James M. Hamilton Jr., Psalms (2 Volumes; EBTC)

Hamilton Jr., James M. Psalms 1-72. Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2022. xxxiii+677 pp.; Hb.; $49.99. Link to Lexham Press

Hamilton Jr., James M. Psalms 73-150. Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2022. xxix+569 pp.; Hb.; $49.99. Link to Lexham Press

James M. Hamilton, Jr. is Professor of Biblical Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as preaching pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church. He contributed a volume to the NSBT series, With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology (IVP Academic 2014, see my review here) and a commentary on Revelation in the Preaching the Word series. Hamilton has written extensively on biblical theology ad typology, including What Is Biblical Theology? (Crossway, 2014) and a recent monograph, Typology-Understanding the Bible’s Promise-Shaped Patterns: How Old Testament Expectations are Fulfilled in Christ (Zondervan, 2022). This commentary on the Psalms combines his interest in biblical theology with a pastor’s heart. In fact, the commentary has its origins in a sermon series at Kenwood Baptist Church. Hamilton began this two-volume Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary when B&H published the series. When Lexham picked up the series a few years ago, he completed the commentary. Hamilton intends to study the Psalms as a whole. The book is a purposeful collection of poems that build on one another and interpret one another. “The psalms are true history, fulfilled prophecy, and enduring praise” (2)

Hamilton PsalmsHe begins his eighty-eight-page introduction by stating he is interested only in the canonical form of the Psalms in the Hebrew Bible as preserved in the Masoretic text. Unlike many commentaries on the Psalms, Hamilton is not interested in speculating on the form or content of the psalms prior to the final form. This means he rarely comments on the differences between the MT and the Septuagint.

Because he takes the canonical form of the Psalter seriously, he pays careful attention to psalm superscriptions. These are the short headings that appear before verse one in English translations. Hamilton says he “will be working from the hypothesis that a psalm’s superscription comes from the hand of the psalm’s author, and that the editor/anthologist who put the Psalter in its final form exercised a light editorial touch that followed trajectories he discerned in the materials” (50).

Regarding David is an author, he quotes Mark 12:35-37, where Jesus says David wrote Psalm 110. “I do not believe Jesus could have been wrong about this” (42). Nor does Hamilton believe Jesus was accommodating himself to his audience. Hamilton rejects arguments that David would not write psalms using the third person. He also rejects the common view that psalms with “of David” (לְדָוִֽד) are “about David” or “dedicated to David” (citing Peter Craigie’s WBC commentary). He also dismisses the view that the headers are often anachronistic. For example, he disagrees with DeClaissé-Walford, Jacobson, and Tanner (NICOT; Eerdmans, 2014, see my review here), who argued Psalm 23:6 refers to the Temple, which was not built when David was alive. For Hamilton, the superscriptions are not later editions and are in fact integral to the original composition of the psalms. Remember, Hamilton accepts the Masoretic text as the canonical form; since the headers are in that text, he accepts them as authoritative.

The Book of Psalms was purposefully arranged so that the individual psalms fit together to tell a wider story. He suggests the Psalms are like a collage of photographs telling an overall story. Given his lack of interest in the origins of individual psalms, it is striking that Hamilton argues this arrangement was David’s own idea, which later psalmists understood and added to enrich the project which David begun (50).

  • Book 1, Pss 1-41, The Suffering of the Historical David
  • Book 2, Pss 42-72, The Reign of the Historical David
  • Book 3, Pss 73-89, The End of the Historical Davidic House
  • Book 4, Pss 90-106, Moses Intercedes for the Davidic Covenant
  • Book 5, Pss 107-150, The Conquest of the Future Davidic King

Hamilton finds chiasms grouping psalms around themes within the five books. He begins with the observation Psalms 15 and 24 are very similar, suggesting “who may ascend?” brackets for a chiastic structure for Psalms 15-24. (In order to make this work, Psalms 20-21 are placed together in his outline.) Hamilton then works out chiasms for the sections of the entire book. Hamilton’s evidence for these connections is found in the section on context introducing the exposition of each Psalm. There he points out verbal and thematic links to surrounding psalms. Two examples will suffice. First, Psalms 15-24 describe the ways of a righteous king; they follow Psalms 3-9 (Absalom’s rebellion, a wicked king) and Psalms 10-14, which contemplate the ways of the wicked. Second, Psalms 51-72 is a unit beginning with Bathsheba and ending with her son, Solomon. The plot of this unit tracks with David’s struggles against traitors and other enemies, climaxing in Psalm 61 (“Prolong the life of the king”) and Psalm 62 (waiting in silence for salvation). The rejected king is then restored, concluding with David’s son Solomon on the throne forever.

