Ephesians (NICNT) by Cohick

This volume joins two others on Colossians and Philemon by Scot McKnight to replace the influential and long-standing volume by F. F. Bruce on these three wonderful New Testament books in the venerable New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT) series. Don’t you suppose contributing this commentary on Ephesians would be a daunting task both for its high-altitude theology and in following in Bruce’s footsteps? Cohick mentions as much in the preface.

Did Cohick succeed? I think for the most part she did. The farther I got into the introduction the more I liked it. The conclusions are pretty conservative. As you are probably aware, if you are going to write on Ephesians these days, you must address authorship and pseudepigrapha issues. As she notes, the answer to the question of whether Ephesians is a genuine Pauline letter will profoundly affect the trajectory of a commentary. If you were like me and have no doubt about Paul’s writing of this letter, these issues are something of a pothole on the road to understanding. Nevertheless, any good commentary must discuss it in depth and she does a good job. She lays out the arguments clearly and if you are wrestling with this you would do well to read what she has to say. Textual and historical background are also sufficiently covered, as are structure and theology. The NPP gets only about three pages which is precisely what it deserves.

I found the commentary proper to be thoughtful and helpful. It was neither too slim nor too verbose. She is especially adept at laying out arguments and reasoning to conclusions. You don’t have to, of course, agree to profit from that skill she brings to bear.

I do have one caveat in my recommendation. It’s only about one small section and perhaps I would rank its importance higher than you would, but I will share and you can decide. In her preface she mentions the “inflammatory” Household Codes, not in quotes but her words. That bias seemed present in the commentary on that section. Perhaps it was just me, but I thought her fine reasoning skills were not as present here. My more conservative position is disagreed with in many commentaries I read, so I’m used to that; but this section seemed a little agenda laden to me. When I rechecked her biography, it does turn out that she has written on the subject much in the past. It wouldn’t be fair to withhold a good recommendation over this one point involving one small section of the whole book, but you can at least be aware of it and see what you think when you look at it.

After reviewing the two new volumes on Colossians and Philemon recently, I feel that she has produced a work equal to the more well-known Scot McKnight. Warmly 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.

Daniel (EEC) by Tanner

Wow! What a great commentary! I can’t really think of a category where this commentary couldn’t be described with superlatives. It just happens to be the first commentary in the EEC series to be released with this attractive new design. There’s far more than an attractive cover here, however, as this is a first-class commentary. I know the term “instant classic” is cliché, but I’m willing to argue that is the case. If you see some lower ratings out there, ignore them. Unfairly, commentaries on the book of Daniel are often assigned a grade based on the authors prophetic opinions before the book is even opened. I don’t personally see how someone with a different background on prophecy matters would not feel duty-bound to admit what an incredible work we have here.

What I found between these covers was incredible depth, perceptive insight, clear reasoning, and good writing. The scholarship is impeccable, yet isn’t overly dense as is so often the case. I think you will agree with me before you are even halfway through the introduction. Discussions about the text, Aramaic words, and other grammatical and literary questions is all you could hope for and certainly all you would ever need. I find discussions of structure more helpful to pastors and Bible students than some of the other information in these commentaries, and what he presents here could be a clinic on how to discuss structure in a way that enlivens one’s understanding of a biblical book. He not only explains varying opinions on structure, but more importantly he gives cogent analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. You are left with an opportunity to conclude on your own.

The commentary proper is equally commendable. There is the explanation that pastors and Bible students need along with discussions of grammar in the original languages and plenteous bibliographies for scholars.

To put it in perspective, I found this commentary markedly more helpful than, say, the recent revision of Goldingay’s WBC work. That work is more critical than some like to admit while this work is not afraid to believe as it explains. Some might prefer the more straightforward NAC volume, but by design it doesn’t cover everything as this one does.

Force me to only keep one commentary on the book of Daniel, and this is the one you will see in my hands.

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.

