Commentaries on Romans

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[Note: This is part of a larger project reviewing commentaries on each book of the Bible. Follow the links from that post for more information on the series, including explanations of what I mean by some of the terms and abbreviations in this post. This is not an exhaustive list, just the commentaries that I think are most worth paying attention to.]

Douglas Moo's NICNT is always my first choice on Romans. He's more careful in my view than any other Romans commentator when it comes to exegesis. He's got a high view of scripture similar to my own, and yet he garners much more respect than others with similar convictions. I'm not entirely sure why, but N.T. Wright thinks that in his case it's because he sees Moo as (1) more willing to revise his opinions away from his Lutheran tradition than Wright thinks is true of other conservative evangelicals (e.g. D.A. Carson, a claim that I think is wildly unfair to Carson, who adopted Calvinism entirely from reading the Bible and not from reading the Reformed tradition) and (2) more able to read his opponents carefully and represent their views accurately before criticizing them. (I've seen people complain about this with Carson also, and it baffles me. He strikes me as especially careful most of the time, especially when he's doing his actual argumentation.) But whatever the reasons, Moo has this reputation among scholars who disagree with him of being balanced, careful, and friendly enough with those who disagree, and it means he has the respect of commentators across the theological spectrum.

Moo writes very readable prose for an academic volume. He gives a thorough treatment of the Greek in the footnotes but keeps the main text readable for those who know little or no strong on theological treatment. You won't find here the kind of focus on language issues that some commentators give. You'll also get some good history of interpretation in this volume, and Moo's understanding of the theological issues is excellent. When necessary, he launches into a valuable excursus on an issue that needs more depth than the verse-by-verse discussion would give. It isn't as strong as Cranfield (see below) on presenting all the options and giving an exhaustive treatment of the reasons people have given for different views, but it's much more complete than most commentaries on that sort of thing.

Thomas Schreiner's BECNT is also good in a number of ways. I like Schreiner a lot. His book on perseverance and assurance strikes me as being pretty much right in terms of his main points, and I've appreciated his work on I Timothy 2 and in his commentary on I and II Peter and Jude. Schreiner strikes me as being very similar to Moo in many ways. Both defend Calvinist soteriology, both operate from a high view of scripture, both criticize the New Perspective, and both are generally known for defending more conservative theological views against liberalizing tendencies. Schreiner has a little less detail despite being more encumbered by technical Greek in the main text, but both are good writers who can be followed relatively easily in comparison to some of the more obscure prose academics can sometimes produce.

Some differences have to do with the series. The BECNT format makes it more paragraph-based than NICNT's verse-by-verse format (which makes it easier to read but much harder to use as a reference work). You'll see Greek font in BECNT (followed by parenthetical transliterations for the first occurrence), but you'll only see it in the footnotes of NICNT volumes. BECNT has clunky parenthetical references as opposed to NICNT's footnotes, which makes reading harder, but it looks much nicer to the eye in most other ways. But a few have to do with approach. Moo is a Lutheran who has moved in some ways toward more traditional Calvinism. Schreiner is a Reformed Baptist in the mold of John Piper (in fact he originated from Piper's own church, I believe). Moo's work has been mainly exegetical, from what I've seen, whereas Schreiner's ranges more into systematic theology and apparently biblical theology (but see below).

I've seen a few criticisms of Schreiner, though. A friend of mine thinks he's too easily drawn into answering questions of systematic theology at the expense of biblical theology (which makes me wonder what his New Testament Theology is actually like). One thing he might mean is that he thought Schreiner was too willing to read his systematic theological convictions back into the text or too willing to try to make them mean what his system would favor them meaning. This comes from someone who agrees with Schreiner's general outlook, by the way, just someone who doesn't want to push a particular text beyond what it's really about. I saw a similar criticism in a review I've read online. I haven't read enough to endorse this criticism, but I thought I'd mention it, since it does have at least two witnesses!

My own biggest criticism of Schreiner is that he adopts John Piper's view that God's pursuit of his own glory is basic to all God's motivations, and God's love is reduced to that. There are more reasonable ways of holding such a view, and Schreiner's is one of the more reasonable, but I still think he's wrong, and that approach is important in this commentary, because Schreiner finds it at the heart of Romans' theology.

