Marcus Maher

Marcus Maher

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Exum, J. Cheryl. Song of Songs. OTL. Westminster John Knox, 2005.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 27, 2013
There is one Song of Songs commentary to rule them all. It is that of J. Cheryl Exum in the Old Testament Library. It is undoubtedly the best written commentary I've ever read. Often you feel like you're reading an essay rather than a piece of technical writing. Especially when reading about poetry it's rewarding to read elegantly written material. Exum's creativity extends to her analysis of the Song as well. She has several innovative solutions to difficult interpretive problems. One example is her interpretation of Song 2:15 which I have built off of elsewhere. She also is attuned to key dynamics of the Song and understands, in particular, what the girl is trying to do in each of her parts. If you want to understand the Song as art and feel the passion of the lovers then Exum's work is a great place to start. Restraint in interpreting multivalent imagery is another of Exum's virtues. Some (male) commentators go wild and seeming to find genitalia in every other paragraph. Exum's explanations are much more nuanced and she wrestles hard with the question of if/when the Song crosses the line into voyerism. While discussing relevant technical matters she never gets overly detailed. The commentary also interacts with other scholarship less than many others do. This means you get to hear more of Exum and that is a good thing. This should be the first commentary off the shelf for work on the Song. [Full Review]
Bergant, Dianne. The Song of Songs. BO. Liturgical Press, 2001.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 27, 2013
For discussion of metaphor and simile in the Song, Bergant's work stands head and shoulders above the rest. In general she is very sensitive to literary elements of the text. This commentary is a bit briefer than most so discussion of ANE background is limited, but she does explicitly draw on it from time to time to explicate particular interpretive decisions. Like Exum she does an excellent job at drawing out how the poem is erotic without being explicit, though once in a while I do think she finds more sexual imagery than I am convinced is present. Along with Exum, Bergant utilizes feminist scholarship productively. For the lay person who is intimidated by Exum's commentary, I think this would be a great commentary to start with. It has enough detail without being too technical. [Full Review]
Longman III, Tremper. Song of Songs. NICOT. Eerdmans, 2001.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 27, 2013
Tremper Longman has given us the best Evangelical commentary on the Song of Songs. Every other commentator I will mention in this post understands the Song as a unity. Longman takes it to be a collection of poems. While I am not convinced that he's right, I do appreciate his recognition that the Song is not telling a linear story. The literary sensitivity that exemplified much of Longman's work is on display here. There's also adequate coverage on grammatical issues. Longman was most helpful to me in pointing out the spots where there were correspondences between the Song and Proverbs (probably the Song using Proverbs). Most other commentators treat the Song without trying to examine how it fits in with the rest of the wisdom literature. Overall from introduction to footnotes it's an exemplary intermediate commentary. I'd highly recommend pastors pick this commentary up, if nothing else for the introduction. It has the best concise discussion of the history of interpretation of any of the commentaries I read. [Full Review]
Murphy, Roland E. The Song of Songs. Herm. Fortress Press, 1990.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 27, 2013
The strength of the commentary is the introduction. It's thorough enough without being tediously exhaustive, and like Exum he is a very good writer. The commentary proper is detailed on grammatical and lexical issues. It's a bit sparse at times on interpretive matters. I wish he would have fleshed out his views a little more fully at times. Like Fox, Murphy is a creative thinker and while that occasionally leads to the adoption of unlikely positions, reading interesting ideas is a boon to ones own thinking. Murphy's commentary is the best technical commentary on the Song. [Full Review]
Garrett, Duane A.; House, Paul R. Song of Songs, Lamentations. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 2004.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 27, 2013
Garrett, along with Murphy, is probably the place to go for detailed discussion of the Hebrew. Garrett approaches the Song as if it actually was just that, a song. He assigns every verse either to the man, the woman, or the chorus and tries to give a picture of how the Song would be performed. I found this interesting. Unfortunately, Garrett also approaches the Song as if it had a plot, that it's telling the story of a couple about to and then actually getting married. Exum provides a good refutation of this approach in her introduction. I also think he strains the evidence at times to make it fit his plot. Also, for lack of a better way to put it, the commentary feels very male. The way he discusses sex sounds very male and I believe he makes assumptions about the way women experience sex that overgeneralizes (I say this with caution, as I too am a male). Even with these caveats, I still found Garrett useful and for the most part careful and fair in his discussions. His writing style is a bit dry but I did enjoy the commentary. [Full Review]
Davis, Ellen F. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. WBComp. Westminster John Knox, 2000.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 27, 2013
The most unique commentary I read was by Ellen Davis. I have a lot of respect for Davis as a scholar, but I do not think that this represents her best work. She took an allegorical approach to the Song. While she's not totally explicit about this, it seems as if Davis understands the Song to have been allegorical in its original intention. There are several times during the Song where she is insistent not on multiple layers of meaning, but that particular verses can only be understood fully when interpreted allegorically. I disagree and had no such trouble. If she had come to similar interpretations but recognized that they are not the primary meaning of the text then I would be less harsh. Davis's work is interesting to read for her reflections on God and love but doesn't aid ones understanding of the Song in any significant way. [Full Review]
Pope, Marvin H. Song of Songs. AYB. Yale University Press, 1977.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 27, 2013
Pope's strength is his grasp on the history of interpretation. The introduction and bibliography are exhaustive and unparalleled. It extends to the commentary proper as well. He closes his comments on every unit with a brief discussion of one or more ancient interpreters drawing on both the Jewish and Christian traditions. I consider that to be about the only strength of the commentary. The commentary is massive and it needed to be massively reduced. There is so much extraneous information to wade through that, even though well organized, it makes utilization a chore. A prime example is his six page exploration of black goddesses in the ancient world when commenting on 'black but beautiful.' It adds nothing to ones ability to interpret the Song. It's also often difficult to find Pope's actual opinions on how verses should be interpreted. It's hard to believe, but in 776 pages he doesn't find a lot of space for laying out his own views. The commentary very much is a commentary on commentaries. When he does get around to presenting his own positions they're usually well wide of the mark. His cultic interpretation has gained little or no traction and he interprets the Song almost as if it were pornagraphic at times. It's hard to give a rating to Pope's work because of both its significant strength and its glaring weaknesses. In the end the weaknesses overwhelm. I would only recommend it to someone with a keen interest in the history of interpretation of the Song. Buy Murphy or Garrett instead. [Full Review]
Dunn, James D. G. The Epistle to the Galatians. BNTC. Hendrickson, 1993.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 20, 2013
In my opinion, one commentary stands above them all on Galatians, James Dunn's, even after almost twenty years. Anytime I had an interpretive question, Dunn's was the first commentary I turned to. It contained enough detail to be thorough but it wasn't excessively long. It's also not just a commentary for New Perspective on Paul (NPP) fans, which I think is a major misconception. Of course his understanding of works of the law has a significant impact on the commentary, but it's far more than a defense of the new perspective. Dunn is solid in his discussion of every portion of the letter and I consistently found it to be one of the two most helpful commentaries, no matter which passage I was studying. Interpretive decisions were always careful weighed and well reasoned. Alternative views are considered carefully, but the discussion never gets bogged down in the process. Dunn's writing is clear and he avoids wasting space with unnecessary filler. Every student of Galatians would benefit from reading Dunn's work, and for me it was the one that got me fully on board with the NPP. [Full Review]
Hays, Richard B. “Galatians” in Second Corinthians to Philemon. NIB. Abingdon Press, 2000.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 20, 2013
