The New Testament Commentary Guide by Nijay Gupta

I’ve always enjoyed these books that help us by ranking the best commentaries among the nearly endless options available. Here Nijay Gupta throws his hat in the ring and offers up his choices. Of necessity, this type book is going to work best for you the better you line up with the one doing the ranking.

To be sure, I don’t align with Gupta as much as others with similar offerings. I simply wouldn’t choose many of his top choices and am baffled by some of his omissions. If you were a bit less conservative than me, he would likely fall right in line for you. I also feel his selections are more apropos for scholars than pastors though he attempts to offer advise to both.

The best value here for me is at the margins. I like to have a few works outside my box, and he offers real help in making those selections. A few recommendations he provided were totally off my radar and gave me a few good ideas for future selections.

If all such books were of the same stripe, you really couldn’t find much value in multiple authors recommending. It’s where disagreements arise that having a few of these type books on hand could help you.

I like the format more than the selections. That style of presentation makes a clearer case for what he’s suggesting than many such formats.

Commentaries cost a fortune, so some evaluations are needed. Let this title be one such evaluation.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Ten Commandments by Peter Leithart

I knew I’d like this book. Sometimes you encounter an author that just seems to ring the bell for you each time you read them. Over the last three years, I’ve taken on 5 or 6 such writers and Peter Leithart is one of them. Where others strain to say something, he sees something. In what must induce jealousy from the cardboard writers of our day who take one catchy phrase for a title only to squeeze the life out of it for around 200 pages, along comes Leithart and says more in one page, or maybe one paragraph, than they do in their whole production. Adding injury to their insult, not only does he have something to say, but he can turn a phrase better than them in their pedestrian efforts where they think hip and cute is the real deal.

This one scores the high praise like others of his I’ve read. What’s funny is that it lacks polish. At times, it’s almost a stream-of -consciousness affair. He gives a line or two with some brilliant observation and then goes on to something else as if it wasn’t as grand as it really was. I say that though I at times strongly disagree with him (though that was far less the case here than in his work on baptism in this series). The book is kind of short too. You could read it quickly, though that would be the dumbest thing you could do. I’m not giving caveats, to be sure, as this book is beyond criticism, but really marveling at how he wrote and still how profoundly good it was.

I learned so much that either I didn’t actually know anything about the Ten Commandments in the first place, or we really have something special here.

I’ll suggest this to you—read just the material on the First Commandment alone and if you don’t love this book by then, then I for sure don’t know anything about reviewing books.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Reformed Dogmatics by Vos

It’s hard to image a new title (in English at least) from a popular writer who has been dead 70 years. But that is what we have here. Geerhardus Vos is renowned for his work on biblical theology and his highly influential “The Pauline Eschatology” and here we have uncovered for us a work from earlier in his career.

First, let’s dispense with the ridiculous criticism that some throw at the pages of this volume. Some accuse the pages of being too thin with too much bleed, but they are exactly what many Bibles use with no disadvantage. If you dislike the thinner pages, you can get this title as a multi volume set. Still, this volume is attractive and will be easy to read.

With that settled, we can now consider Vos’ work itself. Be sure to read the Preface as it gives interesting background on Vos and this work of systematic theology itself. It really prepares you for what you are going to be getting. It reminds you that he was Dutch (you may be aware of Dutch Reformed theology) and specifically his “affinity” with Herman Bavick (which may also orient you). You will also see how to distinguish it from his more famous Biblical Theology.

Next, you will notice that you are reading from one teaching students. In fact, he uses a question and answer format. Perhaps they are not all the questions that you’d like asked, but they are informative and shrewdly work through what Vos was wanting to impart. I imagine his students were far more instructed than they imagined and we likely will glean far more than the simple design might at first suggest.

Further, you might have to dig to find certain subjects. For example, when I was looking for his section on the Holy Spirit, I had to seek till I found it under the Trinity. A little digging will get you to most everything you’re looking for.