On the other hand, I thought Schreiner's approach to Romans 7 was both creative and far superior to the commentators who want to restrict the passage to cover only the life of the believer or those who want it to cover only the life of the unbeliever. Schreiner argues that it's about the law rather than a certain time period in the life of anyone and that it would apply in either stage of someone's life, and I think he's right. Schreiner is also a little more concerned to step back and dwell on the overall structure and argument than Moo is, although some of this is because the BECNT format requires it more. (And I have seen one reviewer compliment Moo for doing well at that.)

What I've seen makes me place this as high enough on my list that I want to retain it in my possession and look to it second, after Moo. I haven't read it enough to say a lot more, but I've read it enough to like a lot of what I see.
John Stott's BST is in my view the best popular-level commentary on Romans. It's well-written and effective at what it sets out to do, which is to aid the expositor in understanding Paul's message in the book and thinking through the relevance of such a message in our day. In Carson's review of Romans commentaries, he strangely says that Stott on Romans is "not as telling" as his work on Acts in the same series, whereas I think the reverse is true. After reading through something like six chapters of Stott on Acts, I put it down and decided it was more worthwhile to read something better on that book, but the time I spent in his Romans commentary struck me as certainly worth the time. This is a much more complete treatment of actual exegesis than you usually get in this series. I've seen this commentary criticized for not mentioning mainstream and even consensus views while offering ones not commonly accepted, which I think is a bad idea if you're going to defend a view that's against the grain.

C.E.B. Cranfield's ICC has long been the academic standard. It's still the most detailed commentary on Romans, even though it's long outdated (it has no awareness of the New Perspective, for example). I've looked at it a little and would certainly have used it myself if I'd been looking for a commentary before Moo was out. But I don't have a need for that level of detail myself, and I think Moo's overall perspective is more often correct. Cranfield's biggest problem, in my view, is that he too easily flirts with Barthian universalism in Romans 9-11, where I think the clearest statements relevant to that issue go the other direction. Cranfield almost always lists the exegetical options pretty exhaustively and offers a thorough discussion of the reasoning behind most approaches. You can get Cranfields conclusions in a shorter commentary from the same publisher, but I don't think that would have what's so valuable about Cranfield's work, which is his exhaustive listing of options and careful working through the various arguments toward his conclusion. I never got around to getting these, because they were so expensive, but then they came out in paperback recently. I'm not sure why Amazon is listing volume 1 as out-of-print in paperback but not volume 2, though.

Joseph Fitzmyer's AYB is up to his usual high standards. My biggest worry with Fitzmyer is his loose attitude toward historicity, but that plays almost no role in Romans. What's most interesting about this commentary is that Fitzmyer is a Jesuit priest, and yet at times the commentary sounds less like what you'd expect from a Roman Catholic and more like what a contemporary Reformed Protestant might produce, but at other times he defends Catholic teaching against Protestant views. You'll get a solid focus on the first century from Fitzmyer, and he'll give insight from throughout the history of interpretation. But he doesn't interact a lot with the New Perspective. I don't happen to think that should necessarily harm his exegesis in most places, since I think the NPP is largely wrong, but it means it won't be that helpful to those who want to work through those issues, and it will annoy those who think that sort of view is generally correct. Fitzmyer gives the most extensive bibliography of all the commentaries on Romans, including not just commentaries and scholarship on Romans but also intertestamental literature (on which Fitmyer is an expert) that has parallels in Romans.

James Dunn's WBC is probably the best New-Perspective commentary on Romans. His emphasis is on the visible signs of membership in God's people at the expense of the forensic issues of the gospel or questions about sin and righteousness as traditionally understood. It isn't faith vs. works. It's Christ vs. the law, where the former has to do with being a Christian and the latter has to do with being a Jew. It's about whether you have to be a Jew to be a Christian, not about whether you have to do enough to become a Christian. Dunn is especially important for anyone doing academic work on Romans, and those who want to teach the book from an NPP approach might want access to it, but it's pretty in-depth, and I wouldn't recommend it as a primary commentary for a Bible teacher even if you're inclined to think the NPP has got it right. Dunn shows more concern than most for the overall flow of the letter, but he focuses more on individual words than grammatical issues, which strike me as a bigger-picture matter (and dangerous to ignore).