Unfortunately it's not sold as a stand alone, which makes it a bit pricey to own for a short commentary. Fortunately the other volumes that it's bound with are pretty good so it's not a waste to invest in. This commentary is a model for writing brief commentaries. Hays does a wonderful job of summarizing recent Pauline scholarship, merging together the best of both the NPP approach of Dunn and the apocalyptic reading of Martyn and adding in some of his own twists. If I were to rate commentaries solely in terms of my agreement with them, Hays would be at the top of the list. The reflections at the end of each major section also should not be ignored. I found a lot of good material to ponder and many of his points could definitely bolster some sermons. Hays' 1 Corinthians commentary receives all of the adulation, but I think his Galatians is more helpful to the teacher and preacher even if not more original. [Full Review]
Fee, Gordon D. Galatians. PC. Deo Publishing, 2008.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 20, 2013
Unfortunately, Gordon Fee's commentary on Galatians very quickly ceased to be sold on Amazon and scarcity has made the used market get out of hand. You can still find it somewhat reasonably at CBD. This one comes in a little longer than Hays and a little shorter than Dunn. Fee is his usual self here. You can't box him in or label him as either traditional or NPP. He seems to be a bit of both. Just when you think that he's going down the New Perspective path in chapter 2, he explains the works/faith contrast in very traditional terms. No surprise, Fee is by far the best on the Holy Spirit in Galatians, a central theme. His comments on the Spirit were critical in helping me see how the whole letter worked together (the Holy Spirit is a more important theme in Galatians than justification by faith). His comments were so penetrating that at times I found myself wanting to quote him by the paragraph (I actually did, once). At every point his exposition was careful, and even where I disagreed (like on his understanding of pistis Christou) he forced me to wrestle with what he had written. It's definitely a good one to consult and think it would be a favorite among those who largely favor a more traditional interpretation of Paul. [Full Review]
Martyn, J. Louis. Galatians. AYB. Yale University Press, 1997.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 20, 2013
J. Louis Martyn has written by far the most thorough commentary on Galatians at over 600 pages. But it rarely felt long, as Martyn's exegesis was fascinating even though it was not always convincing. Martyn utilizes the comment section in a unique way in what really are excurses (there are 52 total!). From an organizational standpoint this is great because the main comments in the commentary are no longer than Dunn, enabling you to get through the main point relatively quickly and giving you the option to read the sometimes very lengthy excurses or not (they're mostly worth reading). Martyn's commentary is written from a thoroughgoing apocalyptic perspective. At times this helps at times it's a hindrance. Martyn also does more mirror reading than any other commentary on the market coming up with an elaborate reconstruction of the background of Galatians. On chapters 1 and 2 I found it to be brilliant. I think he's less successful after that. Still, though, Martyn has written a great commentary that is the strongest on the market on the first two chapters. Hays has incorporated the best of his insights [Full Review]
Schreiner, Thomas R. Arnold, Clinton E. ed. Galatians. ZECNT. Zondervan, 2010.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 20, 2013
In term of detail it's on par with Longenecker and surpassed only by Martyn. The strength of Schreiner's contribution lies in his detailed presentation of opposing view points (something he does well in his Roman's commentary. Where he does not excel, however is in his refutation of them. For example, Schreiner devotes more than a page to Sanders' and Dunn's understanding of works of the law and second temple Judaism. The summary is excellent. The problem is that he offers a two sentence dismissal that the situation is more varied than Sanders and Dunn allow and then comfortably unpacks his position with the NPP out of mind. Overall I thought Schreiner's work on Galatians was good. He does take on board some of the advances that have come from a renewed study of Paul in light of second temple Judaism, particularly their identification of a/the major issue of the letter being the identity of the people of God. On some issues I found him to be far too "Lutheran" in his reading for my taste. Additionally, I did not feel that he utilized the unique ZECNT format as well as some other contributors to the series. [Full Review]
Longenecker, Richard N. Galatians. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1990.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 20, 2013
Richard Longenecker's commentary on Galatians is best described as workmanlike. Of the commentaries I used, it was the most detailed in its discussion of the Greek. The 'Form/Setting/Structure' section was the most helpful portion of the commentary. Longenecker performs a thorough but chastened rhetorical analysis on the letter. For the most part I found it to be helpful, particularly in developing an outline of the letter, and I never felt like he forced the text into a mold that was absolutely foreign to it. With that said, I'm not sure that I followed his classifications of every single passage. The 'Notes' was thorough, but rarely eye opening, and the explanations were a bit brief (not much longer than most of my blog posts). The other major strength of the commentary was the background material in the introduction. I thought his discussion of the wider background that precipitated Peter's behavior and gave the rationale for the arrival of the Teachers and their insistence on following the Torah was so helpful. Overall it's a solid commentary and for help on technical matters it was the first commentary I turned to and was glad it was in my arsenal. [Full Review]
McKnight, Scot. Galatians. NIVAC. Zondervan, 1995.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 20, 2013
Scot McKnight's commentary is a good entry in the NIVAC series. It's probably the first commentary that tried to bring the results of the NPP to the average person in the pew. His applications were built off of his new perspective reading and for the most part were very strong, though at times a little dated (a lot has changed in the world since 1995). Even there I think they give good examples we can relate to having experienced in the past and get us thinking on the 'right track.' The original meaning sections were a bit briefer and less technical than some others in the same series, but that's probably a positive given the intended audience. Definitely make sure to check out his lengthy discussion of legalism in his introduction. It's excellent, as is the rest of his discussion of legalism throughout the applications section of the commentary. Until something surpasses it, I would rate McKnight's commentary as the best option for the lay person. Preachers and teachers also would benefit from seeing how McKnight works out his applications of the text. [Full Review]
Cousar, Charles B. Galatians. Int. Westminster John Knox, 1986.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 20, 2013
Overall I thought Cousar's commentary was adequate. Occasionally he had insight that I didn't find in other commentaries (it seems to be largely ignored by recent commentators), though on the whole I don't think it added a lot that I could not have gotten elsewhere. In the portions I read his explanation was fairly traditional and as it was written more than twenty-five years ago, one does feel some distance from the author at times. I personally would recommend dropping the extra money for Hays before electing for Cousar, though it's certainly not a bad commentary. [Full Review]
Levy, Ian Christopher. The Letter to the Galatians. BMT. Eerdmans, 2011.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 20, 2013
This volume contained a translation of all of or portions of the Latin commentaries for six significant Medieval theologians: Haimo of Auxerre (complete), Bruno the Carthusian (complete), Peter Lombard (ch. 2), Robert of Melun (questions on Galatians), Robert Grosseteste (Ch. 3), and Nicholas of Lyra (Ch. 4). I particularly enjoyed Bruno's commentary. In addition to the commentaries you get a seventy page introduction, which alone was worth the price of the book. It provided a lengthy discussion of Medieval theology and theological method and gave an overview of the lives of each of the commentators listed. Medieval Catholic theology is misunderstood and gets a bad rap at times. If all of your information on it is from Luther and Calvin, you're definitely getting a skewed picture. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this commentary! [Full Review]
Luther, Martin. Galatians. CCC. Crossway, 1998.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 20, 2013
Luther's commentary is difficult rate. For impact on subsequent understanding of Galatians it's obviously a 5 out of 5. However, I found myself frustrated with the commentary early on. What I realized in the end is that this commentary is an excellent work of systematic theology, or perhaps better put, the type of exegesis done by someone primarily concerned with systematic theology. Luther saw real problems in the church of his day. He saw how Paul's letter addressed those issues and pointed him in another direction doctrinally. What needs to be recognized is that this is all Luther's commentary is. It's not an example of critical exegesis so it shouldn't be evaluated the same way as other commentaries. We also need to make sure that even if we are within the Lutheran tradition that we don't force his view of what Paul was saying to be normative. At the end of the day I did find Luther brilliant, and I do have to force myself to remember that his sitz im leben is greatly different than my own. With that said, I'm not sure how helpful this commentary is to pastors and teachers today. I don't think that there's anything here that you can't get somewhere else. [Full Review]
