very readable expert-level commentary, with Greek appearing in transliteration. [Full Review]
Wanamaker, Charles A. The Epistles to the Thessalonians. NIGTC. Eerdmans, 1990.
Phillip J. Long June 28, 2012
5 5
This was a textbook for a class on Exegesis of Pauline Epistles when I was in seminary. Like Malherbe, Wanamaker makes full use of rhetoric studies to unpack Paul’s argument in the letters. He is guided by Malherbe’s earlier work on rhetoric, Malherbe’s commentary then interacts with Wanamaker’s. His seven page essay on the rhetorical analysis of the letters is a good introduction for those who are new to this approach to Paul’s letters. The body of the commentary is based on the Greek text with no transliteration and all citations are in-text. This is true for the NIGTC in general and makes for a challenging read. Like Malherbe there are numerous comparisons to other Greco-Roman letters, although Wanamaker does not quote them at length. [Full Review]
Bruce, F. F. 1 & 2 Thessalonians. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1982.
Phillip J. Long June 28, 2012
4.8 5
It seems strange to say that this commentary is now thirty years old! Bruce is always worth reading, and this early entry in the Word series is an exceptional commentary on the Greek text of the Thessalonian letters. Bruce is an efficient exegete. He comments on the Greek text of these letters briefly yet there is always a depth of understanding. Since Bruce wrote before the explosion of rhetorical studies on Thessalonians, the commentary itself is not concerned with “forms” or style of argument. A particular highlight of this commentary is Bruce’s nine-page excursus on the Antichrist in the context of his commentary on 2 Thess 2:1-12. [Full Review]
Morris, Leon. The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians. NICNT. Eerdmans, 1991.
Phillip J. Long June 28, 2012
4.8 5
I suppose this should count as cheating on my own rule of “only Five Commentaries,” but all three of these books are from Morris are worth reading. The Tyndale commentary is a revision of Morris’s 1956 commentary in the Tyndale series. Morris covers both books in a mere 152 pages, but does a good job highlighting what is important for reading and understanding the text of these letters. The commentary is based on the English text with Greek appearing in transliteration. The NICNT is also a revision of an earlier volume from the early 1960s. This is definitely the “first off the shelf” commentary. The newer commentary updates the bibliography and interacts with Ernest Best’s work on Thessalonians. The main body of the commentary is based on the English text, Greek and other details are in the notes. It is also worth seeking out Morris’s contribution to the Word Biblical Themes series written in 1989. This is little book is a biblical theology, drawing out several key themes of importance in the letters. I find his comments on the eschatology of 1-2 Thessalonians refreshing, and judging from the underlining in my copy of the book, I have stolen learned a great deal from Morris. [Full Review]
Morris, Leon. 1 and 2 Thessalonians. TNTC. InterVarsity Press, 1984.
Phillip J. Long June 28, 2012
4.8 5
I suppose this should count as cheating on my own rule of “only Five Commentaries,” but all three of these books are from Morris are worth reading. The Tyndale commentary is a revision of Morris’s 1956 commentary in the Tyndale series. Morris covers both books in a mere 152 pages, but does a good job highlighting what is important for reading and understanding the text of these letters. The commentary is based on the English text with Greek appearing in transliteration. The NICNT is also a revision of an earlier volume from the early 1960s. This is definitely the “first off the shelf” commentary. The newer commentary updates the bibliography and interacts with Ernest Best’s work on Thessalonians. The main body of the commentary is based on the English text, Greek and other details are in the notes. It is also worth seeking out Morris’s contribution to the Word Biblical Themes series written in 1989. This is little book is a biblical theology, drawing out several key themes of importance in the letters. I find his comments on the eschatology of 1-2 Thessalonians refreshing, and judging from the underlining in my copy of the book, I have stolen learned a great deal from Morris. [Full Review]
Beale, Gregory K. 1 & 2 Thessalonians. IVPNTC. InterVarsity Press, 2003.
Phillip J. Long June 28, 2012
4.8 5
This commentary is in the IVP New Testament Commentary series and is intended for pastors and teachers. The body of the commentary is based on the English, with occasional key Greek words appearing in transliteration. All citations are in-text; he interacts with a range of scholarship although it is weighted towards evangelical commentators. Beale treats more technical details in a footnote-like section at the bottom of the page. With respect to eschatology, Beale has a chart summarizing his belief that Paul is commenting on the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24) in his eschatological section (p. 137). [Full Review]
Marshall, I. Howard. Pastoral Epistles. ICC. T&T Clark, 1999.
Phillip J. Long July 3, 2012
5 5
Marshall’s contribution is perhaps the most detailed exegetical commentary on the list, as is to be expected from an ICC volume. Marshall replaced Walter Lock’s 1924 commentary in the series. The book caused a stir when it was released since Marshall (beloved by many evangelicals) rejected Pauline authorship of these letters. The introduction to the commentary develops Marshall’s view of authorship. The body of the commentary contains detailed bibliographies for each section followed by an overview of the text. The format of the commentary is a phrase-by-phrase unpacking of the Greek text, including textual, lexical and syntactical issues. He interacts with a broad range of scholarship, with Marshall includes a number of excellent excursuses (on Household Codes, in Titus, for example). [Full Review]
Towner, Philip H. 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus. IVPNTC. InterVarsity Press, 1994.
Phillip J. Long July 3, 2012
4.9 5
Towner’s recent commentary in the New International Commentary series is an excellent exegetical commentary. The body of the commentary proceeds through the text phrase-by-phrase, with Greek treated in the footnotes in detail. Towner has excellent exegetical notes and also demonstrates a expertise in Greco-Roman literature as well, especially in the virtue / vice lists. I also mention here his IVP volume, written more than ten years before the larger commentary. This series is designed for busy pastors who need a basic commentary, although an interested layman would find this a very readable commentary. His comments are on the English Bible and all references to Greek are in footnotes. [Full Review]
Towner, Philip H. The Letters to Timothy and Titus. NICNT. Eerdmans, 2006.