The introduction concludes with several biblical and theological themes. The psalms are first the prayers of David the messiah. But Israel also sung the psalms as the people of the Messiah. The psalms therefore find their fullest meaning in Jesus the Messiah, the ultimate righteous sufferer. Hamilton briefly summarizes the master narrative of the biblical worldview (a creation-fall-redemption scheme). In the Psalms, David interpreted his own experience in the light of earlier scripture. “He identifies with Abel, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, and he identifies his enemies with their enemies” (77). Hamilton contends David saw himself as the “seed of the woman” struggling against the “seed of the serpent” from Genesis 3:5. “What I am proposing can also be understood as a biblical-theological and typological way of getting at ‘prosopology,’ the idea that David assumes the perspective of Christ as he speaks in the Psalms” (87).

“I contend that the authors of earlier Scripture intended their audience to see the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, and further that they wanted to encourage God’s people to stand fast as the seed of the woman against the seed of the serpent. For David to see the outworking of the pattern in his own life, then, was in keeping with the intent of earlier biblical authors, and likewise for later kings-including the man from Nazareth-to identify with David’s experience, even to see David’s experience fulfilled in his own, would be fully in line with David’s intent” (77).

As an example, in his commentary on Psalm 16, David is a righteous sufferer foreshadowing as a “promissory type” the experience of a future king in his line, Jesus. Hamilton finds scriptural warrant for this typological interpretation in Acts 2:20-31 where Peter quotes Psalm 16 as fulfilled in Jesus (217-18). The enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent grows and develops so that David, inspired as a prophet by the Holy Spirit, “understood the patterns that typified him” (218). David “meant to describe his own experience in such a way that the one to come was prefigured, foreshadowed, typified (87, italics original).

Commenting on Psalm 96, Hamilton suggests David composed 1 Chronicles 16:23-33 when he brought the ark to Jerusalem. Later, when he set the psalms in order, David used parts of his earlier composition in different place making what we know now as Psalm 96. What is remarkable is that in this case, Hamilton uses the header from the Septuagint to imply that David wrote Psalm 96 (despite no header in the Masoretic text). He then engages in speculation about the origins of the Psalm, something he would not do according to the introduction.

Hamilton begins his exposition of each Psalm with an overview and an outline of the structure of the psalm. Often these are in the form of a chiasm. The section then begins with the CSB translation alongside Hamilton’s own translation in parallel columns. Hamilton stated in the introduction his intention was to be overly literal in to draw out parallels to other psalms intended by the author. There are no footnotes to Hamilton’s translation offering explanations for his translation choices. For example, on 14:7, the CSB has “let Jacob rejoice”; Hamilton translates the phrase “will rejoice.” The CSB (and most modern Bibles) translates the imperfect as a jussive (“let”). Hamilton uses the future “will rejoice.” Why?

The next unit prior to the exposition is Context: Verbal and Thematic links with Surrounding Psalms. Here Hamilton connects the Psalm to the context to support his overall chiastic structure. Occasionally, he arranges parallels in a chart. Since chiasms are often in the eye of the beholder, he often provides an alternative to his own structure in a footnote.

In the commentary proper, sections follow his outline of the Psalm. The commentary is based on the English text, and he rarely uses Hebrew. When Hebrew appears, it is unpointed and not transliterated. He makes very few references to syntax, grammar, or textual issues (and then only in footnotes). On a few occasions, he refers to the Septuagint, mostly when there are differences in a superscription. For example, in Psalm 71, he has a footnote describing the header in the Septuagint which is missing in the Masoretic Text. There is little interaction with other exegetical commentaries, but this is not surprising. Hamilton is providing exposition of the text to assist Christian preaching and teaching, not to collate the views of other commentators on the psalms. The result is a distraction-free exposition of the biblical text, which is a joy to read.