Edwards, Mark J. ed. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians. ACCS. InterVarsity Press, 2005.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher January 20, 2013
Galatians seems to have been a popular epistle in the early church, so most of the greats commented or preached on the text at some point. Selections were made from Chrysostym, Augustine, Jerome, Ambrosiaster, Marius Victorinus, and others. On the whole I enjoyed Ambrosiaster's work the most, to the point that I almost picked up the full text of his commentaries on Galatians-Philemon. It was nice to read what some of the early church fathers thought on the text. What I most appreciated were the comments that applied the text. I often found them to be very thought provoking and on a couple of occasions spurred me on to find the full comments by that person on the section. Seeing how brief each section is (I usually could complete reading it in ten minutes), I don't think one should pass up reading it. [Full Review]
Kamell Kovalishyn, Mariam J.; Blomberg, Craig L. James. ZECNT. Zondervan, 2008.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher December 18, 2010
The layout of this series is unique and very helpful. One concern that I had seeing the commentary proper split into so many sections, was that there would be substantial overlap of material. My fear proved to be unfounded. The authors and editors did a stellar job at fully utilizing the format. I also must say that they hit their intended audience dead on. The amount of technical information was just right. They don't bog you down with gobs of detail on minutiae, but there's enough to inform you on important matters, whether they be grammatical, lexical, or of cultural/historical background. As for the contents of the commentary, again I was quite pleased, though, of course, certain elements of the commentary were better than others. The introduction was brief but helpful. It covered the usual topics, such as authorship, dating, and the circumstances prompting the letter taking traditional stances and giving reasonable defense for their positions. Blomberg and Kamell also spent several pages explaining the overall structure of James. I found this to be the most beneficial section of the introduction as I've always struggled to see an overall cohesiveness to the letter. They argue in the introduction (and defend in the commentary proper) that the entire letter focuses on three themes: trials, wisdom, and riches and poverty. These are introduced initially in 1:2-11, reiterated in the same order in 1:12-27, and then developed at length in reverse order from 2:1-5:18. Of the three main topics of the letter, I most appreciated Blomberg's and Kamell's discussion of wealth and poverty. Much of what James says on this topic sounds so harsh that it's easy to say that he didn't really mean it that strongly. Blomberg and Kamell don't go down that path. They're not afraid to make the conclusions that many of us don't want to hear like, 'It may well be true that it is impossible to be both rich and a Christian unless one is generous in giving from one's riches' (254 - emphasis mine). This does seem to be the clear emphasis of Jas. 2:14-26. At the same time I liked the balance of their approach. They don't go overboard like some liberation theologians do. James is not advocating salvation by social class, but again, that shouldn't make us wealthy Western Christians any more comfortable in our shoes. At a broad level, several aspects of the commentary stand out. One is the way in which Blomberg and Kamell colorfully draw out the meanings of the various metaphors and adjectives that are sprinkled throughout James. For a reader familiar with the text it can be easy to gloss over these, but Blomberg and Kamell help you understand how they would have been heard by the first audience. One example is in the sexual and reproductive metaphor in Jas. 1:14-15. Specifically, they point out that James is using the metaphor to show how difficult it is to stop the process of desire, sin, and death once it has started. 'Here James uses a more vivid metaphor, showing the reproductive process as difficult to stop once it begins...One can almost envision three generations here: desire as a "parent," sin as a "child," and death as a "grandchild"' (72). This isn't a mind blowing observation, but it's easy to miss this type of thing and Blomberg and Kamell consistently make the easy to miss, obvious, while presenting it in a fresh way. I also appreciated the way in which the commentary matched James in tone. James sometimes is very cordial and at other times rebukes his audience. Blomberg and Kamell are not afraid to wear both of those hats. At several spots throughout the commentary they addressed the reader directly. This is often not done in commentaries. Many commentators are willing to write purely at the level of description (and granted this may be a necessity in most academic series). I am very glad that they were willing to confront the reader on several matters, especially in a series geared towards pastors and teachers. If one is going to teach the text, one must first live the text. It's easy to try to get away without applying the text to yourself, but Blomberg and Kamell do their best to keep that from happening. My only complaint with the commentary is that too much space was allotted to the issue of gender-inclusive translation. I favor gender-inclusive language, and I personally use the TNIV and NRSV as my primary translations, so it's not as if I disagree with their translation. It just seemed like every word that could be translated in a gender-inclusive manner drew substantial comment. In fairness much of this was relegated to the footnotes, but I am a compulsive footnote reader, so I quickly drew tired of the same issue being rehashed. Overall, I have to say that James is an excellent commentary that will both inform and nourish the reader. Every pastor, seminary student, and serious lay student should have this volume on their shelf. It will provide you with the literary, lexical, and grammatical help that you need while also furthering your thought on the implications of the text in the life and ministry of your church. [Full Review]
Bird, Michael F. Colossians and Philemon. NCCS. Cascade Books, 2009.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher November 15, 2010
The introduction of the commentary was very, very good, perhaps even the strength of the commentary. Bird deals with the question of authorship at some length, clearly exposing weaknesses in arguments against Pauline authorship. In particular, he notes that the language in Colossians is different than the undisputed Paulines because Paul quotes a lot of traditional material and the opponents he's facing are a bit different than the Judaizers (6-7). It is not fair to say, though, that Bird believes that Pauline authorship of Colossians is of the same nature as Pauline authorship of Galatians. He sees it as being co-authored by Paul, Timothy, and perhaps others. This accounts for some of the distinctiveness of Colossians when compared to the undisputed Pauline epistles. The most detailed and helpful portion of the introduction is the assessment of the Colossian philosophy (15-26). Bird surveys the scholarly landscape and eventually settles on a calling it a form of Jewish mysticism. Introductory matters related to Philemon are briefly but adequately addressed. The commentary proper was very strong. Bird is an excellent writer and he presents his viewpoint in a compelling way. The most remarkable aspect of this commentary was its evenness. I never felt like there was a section where Bird didn't have much to say and hadn't thought deeply about the text. The main body of the commentary is a running explanation of the letter. Bird does an admirable job of keeping the big picture of what Paul is doing in the letter in full view, relating each section to the whole. This makes the commentary an enjoyable read and very helpful for someone looking to get a quick grasp on any particular passage or the book as a whole. Technical discussions related to Greek grammar and other matters are relegated to the footnotes (there's more detail on grammatical issues here than one might expect for a commentary of this nature). The sections on 'Fusing the Horizons' were top notch providing pastors with brief but rich ministry-shaping reflections on topics such as The Global Church (see a snippet here), Common Faith, and Ministerial Formation. Bird writes as one who writes for the church, and not just in the 'Fusing the Horizons' sections. Throughout the commentary he draws out ecclesial themes, especially how God's people should function; both at the local church setting and more widely (often by describing Paul's theology - one must have ears to hear). All in all this is a commentary worth deep engagement. The more time spent dwelling on Bird's attempt to think Paul's thoughts after him, the more one will get out of it, particularly on Colossians. I think that Bird nails his audience right on. It will be a helpful addition to any pastor's or studious lay person's library. If you want a commentary that gets to the point while not being shallow or unsatisfying then you'll love this commentary. [Full Review]
Bird, Michael F. Colossians and Philemon. NCCS. Cascade Books, 2009.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher November 15, 2010
