Personal Thoughts About Commentaries (10): Daniel

As with the selections on the Book of Revelation, this list will display some bias towards Dispensational works, although I don’t want to fill it up with just those. One big reason for that is because Dispensationalists have not written many great commentaries on any book of the Bible. Often-as-not they have been content to furnish basic commentaries for the masses. The fact is that if a person wishes to go deep into an inspired author he will need to be conversant with many writers who he may not see eye to eye with. So here goes:

  1. Stephen Miller (NAC) – This is a mid-level Dispensational commentary that holds its own against the usual contenders (see below). Miller thinks through the text and asks the right questions. This is the most helpful interpretation of Daniel that I know.
  2. Leon Wood – Thorough and very competent. Good to have on hand when preaching through the book.
  3. John Goldingay (WBC) – He doesn’t believe the book was written in the 6th Century B.C. (he puts the author in the 2nd Century), and he comes up with some odd explanations (e.g. of the four kingdoms), so why have him so high on the list? Because he is an excellent exegete. Because he provides the depth one needs if the student is to know what mainline scholarship, plus much of evangelicalism, thinks about Daniel. And because it does contain a lot of insight.
  4. J. Paul Tanner (EEC) – I’m going out on a limb here, but by the looks of it Tanner’s forthcoming large commentary on Daniel is not to be missed. Tanner is a Hebrew specialist and careful scholar. I expect much from this work.
  5. Gleason Archer (old EBC) – Archer was a great OT scholar and linguist who wrote the still excellent A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. He makes very good use of his page limit and his work teems with insights.
  6. Andrew Steinmann (CC) – Steinmann is a Lutheran scholar you ought to know. He is very conservative and practical, but also analytical. I own several of his works and he seldom disappoints. This commentary is not brilliant on the prophetic portions, but is great on the early chapters and the authenticity of the Book. Focusses on the “Son of Man” theme.
  7. John Walvoord – A reliable, straightforward Dispensational commentary which does not interact much with other works. Walvoord was a top prophecy scholar.
  8. Peter Steveson – A very worthwhile effort from a conservative Dispensational scholar, with good word studies.
  9. Joyce Baldwin – Baldwin was well known for solid thinking and her pithy style. Again, the use of this work for the prophetic chapters is as a foil for the futurist view, but there is much helpful material in this little book.
  10. E. J. Young – Old, dogmatic, staunchly conservative amillennial work from a great OT scholar. This thorough commentary should not be overlooked.

The above list will not impress those readers who must have the latest cutting edge commentaries, but I stand by it. Of other works I like Zoeckler’s contribution to the Lange set. He is liberal but he is surprisingly useful. Keil’s work in the Keil and Delitzsch set is good. J. J. Collins is an expert on “apocalyptic” (for what it’s worth) and writes clearly, but he also writes as one who doesn’t believe the text he is writing about. E. C. Lucas can’t seem to make up his mind what the Book of Daniel is about, while Sinclair Ferguson is not as good as Young. J. A. Motyer is a great scholar and his small commentary on Daniel nearly squeezed out Baldwin’s.

Finally, Tony Garland is writing a massive commentary on Daniel, which, if he isn’t careful, will remain unfinished until we’re in the Kingdom. He’s just beginning chapter 5. A wise person would get to know this work and its numerous appended studies as soon as he can.

I forgot to add Robert D. Culver’s fine Daniel and the Latter Days. It is not a commentary, but a study of premillennial eschatology with emphasis on Daniel.

Review of ‘The New Testament Commentary Guide’

A Review of Nijay K. Gupta, The New Testament Commentary Guide: A Brief Handbook for Students and Pastors, Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020, 124 pages, pbk.

Nijay Gupta is a Professor of NT at Northern Seminary and a busy author.  This little book is his attempt at writing a NT Commentary survey that is up to date and judicious.  No attention has been given to NT Introductions or NT Theologies, only commentaries are included.  Gupta’s introduction covers several questions about commentary sets, one-volume works, and Study Bibles.  When speaking about one-volume NT works the author says that he knows of no non-technical ones.  I find this surprising as Robert Gundry’s Commentary on the New Testament is very worthy attention.

The rest of the Introduction provides a survey of the commentary sets (e.g. Anchor, ICC, Baker, NICNT, Pillar, etc.). The author puts in a good word for the Smyth & Helwys series, which I am not familiar with. I have always thought it was a bit pricey.

The main part of the book is entitled “Commentary Recommendations.” These are separated into Technical, Semi-Technical, and Non-Technical, with an additional category called Hidden Gems. Gupta writes from the perspective of the evangelical left. His knowledge of the choices is extensive, but more conservative shoppers (like me) will need to augment this guide to ensure the right balance. Only modern commentaries are listed.