The last section of the commentary is entitled bridge. These are often brief single paragraph summarizing the content of the psalm and connecting the psalm to its surrounding context. Here Hamilton makes larger Christological observations. In addition, he draws reasonable applications from the psalm to contemporary Christian theology. After the heavy emphasis on typology in the introduction, I found these bridge units to be less typological than expected.

Conclusion: At 1200+ pages, this is a substantial commentary on the Psalter. Hamilton exposition of each Psalm is clear, concise, and will be helpful to pastors and teachers preparing to present sermons on individual psalms. Hamilton writes from a solidly evangelical perspective, and he is quite clear on inerrancy (47) and inspiration of the psalms (52). He is doggedly committed to the Davidic authorship of most of the psalms.

I would strongly recommend this commentary as an excellent addition to any pastor’s library.

 

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Reviews of other Commentaries in this Series:

Duane Garrett and Calvin Pearson, Jeremiah and Lamentations (Kerux)

Garrett, Duane and Calvin F. Pearson. Jeremiah and Lamentations. Kerux Commentaries. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Ministry, 2022. 281 pp. Hb. $29.99   Link to Kregel Ministry  

The Kerux commentary series pairs a biblical exegete and a veteran preacher in order to provide quality commentary with the sort of helps a pastor needs to teach or preach the text.

Duane A. Garret is Professor of Old Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Garrett is well-known for his commentaries on Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (NAC, 1993), Hosea, Joel (NAC, 1997), Song of Songs (WBC, 2004), Exodus (KEL, 2014, reviewed here) and was the general editor for The Archaeology Study Bible (Zondervan, 2010). With Jason DeRouchie, he wrote A Modern Grammar for Biblical Hebrew (B&H Academic, 2009). He recently wrote the popular The Problem of the Old Testament (IVP Academic, 2020). Calvin F. Pearson (PhD, University of Texas at Arlington) is a retired pastor who taught homiletics at Dallas Theological Seminary, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Clamp Divinity School at Anderson University, and Grace School of Theology.

Garrett, JeremiahIn the introduction (47-61), Garrett presents his view of the formation of Jeremiah. There are significant differences between the Hebrew text of the book and the much shorter Greek translation in the Septuagint. The consensus view (following Janzen, 1973) is that the translators of the Septuagint used an earlier version of Jeremiah, the Hebrew text is a later, expanded version of Jeremiah. Garrett describes the consensus view as a “rolling corpus.” Jeremiah and Baruch wrote a short book which was expanded over hundreds of years, resulting in the canonical Jeremiah. Garrett opines, “This interpretation of the composition history of Jeremiah reduces the book’s credibility as a faithful representation of the life and preaching of the prophet” (49).

In contrast to the consensus view, Garrett describes Jeremiah as an anthology of the prophet’s messages, interspersed with key episodes from his life (but not in chronological order). Jeremiah comprises several documents which were not originally part of a book (transcripts of sermons, letters, and documents). Think of Jeremiah as a collection of papers curated by the scribe Baruch.

Instead of a “rolling corpus” formed over several centuries, Garrett suggests the following scenario. When king Jehoiakim prohibited Jeremiah from entering the temple, the prophet dictated a scroll to be read aloud to the king (Jer 36:1-8). The king destroyed this scroll as it was being read in a fire (36:9-26). Garrett calls this “edition zero.” After they fled to Egypt, Jeremiah and Baruch expanded on the destroyed scroll. Garrett calls this “edition one,” or the Egyptian version. Baruch then made his way to Babylon, perhaps after Jeremiah had died. He brought edition one with him. While living in Babylon, he edited and expanded edition one, giving it a chiastic structure. This is “edition two,” the canonical Hebrew form of Jeremiah. Edition one remained in Egypt, where it was preserved and eventually translated into Greek (with minimal modification) and included in the Septuagint. Garrett’s suggested scenario means Jeremiah was formed within a decade after Jeremiah’s death. In contrast to the consensus, scribes without knowledge of Jeremiah’s life and message did not create the book over many centuries.

A key element of Garrett’s thesis is the chiastic structure of Jeremiah. This explains why the Hebrew version of Jeremiah includes the Oracles against the Nations later in the book (Jer 46-51). They mirror the oracles against Judah (Jer 2-20). The chiasm also explains why the message of salvation (Jer 30-33) appears in the center of the book rather than near the end (as in the Septuagint).