The best adjective to describe the Philemon commentary is 'solid.' I didn't gain any new insights, but there also wasn't any spot where I really disagreed either. [Full Review]
Goldingay, John. Daniel. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1989.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher November 15, 2010
It was a very close call but my favorite commentary on Daniel is Goldingay's. While there were a few places where I disagreed with his interpretation, I found the commentary to be exemplary. If you're going to teach Daniel, especially the apocalyptic portions, you need a commentary that provides you with a lot of background material. Goldingay, while not as broad as Collins, certainly provides you with quite a bit. His exploration of the background to the apocalyptic symbolism is very helpful. You gain a good sense of what is being communicated by the symbols, not just to whom they refer. Questions of genre are discussed in detail; helpful parallel texts are dug up (while avoiding parallelomania). The most helpful aspect of the commentary was his detailed literary analysis. It showed how the passage as a whole fit together, especially pointing out chiasms in the text. His explanations should not be ignored either. These are among the best of any in the Word series and clearly are far from the afterthought that they seem to be in some volumes. Overall, I found this commentary to be detailed but you never feel overloaded at the same time. Daniel is a bit of a battle ground in Evangelical circles over dating. For those of you interested, Goldingay does hold to a second century date and sees many of the prophetic portions as ex eventu prophecy. This raises theological issues for the doctrine of Scripture for Evangelicals (of which Goldingay is one). I give him credit for dealing with them head on. I personally learned a lot from Goldingay, and even if you disagree with this stance on the dating of Daniel, I think you will too. No pastor should attempt to study Daniel without this commentary in his collection. [Full Review]
Collins, John J. Daniel. Herm. Fortress Press, 1994.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher November 15, 2010
Collins is an expert in apocalyptic literature, so his analysis of the apocalyptic sections along with the introduction is the strength of the commentary' (that does not suggest that the rest of the commentary isn't good). What makes Collins work so helpful is that it's extremely detailed on background issues (more so than Goldingay). The only annoyance for me is that he doesn't always comment on every single verse. As an additional bonus, you get a commentary on the additions to Daniel that are found in the Apocrypha (I think that spending a little time on the additions to Daniel is a helpful exercise when studying Daniel 1-6). As this volume is in the Hermeneia series there isn't nearly as much theological reflection as there is in Goldingay, but it's still a must read. [Full Review]
Longman III, Tremper. Daniel. NIVAC. Zondervan, 1999.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher November 15, 2010
After you leave the woods of the academic commentaries on Daniel, there isn't a lot to recommend in my opinion (granted I have not seen Duguid's commentary). However, for a lay audience, Longman's commentary stands out. Obviously you're not going to get anywhere near the detail of Collins or Goldingay in an NIV Application volume, but the 'Original Meaning' section is beefy for a volume in this series. Longman isn't afraid to discuss ANE background, and he appropriately simplifies it for a lay audience. You don't find much original research here. Rather it serves as a handy, accessible guide drawing upon the best of current studies on Daniel. Longman does opt for a sixth century date, but is sympathetic towards late daters like Goldingay. This commentary was conservative without being polemical. The applications were often helpful and I never found them to be cliched. With that said I often found myself wanting to go in slightly different directions in my own teaching. This is my commentary of choice for lay students and also should be consulted for those teaching in a church setting. [Full Review]
Lucas, Ernest C. Daniel. ApOTC. IVP Academic, 2002.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher November 15, 2010
Lucas' commentary is a little difficult to rate. In many respects it felt like Goldingay light. There's a lot of repeated material here. I'd also say that he felt like Goldingay made clearer, as Lucas is a very clear writer. Obviously with that said, Lucas didn't just blindly follow Goldingay on everything, and he does have a fair amount of material of his own. There also were spots where I thought that Lucas had better points than Goldingay. One potential advantage, depending on your circles, is that he spends more time than Goldingay or Collins do interacting with conservative Evangelical scholars. He also is a bit less likely than Goldingay or Collins to accept the critical consensus (again not that either of those scholars always accept it - Goldingay in particular diverges at some key interpretive points). At times, though, it was a bit difficult to determine what his view was on some issues. I'm still not sure when he thinks Daniel was written. I think you could read Lucas either way, perhaps he intended it that way. This is definitely the best mid-level commentary on Daniel. It's not a must have if you already have Goldingay, but even if you do, there's enough unique material to make it worth owning. [Full Review]
Keener, Craig S. Romans. NCCS. Cascade Books, 2009.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher August 13, 2010
The New Covenant Commentary Series is a relatively new series published by Wipf and Stock. The series aims for somewhere between a popular level treatment and a mid-level commentary. Keener definitely was in that range. The commentary was written clearly and not in an academic style. However, some technical jargon is used so at least a little bit of familiarity with the discipline of biblical studies on the part of the reader would be helpful (though not required). Much of the technical information and references to primary sources are relegated to the footnotes leaving the main text highly readable. Commenting is done section by section rather than verse by verse with each chapter of Romans earning its own chapter in the commentary. I thought that Keener's introduction was very solid, especially in how he situates it both within its Jewish and Greco-Roman setting. He most clearly displays his deftness in his analysis of the rhetoric of Romans (more on this later). There is also a good brief overview of recent clashes over Paul in the law. Keener takes a mediating position, between old and new perspectives but he definitely leans a bit towards a traditional reading. My biggest criticism of his introduction is that he doesn't put much stress on the Spanish mission as being a main driver (if not the main driver) behind Paul's writing of Romans as I believe Jewett has helpfully shown. As for rhetorical analysis, some have admittedly pushed their analysis of rhetorical elements of Paul's letters (and other New Testament texts as well) too far, causing some to question the validity of the approach. Keener is much more measured. He doesn't seek to force Romans as a whole to fit into a rhetorical pattern and any neat classification. What Keener does is to draw attention to parallels in Greco-Roman rhetoric (with primary sources cited) between Paul's construction of phrases, sentences, or paragraphs when significant. Similar parallels are also drawn on the many occasions when Paul argues in a distinctively Jewish manner. Scattered throughout the commentary are excurses and practical application sections called 'Fusing the Horizons.' Some of these were gems, especially his section on homosexuality. He gave a brief overview of homosexuality in Jewish and Greco-Roman society, after which he situated Paul in that context. Additionally he discussed some similarities and differences between their cultural attitudes and practices and our own. Several of his treatments of individual chapters were outstanding. Particularly noteworthy in my estimation were his treatment of chapters 2, 7, and 12; especially chapter 2. I think that many commentaries get too mired down in debates over judgment by works and questions over who it is that keeps the law that they miss (or fail to emphasize) what Paul's main point is: God's impartiality in judgment between Jew and Gentile. Keener doesn't make that mistake. Instead he situates the complex debates on justification and the identity of the law keepers within Paul's larger argument. Throughout the commentary Keener sprinkles tables. These tables provide a visual presentation of a comparison of the current section under discussion with other parts of the letter. These tables were so helpful, especially in his discussion of Romans 7:7-25. There he showed 10 statements from Romans 7:7-25 that would contradict earlier points in the letter if we were to understand them as referring to Paul's present struggle with sin. My biggest disagreement with Keener is that I think he's still stuck a little bit too much within the 'old perspective on Paul' at times on matters of Paul and the law and justification. I question where he places him emphasis. I would have made his secondary points more central (justification in relation to covenant membership) and his central points (justification by faith opposing legalism) a little more secondary. Overall, I think that Keener has written a knockout of a commentary. He does an excellent job of nailing down the main points of Paul's argument and situating the letter in its ancient context. I think that there may be some real advantage to reading shorter commentaries such as this one. It's much easier to see the forest. If the rest of the New Covenant Commentary Series reaches the bar that Keener set then we will have an excellent little series that will be of much help for busy pastors and lay people. [Full Review]
