Aaron Sherwood, Romans: A Structural, Thematic, and Exegetical Commentary

Sherwood Aaron. Romans: A Structural, Thematic, and Exegetical Commentary. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2020. xv+949 pp.; Hb.; $54.99. Link to Lexham Press

In the introduction to this new commentary on Romans, Aaron Sherwood states his goal is an accessible commentary that avoids atomistic approaches, one that “notes the trees but focus on the forest… the investigation especially looks at how Paul uses the letter structure to help convey his message. This approach allows Paul to set the theological priorities of Romans, ensuring that modern readers take Paul’s own meaning and theology from his discussion” (p. 1). Sherwood previously published a revision of his 2010 Ph.D. dissertation supervised by John Barclay, Paul and the Restoration of Humanity in Light of Ancient Jewish Traditions (Ancient Judaism and early Christianity 82; Brill, 2013) and The Word of God Has Not Failed: Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9 (Lexham 2015).

Sherwood RomansIn the 91-page introduction to the book focuses more upon the overall shape and message of Romans. Sherwood offers three reasons Paul wrote the book of Romans. First, Paul wants to establish a warm relationship with his audience (1:1-15; 15:14-33). Second, Paul wants to care for his audience pastorally (12:1-15:13). Third, Paul must defend himself against a negative reputation that has preceded him to the Roman churches. So 1:16-11:36 is Paul’s apology for his gospel. Paul’s goal in this large section of the letter is to ensure that nothing prevents his pastoral care from being effective nor hinders his mission to Spain. What is unusual in this commentary is Sherwood’s view that the main body of the letter is 12:1-15:13 rather than the eleven-chapter theological section. Scholars often wonder why Paul wrote such a detailed theological treatise to churches he had not yet visited.

Sherman observes that scholars generally agree on most critical introductory issues for the book of Romans. Paul wrote the letter from Corinth in the winter of AD 56-57. The audience is a combination of Jews and non-Jews who were committed to Israel’s scriptural heritage. Paul wrote to numerous house churches, which were healthy, although they were facing a few challenges. Scholars are equally unanimous interview that Phoebe carried Paul’s letter to Rome and was the initial reader of the letter (p. 778). He agrees with Esther Ng’s conclusion that Phoebe was not the leader of a congregation, Paul’s patron, nor his serving helper. She worked as the provider of hospitality and a supporting member of Paul’s missionary organization.

Regarding the theology of Romans, Sherwood argues the main point of the book is the Gospel and the Christ-event which inaugurated God’s Kingdom on earth, so that believers are as eschatologically restored. Israel is located in Jesus, so those who trust in Jesus are Israel (p. 42). All believers are quote God’s “humanity of Israel,” so they ought to live out their relationship with Jesus and their identity as Jesus’s disciples (ethics, pastoral care). Since God’s goal in the Christ event his eschatological restoration of humanity, missions is God’s vehicle for working with God to provide salvation for unreached people.

With respect to Christology, Sherwood detects a (proto)Trinitarianism in Romans. Jesus is God’s Messiah, but the Father, Son and Holy Spirit share unique divine identity of Israel’s God. Soteriology saturates the book of Romans. He coins the term “righteousization,” which is more or less equivalent to the more common theological word “justification.” This term appears consistently throughout the commentary where one would expect the word justification. Believers are righteousized by entering into a trust relationship with God in Christ. In Romans, “the process of righteousization (or justification) seems to follow a certain algorithm:

  • Believers believe in the report of the Christ event.
  • At the same time, believers trust God’s declaration of who Christ is and what he accomplished, as well as what God accomplished through him.
  • Also at the same time, believers are in a trusting personal relationship with Jesus, and with God in Jesus.
  • Then, with the above three elements in place, God gifts believers with the removal of sin and guilt against himself.
  • God also gifts them with a transformation of their identity, by which their character emulates God’s own divine character (p. 60).