The introduction sketches the historical setting of Jeremiah (from kings Josiah to Zedekiah) and the outline of the book used in the commentary’s body. There is a brief review of theological themes, but this is barely a paragraph. Basically, the book says Jerusalem is condemned by Yahweh, and destroyed by Babylon, but the structural center of the book is a promise of restoration and eschatological salvation.

If the introduction seems brief for a lengthy book like Jeremiah, Garret teases a companion volume, Jeremiah: Composition, Setting and Message (Kregel, forthcoming). In addition, Garrett presents aspects of the theology of Jeremiah in sidebars scattered throughout the commentary. For example, there is a lengthy sidebar on the “Fulfillment of the New Covenant” (285-89). Garrett summarizes Jeremiah’s claim that the New Covenant will be for Israel and brings about a universal transformation of the heart, enabling God’s people to keep his commands. But Hebrews quotes Jeremiah and claims the church is under the New Covenant. Jesus says his death initiated the New Covenant (Luke 22:20) and Paul claims to be a minister of the New Covenant (2 Cor 3:6). If the New Covenant was “for Israel,” how do Gentiles enjoy the benefits of the New Covenant now? If the New Covenant meant all people would know God, why is evangelism a duty of the church? To answer these questions, Garrett compares contrasting answers offered by Covenant and Dispensational Theology. He wants to avoid a complete spiritualization of the New Covenant (so that the church is the new Israel) and an absolutely literal interpretation. Although Garrett clearly rejects aspects of older Dispensationalism, he does not embrace the view of Covenant theology either. Essentially, he concludes the New Covenant is inaugurated but not yet ultimately fulfilled. “Jeremiah predicts an eschatological future in which Israel would enjoy God forever under the new covenant. In its fullness, all people will know God and sin will be no more” (289).

Garrett and Pearson divide Jeremiah into thirty-two preaching units, and Lamentations into five (one for each lament). Each preaching section begins with a brief paragraph summarizing the literary structure and themes of the unit. This is followed by exposition of the text. Hebrew appears without transliteration, although it is always translated. Some knowledge of Hebrew terminology will be helpful. There are sidebars throughout the commentary dealing with detailed Hebrew exegesis. Entitled “translator’s notes,” these brief sidebars deal with details of Hebrew exegesis, lexical issues, in occasionally textual criticism (for example, “A Scribal Error in 42:10?”). In a commentary on a book of this size, Garrett cannot comment on every exegetical detail, but these sidebars touch on the most important details.

Following the exegetical notes is a short theological focus as a segue into preaching strategy. This unit begins with an exegetical and theological synthesis followed by a single sentence preaching idea (ala Haddon Robinson’s Big Idea). Pearson then attempts to draw contemporary connections by asking “what does it mean?” “Is it true?” and “Now what?” The last section of the preaching is “creativity in presentation.” Here Pearson suggests potential structure for sermons and contemporary applications from Jeremiah. Each chapter ends with a few brief discussion questions. Like other volumes in the Kerux series, Pearson devotes about one third of each chapter to preaching strategy.

Including the introduction, the commentary on Lamentations is about 64 pages. Garrett recognizes that the Hebrew book of lamentations is anonymous, although traditionally assigned to Jeremiah. He suggests “Little is gained by claiming that Jeremiah is the author, since the interpretation of Lamentations does not depend upon it being tied to the prophet” (431). Clearly written to Jews living in the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem, he suggests a sixth or fifth century B.C. date. The bulk of the introduction to Lamentations concerns genre, ancient Near eastern parallels, and the style of poetry found in the book.

The difficulty of interpreting a book like Lamentations is that it does not appear to have a message beyond voicing grief over Jerusalem’s destruction. He surveys several recent interpreters who argue the book contains a challenge to traditional orthodoxy. This includes feminist interpreters who find the metaphor of Jerusalem as a promiscuous woman offensive. Clearly, the book points out Jerusalem’s guilt as the reason for her suffering. The people have broken the Sinai covenant, even though God is a loyal covenant partner. This creates difficulty for a pastor trying to find a reasonable application in a contemporary context. Pearson warns against over-analyzing the text of Lamentations: “In trying to honor the intent of the text, the deep emotions that are present in the text need to be displayed as well as explained” (452).