Hosea (ZECOT) by Jerry Hwang

Several of these earlier volumes in the ZECOT series have gravitated to the relatively shorter Minor Prophets. This volume by Jerry Hwang continues demonstrating the promise that the distinctive style of the ZECOT holds. Perhaps the series emphasis on discourse analysis shines even brighter in these Minor Prophets, though I look forward to all its volumes. Hwang grasps clearly all aspects of discourse analysis and similar scholarly tools and makes a real contribution here.

The introduction is thorough. At times the prose is stuffy, but the content is rich. I think pastors and students will be rewarded for waiting through language that might be a bit more scholarly than preferred. Still, this is not a scholars-only commentary.

The select bibliography is a bit too select, but the historical background to the prophecy as well as what the author calls “Hosea’s distinctive theology in its cultural context” is well done. The concepts discussed strike me as the best scholarship can offer the Bible student. Again, it may be heavy going it is verbiage, but you will be able to weigh the ideas that make up the theme of Hosea. The section on the contribution to Christian theology is too brief but on target. There is also a detailed outline for the book.

The commentary proper is never trite. Clearly the author took his time to produce a significant commentary. By now you are probably familiar with the ZECOT style and he is comfortable in it and puts it to good use. This commentary does not duplicate other volumes and is good as either a first or a second choice. I’m glad to have this commentary at my disposal.

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.

Amos (NICOT) by M. Daniel Carroll R.

I’ve been hearing that this commentary was coming for many years and it’s always been said that when it arrived it would be a good one. I’ve been reviewing commentaries for several years now and have much experience in even reading about some scholarly subjects that are beyond the scope of my personal interests. One thing is clear to me, when it comes to a detailed scholarly commentary on a book of the Bible, we are in the hands of a master in this volume.

It’s not that he takes a completely different approach to the task of writing a commentary. No, all the usual subjects are found in the introduction and what is explained in the commentary proper is within the usual parameters. It’s the deftness, proficiency, and expertise that shows up in paragraph after paragraph.

The icing on the cake is the generally conservative conclusions that are given. Sometimes you have a person who is a whiz at writing a commentary yet who concludes nonsense, but you will not find that here even though some scholarly subjects are so esoteric that you wonder why scholars even trouble themselves with it.

Instead of breaking down all the things covered in the introduction as I usually do, I’m going to skip to the chase. If you are building a first-rate scholarly library you simply must have this volume. There’s really no debate. I’ll make a prediction too: this commentary will be one of the most quoted on Amos in scholarly works for at least 25 years. Pastors will want other works too, but this is THE scholarly work on Amos now that it’s been released.

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.

Nahum (ZECOT) by Daniel Timmer

It’s great to see this important commentary on the largely unknown book of Nahum finally get released. You will find here a finely constructed commentary that can help you on several levels. To me, it presents the fruits of scholarship at their best allowing the careful Pastor or Bible student to unearth real nuggets.

These earliest releases of the ZECOT are largely to be found in the Minor Prophets. That could be because they are shorter books and commentaries can be completed sooner, but whatever the reason, these same prophets are ideal for the ZECOT format. Don’t be scared away by the terms discourse analysis or structure because here the scholar is plying his trade to get at theme and purpose. In that vein, you can walk away from these pages with tangible help. To scholars themselves, I don’t see how this volume could be ranked anything other than a success.

This work is conservative and finds its place among believing scholarship. On the first page of the introduction we read, “Nahum’s message has rich significance for contemporary audiences in light of its ongoing fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ.” I knew I was going to like the book at that point, and continuing to look through it, that assessment never wavered. The weaving of the historical context into both the introduction and the commentary was outstanding as well as the theological implications and structure that is drawn out. You might read this and draw some different conclusions, but this commentary will help you not miss what is important to work out your own understanding. This book impresses me with its big-picture conclusions, but the finer points of detail appear well done as well and will provide help with those hard to understand phrases you encounter.

