Acts Commentary Bleg

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I'm expecting to begin reading a commentary on Acts in a few months or so. I suspect that it will be one of the following: Ben Witherington's Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, Darrell Bock's BECNT, or David Peterson's brand-new Pillar volume. I expect that there might be several people reading this who have some experience with commentaries on Acts, and I'm interested in any information or evaluations anyone might have to offer about any of these three books, especially if you can detect specific reasons to prefer one to the others or over one of the others on a particular issue.

Some of the issues that come to my mind include:

1. I know that Bock had access to Witherington, and Peterson had access to both of the other two, and that gives the more recent ones priority in my mind over the earlier ones, all other things being equal (which is often not the case). So my presumption is to prefer Peterson to Bock and Bock to Witherington if no other factors influence my preferences. Bock had a chance to learn from Witherington, and Peterson had a chance to learn from Witherington and Bock. Of course, if they didn't fully avail themselves of those chances then it's still possible that they don't present the best of what came before them.

2. Witherington doesn't include the text of the book of Acts, which would mean having a copy of that in addition. That gets unwieldy the way I read books, because I carry them around with me and pull them out to read when I get a chance while waiting for something or while walking. Bock and Peterson, I believe, both include a translation of the text of each section before the discussion of that section.

3. Some reviews I've seen claim that Bock does a lot of commenting on other commentaries, which some people claimed meant that he didn't discuss the text as much for himself and often didn't indicate his own view on the issue he was discussing, but I don't know if this is true. The suggestion was that it's better to read Witherington than to read Bock's comments on Witherington and several others, which is true only if Witherington's discussion is better at sifting through the information than Bock's.

4. Bock had the advantage of writing a hefty commentary on Luke before writing his Acts commentary, and Luke-Acts is a two-volume work by the same author. The other two don't have that. (Witherington will eventually do every NT book, but his Acts commentary was one of his earliest, and he hadn't done Luke yet at that time.)

I'm currently leaning toward Peterson at the moment, but anything anyone might say to sway me in a different direction or to confirm that choice is welcome.


Yes! Commentary talk!

I haven't looked at either Bock's or Peterson's, so my opinion can really only count for so much. I love Witherington's commentary; I think Acts suits his approach very well. He is able to bring in a ton of interesting historical stuff and make it very readable. I was fascinated just reading his introduction.

Bock is always good, though perhaps a bit predictable. I have a book of essays on Acts co-edited by Peterson, so he's been doing work on Acts for quite a while. But, as you pointed out, Bock has the Luke-Acts thing going for him. I wonder how well Peterson does discussing the various interpretive options. I can handle disagreeing with a commentator as long as he discusses the options well.

Truth be told, if I had to choose between Peterson and Bock, I'd probably go with Peterson. But it's a close call.


I would recommend reading both Witherington's and Peterson's in tandem. The BECNT series authors have a tendency to (as you put it) comment on other commentaries too much for my taste. Stein's volume on Mark and Kostenberger's volume on John are prime examples of this. I have all three of the list you mentioned (plus seven others). Even though it is older, I would recommend reading Witherington's thoroughly and occasionally referring to Peterson's and Bock's when you are curious on their opinion on a passage or issue. Of the three, Ben's is the most comprehensive.

I have nothing against Bock (I served with him on a panel discussion a few years ago). He is a tremendous scholar and his Christian character and commitment are to be lauded. Of the three, I think Witherington would be the most stimulating. Peterson's career-long love and study of Acts would place him second of the three on my own list. Too bad Green's replacement volume for the NICNT series isn't completed yet. :)

hello jeremy,
two foci of david peterson's work (as he told me himself) is the narrative and theology. concerning the narrative he has taken up where tannehill has left off, and concerning theology there is a lengthy introduction addressing various themes. from hearing his comments on a wide range of other issues, his attention to the role of the Holy Spirit in Acts would most likely be an identifying feature.

you might be interested to know that i am reading the draft of brian rosner / roy ciampa's 1 corinthians commentary. it won't be released until august 2010, owing to a glut of finished works at eerdmans. it is absolutely a must buy - it augments thiselton in that its emphasis is jewish/biblical background rather than graeco-roman foreground and it makes an extremely convincing argument against the current grain of NT scholarship concerning structure and theme. additionally it addresses verbal aspect, particularly the thorny issue of the perfect tense.


I have used the two former commentaries and plan to get Peterson, with a specific view towards the way in which the early church interacted with pluralistic cultural environments. With my intended focus, Witherington has been most helpful; Boch's would be more helpful if I had access to the many resources he alludes to. Also, he sometimes refers to his larger Lukan work w/o detailing his view or method, so unless you have it w/you or can peruse it later, sometimes it feels a bit disjointed.

If I had the option (and were trying lesson carry-on weight, I'd go with Peterson.

Of course, I wish all of them interacted more with what the text (and the early church events described therein) mean for our current interaction with the peoples and cultures of the world. Any suggestions?

The NIV Application Commentary by Ajith Fernando spends a lot of time reflecting on contemporary cross-cultural issues. He's spent much time as a missionary and is pretty good on that sort of thing. But it's not cutting-edge current. It was written in the 90s.

So... did you end up making a final decision?

I'm probably going to get Peterson and read that while referring to Witherington and Bock as needed.

If you are still deciding, don't overlook the fine new Heremeneia Commentary on Acts (2008) by Richard Pervo. Absolutely worth while, and will certainly be one which authors of "commentaries on commentaries" will themselves draw on in the future.

Witherington I appreciate for sociological considerations. Luke Timothy Johnson on Acts is quite nice, both on technical notes and comments oriented to modern church use, and also because he wrote Luke commentary in same series (Sacra Pagina). Blessings!

Thanks, William. I don't think I'll be reading a Hermeneia commentary cover-to-cover anytime soon, though. It's far more detail than what I'm looking for at this point. I'd use those volumes as references if I had any (they're also too expensive for me to buy), but I'm not interested in reading any volumes straight through at this point.


Any further oppinions between peterson or bock on Acts. Which would you prefer and why? I have ordered both however my budget only allows for one. Thanks in advance.



I'm just coming back to Acts now after a break, and I haven't had much chance to compare Bock and Peterson, but I might know more in a few months. Bock is much thinner, and Peterson was able to glean stuff from Bock, so I would guess Peterson is likely to be more useful. But that's not from spending a lot of time in either.

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