Conclusion. Like other volumes of the Kerux series, Garrett and Pearson provide excellent exegesis and useful strategies for and preaching this important Old Testament prophetic book. Since Jeremiah is such a lengthy book, there are sections which seem too brief, but I do not think this distracts from the overall goals of the commentary.

 

 

NB: Thanks to Kregel for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Other volumes reviewed in this series:

 

 

 

Logos Free Book of the Month for July 2022 – Steven Lawson, Job

Logos Bible Software has a few promotions ending July 31. Check their Legacy Libraries. These are older collections originally sold with Logos 5-8, with curated themes (Baptist, Anglican, Pentecostal, etc.)  There are also some great deals on Expansion packs, curated collections like Biblical Theology Feature Expansion Collection (191 Resources) or the Systematic Theology Feature Expansion Collection (236 Resources). Some of the expansions are narrowly focused (Ancient Texts and Translations, Apologetics, Church Fathers, Church History, Gospels Studies, Greek, Hebrew, etc.) Expansion packs are a great way to add resources to your library since they come in various sizes (small, medium, large). Logos will automatically discount the expansion for resources you already own, so click through and see your price.

Logos Free Book of the month

The Logos Free Book of the Month for July 2022 is Steven J. Lawson’s Job commentary in the Holman Old Testament Commentary series (2005).

In addition to this free commentary, Logos has deep discounts on other resources for biblical studies from B&H (Broadman and Holman, or just Holman) and Kregel Academic. There are a few highlights here, included Allen P. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms, Volume 3 and Stanley E. Porter and Ron C. Fay, The Gospel of John in Modern Interpretation.

  • H. Wayne House and Timothy J. Demy, Answers to Common Questions about Jesus (Kregel 2011), $0.99
  • George W. Knight, A Simplified Harmony of the Gospels (Holman, 2001), $1.99
  • R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Exalting Jesus in Hebrews (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary, Holman 2017), $2.99
  • Walter C. Kaiser, Tough Questions about God and His Actions in the Old Testament (Kregel, 2015; read my review here), $3.99
  • Edward L. Smither, Augustine as Mentor: A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders (B&H, 2009), $3.99
  • H. Wayne House, Charts on Systematic Theology (Kregel, 2006), $4.99
  • E. M. Blaiklock, et al., Romans–Revelation (Daily Devotional Bible Commentary; Holman 1973)
  • Daniel L. Akin, George G. Robinson IV and Benjamin L. Merkle, 40 Questions about The Great Commission (40 Questions Series, Kregel 2020), $5.99
  • Alan J. Thompson, Luke (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament, B&H 2016), $5.99
  • Jason Duesing and Nathan Finn, Historical Theology for the Church (B&H 2016), $6.99
  • Stanley E. Porter and Ron C. Fay, The Gospel of John in Modern Interpretation (Milestones in New Testament Scholarship, Kregel 2018), $7.99
  • Michael Grisanti, Eugene H. Merrill and Mark Rooker, The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament (B&H 2011), $8.99
  • Benjamin K. Forrest, Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Vernon Whaley, Biblical Worship: Theology for God’s Glory (Biblical Theology for the Church, Kregel 2021), $9.99
  • Allen P. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms, Volume 3 (Kregel Exegetical Library, 2016; read my review here), $10.99
  • Philip W. Comfort, Ray Summers, Thomas Sawyer, Kendell Easley, Essentials for New Testament Greek Studies (3 vols.), $11.99
  • Ken Magnuson, Invitation to Christian Ethics: Moral Reasoning and Contemporary Issues (Invitation to Theological Studies Series, Kregel 2020), $12.99
  • H. I. Hester, Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Paul R. House, and Eric Mitchell, Hebrew History (3 vols.; B&H, 1962–2007), $13.99

Pre-order The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon (6 vols.; B&H, 2017–2021), $145.99. In 1857, Charles Spurgeon—the most popular preacher in the Victorian world—promised his readers that he would publish his earliest sermons. For almost 160 years, these sermons have been lost to history. In 2017, B&H Academic began releasing a multi-volume set that includes full-color facsimiles, transcriptions, contextual and biographical introductions, and editorial annotations. Written for scholars, pastors, and students alike, The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon will add approximately 10 percent more material to Spurgeon’s body of literature.

Head to the Free Book site and grab as many as you want.