Cousar, Charles B. Philippians and Philemon. NTL. Westminster John Knox, 2009.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher December 9, 2009
This month I decided to pick up a recent commentary that came out, that of Charles Cousar in the New Testament Library series. I've only extensively used one commentary in this series before, Jonah, so I wasn't completely sure what to expect, but I was, for the most part, pleased. The introduction to the commentary on Philippians is fairly standard. He believes that Philippians was written from an Ephesian imprisonment and thus was one of Paul's earliest letters. Fee and Bockmuehl have both claimed that Philippians is a letter of friendship, but Cousar is a bit cool on that idea, while not outright rejecting it. He does believe that Philippians is a single letter and not a patchwork of three letters as some have claimed. Overall I found the commentary proper to be solid. Technical issues were briefly discussed and Cousar would usually give a short explanation explaining his decisions. There was little discussion of other options (he devotes a little more space to different views at 2:5-11, but even there it was somewhat sparse), which is why the commentary is as brief as it is. One of his stronger points was on 1:18-26, I was helped by his brief discussion of the rhetoric of Paul's argument. Cousar claims that Paul was using a technique known as 'feigned perplexity' as a means of strengthening his argument. On the Christ 'hymn' in 2:5-11 he goes against most recent commentators by following Kasemann's soteriological interpretation. He makes a decent case of it, but I found O'Brien to be much more persuasive. By far Cousar's strongest point was on, perhaps the thorniest passage in Philippians, 3:1-4. Paul's sudden change of tone is so dramatic that many have questioned the integrity of Philippians largely on the basis of this section. Cousar, in my opinion, largely puts these questions to rest. He suggests that there was no actual group of opponents in or soon to come to Philippi. The 'dogs' were set up as a negative example, countering the positive examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus in ch. 2 and Paul in the following verses. Overall, on Philippians Cousar does a good job. He doesn't use a lot of space but fits a lot into it. Even though its brief, I would not recommend it for the lay person, it's a little too technical and also assumes a fair amount of familiarity with New Testament (especially Pauline) studies. However, for the pastor I could see this commentary pairing up well with Thielman and one or more of Bockmuehl, Fee, and O'Brien. 4.5 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
Cousar, Charles B. Philippians and Philemon. NTL. Westminster John Knox, 2009.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher December 9, 2009
Unfortunately, it seems as if Cousar did not put the same level of effort into the Philemon commentary as he did for Philippians. It's extremely sparse, with the commentary proper only being five and a half pages long. There wasn't much depth of insight, I felt that most points that he made could be gained from a careful slow read through the text. That said, he still didn't make any major mistakes, in my opinion and rightly saw the stress in the letter where it lied, in the transformation of relationships and identity in Christ. 3 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
Moo, Douglas J. The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon. PNTC. Eerdmans, 2008.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher November 14, 2009
My favorite commentary, without question, was Doug Moo's in the Pillar series. I originally read through it about a year ago and I wasn't overly impressed. This time around, when I really dug into it, I found it to be extremely helpful. One thing I liked was that he confined most of his discussion on the issue of slavery to the introduction. This is a good move because the issue of slavery is not a primary in Philemon. His conclusions on slavery also were more satisfying than those of the other commentators that I read. In the commentary proper Moo does an excellent job of following the argument and discerning Paul's rhetorical strategy. You can tell that he is a very seasoned interpreter of Paul, and his experience is a huge plus. His introductions to each section, which are prior to the verse by verse notes also are top notch. I also found this commentary to be a little more advanced than some in the Pillar series. Moo works through the text, very methodically, verse by verse, phrase by phrase, explaining in a very fair manner the different exegetical possibilities. His conclusions are sound and well supported. For most pastors, who have an average grasp of Greek, Moo's commentary is at just the right level of thoroughness and difficulty. It will be a great aid in preaching or teaching through the text of Philemon. 5 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
Thompson, Marianne Meye. Colossians & Philemon. THNTC. Eerdmans, 2005.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher November 14, 2009
Marianne Meye Thompson's commentary in the Two Horizon's series is a very interesting commentary. In the commentary proper she achieved the goal of the series, to produce a theological reading of Scripture. I was very encouraged and edified by it. The essays following the commentary were mostly good, especially the ones on 'The New Humanity.' When reading the commentary proper, one can see how she weaved the results of most of these essays back into the notes. The final essay, on 'How Do We Read Scripture?' is very thought provoking and all theologians and pastors should wrestle with it. Even though I probably wouldn't place the same stresses she does in interpreting Scripture, I think Thompson picks up on the most helpful strands of the post-modern critique of the way we traditionally have interpreted Scripture. Readers of all levels will benefit from Thompson's work, but pastors especially will as this is the best commentary I've seen in its engagement with the theology of Philemon. 5 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
Garland, David E. Colossians, Philemon. NIVAC. Zondervan, 1998.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher November 14, 2009
I really like the concept of the NIV Application Series, I just find that too often, the individual commentaries are not as well executed as I hope. This is not the case with David Garland's commentary on Philemon. I am a big fan of Garland's commentary on 2 Corinthians so I had high expectations for this commentary, and he delivered. This commentary has two major contributions, first, Garland poignantly draws out, moreso than the other commentators I read, the corporate dimension of the letter, that Paul, by including the entire house church in the correspondence, is expressing his belief that living the Christian life is a community endeavor. The other helpful aspect of Garland's commentary was his lengthy section on slavery. Even though it runs the danger of making it seem like slavery is the main point of the letter, in this series, I think it is appropriate to deal with it at length, which he does in the appropriate section, 'Bridging Contexts.' It's a very helpful introduction geared towards the lay person which will help them understand what slavery was like in the Roman empire. I do think at times, though, that Garland does push his conclusions a bit far related to the issue of slavery and perhaps pushes the text further than we can actually go. I also would say his sections on the 'Original Meaning' are just adequate, and the lay person should supplement this commentary with the work of N.T. Wright and the pastor should pair it with Moo's commentary. Even with that said, Garland bridges the gap between the ancient context to ours magnificently, so I feel that I can highly recommend this commentary to readers of all levels, 4.5 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
Wright, N. T. Colossians and Philemon. TNTC. InterVarsity Press, 1989.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher November 14, 2009
The Tyndale series is a little unique in that it primarily seeks to lay out the original meaning of the text but is geared towards the laity. Hence, I usually skip it, because there are other commentaries out there that do the same thing (lay out he original meaning) but at much more depth. Sometimes, though, the author of the commentary is so good that you have to read it, even though it will probably be a bit sparse for your liking. That is the case with N.T. Wright on Philemon. One thing that surprised me, is that I didn't find myself desiring a lot more detail, but perhaps this should not have been a surprise. N.T. Wright is known for doing a lot in a short space. There also were times where he simply said things better than anyone else did, such as in his comments on vs. 17-20. I highly recommend this commentary as well, especially to any lay person studying Philemon. 4.5 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
O'Brien, Peter T. Colossians, Philemon [Withdrawn]. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1982.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher November 14, 2009