Phillip J. Long July 3, 2012
4.9 5
Towner’s recent commentary in the New International Commentary series is an excellent exegetical commentary. The body of the commentary proceeds through the text phrase-by-phrase, with Greek treated in the footnotes in detail. Towner has excellent exegetical notes and also demonstrates a expertise in Greco-Roman literature as well, especially in the virtue / vice lists. I also mention here his IVP volume, written more than ten years before the larger commentary. This series is designed for busy pastors who need a basic commentary, although an interested layman would find this a very readable commentary. His comments are on the English Bible and all references to Greek are in footnotes. [Full Review]
Johnson, Luke Timothy. The First and Second Letters to Timothy. AYB. Yale University Press, 2001.
Phillip J. Long July 3, 2012
4.9 5
Johnson is one of the more prolific New Testament scholars, and his Anchor Bible volume on the letters to Timothy is one of the best of the series. He spends about fifty pages on the authorship of the Pastorals, fairly describing and assessing the “conventional approach.” He offers five problems which this consensus view rarely discusses, and finally settles on the view that these letters are genuinely Pauline. He knows that authenticity cannot be demonstrated, but he sees these letters are representing Paul’s own thinking even if they are written through a delegate of some kind. As with all the Anchor commentaries, the body of the commentary includes a fresh translation followed by phrase-by-phrase notes, all Greek is transliterated. After the notes, Johnson provides a comment section which deals with the overall themes of the section, usually including the special contribution of the section to a kind of “pastoral epistles theology.” Johnson does not include Titus in this volume. The Anchor Bible series has a separate volume for Titus, Jerome D. Quinn, The Letter to Titus (AB; New Your: Doubleday, 1990). Quinn, who died before finishing this commentary, includes an introduction on all three pastoral letters. (Ben Witherington calls Quinn’s commentary the “only real standout” commentary on Titus. He may be right, since there are precious few commentaries on Titus alone!) [Full Review]
Mounce, William D. Pastoral Epistles. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 2000.
Phillip J. Long July 3, 2012
4.8 5
While he is better known for his ubiquitous Greek Grammar, Mounce has produced a fine commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. His introduction is very well written and is a good overview of the methodological issues which stand behind the problem of authorship. Mounce settles on a form of amanuensis theory to explain the differences between the Pastorals and the other letters of Paul. He includes an excursus on Pseudepigraphy and Canon which is one of the better overviews of the problem I have read. (The introduction is 136 pages; I wish that the Word series would dispense with Roman numerals for introductions when they run this long!) The body of the commentary follows the pattern of the Word series: Bibliography, followed by a fresh translation with textual notes, form/structure, formal commentary and explanation. The Formal commentary is on the Greek text without transliteration, and like the rest of the series, there are no footnotes, all sources are cited in-text. As might be expected, Mounce’s comments on the syntax of the Greek are detailed, but he does not merely identify forms, he consistently draws out theological conclusions based on his exegesis. [Full Review]
Witherington III, Ben. Letters And Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy And 1-3 John. LHHJC. IVP Academic, 2006.
Phillip J. Long July 3, 2012
4.8 5
Witherington’s socio-rhetorical commentary for the Pastoral Epistles was published by IVP rather than Eerdmans, and under the title this more verbose title. If you do not read the subtitles, you might miss the fact that there three volumes are commentaries. They are roughly the same style as the other socio-rhetorical commentaries, providing notes on the English text with Greek transliterated. As with his other similar commentaries, Witherington attempts to read these letters as examples of Greco-Roman rhetoric categories. An interesting wrinkle in this series is that he starts with Titus, rather than 1 Timothy. Usually commentaries start with Timothy and give Titus too little attention. I do find it odd that he includes the letters of John in this volume, making it impossible for me to put the book in a proper place on my OCD shelf. [Full Review]
Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The Letter to Philemon. AYB. Yale University Press, 2000.
Phillip J. Long July 5, 2012
4.9 5
Unlike Barth and Blanke, Fitzmyer’s commentary on Philemon is more or less the length that one would expect. At only 138 pages (78 of which are introduction), the commentary is tiny in comparison to Barth and Blanke’s girth. Fitzmyer was chosen to replace Barth who died before completing the commentary on Philemon. Fitzmyer had written the article on Philemon for both the Jerome Bible Commentary in 1968 and the revised New Jerome Bible Commentary in 1990, so he was prepared to expand his work for the Anchor volume. His introduction has a mere 8 pages on slavery, but it is enough to set the context of the letter. More important is Fitzmyer’s survey of the occasion and purpose of the letter. Fitzmyer argues that Paul is serving as a friendly intermediary (amicus domini), attempting to exert some influence over Philemon and reconciling him with Onesimus. As evidence, he includes several letters from Pliny which serve a similar purpose. This explanation of the letter has been widely accepted. The body of the commentary begins with a fresh translation, followed by comments and notes. He treats the Greek through transliteration, commenting on lexical and syntactical matters, as well as text-critical issues. As with Fiztmyer’s other commentaries for the Anchor series, he concludes each section with a bibliography which includes English and international scholars. [Full Review]
Barth, Markus; Blanke, Helmut. The Letter to Philemon. ECC. Eerdmans, 2000.