His theological prowess is on display throughout. This work is not like some of the most popular systematic theologies, but aims more at clarity and profundity. Consider it a great change up as you grab your pile of systematic theologies. It’s worthy of a place.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Matthew (ECC) [2 volumes] by Walter Wilson

Rumors were that the Eerdmans Critical Commentary (ECC) series was halted, but the release of this two-volume set proves them false. I have no idea what the future of this series is, but I found this set exceeding my expectations. To be upfront, I’m very conservative in my approach to Scripture, but have long enjoyed some of these series that take a more liberal viewpoint because they can have such interesting theological takes at points. Again, not across the board, but here and there nuggets of brilliance can be dug out. Now that you understand what I’m looking for, and the basis I will rate the book on, I can tell you that this one provides far more of it than I usually get. There’s some nonsense to my conservative eyes on these pages, but there’s a bunch of what I hoped to find too—yes, reams of it really.

By the standards of major commentaries of this length, this set has a short Introduction of 20 pages and the footnotes are half of that. Good for me, the subjects where I’d find the reasoning most subversive are mercifully short in coverage. That might be a downer for some users of this work, but since “Q” and source discussions are served up ad nauseam in other works I think you’ll be ok. He quickly segues into “genre and orientation”. It’s the orientation angle that sparkles with profound observation. If you can’t enrich your studies with what’s found here, I suspect you’re not even trying. It’s the broad swaths that we somehow miss that were most compelling. The section on theological interests and involvements are really more of the same at the same high level. And then the Introduction is over. As it turns out, like Goldilocks, I’ll call it , just right.

The commentary proper continues the style I enjoyed in the Introduction. When he makes a conclusion based on the sources Matthew was using, I’ll pass. But when such things don’t derail him, the exegesis is quite good. Even better is how he looks at the text with eyes wide open and sees so much. When you can see important details, can see trends across the book, and can tie it all together, you can help we commentary readers. This he does. I really like this lovely commentary (nice book and dust jacket) though it’s final rating may be a matter of taste. It tasted good to me.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Colossians and Philemon (TNTC) by Alan Thompson

Now Colossians and Philemon get a turn at revision in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TNTC) series with Alan Thompson replacing N. T. Wright. As famous as Wright is, I prefer this new volume. Thompson studied under Douglas Moo and since Moo has turned out one of the most-important major commentaries on these two epistles, you might think of this as Moo in a more accessible offering. I do not mean by that that Thompson has merely repackaged Moo, but that even though Thompson has done his own work, the conclusions are quite similar. In this case, that’s not a bad thing. Good conclusions expressed by two different authors in their own way can be quite helpful.

Colossians gets a 25 page Introduction while Philemon gets 6. That’s on the longer side for this series. Most importantly, the conclusions are conservative and sufficiently worked out. The reasoning is solid. Most pastors and teachers will find all the introductory discussions they would care to find here. There’s nothing here that falls short and the last section in the Colossians Introduction on why Paul wrote Colossians is best. That’s really where he works out the theology rather than in its own section. Structure isn’t really addressed directly besides in an outline either. The one on Philemon was similar in style and conclusions. Unusual for these days, no diatribe on slavery as if were the whole point Philemon exists. Since slavery is just a background for the story rather than the point of the little epistle, that’s a good thing.

The commentary proper meets the standards of this series and is on par with several others I’ve reviewed. Solid and dependable are the words that come to mind. Just as in every title in this round of revision of TNTC so far, let’s label it recommended.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Luke (TNTC) by Nicholas Perrin

Here is another fine commentary in the widely-used Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TNTC). Before I describe this quality work, I must pause for a moment as my favorite volume of the series before this round of revision, Leon Morris’ Luke, passes from the series. For me, Perrin isn’t a replacement, but a happy addition. Morris AND Perrin will be on my shelves together for the duration.

Now for Perrin. He continues holding to conservative conclusions throughout, so he is trustworthy. He has his own specialties too. Along the way, he has written on the Kingdom of God and I see that knowledge adding sparkle to this commentary at several junctures. He, too, fully understands the design of this series and seemed comfortable in it. The book is near 500 pages, but as he points out at the beginning, Luke is the longest book in the New Testament. More pages were naturally needed, but the depth matches what we are used to in the series.

Also typical for the series, the Introduction is 12 pages. Everything is covered briefly but clear conclusions that will impact the commentary are there. I love how he is agnostic about sources. I’m kind of atheistic about them myself, but that’s a good way to stay out of the ditch in a commentary. Perhaps theological concerns and structure should have been longer in the Introduction, but I’m picking at him now.