I haven't had a chance to look at Robert Jewett's Hermeneia volume on Romans, but I expect it will be an influential academic work. Jewett interprets the whole book in light of the discussion at the end about Paul's missionary work, where the letter is intended to help foster unity among congregations in order to motivate them to support his work, which is a refreshing emphasis on a usually-ignored part of the book, but my worry is that it becomes reductionistic to the point of ignoring the things Paul does emphasize. It sounds from reviews as if he downplays doctrine, even when doctrinal disputes could serve to illustrate the strife between churches that Jewett thinks Paul is writing this letter to put a stop to. Jewett's specialization in sociological background will also provide some helpful insight into this book on some issues largely ignored by most commentators, but I'll have the same worry there. Reviews of the commentary suggest a significant analysis in terms of Greco-Roman honor and shame, which reminds me too much of Jerome Neyrey's AYB on II Peter and Jude that I thought usually missed the point. The way the publisher describes it, I expect more on the Greco-Roman end than the Hebraic background that most informed Paul. But I haven't seen the volume, so this is just my impression of how it's been marketed and what reviewers have said. Like most socio-rhetorical commentaries, he reads Greco-Roman rhetorical categories into the Hebraic mind of Paul, whose training was almost entirely rabbinic.

Ben Witherington III and Darlene Hyatt's SRC is typical of Witherington's other work in some ways. There's a special focus on socio-rhetorical matters. I don't tend to like attempts to fit Paul's writings to Greco-Roman speech forms, but social background can often be useful if it's not ranging too wide to be relevant. I don't know how much Hyatt contributed compared with Witherington, but I've heard that this volume isn't as good as some of Witherington's other work (e.g. on Acts). You'll get a little more expositional and applicational help here than in most academic commentaries. Romans brings out the issue of Calvinist vs. Arminian soteriology, and that's one area where I've found Witherington difficult to read, partly because he simply refuses to present Calvinists as saying what they actually say. It's clear to me from his blog that he'd rather tear down straw versions of Reformed thought that deny any sense of freedom, potentiality, or moral responsibility, in effect criticizing Calvinism by criticizing hyper-Calvinism. [But see my cousin Danny's comment below on this commentary being much more fair than his blog treatments of Calvinism.] He even amazingly finds room to do this with complementarianism in a book like Romans that has pretty much nothing to say on the issue (and no, that bit about Junia in Romans 16 is not about this issue). One Amazon reviewer says this commentary refers to other scholars with terms such as "posturing", "insecurities", "lack of ego strength", and "feelings of low self-worth". The publisher describes this commentary as trying to understand Romans outside the influence of Augustine and those who followed him, and one reviewer says he goes as far as denying imputed righteousness. I don't know if this is a denial of Reformation thought in favor of the New Perspective (which would surprise me from what I know of Witherington) or some other direction, but I'm sure a lot of people will find his approach worrisome.

John Murray's former NICNT was the best Romans commentary fifty years ago. Carson goes as far as saying that it eclipsed Hodge (but he also says it in turned is eclipsed by Moo). It's still in print but is no longer part of the NICNT series. Some Reformed evaluators prefer it to Moo, Cranfield, or Schreiner (all of whom are broadly Reformed), partly because it's more faithful to the party-line covenant theology that some narrowly-Reformed types consider central to Reformed theology. Moo's background is Lutheran, and some of that remains. Schreiner is a new-covenant theology Reformed Baptist. Cranfield has a Barthian flavor at times. Murray probably would have been in the PCA had he been around in our times. I actually prefer the balance of Moo and Schreiner, and I think their departures from the more traditional Reformed interpretations of Murray are often in my view closer to the text. But there isn't anything as comprehensive or well-done as Murray from the hard line Presbyterian flavor of Reformed exegesis of Romans, and that's why it's still in print even though it's been ousted from the NICNT series. One of things I especially like about Murray is that he consistently defends moderate Calvinism when a lot of Calvinists today actually adopt something Calvin would have wanted us to call hyper-Calvinism.

Leon Morris' PNTC, Grant Osborne's IVPNTC, Robert Mounce's NAC, and James Edwards' NIBC are all good enough that they would provide help to anyone using them. Nothing stands out about them, from all the reviews I've read. I've looked at Morris, and it didn't seem quite as good as his commentary on John, which I've spent a lot of time in. He doesn't interact much with the NPP but clearly defends the traditional approach by simply presenting it. You will get more interaction with scholarship than Murray. Morris turned out to be the first PNTC volume, although the series didn't actually exist until Eerdmans discovered that they had a good thing going with this one, Carson's John, and Morris' Matthew. I think the more recent PNTC volumes are higher quality, at least in terms of scholarly interaction.