Phillip J. Long July 31, 2017
5 5
This commentary likely holds the record for the largest commentary on the smallest book in the modern era. Barth and Blanke wrote the Anchor Bible commentary on Colossians and Markus Barth is responsible for the idiosyncratic two-volume Anchor commentary on Ephesians. Philemon has 330 words, this commentary has just under 500 pages, or about a page and a half for every word in the letter. Actually, the commentary has 242 pages of introduction. Barth and Blanke begin with about 100 pages on slavery in the first century. This is practically a book in and of itself, but understanding this material is essential for properly understanding the letter, and more importantly, understanding why Paul does not request that Philemon give Onesimus his freedom. I have commented several times that one of the problems understanding slavery is that most people in the Western world have American slave trade in mind, but that is not at all what Roman slavery was like. The second half of the introduction treats the more typical topics one expects to find in a commentary. A major concern in the type of letter and the rhetoric Paul uses to achieve his goal. In fact, Paul’s goal in the letter is not obvious unless we read the letter as an example of a Greco-Roman letter. Barth and Blanke provide a number of parallel letters from the Greco-Roman world which help illuminate Philemon. The main concern of the introduction is the situation behind the letter to Philemon. Much is assumed about Onesimus, his flight and theft, his conversion and the reasons for his return. The actual commentary on Philemon proceeds phrase-by-phrase, treating the English text. All Greek appears in transliteration and all sources are cited in-text. This commentary is less interested in lexical issues, but that may be a result of the fairly straight-forward Greek found in the letter. The commentary also includes twenty-two excursuses on a variety of topics from house churches to providence and free will. Most of these run only a few pages and can be skipped if desired. The excursus on brotherhood (p. 423-46) is the longest. Barth and Blanke survey the Old Testament background for this term and compare Paul’s use of brother language for fellow believers to other “brotherhoods” in the ancient and modern world. Something I find strange with this commentary is that it does not have an introduction or forward. I was interested to know how Blanke completed the work of his teacher Barth (who died in 1994). [Full Review]
Ellingworth, Paul. The Epistle to the Hebrews. NIGTC. Eerdmans, 1993.
Phillip J. Long July 10, 2012
5 5
I am impressed by all the commentaries in the New International Greek Text series in terms of exegetical nuance and depth. Ellingworth provides 85 pages of introduction in addition to some 77 pages of bibliography. With respect to authorship, this commentary provides a comprehensive list of suggestions current to 1993, and settles on Apollos as the “least unlikely of the conjectures” (21). The commentary is comfortable with letting the author remain anonymous. He argues that the first readers were “predominately but not exclusively Jewish-Christian” (27), although it is only aimed as a particular group in Rome known to the writer. Like all the commentaries in this series, Ellingworth proceeds through the Greek text in a phrase-by-phrase fashion with all references cited in-text. This makes for a tough read since the language is quite technical. Commentaries on Hebrews necessarily must deal with the Hebrew Bible and Septuagint, Ellingworth demonstrates mastery of both. He regularly places the text of Hebrews in the context of Second Temple Period Judaism. [Full Review]
Koester, Craig R. Hebrews. AYB. Yale University Press, 2001.
Phillip J. Long July 10, 2012
5 5
This book replaces the earlier Anchor volume written by George Buchanan (1972), nearly tripling the size of the commentary. Like many of the early AB commentaries, Buchanan offered a new translation with only a light commentary. One thing I appreciated about the older commentary is that it had a Conclusion, offering several suggestions for authorship, origin, and purpose only after the book has been read exegetically. Most writers wait to writer their introductions last, but publishers always place the introduction (naturally) at the beginning of the book. Koester’s commentary offers a historical perspective absent from other studies. He begins with 63 pages on the “History of Interpretation and Influence.” He divides this introduction into several sub-sections (early church to 600; 600-1500; 1500-1750; 1750-present). This is an excellent overview of how Hebrews has been treated and will aid the reader in understanding what issues are at stake in reading Hebrews. Koester includes a “selected” theology of the book, since there are some any topics which can be covered theologically in Hebrews. The body of the commentary moves through the pericopes by offering a fresh translation, notes on the translation, and a comment on the theology of the section. Greek is treated in transliteration, sources are cited in-text, but a great deal of comparative literature appears in the footnotes as well. [Full Review]
Thompson, James W. Hebrews. PAI. Baker Academic, 2008.
Phillip J. Long July 10, 2012
4.9 5
This commentary is by far the most brief on the list, but Thompson’s work is very readable and will be useful for both scholar and layman. I think that this commentary might be the “first of the shelf” for the busy pastor. The commentary does an excellent job with the rhetoric of the letter, attempting to read the letter in the light of Greco-Roman homiletical tradition which was popular in the Hellenistic synagogue (13). He treats much of the writer’s use of the Hebrew Bible as midrash, a decidedly Jewish way of treating scripture. Hebrews 7 for example is a midrash on Gen 17:14-20 and Ps 110 (143). Thompson is also at home in the literature of the Second Temple Period, especially Philo. Commentaries on Hebrews must deal with parallels between the writer’s style and that of Philo of Alexandria, this commentary does so without losing sight of the biblical text. The commentary treats the English text with all Greek appearing in translation, sources cited in-text. There are numerous sidebars and occasional photographs in the commentary, something not usually including in scholarly works. [Full Review]
Lane, William L. Hebrews. 2 Vols. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1991.