 

Logos Best Commentaries sale

In addition to the Free Book of the Month, Logos is running a Best Commentaries sale through July 31. Follow the link for the top commentaries for each biblical book, with 50% discounts on individual volumes. Any “best of” list is subjective, but this one has a nice mix of academic, pastoral, and devotional commentaries. Here is my advice on buying commentaries (now ten years old, but still pretty good) along with links to my “top five commentaries” on New Testament books. Check out the comments for each post, readers made their own suggestions, sometimes better than mine!

If you do not already own Logos Bible Software, check out the base packages. You should at least get Logos Fundamental ($49.99) or Basic (free) packages and take advantage of the free Logos Book of the Month promotion (check out my review of Logos 9). Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the free / cheap packages. All it takes is a Faithlife account, and you can read your books using the iOS or Android app, the Logos web app, or the (much more powerful) desktop version for both Windows or Mac.

Logos 20% off

 

All the deals go away on July 31, so be sure to check out all the Logos deals right away!

 

 

 

 

Biblical Studies Carnival 196 for June 2022

Biblioblogger memeFirst time host John MacDonald posted the June 2022 Biblical Studies Carnival at The Secular Frontier: Internet Infidels Blog. He included sections on both Old and New Testaments, and in keeping with the theme of his blog, Secularism and The Bible And Current Affairs (Dueling Reactions To SCOTUS Overturning Roe v Wade). John’s carnival is a great example of how each host brings their on interests to their carnival. I would love to see more theology and church history bloggers host a carnival.

In other blogging news, Brian Small did a Hebrews Highlights for June 2022.

Speaking of hosts, I still need a volunteer or July 2022 (Due August 1) and September 2022 (Due October 1). I would love to get those lined up, so if you have thought about hosting, now is the time to step up and contact me via email, plong42@gmail.com or DM on twitter (plong42) to discuss hosting a summer Biblical Studies carnival in 2022. If you are a new BiblioBlogger, this is a good way to get your blog some recognition.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about hosting a Carnival this summer (or fall). Check out the Biblical Studies Carnival Master List at the top of this page to visit past carnivals.

 

Michael J. Gorman, Romans: A Theological and Pastoral Commentary

Gorman, Michael J. Romans: A Theological and Pastoral Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2022. xxiii+325 pp. Hb; $39.99.   Link to Eerdmans  

Gorman explains in his preface that the subtitle to his new Romans commentary, “a theological and pastoral commentary,” means he engages Romans as Christian Scripture. His goal is to consider the spiritual and practical application of Paul’s theology as presented in Romans in a contemporary Christian context. This does not imply Gorman ignores Paul’s message to the original audience because Paul is a pastoral theologian. In fact, he states several times in the book, “if John is the Gospel of Life, Romans is the epistle of life” (50).

Gorman, Romans commentaryThe book has two introductory chapters. First, Introducing Paul (3-20) draws heavily on Gorman’s Apostle of the Crucified Lord (second edition; Eerdmans, 2016, reviewed here). Gorman surveys various approaches to Paul (the New Perspective on Paul, narrative- intertextual approaches, anti-imperial, apocalyptic, etc.  Gorman identifies himself as a participationist, which is not at all surprising if anyone has read his earlier work on Paul. See, for example, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (Eerdmans, 2016, reviewed here). Paul emphasizes the believer’s status as “in Christ (Romans 6:11; 8;1; 12:5) as opposed to “in Adam.” Faith transfers one from being “outside Christ” to being “inside Christ,” that is, inside his body, the ekklesia. The chapter includes a brief sketch of Paul’s life and a survey of Paul’s theology.

Second, Introducing Romans (21-56) covers the usual things expected in an introduction to Romans. For the most part, Gorman does not stray far from the consensus on issues of date and provenance. Regarding the circumstances which led to the writing of the letter, there are several issues on Paul’s mind, but the key is that the gentiles have developed an independent spirit, even a spiritual superiority complex. He suggests Romans could be considered an extended commentary on 2 Corinthians 5: 14- 21. He is clear: the gospel is not a set of propositions, but a dynamic, life-changing force in the world. It is “the power of God for salvation” (30). For Gorman, Romans is a letter about Spirit-enabled participation and transformation in Christ, and thus in the mission of God in the world.