The author seems comfortable in the format of this series. It works as one of the very best single volume commentaries on Nahum. I highly recommend this commentary on a fascinating book of scripture that most of us know so little about.

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.

Joel and Amos (TOTC) by Hadjiev

This latest replacement volume in the time-tested Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series tackles the two important minor prophets of Joel and Amos. While this title follows the format of all the recent replacement volumes in the series, it runs substantially more toward academic concerns than pastoral ones. I fear that this volume might not be as precisely aimed at the target audience of this series as usual.

The author’s previous work on these prophets have been about their composition and redaction. He seems to see the genre as the key to understanding. To be honest, it colors the whole work. Even the introduction dives straight into structural patterns without even an introductory paragraph! Other works in this series address these issues but they do not become as overarching as here. When you think genre is so important and then conclude that these prophets have mixed genres you inevitably will have interpretative issues in several passages. You will notice that throughout the commentary proper as you are introduced to all kinds of good information but sometimes the sum of the parts is substantially less than all the parts you get.

In no way has the author failed to put substantial study behind this work. I don’t want to be overly critical, but his bibliography leans toward much more critical works. I wish more conservative studies and commentaries were better represented.

To be fair, if you were a young scholar trying to wrestle with these particular issues that he stresses you might love this commentary. I even think that if the author were to write a commentary in another series that is aimed primarily at scholars and the issues that currently have captivated the scholarly world, he would probably deliver a highly rated work. On the other hand, I will have to remove a star for pastors and Bible students who would be more interested in what the text means, whom I also envision this series to be produced for. If you are a scholar, you can add the star back.

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.

James (KEL) by Spencer

book james kregel

This latest entry in the Kregel Exegetical Library by Aida Besancon Spencer is another solid entry in the series. I had heard before the book came across my desk that perhaps the theme presented would be focusing on the poor. That seemed like a stretch for sure, but when you actually dig into the book something much more helpful emerges. The author finds four themes in the book of James: how to deal with trials, how to be wise or have wisdom, how to view riches, and what she calls “a fourth unifying thing – becoming doers of the word and not hears only”. She is sensitive to the poor throughout, but that was a simplistic synopsis of this work. The book of James is clearly much about the four themes that she outlines and that sheds light as we read.

The introduction wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter. On authorship she holds the conservative position that this James is the Lord’s brother. She develops grammatical points and word choices that help explain the overall message. She examines early church traditions about the letter James. She goes through the history in a sufficient manner. One of her best contributions is how she takes scholarly criticism against James as the Lord’s brother and knocks them down one by one in vivid fashion. In the section on structure, she explains those themes I mentioned above and how they lead to an understanding of James.

The commentary section is truly helpful. Words are carefully described. There is no doubt that one of this scholar’s strengths is grammatical explanation. The exposition is solid and homiletical hints are given. A word I might use to describe this book is “fresh”. Of course it addresses what other commentaries look at in James, but it gets beyond the tired repeating that is starting to show up in some works. When a scholar seems to be in love with the book they write about, the commentary is always better. That is the case here.

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.

1, 2, and 3 John (Revised) [WBC] by Stephen Smalley

book 1 2 3 jn wbc

This commentary was originally published in 1983 and was overdue for updating. It appears that revision took place in 2008 and yet we have another new edition coming out at this time with a superior binding. Years ago the WBC series printed nice hardbacks with dust jackets and a few years ago changed to a more case-bound style with some of the earlier reprinted volumes having what would best could be called a shabby cover that simply would not last. I’m happy to see this binding that appears will hold up much better.

At this point, most Bible students are familiar with the WBC format. You either love it or you hate it and it falls on the more scholarly end of the spectrum. It is known, additionally, for its depth of exegesis. That is clearly true in this volume. The most scholarly comments that might not be interesting to pastors or students is in a note section. A section on form, structure, and setting has some interesting help, but the actual commentary is the best section in the book. There is some Greek, but the English is nearby and with just a little effort any serious student can use this book.