Phillip J. Long July 10, 2012
4.9 5
Lane’s commentary in Hebrews is one of the better in the Word series. He reads the letter as representing a Hellenistic synagogue, probably a loosely affiliated house church whose members are fairly typical of Diaspora Judaism. The church is located (most likely) in Rome and this letter is intended to encourage them to continue in their new faith in Jesus. Perhaps persecution is the main problem, but a kind of spiritual lethargy threatens the church as much as anything else. The introduction has a nice summary of discourse analysis as proposed by G. H. Guthrie. His summary of the theology of Hebrews is excellent, focusing primarily on the Christology of the book. The body of the commentary proceeds through each major section of the book by first providing a detailed bibliography (including many non-English works), followed by a fresh translation and notes on the text. The Word series always includes a Form/Structure/Setting section after the translation, Lane uses this section to comment on the rhetoric of the letter. The Commentary proper moves phrase-by-phrase, treating the Greek text without transliteration. Following the commentary proper is a short “explanation” drawing the exegesis back to the theology of Hebrews. [Full Review]
Westcott, Brooke Foss. The Epistle to the Hebrews: The Greek Texts with Notes and Essays. Nabu Press, 1889.
Phillip J. Long July 10, 2012
4.8 5
This is a classic commentary on Hebrews, available as an e-Book through Google (a 1903 third ed.) recently reprinted by Wipf & Stock (the first ed.) Like many older commentaries, this book runs the Greek text across the top of the page, with detailed (and occasionally cryptic) notes in dual columns. There are numerous “additional notes” scattered through the commentary which give additional lexical or theological content. What is it about a one-hundred year old commentary that makes it worth reading? Commentaries of this age are notoriously brief, cutting to the heart of the matter as quickly as possible. Wescott especially has a sense for reading Hebrews in the light of the rest of scripture, which is all the more impressive since he live well before computers made finding potential parallels quite easy. The most intimidating thing about this commentary is that all parallel texts are given in Greek! [Full Review]
Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Letter of James. AYB. Yale University Press, 2005.
Phillip J. Long July 24, 2012
5 5
Johnson’s commentary replaced the rather slender volume by Bo Reicke (remarkable for including the epistles of Peter and Jude in a mere 221 pages!) By contrast, Johnson’s commentary begins with 164 pages of introduction to the letter of James alone. In fact, the introduction is worth the price of the book. I find his description of the similarities and differences between Paul and James helpful, concluding that the contrast is distorted by focusing on a single topic (justification by faith). Johnson dates the book early, written by a Jewish Christian in Palestine who had access to an early form of Jesus tradition (perhaps Q). The introduction has a long section on history of interpretation, asking the question, “How was the voice of James heard” by the church?” The commentary itself is based on the Greek text, but all Greek is transliterated. All citations in the commentary portion are in-text. Johnson draws parallels to Second Temple Period Jewish literature as well as Greco-Roman moralists. As with most of the recent volumes in the Anchor series, John includes detailed bibliographies at the end of each section, including German and French scholarship. [Full Review]
McKnight, Scot. The Letter of James. NICNT. Eerdmans, 2011.
Phillip J. Long July 24, 2012
5 5
Scot McKnight is an unusual in that he is a respected biblical scholar yet is able to write with a pastor’s heart on topics which speak to important contemporary issues. McKnight’s commentary is another excellent contribution to the NICNT series, replacing James Adamson’s 1976 volume. While Adamson is still a useful commentary, McKnight’s contribution goes far beyond what the NICNT series expected thirty-five years ago. After a brief introduction (55 pages, defending a generally traditional view of the letter), the commentary proceeds phrase by phrase, Greek appears in transliteration, but in footnotes it is not. Most of these notes are lexical or textual. McKnight fully develops the wisdom-aspect of the letter of James, occasionally citing at length parallels to Jewish wisdom drawn from the Hebrew Bible, especially Proverbs but also Sirach. He has a short excursus on Paul and James, concluding that James is responding to Paul (or some of Paul’s early followers who distorted Paul’s teaching). As with most of McKnight’s work, this is a very readable commentary. While readers familiar only with The Jesus Creed will find McKnight’s scholarship taxing, this commentary will be the “first off the shelf” for many years to come. [Full Review]
Martin, Ralph P. James. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1988.
Phillip J. Long July 24, 2012
4.9 5
The introduction to the book of James is about one-third of the book, and well worth reading despite being a bit dated. Martin sees a two-stage process for the production of the letter, first a collection of sayings going back to “James the Jerusalem Martyr” was made. These sayings were then edited (polished?) by a Hellenistic writer to produce the letter as we have it. This accounts for the Jewish / Wisdom aspects of the books as well as the Hellenistic / Moralists aspects. Martin’s commentary is one of the better on this list for treating the Greek text. Throughout the commentary the Greek is cited (without transliteration), Martin comments on both lexical and syntactical elements of the text. The Word series concludes each commentary section with an “Explanation,” here Martin draws on his exegesis to draw theological and pastoral conclusions. [Full Review]
Moo, Douglas J. The Letter of James. PNTC. Eerdmans, 2000.
Phillip J. Long July 24, 2012
4.9 5
Doug Moo wrote the replacement in the Tyndale New Testament commentary on James in 1985 (originally published by Eerdmans, now Intervarsity). This little commentary is very handy, treating Greek in transliteration and dealing with the more controversial issues only briefly. His more recent Pillar Commentary is much more substantial, developing his arguments for the traditional view that James was written by the Lord’s brother in the mid-40’s in more detail. I find his section on the theology of James quite helpful since it goes beyond the usual “works vs. faith” issue. The body of the commentary proceeds phrase by phrase, treating Greek in transliteration. Moo judiciously draws parallels to other Second Temple Period literature, showing that James stands in the Jewish tradition without cluttering the commentary with external sources. The text is quite readable, making this an ideal commentary for the busy pastor preparing to preach through James. [Full Review]
Davids, Peter. James. UBNT. Hendrickson Publishers, 1989.
