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A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles (Kregel Exegetical Library) – Eugene H. Merrill

Eugene H. Merrill. A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles (Kregel Exegetical Library). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015. 640 pp. $39.99.

chronOne-year Bible reading plans that don’t die in Leviticus most likely meet their demise in 1 Chronicles, with its nine opening chapters of genealogies. Preachers don’t often tackle 1 and  2 Chronicles, either. For these very neglected books, Eugene Merrill’s commentary in the Kregel Exegetical Library is a great historical, theological, and exegetical guide  for the academically oriented lay-person, preacher. Seminary students, scholars, and higher-level laypeople will probably want a more technical commentary.

The 50-page introduction is robust and goes beyond typical introductory issues such as authorship, genre, and historical/cultural context. Merrill comments on the canonical placement of these books, noting that it “is in keeping with the notion propounded in this work that the major objective of the Chronicler was to provide a theological interpretation of Israel’s past interlaced with great hope for an eschatological renewal of the Davidic house, one bound to Yahweh its God by an indissoluble new covenant” (46). He dedicates several pages to the historiographical issues in Chronicles and addresses, among others, the problem of differences between Chronicles and the “Deuteronomic History.” Merrill also provides an introduction to text-critical issues of Chronicles, and these are noted throughout the commentary proper. Another notable section of the introduction is the one on the theology of the book; here, Merrill provides overviews of the house of David, the renewed covenant, and the restored temple.

Each section of the commentary proper begins with the text in the NIV, a few key text-critical notes (from the ones I looked at, they are what you can get from the BHS critical apparatus), and then a brief exposition. Most of the notes I read were exposition rather than exegesis; there is a lot of summarization and provision of context and less exegetical work. Most of the treatments are rather brief, with commentary taking up about the same amount of space as the translation (if the English text had not been included I would guess that this volume would only be about 1/3 the length!). Scattered throughout the commentary are twelve brief excurses addressing topics such as the Angel of YHWH, Holy War, and OT historiography, as well as nine theological discourses addressing the theology of the genealogies, the rise of David, the exploits of David, the royal succession, Solomon’s temple, as well as the divided kingdom.

This is a good conservative commentary for your typical person-in-the-pew as well as for preachers. I think one of its unique strengths is its attention to theology; this comes out in the introduction, commentary proper, as well as theological discourses. Unlike other volumes in the series that have homiletical helps, Merrill’s is less attuned to application. A major weakness for me is that this commentary is not as exegetical as I would have expected based on the fact that it’s in an exegetical series. The commentary sections are also often quite brief. Seminarians will definitely (and perhaps preachers as well!) need more technical and robust commentaries on 1 and 2 Chronicles.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon


Commentary on Hebrews (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation) by Thomas R. Schreiner

Thomas R. Schreiner. Commentary on Hebrews (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation). Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2015. 560 pp. $39.99.

BTFCP_CommentaryOnHebrews_CVR_R2.inddIn 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!

Purchase: Amazon | Westminster


Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Second Letter to the Corinthians (Logos Edition)

Mark A. Seifrid. The Second Letter to the Corinthians.  Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014. 579 pp. $50.00.
Logos | Amazon

2 Cor SeifridThe Pillar New Testament Commentary series is one of the best mid-range commentary series. Written by some of the finest NT scholars of our day, these commentaries are informed by the most rigorous scholarship but avoid the overly technical details that might not interest the typical preacher, teacher, and interested lay reader. One of the newest volumes in the series is Mark Seifrid’s contribution on 2 Corinthians. I love this series and every new volume catches my attention, but I was especially excited for this volume because I have tremendous appreciation for Seifrid’s work as a Pauline scholar. I am grateful to Logos Bible Software for providing a review copy of the Logos edition, and will comment very briefly on the commentary itself before moving on to the unique benefits of having this commentary in Logos.

In the introduction, Seifrid first provides a background into what prompted Paul to write 1 Corinthians, themes therein that impact the interpretation of 2 Corinthians, and the issue that prompted the writing of 2 Corinthians. Next, Seifrid offers some brief comments on the vexing issues of Paul’s opponents in Corinth and the purpose of 2 Corinthians. Here, he argues that a minimal mirror-reading of the opponents is best and that “[i]t is the Corinthian misunderstanding of the apostle and the Gospel that is finally at the center of the argument” (xxix). He subsequently addresses the integrity of 2 Corinthians and contends that although the theory of it being a composite letter should not be rejected outright, it is not likely to be true. The introduction concludes with a few comments on the theology of the letter. Whereas some commentaries begin with an overly lengthy and technical introduction (~100 pages) that can be difficult for nonacademic readers to plow through, Seifrid’s introduction in this volume suffers from the opposite by being too brief. At a mere ten pages in a commentary proper of 500 pages, it would have been appropriate and helpful to have a more robust introduction. The introduction would have benefited on a more detailed treatment in any of the four sections, but especially in the theology section. Here Seifrid offers brief comments on the fundamental issue at stake, namely, the marks of a true apostle. I found it surprising that clear themes in the letter (such as salvation) were not noted and expounded upon.

In terms of the commentary proper, it’s in general more theological than is typical. And because it is theological, it should be a surprise that his own theological position at times comes through. One place this can be strongly seen is in his treatment of 2 Corinthians 5:21. Here Seifrid describes Paul understanding of reconciliation to God as forensic (260), Christ’s “place-taking” as exclusive and substitutionary (262), and the righteousness of God as “simultaneously God’s act of judgment and the justification of God” (264). Interestingly for Protestants, Seifrid notes that Paul’s language of justification here “cannot rightly be reduced to the area of an imputed righteousness. He speaks of the human being created anew in Christ” (265, italics original). He goes on to make two concluding observations from the above points. First, while stressing that for Paul justification is extrinsic and forensic, Seifrid warns against the Protestant error of wrongly assuming that justification becomes the Christian’s inherent possession. “Justification is not found in a bare declaration (which must be believed to be effective, in any case) but in a relation, an apprehension or grasping of the crucified and risen Christ” (266, italics original). The second observation Seifrid makes is that the usual Protestant understanding of justification as the imputation of Christ’s righteousness must be grounded in a more comprehensive understanding of salvation. Interestingly, Seifrid gives preference to union with Christ over and against an ordo salutis as the construct in which justification is to be located.

Because most commentaries are grounded on exegesis and largely neglect theology, the more theological nature of Seifrid’s commentary on 2 Corinthians can be seen as a strength. This commentary is a worthy addition to the library of any serious lay student of the Bible, as well as teachers, preachers, and even scholars. Most would benefit a more exegetical and technical commentary in addition to this one, such as George Guthrie’s volume in BECNT (currently in pre-pub status on Logos, which means you can get it for cheaper than what the price will be once it’s fully funded).

Why Logos?
It was just a mere months ago that I was a full print snob, including for commentaries. But I’ve come a long way recently in seeing the value of being able to access your books anywhere, especially commentaries and academic books. But there are many varieties of digital books; what makes Logos stand out? It is the power of a Logos library and the way all your resources are connected. I’ll admit that I can’t resist a good Kindle deal here and there, but for the most part I now try to keep my digital book purchases to Logos so that every new digital book purchase is added to the Logos system and increases the power of my library. If you own a resource that is referenced, you can either hover over the resource for which a pop-up of the cited text will display, or you can click on the resource which will open it in a new tab in Logos. Of course, the flip side is that if you buy a book in the future that references this commentary, you will be able to reap the benefits of being able to access the cited portions with two clicks.

In the screenshot below (click to enlarge the picture) I had clicked on footnote 15 and then clicked on 1 Clem. 47:1-7 within the footnote. You can see that Logos opened 1 Clem. 47 in a new tab. This feature is more valuable for academic books since they have way more footnotes and citations.

Logos 2 Cor Footnote

Of course, you might not be reading this commentary cover-to-cover or coming directly to a particular portion of the commentary. You  might be studying a particular passage of 2 Corinthians using the “Passage Guide,” in which case this volume would show up in the “Commentaries” section. I think these are the two main features that would distinguish a Logos commentary from commentaries on other digital platforms. Watch the video below for some unique things you can do with Logos commentaries. You can also check out the video here for information specific to the Pillar New Testament Commentary series.

Thanks to Logos Bible Software for the review copy!

Purchase: Logos | Amazon


Reformation Commentary on Scripture – Galatians, Ephesians (Gerald Bray ed.)

Gerald L. Bray, ed. Galatians, Ephesians (Reformation Commentary on Scripture). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011. 446 pp. $50.00.

GalEphThough IVP Academic’s Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS) series is relatively new (with seven volumes published so far out of a projected 28 volumes), it has already garnered much praise. As a sequel to the highly acclaimed Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS) series, it shares an overall concept, method, format, and target audience with its predecessor. “The serious study of Scripture requires more than the latest Bible translation in one hand and the latest commentary (or niche study Bible) in the other” (xiv). As such, the ACCS and RCS series make available the finest exegetical works of their respective eras (Patristic and Reformation, respectively) for the sake of renewal through retrieval.

Each volume in the RCS series begins with a general introduction that provides an overview of the context and process of biblical interpretation of the Protestant Reformation era (including the historical context and the various schools of exegesis). Next, each volume contains a guide to using the commentary. Subsequently, the volume introduction places “that portion of the canon within the historical context of the Protestant Reformation and presents a summary of the theological themes, interpretive issues and reception of the particular book(s)” (xvii). The commentary itself proceeds by pericope, with a pericope heading, biblical text in the English Standard Version, an overview of the reformers’ comments that follow, and then excerpts from Reformation writers. In addition to typical backmatter, each volume of the RCS contains a map of the Reformation, a timeline of the Reformation, and biographical sketches of Reformation-era figures.


A Commentary on Exodus (Duane Garrett)

Duane A. Garrett. A Commentary on Exodus (Kregel Exegetical Library). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2014. 752 pp. $39.99.

Kregel ExodusIn the latest volume of the Kregel Exegetical Library series, SBTS professor Duane Garrett provides a commentary on Exodus with distinctive features that fills a gap in the existing pool of fine commentaries on the book of Exodus. In his preface Garrett mentions six key approaches in this volume:

  1. provide a short, basic introduction to Egyptian history, culture, language, and geography in order to help readers appreciate the context of the biblical story
  2. convey the state of scholarly debate over the crucial historical questions in the book of Exodus in an even-handed way
  3. illustrate the importance of analyzing the biblical text on a clause-by-clause basis by translating every clause on a separate line
  4. demonstrate that Exodus contains a series of poems and show why it matters
  5. provide a useful commentary for pastors and teachers that still addresses technical issues by confining most of the technical discussion to footnotes
  6. exegete the text as a Christian theologian by connecting the book of Exodus to the New Testament as well as Christian doctrine.

Garrett’s commentary begins with a detailed 131-page introduction that addresses the sources and composition of Exodus, provides an overview of the text of Exodus including text-critical issues, and explains his translation procedure. Garrett then provides a fairly in-depth introduction (for a biblical commentary) to the history and culture of ancient Egypt covering the land, chronology and history, and language. Next Garrett spends considerable time on the date of the exodus, examining the biblical data and historical evidence for the Late Date and the Early Date, covering a few other related issues (the store cities of Raamses and Pithom, the archaeology of Canaan, Jericho, and Hazor), noting two eccentric theories from respected scholars that are instructive though implausible (the Speos Artemidos inscription and the Siversten Hypothesis), and briefly examining a few chronological conundrums related to the price of a slave, ruling pharaohs. The section on dating ends with a caveat on early biblical chronology (the numbers “are correct in asserting what they actually meant, and this is not necessarily the same as what we think they meant, p. 93) and a brief look at a “Very Early Date” and a “Very Late Date.” Next, Garrett addresses the historicity of the exodus. In summing up this lengthy section, Garrett contends that “The exodus, we may be sure, did happen as described in the Bible. On the other hand, we must be humble about our ability to assign it to a specific date” (101). Garrett then provides a lengthy discussion on the location of the Yam Suph and of Mt. Sinai, an outline of Exodus with a structure comprising seven major divisions, and finally, a discussion on the message of Exodus and its place in Old Testament theology.

The commentary proper goes passage by passage providing a few brief sentences by way of introduction, a translation with a clause per line, an outline and comments on the structure of the passage, verse-by-verse commentary, and theological summary of key points. As mentioned above, technical discussions are mainly in footnotes so that the preacher or teacher preparing a sermon or Bible study is able to get the main points about the text as well as key theological points without getting bogged down by overly technical details. This commentary on Exodus is a superb volume for evangelicals and is especially suited for ministry use.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

Book Review – 1 Peter (Reformed Expository Commentary)

Daniel M. Doriani. 1 Peter (Reformed Expository Commentary). Philllipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2014. 288 pp. $24.99.

Peter RECOutside of the Pauline corpus, 1 Peter is probably my favorite epistle. As someone who keenly feels the agony of being a stranger and alien both in the earthly sense (as an Asian American) as well as spiritual (as one who’s citizenship is in heaven and from it eagerly awaits the Savior), I’ve always connected with the fact that this letter is addressed to exiles; and not just exiles, but elect exiles (1:1). And these themes of God’s sovereignty and the believer’s sojourn interweave and pervade the entire epistle. Very practical life issues such as rejoicing in the midst of trial, suffering in a way that glorifies God, conducting oneself in a holy way, submitting to authority, and relating as husband and wife are addressed from the ground of the gospel and the root of our identity as elect exiles.

In this volume, one of the newest in the Reformed Expository Commentary series, Dr. Daniel Doriani does with 1 Peter what the series has become known for by providing a passage-by-passage exposition of the text that is biblical, unashamedly doctrinal and confessional, redemptive-historical, and practical. Of course, what makes this volume and the series as a whole most unique is that it is Reformed (as the series title indicates). There aren’t many commentary series written from an explicitly Reformed perspective, and so readers who identify as Reformed and long for more resources from within the tradition will notice and appreciate the places where this theological orientation comes to the fore.


Book Review – A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Robert Chisholm Jr.)

Robert B. Chisholm Jr. A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Kregel Exegetical Library). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2013. 704 pp. $39.99.

jrFrom the pulpit to the pew, there is a general anemia in the Church in relation to the Old Testament. Lay Christians struggle to read/understand/apply large parts of the OT, and teachers/Bible study leaders/preachers neglect vast amounts of the OT or struggle through, teaching the facts of the content and/or jumping to moralistic applications while missing the the theocentric, redemptive-historic heart of the texts. Commentaries are a great help to both the interested lay student of the Word as well as to preachers and teachers. A majority of commentaries are either largely academic without much direct homiletical help, or preaching/application oriented but not as rigorous in exegesis and the technical issues of scholarship. In A Commentary on Judges and Ruth, the latest addition to the Kregel Exegetical Library, Chisholm has provided a valuable resource for the Church that combines the best of both worlds.

Designed for pastors and teachers, this commentary is written from the conviction that relevant exposition of Scripture needs to answer three questions: 1) what the text meant in its context; 2) what theological principles emerge from a thematic analysis of the text; and 3) how the message of the text is relevant to the church.  Chisholm answers these questions in this commentary through a three-step process:

(1) I begin with a close exegetical-literary reading of the text that surfaces the thematic emphases of each major literary unit. Such analysis yields an exegetical idea for each unit that succinctly captures the message of that unit in its cultural-historical context. (2) In step two I move outside the boundaries of the specific text being studied and develop a theological idea for each literary unit. These theological ideas express the enduring principles or truths that are rooted in the text and are relevant for a modern audience. (3) In the third step I develop homiletical trajectories from the theological idea of the passage…Following the trajectories enables us to produce one or more preaching ideas for each literary unit.”

(Chisholm 14)