Unlike many recent commentaries on Romans, Gorman does not interact much with other scholarship. As he explains, “this commentary comments on the text, not on other commentaries” (xviii). He intentionally treats the English text using the NRSV (although with comparison to other modern translations and occasionally his own).

Gorman divides Romans into several major units:

  • 1:1–17 Opening and Theme: The Gospel of God’s Son, Power, and Justice for the Salvation of All
  • 1:18–4:25 God’s Faithful, Merciful, and Just Response to Human Sin
  • 5:1–8:39 The Character of Justification by Faith: Righteousness and Reconciliation; Liberation and Life
  • 9:1–11:36 God’s Faithfulness and Mercy and the Future of Israel
  • 12:1–15:13 Faithful Living before the Faithful God: Cruciform Holiness and Hospitality
  • 15:14–33 Paul’s Mission and God’s Plan
  • 16:1–27 Closing

Each major section is further divided into “discourse units.” Gorman’s commentary is not exegetical nor word-for-word (it is not that kind of commentary). Certainly, he has done the exegesis and read the secondary literature, but that is all in the background. Instead, he discusses the theological and practical ramifications of the text. Gorman grounds his commentary in Paul’s concerns and draws out the implication for Christian spiritual growth in a contemporary context.

Let me offer one example based on his commentary on Romans 13:1-7. First, he entitles this unit “a nonrevolutionary but subversive community.” He briefly sketches the situation of the house churches in Rome. Opposition to the believers arose during synagogue disputes, resulting in Claudius’s expulsion of Jews from Rome. This was a political act designed to break up a potential political threat. Jewish messianic expectation was anti-oppressor and therefore anti-Roman, since Rome was the ultimate oppressor of God’s people. Although Romans 13 is often labeled conservative, even pro-Roman (especially compared to Revelation 13), Gorman points out that the gospel Paul proclaims is inherently anti-imperial: Jesus and Caesar cannot both rule the universe. This means “the gospel Paul proclaims cannot in any way a spouse blind nationalism, hyper patriotism, or an uncritical stance toward political authorities” (254). Although he does not name names at this point in the book, Gorman applies this to the use of Romans 13:1-7 by then attorney general Jeff Sessions and White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders in the context of separating children and parents at the border. “Rather than being a blanket call to obedience and allegiance, which is reserved for God alone, Romans 13:1-7—when read in context—actually supports Christian opposition to many laws and practices. The Christian is free from the tyranny of obedience to political figures and entities but obligated to love and to work for the common good, even when doing so is an act of disobedience” (257).

Gorman supplements the commentary with helpful charts. For example, in order to illustrate the close connection between justification and sanctification, Gorman compares Galatians 2:15-21 (justification) and Romans 6:1-7:6 (baptism). “Justification is like baptism, and vice versa. More precisely, justification and baptism are two sides of the one coin of entrance into Christ and his body through dying and rising with him… it is difficult to imagine a more appropriate image for thoroughgoing participation than the liquid metaphor of immersion” (167-68). He summarizes the people in Romans 16 in a chart. (Phoebe is a gentile woman who is almost certainly the letter bearer and quite probably its interpreter. Junia is a female, prominent apostle).

The first two chapters and each major unit of the commentary conclude with reflections and questions. These are divided into two categories: “spiritual, pastoral, and theological reflections, and “questions for those who read, teach, and preach.” None of these are softball questions! The questions should tease out additional implications from the text and take the reader to an application beyond Paul’s original context. A surprising example is the use of Romans 14-15 to discuss a Christian approach to eating. Gorman asks the reader to consider a justice dimension to food production and food consumption. Gorman sees both as having a spiritual dimension. For those teaching Romans in a classroom, these questions would make for excellent student papers. For those preaching Romans in a local church, these questions are hints for pastoral applications which will resonate with people as they grapple with the text of Romans.

Following these questions for reflection is “for further reading.” In the introductory chapters, these are divided into “highly accessible commentaries and books,” midlevel commentaries and books,” and “technical commentaries and books.” These bibliographies will be helpful for students who wish to work more deeply on the book of Romans.

Conclusion. Gorman’s commentary on Romans is a pleasure to read and will serve pastors and teachers well as they prepare to present Paul’s dense theology to their congregations. If you are planning to preach through the book of Romans, buy this commentary.

 

NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.