Phillip J. Long July 24, 2012
4.8 5
I have not included any commentaries from this series (originally published by Hendrickson, now by Baker). They are handy paperback volumes, inexpensive yet usually good for preparing a sermon. This slender commentary includes Davids’s article on the Theology of James first published in JETS in 1980. The body of the commentary is based on the NIV, although there are “additional notes” dealing with aspects of the Greek text (in transliteration). Davids includes parallels to Jewish literature in these notes, which strike me as more lengthy than other commentaries in the series. [Full Review]
Elliott, John Huxtable. 1 Peter. AYB. Yale University Press, 2001.
Phillip J. Long August 3, 2012
5 5
At over 900 pages, Elliot’s commentary on 1 Peter has to be one of the longest written on a short book. The introduction runs to 304 pages alone, half of which is bibliography. For Elliot, 1 Peter was written sometime between A. D. 73 and 95 by someone who was associated with Peter, probably living in Rome. Consequently, he understands the readers as a mixed audience of Jewish and Gentile Christians. The language of the first verse as using Jewish language to describe the increasingly Gentile church. This commentary is one of the first in recent years to take the “resident alien” language literally, seeing it as an allusion to people who are outside of Roman society. This status as “resident alien” makes them susceptible to persecution. The commentary itself follows the Anchor Bible pattern by offering a fresh translation followed by detailed notes on the English text. In this case, the notes proceed almost word-by-word through the book, with Greek in transliteration. Elliot is masterful at drawing out allusions to other texts; virtually the whole of Greco-Roman and Second Temple Period Jewish literature is mined for potential allusions or parallel texts in 1 Peter. Occasionally he offers “Detailed Notes” (an excursus) on a particular point. This commentary will challenge readers, but it is worth the effort – all later writers on 1 Peter will have to take Elliot’s views into consideration. [Full Review]
Jobes, Karen H. 1 Peter. BECNT. Baker Academic, 2005.
Phillip J. Long August 3, 2012
5 5
Jobes considers the question of whether the letter is addressed to Jews or Gentiles of no real consequence, although she argues at length that the letter is addressed to Jewish Christians who have moved into the regions listed in 1 Peter 1:1 by Roman colonization (or as a result of the Edit of Claudius). The colonization theory helps to explain some of the metaphors in the book, especially the motif of foreignness found in the letter (39-41). She accepts the traditional view that Peter is the author of the letter. Throughout the text of the commentary how Peter alludes constantly to the Hebrew Bible. The text of the commentary is less cluttered than others in the BENTC series, with Greek appearing in text with transliteration. All sources are cited in-text, only a few footnotes appear in the book. Textual critical issues are relegated to the “additional notes” at the end of each section. This ought to be a “first off the shelf” commentary for most pastors teaching through 1 Peter. [Full Review]
Witherington III, Ben. Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1-2 Peter. LHHJC. IVP Academic, 2008.
Phillip J. Long August 3, 2012
4.9 5
Witherington follows Elliot and others who argue that the phrase “strangers and aliens” ought to be taken as a reference to Jewish Christians. This commentary therefore sees the recipients as Hellenized Jews who have accepted Jesus as messiah and now are Christians. Peter is writing to these Jews living in Asia Minor, contra Peter Davids (for example), who cannot understand how 1:14-18 could ever be applied to Jews. The body of the commentary is based on the English text, Greek words appear only in transliteration. As with other commentaries in Witherington’s Socio-Rhetorical series, there are numerous references to Greco-Roman sources, especially with respect to rhetorical categories. These may not be helpful to everyone, but Witherington works very hard to place the letter in a proper rhetorical context. He has several interesting excursuses, entitled “A Closer Look.” For example, his short essay on “Ascending Enoch; Jesus and the Falling Spirits” provides insight into a very difficult problem in 1 Peter 3. [Full Review]
Michaels, J. Ramsey. 1 Peter. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1988.
Phillip J. Long August 3, 2012
4.9 5
Michaels reads 1 Peter as a letter addressed to Gentiles, although the letter he says “sends mixed signals.” He recognizes that the opening verse could very well refer to literal Jews, but 1:14-18 seems to imply rather strongly that the readers are Gentiles. Since the commentary was published in 1988, Michaels can say there is a “near consensus” that Peter was writing to Gentiles. For Michaels, 1 Peter is an “apocalyptic diaspora letter to ‘Israel.’” While James was written to (real) messianic Jews in the Diaspora, Michaels thinks 1 Peter was written to (metaphorical) Jews in the Diaspora, ie., Gentiles. He surveys at length the problems with the historical Peter as author and concludes that we cannot be certain simply because the evidence is thin. In the body of the commentary, each section begins with a bibliography and fresh translation followed by textual notes. Since 1 Peter use the Hebrew Bible a great deal, Michaels often uses these notes to delve into the complicated matter of Peter’s used of Septuagint versus Hebrew Bible. The textual notes are followed by a “Form/Structure/Setting” section, often commenting on possible pre-Petrine forms (hymns, traditional formulae, etc.) The comment section proceeds phrase-by-phrase in Greek, no transliteration is provided. Michaels makes detailed lexical and syntactical comments; it is here that the commentary excels. Following the long comment sections is a more brief “explanation” which ties the pericope to the overall themes of 1 Peter. [Full Review]
Best, Ernest. 1 Peter. NCB. Eerdmans, 1982.