The introduction has real depth, though I can’t really follow his description of the Johannine Community. That was something of a fad for a few years and he probably explains it as well as anyone if you would like to understand it. Nevertheless, he digs in on many issues making this an important contribution.

This commentary falls more on the critical side of the scale. For example, this publisher, Zondervan, has a book in its ZECNT series that is much more conservative. On the other hand, Smalley has more evangelical beliefs than many of his fellow critical counterparts. This commentary is by no means the most critical commentary in this series. I would go so far to say that this would be the commentary I would recommend if you preferred conservative commentaries and yet wanted to have one quality more critical commentary just to cover your bases. Smalley reads well even if your own sensibilities run another direction.

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 Letters of John (Pillar)[Second Ed.] by Colin Kruse

book ept john pil

Without a doubt, Colin Kruse’s work on the Letters of John in the Pillar (PNTC) series has been one of the most highly regarded since it was first published 20 years ago. In fact, the whole Pillar series maintains a sterling reputation. In the intervening years, a few series have contributed serious rivals like the BECNT, and just recently the EEC, to Kruse’s work. In any event, it was a wise decision to allow this volume to be updated for a second edition. I judge it a success that will likely extend its usage another 20 years.

From what I can tell this edition is more of a tweaking or a finessing than a serious rewriting. It seems the author has not swayed in his approach to these letters, but does take the opportunity to interact with more recent scholarship. The commentaries listed in his bibliography include almost as many titles released since his original volume as before.

The introduction is solid and arrives at consistently conservative conclusions. His description of the Johannine community makes much more sense than some of the bizarre descriptions in more radical works. He doesn’t just state that John is the author of these letters, but lays out an excellent case surveying both internal and external evidence. His section on structure is overly brief, but most scholars have issues figuring out the structure of these letters anyway. I have read previous criticism of the brevity of his discussion of 2 & 3 John, and it does not appear to be too much longer. I do think, however, it will satisfy most students. His theological approach is fully in line with what users of this series expect. I don’t agree with every conclusion he makes, but see this volume as important and an asset to any student’s library.

This volume is more directed at pastors and serious students, but is scholarly perceptive while not getting stuck in the morass of more scholarly esoteric subjects. If I were going to get two or three important modern commentaries on these letters, I would for sure choose this book as one of them!

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.

1 and 2 Samuel (TOTC) by V. Philips Long

book samuel

Can you imagine the task that you would have before you if you were charged to write a commentary on a portion of scripture the length of both books of Samuel and stick to the typical parameters of the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series? To make it worse, you would have to allow within those constraints that your task was to delve into some of the most beloved stories of scripture. Did V. Phillips Long get the job done? Yes. How did he do it? Pithiness.

The trick would be to make every sentence count. There would be no room for fluff and every paragraph would have to carry quite a load. All of that you will find here. To make it even better, theological accuracy is not sacrificed and getting out such a myriad of details.

You will see the author’s pithiness in the introduction. To be honest, I found it ideal. Unlike many introductions, it sticks to the type of information that will actually do a Bible student much good. I noticed an honesty as well. For example, Long was willing to admit that there is no clear structure to the books of Samuel other than telling the story as it happened. The Lord, of course, develops the appropriate theology in the text. But this story is a history, a history that the Lord carried out in the persons of Samuel, Saul, and David. These stories need no help in being thrilling, only that we not miss the point of those stories.

I read some passages in this commentary that I thought are some of the more challenging to commentate on. Again the value of saying more with less was clear. I found myself nodding in agreement with the theological implications of the text brought out as well. The things in the story that needed explaining were well explained. The goal to illuminate more than the obvious was accomplished.

This is a fine commentary. Bible student, Sunday school teacher, or pastor we’ll find this a treat. That it is more economical than most helpful commentaries cements its value. You will enjoy this one.

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.