Bowled Over

I just got this commentary in the mail today. I do not get bowled over very often when it comes to commentaries, but this commentary was an enormous surprise to me. The International Critical Commentary series has the following characteristics: extreme technical detail; moderate to strongly liberal perspectives; little to no interaction with conservative writers; comprehensive in scope (with the exception of the conservative writers); little to no concern with systematic theological concerns. The only really notable exception that I know of to this trend besides the new Allison commentary is Cranfield’s masterwork on Romans. Allison’s work reminds me strongly of Cranfield.

For those of my readers who have any familiarity with the ICC at all, can you imagine an ICC volume that cites the following authors (many of them favorably!): Thomas Manton, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Francis Turretin, John Owen, A.W. Pink, Jonathan Edwards, John Gill, Matthew Henry, Johannes Piscator, Martin Bucer, W.G.T. Shedd, William Pemble, John Newton, Martin Chemnitz, and Wolfgang Musculus? And yet, Allison does in this commentary on James. I’m not saying that that makes him a conservative Presbyterian. I haven’t read his conclusions on the section 2:14-26 to know exactly where he comes out on that. His work with W.D. Davies on Matthew is similarly exhaustive, but is moderately liberal. Be that as it may, he drops all those names mentioned in his history of the intepretation of 2:14-26, along with dozens and dozens more from every theological persuasion. Folks, even if Allison is not conservative, he is listening to us. He writes in his preface: “I have aspired to read as many relevant books and articles, of whatever date and provenance, as possible, including much outside the usual scope of standard academic study” (p. ix). Indeed, he has! His efforts are extremely refreshing and will not go unnoticed, I hope, by the Reformed world.

What amazes me so much about this commentary is that Allison does not shrink from engaging in systematic theological categories and ideas (and theologians!). It would, of course, be difficult to avoid this in the difficult passage 2:14-26. However, he doesn’t just dip his toes into the theological arena: he dives in with full force! Surely, if a conservative Reformed pastor is going to read just one commentary that might be outside his tradition, he should make it Allison. What a tremendous work of scholarship. I am bowled over. Since he has done us conservative Reformed folk the courtesy of reading our works, we should definitely return the favor.


  1. Jon Foster said,

    April 12, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Only $108.29!

  2. greenbaggins said,

    April 12, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    You can get it for $85 with various vendors at Amazon. It is worth more than many commentaries less expensive.

  3. April 12, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    As usual with the ICC series, he lays out the various arguments as to the book’s author, and then coyly lets the reader make up his or her mind as to who wrote James without committing himself one way or the other. Also, as Jon Foster said – outrageously priced, per the ICC model.

  4. April 12, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    While I don’t always agree with Allison one thing is for sure: he is brilliant. What I find particularly engaging about Allison is that while he appears to be personally agnostic about dogmatic theology he doesn’t dismiss theology as illegitimate (as many in the academy do).

    I haven’t read this commentary yet, but I hope to add this to my library soon! Thanks for the review, Lane.

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