Peter T. O'Brien is my favorite commentator on the New Testament, so I fully expected to fall in love with his Philemon commentary, the way I did with his works on Ephesians and Philippians. This wasn't the case. This certainly wasn't a bad commentary, but it wasn't outstanding. He is at his most helpful in the 'form/structure/setting' section of the commentary, especially, as one might expect, when discussing the introductory thanksgiving. These sections helped me orient my reading. However, the 'comment' and 'explanation' sections were weak in my opinion. They contained helpful information, especially on grammatical issues, but I did not see the depth of thought in this work like I did in his other commentaries or the commentaries I reviewed earlier in this post. It's solid, but I wonder if there might be better advanced commentaries for the study of Philemon. 3.5 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
Reese, Ruth Anne. 2 Peter & Jude. THNTC. Eerdmans, 2007.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher October 20, 2009
The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary series is a bit different than most others. The first section of the commentary is a typical mid level commentary, I would say somewhere between what you would find in the Pillar series and in the Interpretation series. What makes this commentary series unique is the collection of theological essays after the regular commentary which discuss theological themes, in this case of Jude, first discussing Jude in its own right, then in the context of the wider cannon, and finally it applies the theology of Jude to our contemporary context. I would describe the regular portion of the commentary as workmanlike. It's solid. A couple of times she did raise my eyebrows with thought provoking interpretations, but the value of the commentary doesn't lie in that section. I found the essays to be much more helpful and interesting. She thought hard about some of the difficult issues raised in the letter. I especially enjoyed Reese's efforts on the 'Us and Them,' 'Responses to Division in the Cannon,' and 'The Theology of Jude in Contemporary Contexts.' 4 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
Neyrey, Jerome H. 2 Peter, Jude. AYB. Yale University Press, 1993.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher October 20, 2009
The final commentary that I used was Neyrey's. This is a very narrow commentary. If you are very interested in understanding Jude within the wider culture of the Greco-Roman world, then this is the commentary for you. Otherwise, it is at best a supplement to other, more traditional commentaries. There were a couple of occasions where the additional insight was helpful, primarily in the letter introduction and doxology, but they weren't bountiful. I also think he may have pushed his sociological and rhetorical analysis a little far at times. I felt Green's tempered approach to be better. 3.5 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
Green, Gene L. Jude and 2 Peter. BECNT. Baker Academic, 2008.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher October 20, 2009
If it weren't for Bauckham's excellent commentary, Green's would be the commentary of choice for a detailed treatment of Jude. Green's primary strength lies in incorporating insight from the social sciences into a traditional commentary, making Neyrey, in my opinion, superfluous for all but those who are very interested in social science approaches to Jude. This is part of the biggest advantage that Green has over Bauckham, which makes Green worth owning in addition to Bauckham, since it's much more recent. Bauckham's commentary is phenomenal, but published in 1983. Green's commentary is not quite as good in my opinion (but still very good), but published in 2008. A lot of research has been done in the mean time, especially in sociology, and Green's commentary definitely benefits from it. 4 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
Davids, Peter H. The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude. PNTC. Eerdmans, 2006.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher October 20, 2009
It was a tough call, but Peter David's commentary on Jude was my personal favorite. This was the first time I've extensively used one of his commentaries, and in many ways it reminded me of Peter T. O'Brein's Ephesians commentary in the same series, which is very high praise coming from me. He substantiated his claims without weighing the reader down with extensive detail. I never felt like I lost the larger point while examining the finer details, which is a complaint I sometimes have with detailed commentaries. Davids blends different approaches well. It was clear that he had an in depth understanding of the text and of Mediterranean culture. I previously highlighted his comments on the doxology. They added depth to my understanding of the doxology by showing how it functioned in an honor-shame society. I also appreciated how he preserved the tension that is present in the text between keeping oneself in the love of God and being kept by God. He doesn't settle for easy answers. I highly recommend this commentary, especially for pastors it should be the first one off the shelf. 5 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
Bauckham, Richard J. 2 Peter and Jude. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1983.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher October 20, 2009
Bauckham's commentary is undoubtedly the best commentary for academic work on Jude. In particular, his excursus on Jude's usage of the Testament of Moses was a masterpiece of scholarship, and I found his reconstruction of the general contents of the lost ending of the Testament of Moses to be very convincing. His notes on textual variants were also very helpful (there are a couple of very difficult readings in Jude). The whole commentary was a model of detail and thoroughness. My only complaint is that I wish he had written a little more for the 'Explanation' section of the commentary. 5 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
Achtemeier, Elizabeth. Minor Prophets I. UBOT. Hendrickson, 1997.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher October 2, 2009
The New International Biblical Commentary (NIBC) is among the better series of brief commentaries on the market. It typically employs well known scholars and is targeted towards lay people and pastors. If her section on Jonah is indicative of the entire volume, Achtemeier has given us a strong volume on the first six of the minor prophets. I found her writing to be clear, compact, and powerful. I found her commentary a great supplement to exegetical works, as her theological insight was keen. I especially enjoyed her comments on Jonah's prayer in Jonah 2:2-9. This commentary will help you see the forest for the trees. Her explanations are grounded in what she sees as the major theological themes of Jonah, God's free grace and his love. While she focuses mainly on theology, there is some exegetical help, but it is limited. Overall I greatly enjoyed this commentary. Even when I didn't agree with the exact conclusions she came to, she helped me wrestle with the theology of Jonah which makes the book a resounding success. I give it 5 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. NICNT. Eerdmans, 2007.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher September 7, 2009
This is the best commentary on Matthew from the Evangelical tradition. While not as thorough as Davies and Allison, the level of detail is certainly adequate. His strength is following the flow of the narrative. France is excellent at placing each pericope within its broader context and helping you see how the different pieces of the gospel fit together. I would definitely recommend that every pastor and serious lay student of the Bible own this commentary.
Miller, Stephen R. Daniel. NAC. Broadman & Holman, 1994.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher May 31, 2009
Miller's commentary in the NAC series is a mid-level dispensationalist commentary. I wasn't a big fan. I think that it majors on historical matters while ignoring literary ones. This may be because Miller sees the book as completely historical. With that said, the genre of history still may be written in form of a story and thus I find Miller's approach inadequate. History is so important to Miller that it completely dominates the commentary, not only to the neglect of discussing literary style and genre, but also to theology. A glaring example occurs at the close of chapter 5 and the start of chapter 6. He closes his comments on chapter five with a seven sentence discussion of the theological emphases of the chapter. Chapter 6 opens with a seven page discussion of the identity of Darius the Mede. I think that demonstrates misplaced priorities on Miller's part. I wasn't impressed in his handling of the apocalyptic sections either (and not just because I'm not a dispensationalist). The symbols have both a sense and a reference. He focuses too strongly on the latter while missing out on telling the reader why the historical referant is presented in that particular mode. Thus, for someone teaching the text, I don't think that Miller provides a whole lot of help, certainly any of the above commentaries would be far more helpful. 2.5 stars out of 5. [Full Review]
Cranfield, C. E. B. Romans. 2 Vols. ICC. T&T Clark, 1975.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher December 31, 2008
Cranfield’s two volume commentary in the ICC series hardly needs any introduction. It has long been regarded as one of the best, alongside the likes of Calvin, Barth, and Kassemann. It is also significant because it was the first of the second generation of International Critical Commentaries to be published. Cranfield set the bar high for the rest of the contributors of the series in his model commentary.