Phillip J. Long August 3, 2012
4.8 5
Best is well known for his ICC commentary on Ephesians, but this little commentary on 1 Peter is quite good, although a bit dated. His 66 page introduction reflects the state of thinking about 1 Peter in the 1960s, much has happened in the last 50 years. For Best, the book is pseudonymous, but it emerged from a Peterine school of thought sometime in the final two decades of the first century (63). Elliot cites Best as the “rudimentary form” which he develops in more detail in his commentary (Elliot, 127). With respect to recipients, Best comments that “the majority of the members of these congregations were of Gentile origin,” but then he backs off a bit and says that “a superficial glance at the letter might suggest that the author had Jewish Christians in mind” (19). Best also deals with various literary issues (pre-existing material, liturgy, household codes, etc.) Exegesis is based on the English text and all Greek appears in transliteration. In fact, the explanation of the text is done with very little reference to syntax and grammar, only occasionally does Best address a lexical issue. The style of the commentary required no footnotes, and in-text citations are light. This makes for a fairly readable commentary. [Full Review]
Bauckham, Richard J. 2 Peter and Jude. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1983.
Phillip J. Long August 7, 2012
5 5
This commentary is the most important contribution on these two letters in modern times. All commentaries after Bauckham will need to deal with his understanding of the letters. The introductions to the letters are perhaps more important that the commentary sections. Bauckham treats Jude first because he dates the book very early, no later that A.D. 50. He does not see any evidence of “Paulinism” nor the “early catholicism” found in later letters. Jude is the brother of Jesus and the letter reflects an apocalyptic Palestinian Judaism. Whether this is really Jesus’ brother or someone writing in his name is an open question for Bauckham, but he thinks that all the evidence is “consistent with authorship by Jude the brother of Jesus” (16). Second Peter, on the other hand, Bauckham thinks is a pseudonymous example of the literary genre testament. Like the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, 2 Peter was written using the character Peter in order to give a moral exhortation to a new generation of believers. He argues that the original audience would have understood this as a common literary convention. The readers (living at the end of the first century) would have expected the writer to do an accurate job of reporting “the essence of Peter’s teaching” but they would not have expected that Peter wrote the letter himself (134). Bauckham is an expert in the literature of the Second Temple Period and he uses this literature to interpret these two letters as apocalyptic literature consistent with the literature being produced by Jews in the middle of the first century. His section on 2 Peter’s literary influences is excellent. The commentary proceeds phrase by phrase through the Greek text without transliteration. As expected, the commentary interested in the various allusions to the Hebrew Bible or other literature. This makes for a challenging read, but ultimately rewarding to the diligent student. [Full Review]
Schreiner, Thomas R. I and II Peter, Jude. NAC. Broadman & Holman, 2003.
Phillip J. Long August 7, 2012
5 5
While this volume covers 2 Peter and Jude as well, Schreiner’s commentary is worth reading as an example of evangelical scholarship. He supports the traditional view that Peter and Jude are the authors of the respective letters. In contrast to Bauckham, he argues that the evidence for accepting pseudepigraphical letters is weak. He cites the punishment of the author of Paul and Thecla, for example, as evidence that the early church considered writing in the name of Paul was not accepted, even if the intentions were good (271). Bauckham did not say that 2 Peter was a letter written under a pseudonym, but rather that it is a testament, which were always written as if the historical person were addressing contemporary needs. Schreiner deals with this argument in detail, pointing out that not all testaments are fictional; Acts 20:17-38 is a “testament” created by Paul himself (274). With respect to Jude, Schreiner finds the evidence that the brother of Jesus wrote the short letter compelling. In the commentary portions, Schreiner moves through paragraphs, commenting on the English text, Greek is found in footnotes. Both of these books make heavy use of the Hebrew Bible and other Second Temple Period literature, Schreiner does an excellent job showing how these allusions function in the letter. [Full Review]
Davids, Peter. The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude. PNTC. Eerdmans, 2006.
Phillip J. Long August 7, 2012
4.9 5
This commentary begins with Jude (despite the title!), a letter which may have been written by Jesus’ brother, but Davids does not find compelling evidence for this. It is the opponents which the letter deal with which are determinative for Davids. Jude certainly comes from Palestine, but the opponents reflect a libertine attitude toward the Law which implies Paul’s law-free gospel is being misunderstood. But there is no way to be sure, so any date afer 50-55 could be defended (23). His conclusions on 2 Peter are similar, there is not enough evidence to state with certainty that the book is pseudepigraphic or not. I would recommend reading this commentary along side Bauckham, Davids interacts with Bauckham’s arguments. The commentary proper is rich with allusions to the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Period literature, treating the English text with all references to Greek in transliteration [Full Review]
Davids, Peter. The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude. PNTC. Eerdmans, 2006.
Phillip J. Long August 7, 2012
4.9 5
This commentary begins with Jude (despite the title!), a letter which may have been written by Jesus’ brother, but Davids does not find compelling evidence for this. It is the opponents which the letter deal with which are determinative for Davids. Jude certainly comes from Palestine, but the opponents reflect a libertine attitude toward the Law which implies Paul’s law-free gospel is being misunderstood. But there is no way to be sure, so any date afer 50-55 could be defended (23). His conclusions on 2 Peter are similar, there is not enough evidence to state with certainty that the book is pseudepigraphic or not. I would recommend reading this commentary along side Bauckham, Davids interacts with Bauckham’s arguments. The commentary proper is rich with allusions to the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Period literature, treating the English text with all references to Greek in transliteration. [Full Review]
Reese, Ruth Anne. 2 Peter & Jude. THNTC. Eerdmans, 2007.
Phillip J. Long August 7, 2012
4.9 5
This commentary is in the Two Horizons series from Eerdmans and is a bit more theological than exegetical. Reese accepts the traditional view of the authorship of both 2 Peter and Jude. The commentary is based on the English text with sources cited in footnotes. After the commentary for each book, Reese provides a section entitled “Theological Horizons” which identifies a number of themes found in the book and connects them to larger canonical theology. The style of the commentary emphasizes this sort of biblical theology; these sections are as long as the traditional commentary sections! Since Jude makes use of the Hebrew Bible, she includes several pages on allusions to the Hebrew Bible in Jude and how they function as metaphors for salvation. The final section of this theological commentary attempts to bring the teaching of Jude and 2 Peter forward to the “contemporary context.” In the case of Jude, she engages Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace to discuss how the modern church deals with “outsiders.” In her comments on 2 Peter, Reese asks how 2 Peter’s eschatology impacts our ethical thinking. [Full Review]
Kelly, J. N. D. The Epistles of Peter and of Jude. BNTC. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993.
