Quick Review of “James: An Exegetical Guide for Preaching & Teaching”

Review of Herbert W. Bateman & William C. Varner, James: An Exegetical Guide for Preaching and Teaching, Big Greek Idea Series, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2022, hdbk, 320 pages.

I received this book only recently. It got lost in the post. Because I am required to write the review now I am unable to give a full review.

This attractive book, with its large pages and many tables and charts, is perhaps above the level of the average pastor who has allowed his Greek to slip, but it is an excellent production all the same. Both authors have done fine exegetical work in previous books and Varner is something of a specialist in the Book of James.

The authors have decided to draw attention in particular to the clauses in James (dependent and independent), while highlighting the words within a given passage which mark out those clauses. The independent clauses (whole sentences) are pulled to the left of the page in the Greek text (NA28) with the “structural marker” bolded and a translation underneath. The same is done with the dependent or subordinate clauses, which are placed in the middle of the page. The whole text of James is treated.

By this method attention can be given to both main types of clauses, the main words, and the dependent clause(s) which modify the independent clause. With this breakdown the Grammatical Function, Syntactical Function, and Semantical Function of the important words (structural markers) of the text are given prominence. With each discussion of a clause the Syntactical and Semantical emphases are stressed, being easily located via the two words “Syntactically” and “Semantically” being bolded. Just this arrangement alone is of real value to the busy exegete.

But that is not all. The exegesis is furthered by darkened panels which examine grammatical, semantical, syntactical, lexical, etc., “nuggets” pinpointing colorful use verbs, the many unique word choices of the inspired author, the range of meanings of the word. Guidance as to the intended meaning is provided. Sometimes these “nuggets” (I dislike the term but I can live with it!) feature brief analyses of text-critical, historical, and theological matters. There is a “Nugget Index” at the back of the volume which adds to the value.

The introduction to the book is critical to read, but it may put off some users who want to dive right into the exegesis. I recommend plowing through the introduction and allowing the authors to explain their method. They don’t waste time but they do demand the student’s attention from the get-go. Once one knows what to look for it makes the book more valuable, and the rather daunting feeling at being assailed at the outset by grammatical and syntactical terminology retreats.

This is a very well executed work. I am excited to be able to dive into it frequently over the coming months. It is the first of the Big Greek Idea series that I have encountered and am very impressed! I would have to include this book among any list of recommended titles on James.

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