Thomas R. Schreiner. Commentary on Hebrews (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation). Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2015. 560 pp. $39.99.
In the mist of a tremendous flourishing of evangelical publishing on biblical theology, for years I had longed to see a biblical theology study Bible and a commentary series from the perspective on Biblical theology. To my joy, in the last year we have seen both. The latter presented itself in the form of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible (D. A. Carson ed.), and the former saw its inaugural volume on Hebrews by Dr. Thomas Schreiner (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series from B&H Academic).
Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation Series
Though there are different schools of biblical theology that define and pursue the discipline differently, the general editors of this new series (T. Desmond Alexander, Andreas J. Köstenberger, and Thomas R. Schreiner) define biblical theology as, in essence,
the theology of the Bible, that is, the theology expressed by the various biblical books on their own terms and in their own historical contexts. Biblical theology is the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. What is more, biblical theology is the theology of the entire Bible, and exercise in whole-Bible theology (ix, emphases original).
While the volumes will discuss typical introductory matters and provide verse-by-verse exegetical commentary, their two primary distinctive contributions are conveyed in the series title. First is biblical theology – each volume will explore the contribution of the given book or groups of books of the Bible to the theology of Scripture as a whole and provide “thorough discussion of the most important themes of the biblical book in relation to the canon as a whole…in the context of the larger salvation-historical metanarrative of Scripture” (xi). Second is Christian proclamation, seeking to relate biblical theology to our own lives and the life of the church, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry of teaching and preaching the Word.
Commentary on Hebrews (Thomas Schreiner)
The biblical-theological emphasis of Schreiner’s volume on Hebrews shows up mainly in the introduction and conclusion. After briefly addressing typical introductory matters such as date, authorship, destination, etc. in an accessible way that does not get bogged down in technical details, Schreiner spends more than half of the introduction on biblical-theological matters. First, he situates Hebrews in its canonical context, tracing redemptive history from Genesis through the Gospels and pointing out along the way the significant types of Christ and salvation and how Hebrews speaks of their fulfillment. For example, after mentioning Leviticus 10 Schreiner notes how Hebrews focuses on the inadequacy of the sacrificial system and emphasizes the inauguration of a new and better covenant because the old was a failure. He ties the sin of the wilderness generation in Numbers to the warning Hebrews makes of the example of Israel. He notes how Hebrews picks up on the theme of rest in Joshua as a type and anticipation of a greater rest to come. From the Gospels, Schreiner notes themes such as Jesus being the new David promised by the prophets.
Second, Schreiner discusses four structures that undergird the biblical theology of Hebrews. The first is promise/fulfillment, where Schreiner points to how Hebrews proclaims certain OT predictions to have now been fulfilled. Jesus is the Davidic king promised in the OT who would establish God’s kingdom; He is a priest in the order of Melchizedek (Ps 110:4) in his humanity, participation in summering, and resurrection; He has sat down at the right hand of God (Ps 110:1). The second structure is the tension of inaugurated eschatology, seen in Jesus’s reign, salvation, sanctification, perfection, the warning passages, the call to faith, and rest. Third, concerning typology, Schreiner helpfully emphasizes that the correspondences were intended by God and not merely used by Him as illustrations, and that typology is characterized by escalation. In Christ we have a better prophet, a better priest, a better king, a better covenant, a better land, and better promises. The final structure noted by Schreiner is spatial orientation (i.e. the relationship between heaven and earth); while some scholars treat this topic within typology, Schreiner separates it because of Hebrews’s distinctive emphasis on the subject. Whereas key themes that give structure to the letter are investigated as structures of thought, the conclusion provides additional biblical-theological insight by dealing with some of the central themes (e.g. God, Jesus, the New Covenant, etc.) in their own right.
I look forward to digging into Schreiner’s commentary on Hebrews and eagerly anticipate each forthcoming volume in this series. These commentaries will provide rich biblical-theological and practical insight that can’t be found in other commentaries, from some of the best evangelical scholars of our day. Find out more about the series, including the list of volumes and contributors, here.
Thanks to B&H Academic for the review copy!