The work is very mature. Few commentators show the depth and breadth of their command of the material as clearly as Cranfield does, while at the same time avoiding bogging down the reader with unnecessary interpretive options. He knows which views to dismiss and which to discuss while providing compelling reasons for the position he opts for. This not only makes the job of the reader easier, it also keeps the work reasonably concise, which is a very difficult task when writing a commentary on Romans.

On grammar, no one is better than Cranfield. I don’t think this is even open for argument (despite what I believe to be the helpfulness of Jewett in this area).

As an added bonus, he is profoundly theological at times. This is a rarity in advanced commentaries, since that is not their primary task. I often found that his insight was even more penetrating than Moo. This is one of the main reasons why I still highly recommend this commentary even when you consider that Jewett’s commentary is 30 years newer and overlapping in many respects. Jewett generally does not reflect theologically (and when he does, he’s usually wrong), where Cranfield does at most of the key junctures, and his insight is excellent and helpful in the homiletical task. Overall this is an excellent work by Cranfield. In some ways the timing of it, being right before the birth of the New Perspective on Paul, is unfortunate, in that Cranfield does not get to weigh in on the debate here. On the other hand, its timing is a blessing in disguise, as it remains unencumbered with that debate (not that I find that the debate has been unhelpful and not that Cranfield’s commentary wouldn’t have benefited, but it is refreshing to read a Romans commentary that does not have the shadow of Sanders, Dunn, and Wright looming over it as e.g., Moo’s and Schreiner’s often do). If your Greek is up to it (and honestly, even if it isn’t give it a try) I fully endorse this commentary. It pairs well with Schreiner and Jewett.

Jewett, Robert. Romans. Herm. Fortress Press, 2006.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher December 13, 2008
Hermeneia is a series for academics, hoping to bring the latest and best critical scholarship to bear fruit in interpretation. One thing that distinguishes this series from the ICC, which is, in my opinion, its main ‘competitor’, is that this series tends to focus heavily on rhetorical criticism. Jewett’s commentary is in that vein. It is not, though, exclusively a commentary on the rhetoric. It almost is a perfectly well rounded commentary, utilizing many tools to achieve its interpretation of the text.

Things I liked:

Jewett gives, by far, the most helpful and most thorough background to Romans. It was not merely information for information’s sake. He did an excellent job of showing the impact of the background (especially the section on Spain) on the interpretation of the text.

The structural comments and discussion of rhetorical features was impeccable. Jewett was thorough and well argued. I appreciated this because it made his results testable. He then uses his rhetorical analysis to drive his exegesis.

No commentary on Romans is as thorough in textual criticism. Jewett attempted to give every single variant found in the manuscript tradition for Romans, his assessment of its originality, and what may have been the cause for the variant (e.g., scribal error, ideological alteration, etc.).

Jewett is also thorough on issues of grammar and lexicography, sometimes even more so than Cranfield. For a commentary whose focus isn’t on grammar, the amount of information you get is generous.


Jewett states that theologizing is not his goal in writing the commentary, and I understand that. That does not need to be the goal of the commentary. I feel at times, though, that his interpretation went astray because he did not consider the theological framework of the text. This led to an overly situational reading of Romans.

He could have done without using feminine pronouns to refer to God the Father.

Overall Evaluation:

I give Jewett 4.5 stars. The vast majority of the commentary is extremely helpful. As a technical aid to the text one could not find a better commentary (even Cranfield’s). If he had framed things a bit more theologically, it would have received a fill five stars. Pair it with Schreiner and you’ll be off to an excellent start in studying Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Barker, Kenneth L.; Bailey, Waylon. Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. NAC. Broadman & Holman, 1998.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher September 8, 2008
The New American Commentary series is what I’d consider an entry level pastoral commentary. It’s geared towards pastors and discusses only the most pertinent issues related to the original language. It’s still user friendly enough, though, that a lay person looking for a meatier commentary than the NIVAC or BST would be well served by it. This volume in particular is difficult to rate because the quality is not consistent across both contributors. I read about a third of the section on Micah and all of Habakkuk. I found that Barker was rather dull and unhelpful, while Bailey’s exposition was enlightening.

Things I liked:

The background information in the Habakkuk commentary was outstanding. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of how Habakkuk fit in with the rest of the Minor Prophets. Bailey clearly explained how the Minor Prophets fit together with Habakkuk as the climax of the crisis in the overall plot sketched by the post exilic editor.

Bailey does draw heavily on the work of other scholars. Even though it isn’t the longest commentary out there, I felt that I got a good survey of what scholarship is saying on Habakkuk.