Phillip J. Long August 7, 2012
4.8 5
The Black’s Commentary series is well traveled: it was picked up by Hendrickson which sold it to Baker. Nevertheless, there are quite a few valuable volumes in the series, including this commentary by Kelly, usually associated with early church history. Kelly treats both 2 Peter and Jude in a single introduction, concluding that 2 Peter “belongs to the luxuriant crop of pseudo-Petrine literature which sprang up around the memory of the Prince of Apostles” (236). For Jude, there is simply not enough evidence for Kelly to decide for or against Jude’s authenticity. The commentary proper proceeds through the text phrase by phrase, all sources are cited in-text. Greek appears in transliteration. While Kelly is aware of some of the literature of the Second Temple Period, he writes before the massive collection from Charlesworth was published. This means that there is less reference to potential allusions to other literature and more attention to the text! [Full Review]
Culy, Martin M. I, II, III John: A Handbook on the Greek Text. BHGNT. Baylor University Press, 2004.
Phillip J. Long August 9, 2012
5 5
This book is a running commentary on the syntax of the letters of John, identifying grammatical categories for virtually every word. The English paragraph is printed, followed by each verse in Greek, then each phrase in the verse with commentary. For some words or phrases Cully points out that “scholars differ,” providing the various options for the student to sort out. Only rarely does Cully cite a particular grammar, which has the advantage of allowing professors to use whatever intermediate grammar they choose. The book is certainly a handy size, making it an easy read along side the Greek New Testament. [Full Review]
Brown, Raymond E. The Epistles of John. AYB. Yale University Press, 1982.
Phillip J. Long August 9, 2012
4.9 5
Along with his commentary on the Gospel of John and his Introduction to the Gospel of John (completed by Maloney after Brown’s death), this commentary is one of the most significant contributions to the study of the Johannine literature in the twentieth century. Brown introduced his views on the Johannine community in his commentary on the Gospel of John and develops it further in this commentary. I highly recommend the 130 page introduction to the commentary as required reading for anyone working seriously in John. While interest in his theory of the “Johannine Community” has waned, it is hard to read a commentary on John’s Gospel or Letters which do not engage Brown on nearly every page. At almost 800 pages, this commentary on the Epistles of John is the most detailed exegetical commentary available. The commentary proceeds through the text word-by-word, dealing with lexical and syntactical matters. Greek appears only in transliteration, all sources are cited in-text. After the detailed note section, Brown provides a “comment” in the overall theology of the pericope, often connecting it to his previous work on the Gospel of John. These comments all assume his Johannine community theory. Sections end with a bibliography pertinent to that section. [Full Review]
Kruse, Colin G. The Letters of John. PNTC. Eerdmans, 2000.
Phillip J. Long August 9, 2012
4.9 5
Cruse beings his commentary by suggesting a plausible scenario for the production of these letters. Assuming the Letters and the Gospel of John were produced by the apostle John (“the fairest way to read the evidence,” 14), Kruse argues that the letters were written after a first form of the Gospel was written in response to a successionist group which differed from John on the nature of Jesus. This group appears to have been aggressive in that they sought to bring others into their circle. First John is a circular letter to all of the congregations in and around Ephesus, 2 and 3 John are to specific house churches advising them directly what to do with traveling teachers “peddling their new and heretical teaching” (3). After the letters were written, John died, and the final form of the gospel as we have it today was published. What happened to the successionists is unknown, but they may develop into Gnosticism. The body of the commentary is based on the English text, with Greek details in the footnotes. The style is very readable, with occasional excursuses. For example, Kruse briefly comments on the use of chrisma in 1 John 2:20; in another place he has a useful summary of the New Testament teaching on antichrist. [Full Review]
Akin, Daniel L. 1,2 & 3 John. NAC. Broadman & Holman, 2001.
Phillip J. Long August 9, 2012
4.8 5
Akin affirms the traditional view that John the Apostle wrote both the Gospel and Letters which bear his name in the New Testament. Like most, Akin understands that John was writing in response to an attack from a specific false teaching concerning Jesus, but also a defective morality and arrogant spirituality (31). In the introduction he has a brief overview of the theology of the letters, including a paragraph on the overlooked eschatology of the letters. The body of the commentary prints the English text followed by detailed comments with Greek in transliteration. This makes for a readble commentary which will be useful for preparing to preach these letters. [Full Review]
Aune, David E. Revelation. 3 Vols. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1997.
