Building a New Testament Library: Hebrews—Revelation

Madison N. Pierce

I had one opportunity to spend time one-on-one with the late James D. G. (“Jimmy”) Dunn. In that delightful time, we bonded over our love for the letters from Hebrews to Jude, and he shared that, for him, that love was born out of the fact that his year at Oxford studied neither Paul nor the Gospels but the texts in the New Testament referred to as the “Other.” Though still underrepresented in Christian teaching, more recently, resources on these texts do seem to be appearing with greater frequency. In what follows, I will draw attention only to relatively recent volumes, but with no expectation that these resources should supplant all those that came before them. (I also have tried to offer different recommendations than those previously mentioned in this series, while still underscoring a couple that cannot be missed.) Additionally, while the majority of these commentaries are written by those who identify as evangelicals, I have included some resources from those outside evangelicalism that I think are particularly helpful and serve as useful supplements to evangelical work.


Beginning with Hebrews, in addition to the excellent recent work by Gareth Cockerill in the New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT; Eerdmans, 2012), I highly recommend the recent commentary by Dana M. Harris in the Exegetical Guides to the Greek New Testament series (B&H Academic, 2019). This is a specialized commentary that focuses on the grammar and syntax of Hebrews. As such, for some who have not studied Greek, it might be difficult to use (initially); however, Harris is incredibly clear and offers an indispensable resource for interacting with the complex—though rich—text of Hebrews. Further, even if you consider yourself limited with respect to the Greek, the volume is very affordable, and Harris’s sermon outlines and brief discussions and bibliographies for topics related to Hebrews are absolutely worth the price. As a bonus resource, technically beyond the commentary genre, I also highly recommend Patrick Gray’s and Amy Peeler’s Hebrews: An Introduction and Study Guide in T&T Clark’s Study Guides to the New Testament (Bloomsbury, 2020). If someone wants a brief yet reliable introduction to Hebrews, they simply must turn to Gray and Peeler. (Peeler also has a commentary on Hebrews forthcoming with Eerdmans that you cannot miss!)


Turning toward the Catholic Epistles, some excellent commentaries have appeared on James in the last fifteen years or so. Among these exemplars is the 2008 volume in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series by Craig L. Blomberg and Miriam J. Kammell (Zondervan, 2008). This commentary showcases the incredible potential of this series by Zondervan. It is attentive to the Greek text, but still offers rich discussions of the argumentation and by extension the theology of James. Much the same could be said of Scot McKnight’s commentary in the NICNT (Eerdmans, 2011). Further McKnight, similar to Blomberg and Kammell, is attentive to the social dimensions at work within James. Though often forgotten, James is an invaluable resource for helping modern pastors and scholars navigate difficult questions being raised today about equity and justice. For those who would to learn about the social situation of James, a bonus resource for consideration is The Scandalous Message of James, by Elsa Tamez (Crossroad, 2002).

1 Peter

Though a bit older (2005, with a second edition expected later this year), the outstanding commentary by Karen H. Jobes in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series (BECNT; Baker Academic) remains a crucial contribution to Petrine literature. In it, Jobes offers her distinctive expertise on the Septuagint (Greek versions of Jewish Scripture) to illumine the many quotations and allusions of Scripture within the text. She additionally provides a useful overview of the background of the letter, taking seriously work focused on the social identity of the readers (e.g., John H. Elliot’s work) but integrating that with the historical context (especially their exile from Rome under Claudius). More recently (2017), Dennis R. Edwards published 1 Peter in the Story of God Bible Commentary (Zondervan). This volume, like others in the series, focuses on relevant intertextual connections at the start of each section, as well as how to apply the text. The work on contemporary application in Edwards’s volume is especially rich. Finally, Craig S. Keener published an exceptional commentary on 1 Peter in 2021 (Baker Academic), and as of today, I believe, it is both the longest and the most recent commentary on 1 Peter. As with all of Keener’s work, it is meticulous and comprehensive—a must read. (As a bonus, watch for Ruth Anne Reese’s volume on 1 Peter in the New Cambridge Bible Commentary [Cambridge University Press, 2022].)