So what about the commentary recommendations themselves? As might be expected Davies and Allison gets top billing on Matthew for scholars. Among others on Matthew, Craig Keener’s volume fairs better than he does in many lists. Hagner does well, as does R. T. France. There is no place for Grant Osborne or D. A. Carson (whose commentary on John also doesn’t make it).

On Mark’s Gospel, R. T. France, A. Y. Collins, and Mark Strauss are among the top picks. I appreciated the inclusion of Larry Hurtado’s short commentary, but where oh where is James Edwards? The same applies to Luke. Edwards is nowhere to be seen, although his commentary is excellent. Darrell Bock, Joel Green, and David Garland are among the books that Gupta commends.

Moving on to Romans, the top choice is C. E. B. Cranfield’s classic, with his successor at Durham J. D. G. Dunn next. I have a high opinion of Dunn, not because he is conservative (he is not), but because he asks the right questions and, in lucid prose, has such fertile suggestions for exploration. Moo makes the cut. Schreiner does not.

Elsewhere, I thought that Gupta’s suggestions for 2 Corinthians were very good. On Ephesians he tells us which interpreters believe the epistle is authentic or pseudonymous. Rather astonishingly, there is no place for Harold Hoehner’s massively detailed work! Gupta’s recommendations on Hebrews were overall a disappointment.

At the back Gupta includes a list of “Commentaries by Women and People of Color.” I have no time for such politically correct nonsense. Either a commentary is good or it isn’t. The “accidental” characteristics of the writer are hardly relevant.

At $18.99 this Handbook may be priced a little above what some people are willing to pay. Since I received my copy free from the publisher I didn’t have to come up with the money. Would I have done otherwise? Possibly. It’s good to have an alternative to Carson. I thought many of Gupta’s comments were informative.

   

 

Merrill’s New Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles

A review of Eugene H. Merrill, A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles, Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2015, 637 pages, hdbk

Among readers of the Old Testament (you know, those creatures of legend that used to inhabit churches), the Books of 1 and 2 Chronicles would not rank too high on their list of favorites.  Even zealous preachers would, given the choice, prefer to go through 1 & 2 Kings rather than Chronicles.

But these neglected books (one book in the Hebrew Bible) are the only ones which traverse the entire history of Israel, even if they do so by concentrating mainly on the fortunes of the tribe of Judah, particularly the line of David, and the fate of Jewish worship under a succession of kings.  A key underlying theme concerns the self-identity of the Davidic monarchy as related to the Davidic covenant (see the excellent treatment of the Theology of the Book, 57-68).

Eugene Merrill was a wise choice to write the commentary.  Anyone familiar with his Kingdom of Priests will know about his attention to detail, faithfulness to the biblical text, and refusal to swallow the camels of historical criticism.  As the reviewer can personally testify, Dr. Merrill is a churchman, and his book is a fine exposition for the preacher and teacher of the Bible.

As is usual with this impressive series, the comments are deep enough to cover the important items: text, exegesis, explanation and application.  Merrill even includes twelve excurses on topics like “The Angel of YHWH”, two on “Holy War”, “Old Testament Historiography”, issues of chronology in relation to extra-biblical events.

For me the real treasure of this commentary are the chapters handling the “Theology of…” which close out each section.  These expand the fine summary in the Introduction and they deserve careful attention.  As 1 & 2 Chronicles are, first and foremost, theological histories, these chapters are invaluable.

In my opinion this is the best place to go to study these books, and to preach them!

Sad to say, the editing of the Commentary leaves a lot to be desired in the area of proofing of errors.  Also, once again for this series, there are no indexes, and there’s no excuse for that!

 

I received the commentary free from the publisher.

 

Review: ‘A Commentary on Exodus’ by Duane A. Garrett

A review of Duane A. Garrett, A Commentary on Exodus, Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2014, 741 pages

This latest commentary to be released by Kregel comes from the veteran commentator Duane Garrett of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Garrett is known for contributing solid works on Hosea and Joel, Amos, and several commentaries on Wisdom Books.  He is known for his balanced approach and careful exegesis.  This new work on the Book of Exodus helps to maintain his standards.

Kregel’s Exegetical Commentary series has already made a strong impact with works by Allen Ross on Psalms and Robert Chisholm on Judges/Ruth, and Garrett doesn’t let the side down.  His Exodus Commentary is a fine work of scholarship, being nicely “weighted” towards the first part of the Book (to ch. 24) for preachers.