Phillip J. Long August 13, 2012
5 5
At more that 1200 pages, this commentary is the most detailed written in the Word series on any book and sets the standard for Revelation commentaries for years to come. His exegesis of the Greek text is excellent. He places the book in the context of the first century and demonstrates that much of the imagery in Revelation is at home in the apocalyptic writings popular among Jews and Christians at the end of the first century. He offers detailed textual comments and syntactical observations. Aune has an encyclopedic knowledge of Greek and Jewish source which he brings to bear on every line of the book of Revelation. For example, when he interprets the sixth seal in Rev 6, he provides a summary of “ancient prodigies,” or unnatural occurrences in Greek and Roman literature. In the space of two pages, dozens of primary sources are cited. It is possible that some (or, many) of the texts Aune cites are not particularly helpful. For example, in his comments on the angel coming down from heaven with chains to bind Satan in Rev 20:1, he lists 1 Enoch 54:3-5, 2 Apoc. Baruch 56:13, Sib. Or. 2.289, as well as Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4. Since all of these are examples of Jewish apocalyptic literature known in the late first century, they are all legitimate “parallel” material. But then he goes on to list several examples of chaining gods (Apollodorus 1.1.2), the Titans (Hesiod, Theog. 718) and even the chaining of Prometheus (Odyssey 11:293). While it is certain that binding Satan is a common “apocalyptic motif,” whether it is “derived” from Greco-Roman myths is more tenuous. Nevertheless, Aune’s awareness of the literature of the Second Temple Period enriches his commentary greatly. [Full Review]
Beale, Gregory K. The Book of Revelation. NIGTC. Eerdmans, 1998.
Phillip J. Long August 13, 2012
5 5
Beale’s mammoth commentary followed Aune’s and is equal in size and value to scholarship. Beale has written a great deal on “Old Testament in the New” issues, so it is no surprise to find large sections in this commentary devoted to John’s Hebrew Bible sources. His interest is in John’s use of the Hebrew Bible so there is less reference to Greek and Roman sources than in Aune’s commentary. Beale includes a twenty page summary of his view of what constitutes an allusion and his controlling method for deciding what may be an allusion and what is not. He describes his approach to the book as a “redemptive historical form of modified idealism” (48). By this he means that the symbols of the book of Revelation had some specific referent in the first century which will provide some comfort or teaching to Christians throughout history, but will find ultimate fulfillment in the future. In the commentary proper Beale works through the Greek text phrase-by-phrase, commenting on syntactical issues where appropriate. The style of the commentary tends to use a smaller font for textual details, allowing a reader to skip over these elements. Like most readers of the Greek of Revelation, Beale puzzles over some aspects of John’s style, finding in many cases that he employs a Semitic syntax more than Greek. Beale has a number of excursuses devoted to how specific metaphors functioned in Judaism. For example, after his commentary on Rev 9:19, he has a page on serpents and scorpions in Judaism. While a page does not seem like much, there are dozens of references to the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic texts unpacking the metaphor of a scorpion. One criticism: a single 1200+ page volume is unwieldy to use, even with the lighter paper. I would have liked Eerdmans to publish this book in at least two volumes. The spine of my copy has split near the center. [Full Review]
Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. BECNT. Baker Academic, 2002.
Phillip J. Long August 13, 2012
4.9 5
It is hard to imagine that an 800+ page commentary should be considered brief, but in comparison to Aune and Beale, Osborne’s commentary more efficient and user-friendly. I find his introductory material very well written and insightful, celebrating what he called the “hermeneutics of humility” (16). Osborne is aware that reading Revelation generates more questions than answers and advises students of Revelation to be humble in their exegesis, willing to not understand everything in the book. He includes about 18 pages on the theology of the book. He includes two pages on Mission in Revelation, a topic which is not among the first things one thinks of when reading Revelation! Osborne’s approach to the book is to combine futurist and idealist readings of the book, with an emphasis on the future. He defines apocalyptic as “the present addressed through parallels with the future” (22). In the commentary proper, Osborne moves phrase-by-phrase through pericopes, commenting on the Greek text with transliterations provided. Greek does appear in the footnotes, where he makes more detailed syntactical observations. After the exegetical section, Osborne offers a “summary and contextualization” section, drawing out theological insights of major sections. [Full Review]
Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation. NICNT. Eerdmans, 1997.
Phillip J. Long August 13, 2012
4.9 5
Mounce’s commentary is brief because he does not spend the time searching for John’s sources or worrying over potential parallels. While the commentary is quite aware that John stands on the foundation of the Hebrew Bible and that there is parallel material in other Jewish apocalypses, Mounce wrote his initial version of this commentary prior to the rise of scholarly preoccupation with sources. Mounce reads Revelation as reflecting his own culture, but understands that “the predictions of John…will find their final and complete fulfillment in the last days of history” (45, first ed.). He finds this blending of John’s present and future consistent with the nature of prophecy in the New Testament. In the preface to the revised edition of commentary Mounce states that he still has the same basic approach to the book and he remains a premillennialist, but he has a deeper appreciation for other views of the book. (Another difference between the editions is that the Revised uses the NIV rather that the 1901 ASB). The body of the commentary is based on the English text, with details of Greek grammar relegated to the footnotes. I think that this is a good commentary for the busy pastor or layman who wants a bit more in-depth study without the details of Aune or Beale. [Full Review]
Ladd, George Eldon. A Commentary on the Revelation of John. Eerdmans, 1972.
Phillip J. Long August 13, 2012
4.8 5
If the measure of a classic commentary is wear and tear, then Ladd’s commentary on Revelation certainly qualifies for me. My copy 1983 reprint is fairly well marked, the spine is broken and pages are falling out. I suppose it is possible that the paperback binding was not designed to last, but I have used this book often over the years. This is a brief, easy to read commentary, but there is a great deal of depth to the book as well. With only 14 pages of introduction, Ladd is focused on the text rather than method. (In his defense, he treats the theology of the book of Revelation in his New Testament Theology.) He blends preterist and futurist methods as a representative of what is now known as ‘historic premillenialism” (see page 261 for his millennial position). Ladd reads the books as applicable to the first century, but also as a prophecy of the return of Jesus in the future. Occasionally he weighs alternate views of the book in the commentary, as he does in treating the measuring of the Temple in Rev 11, for example. The commentary proper is on the English text, only rarely does he deal with Greek directly and always in transliteration. This makes for an easy-reading commentary for the laymen. [Full Review]