2 Peter and Jude

Since many scholars think 2 Peter draws on Jude (or vice versa), these two books are often addressed together in commentaries series. In the last 10 years, Jörg Frey released The Letter of Jude and the Second Letter of Peter: A Theological Commentary (Baylor University Press, 2018). In it, Frey offers fruitful, theologically engaged commentary on the texts themselves but with consistent attention to how these texts can be situated within New Testament studies more broadly, how they might intersect with early Jewish literature, and how to think about their backgrounds. Frey considers these texts to be pseudepigraphic. Reaching back a bit further, two noteworthy evangelical commentaries are those from Gene L. Green and Ruth Anne Reese. Beginning with Reese, her Two Horizons New Testament Commentary (THNTC; Eerdmans, 2007) is an excellent contribution. As with other volumes in the series, this is a theological commentary that deals with the grammatical, historical, and literary features of 2 Peter and Jude in service of theological discussions. Reese, whose early work focused on Jude, has particular expertise in narrative-critical readings, though she by no means neglects those other aspects of the biblical texts. Green’s commentary in the BECNT (Baker Academic, 2008) also attends to each of these aspects of 2 Peter and Jude but the balance is different. His discussion is thoroughly theological, but the emphasis is more on what he considers the historical backgrounds of the text. Green’s volume offers a more robust discussion of textual issues and intersections with Jewish literature than Reese’s, but they complement each other quite well. (Another forthcoming bonus commentary for these texts is the Wisdom Commentary [Liturgical Press, 2022] by Pheme Perkins, Eloise Rosenblatt, and Patricia McDonald, offering feminist readings of 1–2 Peter and Jude.)

1–3 John

The Johannine Letters received far more attention than usual in the last decade. The most recent contribution to these letters is the THNTC volume by Thomas Andrew Bennett (Eerdmans, 2021). Like Reese above, this is an excellent volume in the series. Bennett interprets these letters in light of what they offer the church today. Given the considerable neglect of 2–3 John in particular, this is a much-needed commentary for most modern pastors and practitioners. Another noteworthy contribution to Johannine literature is the commentary by Alicia D. Myers in the Reading the New Testament series (Smith & Helwys, 2019). Myers, interpreting within the Baptist tradition, provides a “literary and theological” commentary. In this work, she uses a moderate approach to navigating the relationship among texts associated with the apostle John, arguing that they should be read together, but not allowing that relationship to overdetermine how any single text is read. Her contribution to the theology of the Johannine letters is particularly rich and consistently integrates the work of Judith Lieu, whose commentary is arguably the critical standard in the field (New Testament Library; Westminster John Knox, 2008). Finally, I recommend Constantine R. Campbell’s commentary in the Story of God series (Zondervan, 2017). Complementing the other two commentaries, Campbell offers more intertextual connections as well as explicit ways to apply the text today.


Last but not least is recommendations for Revelation. As one who was guilty of avoiding this difficult text for quite some time, I am incredibly thankful for excellent resources that help me to preach and teach this text well. Among the most recent contributions is David deSilva’s Discovering Revelation (2021), from the Discovering Biblical Texts series published by Eerdmans. These are excellent volumes that are not traditional commentaries, per se, but offer comprehensive discussions of the text alongside discussing major interpretive issues in the history of interpretation. deSilva offers an excellent discussion of Revelation within its first-century backdrop, enhancing his interpretations through insights from reception history. Revelation by Buist Fanning (ZECNT; Zondervan, 2020) is another great contribution. The notes on the Greek text are particularly thorough, but presented in an accessible manner. Many of those more technical comments appear in the footnotes, which means the main text of the commentary provides higher-level conclusions based on that more technical work. It’s a really great approach that allows for expansive commentary on the many relevant dimensions of Revelation, while not discouraging interpreters who are less comfortable with the Greek text itself. Finally, Michael J. Gorman’s Reading Revelation Responsibly (Cascade, 2011) remains an invaluable resource for teaching Revelation and providing readers with tools to think about how Revelation presses us toward more faithful living today.

Posted Apr 13, 2022