The one hundred and thirty page Introduction runs through issues such as sources (the critical approach with which the author is unimpressed), the author’s own translation policy (which I found very helpful), historical background (including interesting cameos of Pharaohs), topography, and Book analysis.  Lengthy discussions of the date of the Exodus and the Yam Suph crossing are sandwiched in there.  After a detailed look at arguments for both an early 15th century movement and a late 13th century date, Garrett concludes that although the exodus certainly happened, it is better not to be dogmatic on a set date, or to repair to novel reinterpretations of Egyptian chronology to try to settle the matter.  This conclusion will not satisfy everybody (like this reviewer), but one cannot claim that the writer has not looked into the matter seriously.

Preachers will find that the coverage of the first chapters are full, the treatment of the miracles is ample, while the actual wilderness journey in chapters 15:22 to 19 is very well done.  Garrett keeps up the theme of movement through the section, as well as taking care to discuss different interpretations.  I found his comments on the Ten ‘Words’ good but a little slender.  Students wanting more reflective ethical evaluations will have to turn to Douma, Frame, or Rooker.  However, the coverage of the “Sinai Covenant’s” Book of the Covenant connects chapter 20 with chapters 21-24 in a way many will appreciate.

Another notable feature of this book are the several excursii on important places and themes. some of these are thought-provoking (e.g. whether the plagues ought to be interpreted as directed against the gods of Egypt).  Some of them a little disappointing (as when Garrett prefers not to believe the Nile was turned to blood), and some extremely good (like the lengthy discussion of the Hardening of Pharaoh’s heart).  There is also a (rather too compressed) appendix on ‘The Songs of Exodus” at the back.  Of note in the book is the author’s stress upon the theological contribution of Exodus to Israel’s identity.

One major complaint I have is the editorial decision to dispense with indices.  Who decided that? Further, the usefulness of the commentary would be greatly improved by an analytical Table of Contents. It is in these not unimportant areas that the publisher fails both author and reader.  Nevertheless, this is a commentary worth considering.  I would place it close to Douglas Stuart in the NAC series, and Walter Kaiser in the EBC, although for me Kaiser still takes the laurels.

 

Short Review: Robert Gundry’s ‘Commentary on the New Testament’

A brief review of Robert H. Gundry, Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-verse explanations with a Literal Translation, Peabody, Massachussetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010, hdbk, 1072 pages. 

There is not much of Robert Gundry’s literary output that I would recommend.  Up till now the one exception has been his excellent little book, Jesus the Word According to John the Sectarian, which is a very stimulating and edifying study of the Logos theme which runs throughout John.  So when I saw that Gundry had published a large one-volume Commentary on the entire New Testament I had to ask myself some discerning questions.

The first question that popped into my mind was, “how much of Gundry’s exegesis will be tainted with form-critical analysis and mishnaic diversion?” (or something like that).  Gundry’s big commentaries on Mark and Matthew are considered as departures from usual evangelical practice.  I would not recommend them, although, in fairness, the way evangelical scholarship has drifted closer in sympathy with historical criticism of late, Gundry isn’t quite so radical as he used to be.

I consider Gundry’s position on inerrancy far easier to deal with than someone like K. Vanhoozer, who rejects propositional revelation (although he tends to caricature it).  It’s just easier for me to pinpoint Gundry and his tendencies.

Anyway, I purchased the Commentary and have read a good bit of it and I have come away with a favorable impression of it.  Gundry is not concerned at all with introductory matters.  This work is exactly what it says it is; a commentary on the text of the New Testament.  And taken this way it is a successful project, regardless of one’s disagreements with some of the author’s interpretations.

This big book is arranged in helpful double-column format, which makes it easy to use.  The biblical text is in bold type to offset it from his comments.  Gundry provides his own nuanced translation, plenty of relevant background material, and clear and usually helpful comments on each passage.  He is concerned with the logical flow of thought and the way he sees Scripture interpreting Scripture.  He is premillennial (the “resurrection” of Jn. 5:25 and Rev. 20 is “bodily resurrection,” not the spiritual – read “spiritualized” – resurrection of the amillennials).  His soteriology is definitely Calvinistic, and although he identifies the Israel of Rom. 11:23-28 as “biological Israelites, he believes the end time salvation of Israelites brings them into the Church and not into covenanted promises to Israel as a distinct new covenant community as per the OT.  Yes, there are many places where I would disagree.  Another would be his equating the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel in Rev. 7 with the worldwide throng later in the chapter.  Still another his belief that the “temple” in 2 Thess. 2 is the Church.

But having disagreements with commentators is fine, so long as they have fairly set out their views so as not to mislead readers into thinking there is only one way to view certain passages.  Gundry sets out his views, but he usually does so in a way where one can get his point while not feeling compelled to agree with him.  That, to my mind, is a strength and not a weakness.