Osborne would present an Arminian alternative to Morris or Stott. I haven't seen it myself, but I hear it's similar quality to Stott. It's not as detailed as Morris. Osborne has also written one of the best commentaries on Revelation (BECNT).

I know little about Mounce on Romans except that John Glynn said he's good on synthetic flow and that I've seen little in the way of either negative or overly positive comments in any reviews. I gather that it's not as important as his work on Revelation (NICNT), which in the second edition has become one of the more worth-owning commentaries on that book (the first edition was rather slim with uneven coverage of different parts of Revelation, and I've seen people make hasty judgments about the second edition, and on all Mounce's further work, based on that first edition).

Carson says Edwards is stronger than Mounce, but he doesn't explain why or give much detail, and I haven't looked at either. But I get the impression from other reviewers that all of these could be helpful to someone looking for an alternative to Stott at a basic or intermediate level. So I thought they were all worth a mention, even if I have little to say about them.

N.T. Wright's NIB is perhaps the best popular-level presentation of a New Perspective approach. It's much briefer, much more readable, and probably more often right. I've seen Reformed reviewers who strongly disagree with the New Perspective recommending this commentary. This volume also contains Acts by Robert Wall, and introduction to the epistles by Robert Wall, and I Corinthians by J. Paul Sampley. It's thus more expensive than just the commentary by Wright deserves. Buteen though it's in an expensive volume with other commentaries by other authors (of notably mixed quality and perspective), which is a big problem with this series in general, it's probably still valuable to anyone sympathetic to the NPP who is simply teaching through Romans (as opposed to scholars, who need to pay attention to Dunn).

Forthcoming commentaries:

Frank Thielman is doing the ZEC. This is a new series, with only Blomberg and Kamell on James out so far, but it looks to be an important series on the Greek text, and the list of contributors is mostly outstanding. Thielman is no exception. He's one of the foremost critics of the New Perspective and of work on Paul and the law in general, and I've seen a lot of comments by people on both sides of that debate who appreciate his work more than any other figure on the traditional side. His commentary on Philippians in the NIVAC series is very well received, and his New Testament Theology has also come warmly recommended by a number of people I respect. (I have it but haven't looked enough at it myself to say much yet.) His Ephesians for BECNT is due out in Nov 2010, so he probably isn't too far into working on this one. It's the forthcoming Romans commentary that I'm most excited about of the two.

Colin Kruse is doing a volume for PNTC to replace Morris, which is now over two decades old. Kruse is one of the more abler defenders against revisionism on matters Jesus and Paul, tackling both popular and more scholarly attacks on the historicity of the gospels and the traditional approach that the New Perspective is seeking to revise. I believe he's another Australian Reformed Anglican, so it's fitting that he gets to replace Morris.

Richard Longenecker is working on the NIGTC for Romans. Last I heard from the editor of the series, he thought he might be receiving the manuscript soon, and that was a while ago, but he said he wasn't sure how soon. He just knew a few volumes that were further along than some of the other forthcoming ones, and this was one of them. Longenecker contributed an excellent entry on Acts for EBC and one of the better commentaries on Galatians for WBC. It's fitting that he gets to do Galatians and Romans. He tends to try to find middle ground between the New Perspective and the more traditional approach, a little too much on my view, but that means he does critique it on many scores. With Moo, Thielman, Longenecker, Schreiner, and Dunn we'll have so many in-depth commentaries on the Greek text since Cranfield that I wonder if his ICC will be so out-of-date as to become much less helpful.

Craig Keener is doing Romans for NCC, a new series that I don't have a good read on yet. It was originally announced for Sept 2009, but I don't think it or any other volume in the series is out yet. Keener's strengths lie in historical background and application, and his weaknesses lie in historical background and application. Sometimes he spends so much time in some of his commentaries on the sociological background and parallels that it's hard to find which ones are most relevant. Maybe he won't do that for this series, but I'll wait to hear on it. He's one of the better NT commentators on applicational issues, but I've found that he focuses more on certain issues immediately obvious to him and leaves aside the more obscure passages that need more work to bring out applications, which makes me think it's helpful mostly when the applications are on obvious but controversial issues and least helpful when the applications are straightforward once you see them but a lot harder to draw out. I don't know how much this series will focus on any of these things, though.

