2 Corinthians (CSC) by David Garland

David Garland is a busy scholar. In addition to this revision of his older NAC volume on 2 Corinthians for the emerging Christian Standard Commentary (CSC) series, he has just released a new commentary on Romans for the TNTC series. In resent years he’s written well received volumes on the Gospels as well. If you think about it, it’s an elite group of scholars who write multiple commentaries. I guess that is for good reason as it’s likely success in earlier commentaries that catch the eye of series editors and make for further opportunities. Then, of course, there’s the work itself. Ever notice how many announcements for commentaries in all the major series never actually appear? Back to Garland. He’s good and he’ll keep getting these opportunities as long as he wants to do them.

I’ve used the first volume of this work to advantage, but as I read the introduction of this revision I kept thinking that Garland is really good, even sneaky good. There’s quality and clarity in his straightforward, yet incisive writing. It’s the accumulation of good things for the reader every few pages that makes it so substantial. For example, in a few pages Garland took me to Corinth. While that might not be a place you’d actually want to go, it’s a place you much go to understand the epistle. Later he will take you through a discussion of the unity of the letter. You know that yawn-inducing trek so many scholars take you that goes at best in circles. I loved it this time! He was gracious yet I envisioned a bomb going off and wacky scholarly arguments flying through the air as I read. It only took a few pages to prove how disingenuous such arguments are at best and how delusional they really are.

The commentary itself is similarly golden. I offer his discussion of 4:16-18 as proof. Read it. Now that’s commentary writing. There’s plenty more too.

If pastors, teachers, or dedicated Bible students could only have one volume on 2 Corinthians, here’s the perfect choice.

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.

Changed into His Likeness (NSBT) by Millar

This new release in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) stands out among the other volumes in the series that I have reviewed. There is still much scholarly research as well as a host of biblical passages exegeted that I’ve come to expect in this series, but the scope of the subject isn’t as narrow as that found in most volumes. Most surprisingly, too, there is at times what could be used devotionally to be found. Not at the expense of scholarship, but in addition to it. In that sense, it’s quite rich. Maybe this isn’t so surprising after all, as how can you study personal transformation biblically without it turning personal?

The introductory chapter examines what we mean by transformation by looking even at prevailing trends in psychology regarding it. That discussion was nothing short of fascinating and reinforced why we’d better turn to the Bible to see what it has to say on the subject. The next chapter turns to biblical anthropology regarding personal transformation and defines key terms like “heart”, “mind”, “soul “, etc. I was impressed again.

The third chapter scans the Old Testament for personal transformation. The approach mostly takes key characters and states (overstates?) his appraisal of the biblical data. The level of digging into these beloved figures was in no way shallow, even incredibly perceptive at times, but was almost depressing as he was trying to make his case that there was little personal transformation there. He moved my thinking a little but I believe a much stronger positive case could be made than his gloomy analysis. In the next chapter, as he surveys the New Testament, he goes the other way and becomes especially positive on personal transformation and perhaps overlooks a few hiccups in those characters lives. I wonder if his covenantal theology guided him overmuch. Please don’t think I’m downgrading the overall depth and quality of his work, but let’s just say that he is not one of those scholars who’s afraid to persuasively present his conclusions!

Chapter 5 was a masterpiece. He took theology as expressed by key theologians and crafted an exquisite theology of personal transformation. You would never guess in the chapter’s opening paragraphs when he tells you of three broad groups (inner life/ Augustine & Edwards, Christology/ Calvin, piety/Owen) what a profound reading journey you are about to take. Other theologians are mentioned, but the synthesis and collation of theology are where he soars. As I read, I was finding myself agreeing in many ways with all three positions. So did he. My only criticism, and a mild one at that, is that he sometimes switched from biblical theology to trying to ascertain the official Reformed position as if it never crossed his mind that anyone outside a reformed persuasion would read his work.

The book concludes by drawing out the biblical conclusions articulated by some master theologians and reflecting on key biblical passages. His conclusions all make sense to me—as a Bible student and a Christian sometimes sad my transformation hasn’t been more profound. Personal transformation, even biblically, is complicated, but maybe less so after reading this book. Without doubt, this one is a keeper!

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.

Romans (TNTC) by David Garland

This latest release in the time-tested Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TNTC) series is a substantial commentary, perhaps more so than usual, but still will be welcomed, I believe, by the target audience of the series. Romans of necessity is going to be a key volume for any NT series and so the selection of David Garland was a coup for the editors. He’s written enough well-received commentaries in several other series to show he’s up to the task. When you open the book itself, you will find that he lived up to the expectations formed by his prodigious output.

After a bibliography that rivaled more technical series, he dives into an Introduction that shined. The TNTC is going to limit authors here more than larger series, but what he delivered in the constraints upon him was impressive. He made the sentences count. His comments on audience were penetrating and filled with nuggets one could expand in profitable directions. As he proceeded, you will appreciate the conservative conclusions, the clearheadedness to weigh scholarly matters based on real importance, and a consistency to approach the text as if, you know, it was the Word of God. It held my interest to the end which is more than could be said for some commentary’s introductions.

In the commentary proper, I read sections of several passages that will tell you where the commentary will take you. There’s just something about Romans that makes the perusal of key passages more obvious to anticipate the quality of the whole. On the other hand, it might make you turn away too quickly if you are already determined you know Romans. I stayed in even after he and I got crossed up on a few passages and found quality in every case. He is clearly reformed (that statement already tells many of his conclusions, doesn’t it?), but this is no defense of the Reformation which derails many commentaries on Romans. He is in the text. He is careful with the text. He is respectful of the text and realizes, as he should, that exegeting it is the task at hand. Use him and there’s enough worthwhile content to help you form your own conclusions.

His commentary replaces the volume by renowned scholar, F. F. Bruce. As great as Bruce was, Garland has easily surpassed him. This is a must-have volume.

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.