The commentary proper is of real value. I read his commentary on Luke 1 and 2 early on Christmas morning and I enjoyed it so much that I may now be too emotionally connected to this book to give unbiased review. Still, I’m pretty sure it’s really good. You will have to cite real proof to convince me otherwise. Until you do, I’ll rate this one highly recommended.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Numbers (Second Ed.) [NICOT] by Timothy Ashley

In the recent spate of new releases in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT), we get this updated commentary on Numbers by Timothy Ashley. The first question, obviously, is what is different here from the original edition. Fortunately, he tells us right up front in the preface. First, he tries to take in a sampling if what’s been written in the last 25 years. Second, he changes a major earlier emphasis on arguing against the Documentary Hypothesis. Though he was on the right side of that issue, there could hardly be a more wasted labor than that of surveying the garbage can where that theory now resides. So this update has to be better!

For starters, this commentary has been rated in the top few on Numbers since it was released and the intervening years and releases of new commentaries did nothing to knock it off its perch. I’m convinced this update will keep it relevant and important for the next 20 years. The changes weren’t dramatic because its value was already established. The editors clearly made a wise choice in retaining Ashley.

The bibliography is quite large, though there aren’t as many post-1993 listings as you might have anticipated (where is Dennis Cole?). The Introduction is only 20 pages, but it does get sufficiently to the heart of the matter. Apparently, he prefers to discuss more issues in the commentary proper itself as that part is rather full. Structure gets short discussion, but it is not really debated as much as other books anyway. He still has an-depth discussion on authorship and composition that assumes sources and editing, but focuses on the final form of the text that he believes is authoritative. His section on theological themes looks at Numbers chronologically and well develops those themes. He is brief on his discussion of text and versions, but most of us would find little loss there.

It’s the commentary proper where this volume excels. The exegesis is masterful and top-flight. I couldn’t agree with his skepticism of the large numbers we find in this book, but otherwise there is all you’re looking for in a major commentary. In fact, the quality of the exegesis compensates for any criticism that you could level at this book. For that reason alone, the impressive exegesis, I must label this commentary 5-star all the way!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Pastoral Epistles (TNTC) by Osvaldo Padilla

Here we get a brand new entry in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TNTC) series, in this case covering all three Epistles that make up the Pastoral Epistles. The new author in this replacement volume is Osvaldo Padilla. His writing matches what I saw in an introductory work on Acts of his that I encountered a few years ago. He writes clearly and yet his academic background is ever evident.

He begins his Introduction by discussing authorship. He surveys from the early church to the eighteenth century. Since very few doubted Pauline authorship for centuries, he quickly shares that he agrees, along with a clear affirmation in the veracity of Scripture at large. From there, he suggests textual reasons for agreeing with that premise of Pauline authorship. He works his way to the Enlightenment and the forces at work of those days that derailed belief in Paul’s authorship. It was an interesting overview. His conclusions are solid.

Genre comes next and again he explains the scholarly options well. Sometimes genre is an overdeveloped idea by scholars where it’s unimaginable that authors thought through so many categories before they wrote. Even more troublesome is how scholars often draw bold conclusions for the whole epistle on what is really hairs split three or four times. In any event, it’s clearly laid out here.

He addresses the recent debate about the Pastorals even being linked as a unit. His argument that the linkage is more theological than a historical uniformity is well played. He also makes good observations on the occasion of the Pastoral Epistles.

My only criticism of the Introduction is how he, after helpfully pointing out the use of “good works” and “godliness”, too strongly ties their usage to addressing Greek ideas rather than their straightforward Christian meaning. He then carries that reasoning to the commentary proper and uses it, in my view, to get around some of what the “household code” is stating . In those places, if you’re keeping score at home, he closely aligns with Towner and Marshall. To be sure, I’m in more of a minority position than him, but in any event you have your own opinion.

Please don’t think I’m downgrading the commentary overall because I disagree there. That’s just one little portion of the Pastorals and I love his theology, particularly on the Trinity, Christ, the Spirit, and salvation. He commentates exactly as this series is designed and it’s truly helpful. You can make good use of this book.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Typology by James Hamilton Jr.