I have been impressed by the evident amount of mature reflection on the text which Gundry serves up.  For instance, in commenting on Jn. 21:15-17 he says: “So long as John is concerned,…forget the popular treatment of agape-love as superior to phileo-love.”  And in identifying the “Israel of God” in Gal. 6:16 his reasoning that Paul is referring to actual Israel and not Gentiles is very clear.  Similarly, with the Warning Passages of Hebrews the author does not let theology overwhelm the plain threat in the verses.

What I want in a commentary is solid reflection grounded in solid exegesis.  I want to think through the text, even while taking leave of the commentators opinions when I feel compelled to do so.  Gundry has provided an impressive tool for readers of the NT to do just that.  On that basis it constitutes a good acquisition.

Personal Thoughts About Commentaries (6): Ephesians

It’s about time I returned to this series recommending commentaries.  There are also lists on John, Romans, Matthew, and Genesis, plus my Introduction.  

1. Harold Hoehner – A massive book with an impressive argument for Pauline authorship and extremely detailed in the exegesis department.  There is room for him to survey all the options and argue for his choices.  One of the best commentaries on any Book.

2. Clinton Arnold (ZECNT)– A very good commentary, pitched just below the technical but with real attention to the text.  Arnold is well known for his book Ephesians: Power & Magic, which is a superb background study of how pagans in Ephesus understood the concept of spirits and power, including using magical papyri and amulets.

3. F.F. Bruce (NINCNT) – Paired with Colossians & Philemon, this work gives the pith and substance of Paul’s letter.

4. Markus Barth (Anchor) – Huge treatment, hard to read, but very suggestive.  Two volumes with impressive theological reflection based on minute exegesis.  Surprisingly for a German he argues for Paul as the author.

5. A. T. Lincoln (Word) – Lincoln sometimes reads like an evangelical; sometimes like a liberal.  He rejects Pauline authorship (for no good reason that I can see).  I like this work because one gets the sense of the forward-looking strain in the epistles.  Shame he doesn’t write on Philippians!. Continue reading “Personal Thoughts About Commentaries (6): Ephesians”

Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (5): GENESIS

Commentaries on the Book of Genesis are ten-a-penny.  But some of them are too concerned with ANE parallels that they forget to teach the Book itself.  Some are over speculative, while others too critical and unbelieving.  The pastor who wants to get at the meat without spitting out too many bones might do worse than study the following:

1.  Kenneth A. Mathews (NAC) – These two volumes are the best thing I have read on the text of Genesis.  They are up to date, readable, and conservative.  The writer pays attention to the NT uses and deals fairly with the literature.  The book has a refreshing quality about it that makes it interesting to read.

2. Gordon J. Wenham (WBC) – This is the one most commentary lists will put first for Genesis, and with good reason.  It is written by an expert, and it is clear that he is at home in the details.  The style is terse and clear.  Some critical stances bring this two volume work down a notch to second spot.

3. Victor Hamilton (NICOT) – Another two volume work at about the same level as Mathews and Wenham.  I like Mathews better on the first chapters, but this is an excellent commentary.  It provides a lot of background and linguistic material. Continue reading “Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (5): GENESIS”

Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (4): MATTHEW

Here are my personal picks for the most profitable commentaries on Matthew.  I favor a modified ‘Dispensational’ approach to the book which takes seriously the way Matthew provides lines of continuity and discontinuity with the Old Testament.  But I have little problem with including studies which do not handle eschatological issues as satisfactorily as I would like.  There is, after all, more to Matthew than eschatology:

1. Donald A. Hagner (WBC) – This was a hard choice as I don’t hold to ‘Q’.  But there is so much great exegetical, historical, and practical material in these two volumes that I cannot think of being without it.  Eat the meat and spit out the critical bones!

2. Grant Osborne (ZECNT) – A top drawer commentary by a seasoned scholar at his best.

3. D. A. Carson (EBC) – I rarely find Carson as helpful or as clear as Hagner, but this is a first-rate work.  More tentative on ‘Q’s’ influence than Hagner though.  The revised work in this set is sure to keep Carson at or near the top of everyone’s list. Continue reading “Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (4): MATTHEW”

Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (3): ROMANS

The Best Commentaries on Romans:

Remember, this list has preachers primarily in mind:

1. Douglas Moo (NICNT) – Somewhat dense, which may hinder readers somewhat, but interaction with the text and the literature is very impressive.  Deals well with the ‘new perspective’, and even manages some applications (but see Moo’s contribution to the NIVAC series).  His Introduction is on the short side, but there are numerous excurses.  Not all will like his treatment of Chapter 7.

2. Thomas Schreiner (BECNT) – I might have put this first because of its accuracy and usability.  Still a big book, but not as intimidating as Moo.  Pastors should purchase both works. Continue reading “Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (3): ROMANS”