I. Howard Marshall and Stephen N. Williams are writing the THNTC volume on Romans. I have no idea what such collaboration means, but Marshall is one of the most respected biblical commentators alive today. This series is hard for me to gauge. It's heavy on theology, but it does a lot of it in a separate essay that takes up half the volume. Some volumes are disappointingly thin on the actual commentary. The few volumes I've seen are very different from each other, though, so it's hard to know what to expect.

Beverly R. Gaventa (NTL) Gaventa has written the Interpretation volume on the Thessalonian epistles and Acts for ANTC. Among other focuses, she's known for a certain brand of feminist scholarship. For example, she wrote the foreword to a monograph arguing the (crazy in my view) claim that Junia was an apostle in the same sense Paul and the twelve were. Her book on maternal imagery that Paul uses for his own ministry sounds interesting to me, but I haven't seen it yet. The title, Our Mother St. Paul, is rather strange. She also has a book on Mary, Jesus' mother. This series has been generally good so far, presenting academic commentaries that are somewhat readable by non-scholars, something like a PNTC for the more liberal end theologically.

I know a lot less about the following forthcoming volumes, but I'll include them for completeness with what little I know about them:

Ed Blum (EEC) looks to be a good series but little info available so far
W.S. Campbell (RRA) focus on rhetoric
Paul Fiddes (BBC) series usually focuses on history of intepretation
Scott Hahn (CCSS) Catholic
Frank J. Matera (PCNT) Catholic, a well-respected scholar who I think accepts the New Perspective and likes socio-rhetorical emphases
Stanley Porter (BCGNT) Evangelical, a scholar with an excellent reputation, if I remember correctly not a typical commentary
David Yeago (BTCB) series usually focuses on systematic theological concerns


Although I think Moo is all around excellent, Cranfield's just keeps on giving. It's no joke.

thanks for this brilliant summary Jeremy.

I agree that Moo & Stott are outstanding, and what I have read so far of Schriener has been excellent. In fact, those three are so good that I don't feel a pressing need to get any more commentaries on Romans, although Thielman's might tempt me. His Ephesians commentary has a publication date later this year (see the Baker website) so it is likely he finished working on it a while back.

Oh, I actually had Thielman down for Nov in my forthcoming commentaries lists. That's what I get for checking those with the Romans commentaries but not going back to check when I write about forthcoming commentaries on other books. So I've fixed that, anyway.

I have just Moo, Schreiner, and Stott as well, although someone is borrowing Stott long-term, and it's currently in Alabama. I do, though, have library access to several of these, and it's in a library that gets very little traffic for its biblical commentaries due to having one biblical scholar on staff, and he's an OT guy.

I'm not sure you're being entirely fair to Witherington regarding this commentary. That is, I don't think he (mis)represents Calvinism in this commentary like he does on his blog (which I'll agree is incredibly annoying, if not sinful). I actually think it'd be good for people to read and interact with his commentary because it's one of the few written from a Wesleyan/Arminian perspective (Osborne being another). And he certainly does try to get Romans out from the common Augustinian shadow, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Regarding Wright's comments about Moo and Carson, I think he's completely right about Moo. I agree that his comments about Carson are a bit more troubling, but not completely unwarranted. Carson isn't always entirely fair, often using second-hand anecdotes to indict Wright (one of my friends talked with him and said he said...). Carson can also be more polemical than Moo, though it'd be ironic (or hypocritical) for Wright to be bothered by someone's polemics. Mind you, I'm not necessarily disagreeing with Carson's assessment of Wright, I'm just saying I can see where Wright is coming from. We also can't forget that all these guys know each other and have conversations we aren't privy to, thus there may be more going on than we know.

Regarding the actual commentaries, Moo is hands-down the best around, in my opinion. I like Schreiner, but honestly, I feel like I'm reading a systematic theology through the lens of Romans, rather than a commentary on Paul's letter to the Romans. That doesn't mean the commentary isn't good or useful, it just means it's not my first choice.