Fascinating! I can’t think of any better way to describe this book. For that matter, I’m glad to see it come along. It’s really needed. So many of the books on typology I’ve encountered have only been a listing and description of the author’s favorite types however fanciful they might be. Usually, for the record, they were extremely fanciful. In many cases, several of the types discussed had never been thought of by anyone else before. There’s you a red flag. Because of these excesses, many cast a suspicious eye at all types. What we needed was a work championing legitimate types while explaining some criteria to determine that legitimacy. This book steps into that gap and shines.

James Hamilton is an ideal author to tackle this subject. To be honest, I’ve become quite enamored with him since I was blown away by a recent commentary on the Psalms he did. His reverence and love of Scripture is almost an anomaly in the scholarly world. Others like him walk gingerly around these issues. Not him. For him, the Bible is a book to be trusted that can speak for itself.

Specific to this title, he sees clear authorial intent behind typology. These types weren’t random, nor were they worked out by us later. They were originally intended. Rather than finding them, we have more often lost them as we have gotten away from seeing the brilliant design behind biblical writings. In chapter one he shows these micro-level clues. Mainly we offers historical correspondence followed by escalation in significance as these types recur. He then tells us how to spot that historical correspondence by catching key terms, quotations, repeating of sequences of events, and similarity in salvation-historical or covenantal import ( his words). Finally, and I was expecting it all along, he adds “God-ordained” to his author-intended historical correspondence. I agree right down the line.

In something of a quirky design, he suggests that you read the last chapter next. You’d better. He organizes his material in this book as a chiasm. He rightly contends that that is a common design in the Bible and, I guess, he wants to show us what it looks like and that he knows how to do. Read the last chapter second and then go back to chapter two and the chiasm will be no detriment to you at all. That last chapter flips the promise-shaped typology discussion to the macro level.

Chapters 2-6 are types involving key persons while 7-10 are of key events. He takes what he showed us in chapters one and eleven and works out the clues that prove that these are the author-intended types in the Bible. The connections he mines are so rich that we finally get the types that will open up the Bible as God intended. Mark this book down as a must-have. You’ll, for sure, be the loser if you let this one get by you.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

A Theology of Paul and His Letters by Douglas Moo

Every volume I’ve encountered in this Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT) series has been excellent. As much, or maybe more, than the others this volume by Pauline scholar Douglas Moo shows expert handling. You wonder if there are absolutely no issues however minute that Moo doesn’t know all about involving Paul. Having written major, and I might add well received, commentaries on Romans, Galatians, Colossians, and Philemon, who could have been better positioned to write this work? As he relates in the preface, he worked on this project over 15 years. It was bound to be good and it is.

When I first picked up this volume, my thought was that it seemed to be laid out differently than the others in the series. The design appeared pedestrian and early on he relayed that he felt more comfortable in the trees than in the forest, that he enjoyed exegeting a text more than taking these big-picture views. Naturally, I lowered my expectations…until I read far enough to realize that he had misled me. The design was perfect because of the excellent work he did within it. Further, I felt he took me high enough to get a clearer forest view than I had. He knew every ditch that scholarship had run into, but he stayed on the highway. He wrote as one of whom Paul’s writings had pierced his heart after filling his head. Are we so jaded these days that we have forgotten just how much that can elevate a work like this one?

I enjoyed chapter 2 on the shape of Paul’s thought. In fact, it well illustrates what I said above. He sifted so much of the scholarly refuse to blaze a straight path to the mountain top. Along the way, you saw his honesty too. He had occasional small deviations to the normal conclusions of the bunch he runs with, but he seemed bound to tell where his studies took him. Let’s call it refreshing.

After that chapter you are better equipped to traverse his discussion of Paul’s life and ministry. After that, he takes each Pauline epistle in turn. You will feel in the hands of a master throughout. It is not a commentary, but has as much awareness as found in one.

Part 3 backs up and talks about the collective theology that you’ve already been collecting in the book to that point. Read enough to get his concept of the “New Realm”. It really unifies his entire presentation. Taking the three parts of this book together is somewhat akin to looking at Paul through a prism. Paul’s lofty contribution is key to our faith and worthy of such a grand view. This book provides such a view in a way that few ever have.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Others in the series: