Building a New Testament Library: Hebrews – Revelation

Gene L. Green

Students of Hebrews are well served by H. Attridge’s masterful exegetical commentary in the Hermeneia series (Fortress, 1989). This work mines background materials, especially those from the Greco-Roman world, as it carefully and clearly works through the details and employs an economy of words in the main exegesis. Gareth Cockerill’s volume has replaced the classic work by F.F. Bruce in the New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT; Eerdmans, 2012). Cockerill joins together his exegetical skill with pastoral warmth. This volume takes its place among the best on Hebrews as it attends to the author’s hermeneutic in interpreting the OT. Also combining sound exegesis with pastoral concerns is P.T. O’Brien’s in the Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC; Eerdmans, 2010). Best known for his work on the Paulines, O’Brien not only presents a detailed and accessible exegesis of Hebrews but also attends to the book’s theology. Those interested in the theology of Hebrews should also consult T. Long’s study (Interpretation; Westminster John Knox, 1997).

As D. Nienhuis argues, the Catholic Epistles are not the “etc.” of the canon (Not by Paul Alone [Baylor University Press, 2007]). This collection of seven books by the three pillars (Gal 2:9, joining Jude with James, his brother) stands at the heart of early Christian development. Luke T. Johnson (Anchor Bible [AB]; Yale University Press, 1995) offers a clever work on James that begins with a substantive introduction to James’ place in the network of early Christians and the letter’s history of interpretation. Johnson shows that James and Paul are not antithetical as some would suggest, taking the focus off the controversy surrounding Jas 2. The commentary works through the exegetical details and steps back in the “Comment” sections to give a glimpse of the forest and not just the tree bark. Scot McKnight (NICNT; 2011) places James within the setting of early Christianity and emphasizes James’ concern for social justice. In The Scandalous Message of James: Faith without Works Is Dead (Crossroad, 2002), E. Tamez briefly outlines issues of social justice from a Latin American perspective. This popular-level volume orients the reader to the issues of poverty and oppression as few others can. Although less detailed than the other exegetical commentaries, D. Moo’s work (PNTC; 2000) reads well, offers sound interpretive judgments, discusses the theology of the book, and displays pastoral concern.

Once upon a time J.H. Elliott called 1 Peter an “exegetical stepchild.” No more is that the case, largely due to Elliott’s efforts. His AB commentary (2001) is bedrock for the study of this letter. Elliott’s work is weak theologically but presents the reader an excellent exposition of the letter’s message within its social environment. Elliott regards the readers as “resident aliens” who were converted to Christ. Karen H. Jobes, on the other hand, in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (BECNT; Baker Academic, 2005) argues that the readers were Jewish believers who emigrated to Asia Minor after Claudius expelled them from Rome. Her commentary is especially useful for those who wish to attend to the grammatical issues of the letter’s fine Greek. Paul J. Achtemeier (Hermeneia; 1996) manages concise exegetical insights coupled with copious notes, should one wish to explore the primary sources that are useful for understanding the letter. Both he and Elliott express doubt about the book’s authenticity while Jobes argues in favor of Petrine authorship. Joel B. Green, in the Two Horizons New Testament Commentary (THNTC: Eerdmans, 2007) helps us understand the deep theological currents running through the letter; thus, his work becomes an essential supplement to Elliott or Achtemeier.

The work of R.J. Bauckham on 2 Peter and Jude in the Word Biblical Commentary (WBC; Word, 1983) takes first place among commentaries on these epistles. Although rejecting Petrine authorship for 2 Peter, he defends the authenticity of Jude (cf. his Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church [T. & T. Clark, 2004]). Watch for his revised edition. Gene L. Green’s work in the BECNT (2008) attends closely to background materials from the Jewish and Greco-Roman worlds. Green is one of the few these days who favors Petrine authorship. Peter Davids is something of an Obi-Wan Kenobi in the study of the Catholic letters, having written on James in the New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC; Eerdmans, 1982), 1 Peter (NICNT; 1990), and 2 Peter and Jude (PNTC; 2006). Jerome Neyrey (AB; 1994) reads the letters from a social scientific perspective while R.A. Reese (THNTC; 2007) supplements the exegetical works with her rich theological discussion.

When working with 1, 2 and 3 John, R.E. Brown’s stellar work (AB; 1982) still stands among the best. Brown distinguished himself as a Johannine scholar and understands the epistles in light of the John’s Gospel. Almost as massive is R. Schnackenburg (Herder & Herder, 1992), who likewise wrote on the Gospel (Crossroad/Herder & Herder, 1983). The reader who wishes a briefer, yet sound treatment of these letters should pick up I.H. Marshall’s work (NICNT; 1978). Marshall is the master of clarity and exegetical judgment, discussing the necessary essentials. While R.W. Yarborough (BECNT; 2008) brings the exegetical discussion up to date, he manages to maintain a pastoral focus.

The interpretation and proclamation of Revelation requires special care. While D.E. Aune, in three volumes (WBC; 1997-98) offers the materials needed to interpret their message within the context of the Roman Empire, G.K. Beale (NIGTC; 1998) excels in presenting the development of OT themes in the book. Grant R. Osborne (BECNT; 2002) presents a balanced interpretation that pays attention to the needs of the preacher and teacher. Although his approach to the interpretation of Revelation is eclectic, he mainly opts for a futurist interpretation. Those wondering how to preach from Revelation should consult the work of C. Keener (NIVAC; 1999). Although Keener is the consummate exegete, he does not flood the reader with exegetical detail and he helps the reader move from text to proclamation.

As good as these commentators are, the wise expositor will spend considerable time soaking in the text, turning its message over unhurriedly before joining hands with them.

Posted Apr 24, 2013