Bailey grasps the theology of Habakkuk very well. I gained clearer insight into the attitude of Habakkuk and how he interacted with God.

Things I didn’t like:

I would have liked a little more help on the grammar. I find the NAC inconsistent on this issue. Some have a substantial amount of footnotes dealing with grammatical issues, some don’t. I would have liked more here.

Pretty much everything about the Micah commentary by Barker. It was short, had little technical help, and was uninspiring.


If you’re looking for a commentary on Micah, look elsewhere (especially Leslie Allen in the NICOT). If you want a good commentary on Habakkuk (and I assume Nahum and Zephaniah) this would be a good place to start. Bailey possesses the brevity and clarity that all commentators would do well to imitate, and his exposition is enriching, as he forces you to wrestle with the issues, just like Habakkuk did. As an added bonus, Bailey provides you with a wealth of information in the introduction sections. I give Barker 2 stars and Bailey 4.5 stars, so I guess the book gets 4 stars as a whole.

O'Brien, Peter T. The Letter to the Ephesians [Withdrawn]. PNTC. Eerdmans, 1999.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher August 24, 2008
The Pillar New Testament Commentary is written with pastors in mind. As the series editor, Carson has attempted to draw from the top scholars from all over the world to help pastors wade through issues of background, grammar, lexicology, textual criticism, and literary/rhetorical style while keeping the homiletical task in mind. That can be a formidable task when writing a commentary on Ephesians, but Carson selected one of the best in Peter T. O’Brien, who did not disappoint.

Things I liked:

O’Brien does an excellent job of drawing from other scholars who previously written or commented on the book (especially Lincoln, Bruce, and Clinton Arnold). He seems to take the best from each without getting sucked into their weak points. It is not a commentary on commentaries, however. O’Brien frequently picks up others’ arguments and advances them much further and more coherently than they ever did.

O’Brien’s defense of Pauline authorship is formidable. I especially appreciate the way he handled the section on the alleged use of Colossians by Ephesians. It certainly is not a straightforward dependence, if there is any.

He also seems to know what pastors need in a commentary. Some commentaries major in lexicology (e.g., Quinn and Wacker on the Pastorals); others in background issues and rhetorical analysis (e.g., Ben Witherington on anything); other still in issues of grammar (e.g., Cranfield on Romans). While all of this information is extremely valuable, often times pastors don’t have time to read a half dozen commentaries to ‘get a bit of this and a bit of that.’ O’Brien does a good job of drawing on the most relevant information from different approaches to the text providing the busy pastor with the closest you can come to a one stop shop.

In agreement with what other reviewers have said, O’Brien is very theologically astute. He understands the implications of his well nuanced positions very clearly. His work on chapter 2 is perhaps the best I have seen by any commentator on any chapter of scripture (although his work on Philippians 2 is also outstanding). It’s clear, thorough, impacting, well supported, and follows the flow of the text beautifully. If there is one weakness I frequently see in commentators, it is that they fail to see how their argument fits into the whole letter. This does not happen to O’Brien.

Also, the section on the armor of God was always a bit enigmatic to me. I did not see before why Paul would ever end his epistle with it. O’Brien’s explanation of how it fit within the wider purposes of Ephesians was very helpful.


I wish O’Brien had done his own translation of the text. Looking at the scholar’s translation up front serves as a quick summary of the conclusions they draw through their exegesis. Also it sometimes helps you more fully grasp their arguments.

This is minor, but I would have liked a more formidable defense of ‘shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace’ being interpreted as a call to missionary activity. It is not an impossible interpretation, but it does not seem to me to be an obvious one.

Overall Evaluation:

O’Brien’s commentary is outstanding. I cannot more wholeheartedly recommend it. His writing is powerful, clear, and concise, and his analysis incisive; making him eminently quotable. This commentary stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Best, Ernest. Ephesians. ICC. T&T Clark, 1998.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher August 20, 2008
The International Critical Commentary Series is renowned for its careful, critical scholarship. For the most part, the volume on Ephesians by Ernest Best fits the mold. The commentary is geared towards those with strong skills in Greek. It is helpful to the pastor, but not the commentary to choose if a pastor only wants to buy one (O’Brien would be much better). However, Best does reflect on theology more than some academic commentaries do (e.g., Jewett on Romans in Hermeneia) especially on soteriology and ecclesiology. For those with an academic interest in Ephesians, this commentary is in the category of must own.

Things I liked:

The key to a top notch academic commentary is fairness to opposing views. While not afraid to dismiss irrelevant views, Best does fairly represent his opponents and attempts to show (mainly through grammatical arguments) why their view is, in his opinion, defective. His commentary often proved to be a refreshing corrective to some of the overblown analysis of Lincoln, who sees preformed material seemingly in every section.

Best showed the structure of each section in his translation to help the reader clearly see Paul’s (or AE’s as Best likes to put it) flow of thought. This was very helpful as a quick reference when doing my exegesis. The rest of the commentary served as a defense of the translation and diagram. I also enjoyed his witty writing style. I even found myself chuckling at the way he would phrase things sometimes.

Best almost always takes the plain sense of the text, even when he doesn’t like the conclusions. This is especially clear in his discussion of the household code. In particular, I found Best’s analysis of chapters 1-4 to be very insightful. His arguments were clear and often persuasive. Particularly excellent were his discussions of the spiritual powers that are mentioned from time to time in Ephesians. I also liked his analysis of 2:1-10. I think he gives the best one sentence summary of the section that I have read when he says, “The new position of believers is a result only of the nature and activity of God.”


Evangelicals will be bothered by his approach to chapters 5 and 6. He borders on contempt for the text at times, especially when he disagrees with it or finds it lacking, which is often.

While mounting as formidable a case as is possible, his argument against Pauline authorship is inadequate. He must be credited though with avoiding the specious argument of dependence of Ephesians on Colossians (or vice versa) and using the criteria of hapax legomena for determining authorship. Still, his insistence (along with many other scholars) on the existence of a Pauline school is baffling, and the differences in vocabulary, content, and style are not as significant as Best seems to believe. See O’Brien and Hoehner for outstanding defenses of Pauline authorship.

Overall Evaluation:

We have come to expect excellence from the International Critical Commentary and this commentary meets those expectations. It is the work of a careful scholar who labored over Ephesians for decade after decade. It provides a wealth of information that would benefit anyone doing a thorough study of Ephesians who knows at least a little bit of Greek. The commentary is overly critical at times, but that is not surprising given the series it’s in. I rate it four stars out of five.

Lincoln, Andrew T. Ephesians. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1990.
Marcus Maher Marcus Maher August 20, 2008
Andrew Lincoln's commentary is a good source for studying Ephesians. I consulted it several times as a reference but not as a main guide while studying through the book (I used O'Brien and Best primarily). I found it to be well written and Lincoln often had helpful insight. He often, though, had a propensity for finding parallels to existing hymns, creeds, and baptismal liturgies in unlikely places. Overall it's an excellent resource for occasional consultation, but O'Brien utilizes most of Lincoln's positive contributions while omitting much of the speculation.