I have more to say, but my comment will be as long as your post before to long.

Danny, have you looked at Schreiner's NT Theology? I keep finding people who think his commentaries are just systematic theology in the guise of commentary-writing, but that book is supposed to be biblical theology. I'm wondering if he does the same thing with that, passing off systematic theology as biblical theology. He does organize it topically rather than by book, but he's not the only one to do that. I don't remember which, but I think either Guthrie or Ladd did the same.

I would have thought that writing a biblical theology would move him away from the systematic focus, but I guess he published that after his two published commentaries, and he may well have written it after (but I'm imagining that to have been a longer-term project that went on simultaneous with his commentary-writing).

As for Witherington, I've seen you say before that his published work isn't as bad as what he says on his blog, so I was going to hold off on being too strong in my criticism of him for that, but then I saw this review, which makes it sound like his treatment of his theological opponents in this commentary is extremely juvenile. I've seen a few other statements of this sort when looking at reviews of this book, though nothing pointing out such childish language, and I believe they did point out that it was mainly Calvinism and complementarianism that get targeted. I've slightly edited what I said and inserted a reference to your comment, but without looking more carefully though the book I'm still strongly suspicious. You're right that it's probably the best detailed presentation of a non-Calvinist view. Osborne isn't very full in comparison. But I did mention that this is one of the better commentaries to go to for that.

Danny, that's an interesting observation you make about Schreiner's commentary sounding like a systematic theology. Maybe that's why I like it so much (it is my favorite on Romans).

On the Carson/Wright thing, I think a lot of it stems from Carson's summary in Justification and Variegated Nomism Vol. 1. One is that he has been somewhat fairly and somewhat unfairly charged with not summarizing the essays in that volume accurately. Some of them did seem to lend support to Sander's thesis. Also, he has a very lengthy footnote in that conclusion blasting Wright, when he hadn't been the focus of any portion of the book, Sanders had been. I think that Wright maybe was a little thin skinned, but I don't think that including that footnote was the wisest move either.

A little context should clear up the matter. Witherington wrote those words in an application section (for 2:17-3:20) and wasn't speaking about his theological opponents. I'll reproduce the paragraph below, but suffice to say I wouldn't trust Amazon reviews.

"'Not many of you should become teachers,' say the Scriptures, and portions of this passage simply reinforce that truth. In particular we can see how knowledge can lead to arrogance, judgmentalism, airs of superiority, and indeed to the misuse of power. Unfortunately, we see this outcome of erudition all too often in the academy whether in publications or in the regular meetings of the SBL and SNTS. The irony of this is of course that such posturing really mass insecurities and lack of ego strength and provides classic examples of rhetorical over-compensation for such insecurities and feelings of low self-worth. And part of the game is to pour cold water on other persons' accomplishments, lifting oneself up by putting others down. Sometimes this takes the form of proving one's scholarly acumen by 'justification by doubt.' If one can deconstruct another person's work, one has proved one's critical pedigree and acumen. There is nothing wrong with a healthy critique of another person's views or with dialogue and debate in diatribe for, but this should not entail ad hominem attacks. Paul's concern for behavior that agrees with one's teaching is paramount here. At the end of the day, the amount known of the oracles of God is less important than the practice of what one knows." (p97)

I'd simply argue that Witherington is guilty of focusing on something that is not the most obvious application of the text, but it's hardly a juvenile treatment of his opponents.

I haven't read Schreiner's NT Theology; I don't have the money nor access to a library to check it out. I should say that I don't have a major problem with him leaning too heavily (again, in my opinion) towards systematic theology, it's just that it keeps me from putting it ahead of Moo's commentary.

Right, that isn't so bad as it seemed from the review. I do wonder if he's as guilty of that (at least on his blog) as whoever it is he's thinking. (And maybe this isn't even from him but from Hyatt.)

Yeah, Carson's essay at the end of that volume isn't his finest moment (and I say this as a Carson-admirer), and that probably contributes to the tension between the two. Wright is quite thin-skinned, which is remarkable considering his own polemical tendencies. At any rate, those two have a 30+ year history, and I'd bet that there's a ton more than we know.

Sorry to keep commenting, but Keener's commentary did come out in the fall (so did Michael Bird's on Colossians, also in that series). I've seen positive comments so far.

