By Craig L. Bloomberg & Mariam Karmell / Zondervan
Many people might think, “Yet another commentary set published so that yet another publisher can fill yet another non-existent niche market?” That’s what I thought until I had a better look at this commentary. In fact, it was somewhat amusing to note that Clinton Arnold, the general editor for the series, also thought the same thing until he had a look at the format of the series. This is not the standard commentary format.
I’ll just come right out and say it: the most helpful thing about this commentary series is the graphical layout of the flow of the argument. This comes looking like a table. On the far left are the verses divided into clauses (1a, b, c, etc.). Next to that is a one word (very occasionaly more than one) description of the function of that clause, whether it is “exhortation,” “purpose,” “apposition,” “condition,” “description,” etc. To the right of that is the graphical layout of the clauses. The main clauses are written in bold, and the supporting clauses are written underneath the word they modify. So James 1:2b (“whenever you fall into various trials”) is written underneath the bolded word “Consider” is verse 2a. At one glance, you can have the entire flow of thought of a passage (and they usually do an entire pericope at a time).
Another very helpful feature of this series is a one or two sentence summary of the main idea of the passage. This will be very helpful for those wanting to get a bird’s eye view of the passage.
Then there is an exegetical outline, which follows standard outline format with the exegetical conclusions stated clearly. Lastly, there is the explanation of the text. I am very happy to report that the Greek text is included in this part, and that it is not transliterated (which I despise). But the English reader is not left behind, for there is always an English translation wherever there is Greek, so there is no need for the thoughtful English-only reader to be intimidated. It is a double column format for the actual exegesis, so the reality is that the page number of this commentary (280 pages) is somewhat deceptive. It is probably more like 400 pages of normal size. So this is a very substantive commentary.
And now, of course, everyone wants to know how the authors deal with James in relation to Paul in chapter 2 of James. While I do not agree with everything in this treatment of the passage, a lot can be forgiven when they have the basic answer correct: Paul and James use “justify” in different senses. Paul uses the word to talk about the forensic declaration of “not guilty,” whereas James uses the word in an evidentiary sense (see pp. 138-139). Areas where I would disagree with his treatment are as follows: the OT use of the concept of righteousness is not first and foremost about “covenant faithfulness,” but about the standard of righteousness that is present in God Himself as Creator (this is the very convincing conclusion that Mark Seifrid reaches in his analysis of OT righteousness language). Also, I would disagree with his treatment of final justification, and his treatment of works (Paul rejects all works of every kind when he is talking about justification, not just works like circumcision). These caveats aside, the commentary is still excellent, and well worth investigating.
I am very excited about the contributors chosen (which include such NT luminaries as David Garland, I. Howard Marshall, Frank Thielman, Bruce Winter, Thomas Schreiner, Clinton Arnold, George Guthrie, Greg Beale, Doug Moo, Robert Yarbrough, Karen Jobes, and Buist Fanning III).