Brief Review of Copenhaver & Arthurs’ “Colossians and Philemon”

A Review of Adam Copenhaver and Jeffrey D. Arthurs, Colossians and Philemon: A Commentary for Biblical Preaching and Teaching, Kerux Commentaries, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2022, 335 pages, hdbk.

This is the first time I have set my eyes on a Kerux commentary. The series is designed to give exegetical, theological, and homiletical help for the expositor and preacher. This approach is nothing new, although it has not been seen for some time. These kinds of commentaries were quite popular in the 19th century (e.g., Pulpit Commentary; Lange’s Commentary). With odd exceptions, I never got anything out of the homiletic portions of these works. But what about this one? It is written by two authors, Copenhaver being the exegete and theologian with Arthurs taking the homiletic portions (9).

Layout and Introduction

This book is very nicely put together and the large two-column pages hold clear type and headings. The first section (13-26) is an “overview of all preaching passages.” This breakdown is a good idea, although the “preaching pointers” outweigh the exegetical and theological previews by a lot.

When we get to the Introduction we find that Colossians and Philemon considered together; a nice idea which I was not expecting. I would normally prefer separate introductions but I think this was an intriguing choice. The introduction is very well done, with black and white maps and photographs included. I believe Copenhaver wrote this part.

Exegesis

Copenhaver’s exegesis of the epistles is impressive. He knows his way around the letters, and he shows good judgments in his handling of the text. I must say that I have little to quibble about here. Copenhaver has written a very fine commentary on both letters from the exegetical perspective. He does not even fight shy of telling it like it is on a passage like Colossians 3:18 (“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands…”). He is one to watch. In fact, Copenhaver’s work is worth the price of the book!

An editorial quibble: The exegesis sections (which include word studies and exegetical panels) are well done, but I was surprised that the Greek was left untranslated. In a commentary such as this it would have been good to include transliterations along with the original. I’m alright, but I don’t understand the decision to leave them in the Greek without an accompanying transliteration.

Theological Focus

I don’t have a lot to say about the theological sections other than that they are competent. They follow on logically from the exegetical sections that go before and they add something to the book.

Preaching and Teaching Strategies

Jeffrey Arthurs writes the homiletical sections, and to be honest, I could have done without them. While there is some good stuff here and there (e.g., a list of ‘Ten Ways Parents Provoke Their Children,’ 239, or the warning about social media, 162), on the whole these parts of the book are a failure. For starter’s, they are seeker-sensitive and not really honed to take advantage of the solid exegetical sections before them.

I found that the more sections by Arthurs I read the more annoyed I became. My idea of preaching and teaching the Word of God is not to change clothes like a ham actor to illustrate Col. 3:9, or to play a film clip in the middle of a sermon (109). Arthurs commends the methods of Willow Creek (160), and recommends biographies for Col. 1:9-14 on Mike Pence, Bono (!), and Jim Caviezel. His advice on “Spiritual Disciplines” from the inset on page 161 is gathered from mystics Richard Foster and Ken Shigematsu (interestingly, the exegetical section of Colossians 3:16 has an inset which cites James K. A. Smith’s more solid advice on spiritual formation in the church – 212). On page 239 one is advised to “Align your soul and body” on a busy work day.

I have no use for such things. They are a distraction from the eternal Word which is being expounded. My advice, for what it is worth, is to consider the commentary because of Copenhaver’s excellent contribution. It’s such a shame it is coupled with such superficial “preaching and teaching” hints, which I for one would not recommend.

This is a Bible commentary, so indices would be nice. But this is Kregel!

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