You only mentioned it offhand, but I'd be curious to hear what you consider the best interpretation of the Junia reference.

I think it's most likely either a general sense of apostle as a missionary or that the apostles think highly of her (or quite possibly both, that she's highly-regarded by missionaries). I remember being convinced of one of the two a little while back, but I can't remember now which one I thought was more convincing and why. You have to make two assumptions that I think are both at best not clearly true to get the conclusion that Junia was an apostle in the sense of an authority-bearing person of the sort that the twelve and Paul were, so it's not very good evidence of the thesis that some people use that short mention to support.

I think the basic problem with Witherington is that he's been coasting on his reputation for years now. He wrote a very fine commentary on Acts, but he hasn't been putting the same level of research into subsequent commentaries. He's become too much of a talking-head. Too many speaking engagements and other activities. Maybe he's bored with the nuts-and-bolts of scholarship at this point in life.

Marshall is also Arminian, of course, but his scholarship is far more concentrated.

As for Jewett, from what I've read of it, there is a theological agenda. He's a universalist. Also, there's a decidedly political slant to his commentary.

It's still useful for detailed exegesis on many verses, but he's not a reliable theological guide.


Clearly Beverly Gaventa's scholarship does not serve your own purposes, which is fine I suppose. But, due diligence is required nonetheless: Gaventa did not author the monograph referred to in your citation on Junia--she wrote the foreword. It was authored by E.J. Epp. This is besides the fact that the work on the subject is solid... but that's another post.

In any case, those of us who do find Gaventa's work creative, careful and insightful would appreciate that your evaluations of her would at least be careful.


Aaron, I don't recall exactly how that came about, but I'm sorry for the inaccuracy. I was probably looking through Amazon's listings for her to see what she's published. I remember when that book came about, and I'm familiar with its arguments, but I must have forgotten that Epp was the author, and I must have been going by their inclusion of it in the list for her without looking further at it. It might well have been a case where I was interrupted in the middle of writing my review and never got back to investigate it further by looking at the actual Amazon page for that book to remind myself of it (because looking at it now, it's clear I would have noticed if I had).

I've fixed my reference to it anyway, and I think I'm still justified in referencing that in my discussion as evidence of a view she seems to support, if she was willing to write a foreword endorsing the book.

I'm not sure why you'd get the idea that Gaventa's scholarship doesn't serve my purposes. I said no such thing. I just pointed out that her work is sometimes in a direction that could be classified as a certain brand of feminist scholarship (a very broad categorization, which takes no value judgment on her own approach except for particulars I mentioned and that doesn't even try to specify which brand it is). Some of her work in that area is probably fine, and some of it comes to some conclusions that I disagree with, just as is surely the case with her work that isn't in the feminist area of NT studies.

I happen to think the view that Junia was an apostle of the same sort that Peter and Paul were apostles is historically untenable, given what we know about apostles of that sort from elsewhere in the NT and early church. Much of that book is simply arguing that the older translations that tried to make Junia a man are themselves historically untenable, and I fully agree with that. So I wasn't criticizing that book or her scholarship in general. I just think one of the main theses of a book she was willing to put her name to by writing the foreword has little going for it, even if there's a lot of good scholarship in that book.


I was not intending to quote you, but was drawing a conclusion based on the rest of your post. The more important thing was the reference. Thanks for giving the matter a second look. I'm not going to engage the Junia issue; you certainly are entitled to your opinion.

Not to beat a dead horse, but I just re-read your emendation and it still is not accurate (i was going to say "honest", but I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt).

Gaventa did not write the "introduction" as you put it. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, the Introduction is almost always written by the author (or editor) of the present work, while a Foreword is written by an unaffiliated scholar, not the author or the editor, whose presence is meant to lend credibility to the work. Please correct your entry accordingly.

I actually remember typing "introduction" and then changing it to "foreword" previously, but I guess the post doesn't reflect that.

I don't really see an important difference between the two, and I wouldn't go by any prescriptivist manual of style in order to do so, but the way they distinguish it does make my point more strongly, because that means doing a foreword meant she intended to add credibility to the work. So someone who wanted to be dishonest about this wouldn't use the word "introduction" instead of "foreword" and mean them the way the Chicago Manual does if they wanted to make the points I wanted to make.

, I've changed it again.

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