Sherwood observes that soteriology is relatively distant from the center of Paul’s theology in the book of Romans. “It is profound, but it is less substantial than is typically assumed” (p. 62). For example, Paul’s limited references to soteriology in Romans do not show God’s grace is inherently irresistible, nor does Sherwood find any idea of imputed righteousness in the book. Rather than imputed righteousness, “righteousizing is transformational” (p. 61).

This rejection of imputed righteousness is associated with a New Perspective on Paul, but Sherwood is not a representative of this view. He thinks the New Perspective provides two helpful correctives to the traditional view of Paul. First, Romans does not focus on the tension between grace and works (or Law), and second, Second Temple Judaism was not a legalistic religion. However, Sherwood thinks the New Perspective reduces Paul’s theology to its sociological dimension, something he calls “an unsound methodological emphasis” (p. 67). Sherwood takes the “works of the law” (ἔργων νόμου) in Romans 3:20 as the whole law rather than limiting the phrase to the boundary markers (such as circumcision, food taboos and Sabbath). In fact, Sherwood translates ἔργων νόμου as Torah rather than “works of the law.” He says this phrase means “the Jewish commonplace of Torah observance, in the sense of having a lifestyle, identity, and devotion to righteousness that is characterized by habitually living in faithfulness to the Torah” (p. 227). He includes a lengthy digression on the use of the phrase “works of the law” in 4QMMT. He concludes the similarity between Romans 3:20 and 4QMMT is “rather incidental” and 4QMMT “should not be allowed to distract from a proper understanding of Paul’s message” (p. 234). This discussion is somewhat disappointing since the primary source he cites in this section is a 1994 Biblical Archaeology Review magazine article by Martin Abegg rather than the two major articles on Paul and 4QMMT by James Dunn or N. T. Wright.

Given Sherwood’s previous work on Paul’s use of Scripture in Romans 9, it is not surprising he devotes a large section of his introduction to Paul’s use of scripture. He provides two charts of Paul’s citations of the Hebrew Bible, one in canonical order in a second in order of appearance in Romans. Sometimes Paul’s use of Scripture is described as a midrash, although it is certainly not exegesis. Sherwood points out Paul has already done his exegesis and is now using cited Scripture in a “faithful, contextually determined meaning of that scripture in a way that serves his communicative strategy” (p. 74). He suggests Paul uses references to Scripture in a way analogous to a modern academic. Paul makes his theological point and then offers a “footnote of authorities” to support his point (p. 77). He argues Romans was not written from the perspective of New Testament studies, “Paul’s use of Scripture requires an interpretation that comes out of Old Testament studies” (p. 77).

The introduction concludes with helpful a ten-page glossary of key terms.

In the body of the commentary itself, individual units begin with Sherwood, his own translation. This is followed by a paragraph highlighting key idea of the pericope with the thesis statement for the unit set out in bold type. He then outlines the structure of the unit by means of a syntactical display of the English text. Although there are some comments on the structure, he avoids technical rhetorical terms. “Analysis and Interpretation” is a phrase-by-phrase commentary on the English text. There is no Greek in the commentary’s body, and it is rare in the footnotes. Occasionally he refers to textual critical issues in the footnotes, but this is not the focus of the commentary. There are references to contemporary scholarship in the footnotes, but in the main text Sherwood provides a readable and accessible commentary on Paul’s key ideas uncluttered by scholarly debate. As he stressed in the introduction, his commentary is selective and non-comprehensive. Each unit concludes with a summary and theological reflection. These reflections focus on the unit itself rather than larger ideas of Pauline or canonical theology.

In addition to the commentary Sherwood provides several short digressions throughout the commentary. These deal with controversial issues such as homosexuality in Romans 1 (155-57), imputed righteousness (269-71), and Paul’s view of empire (p. 673-76). Following the commentary are seven substantial excurses on controversial theological topics commonly addressed in a Romans commentary.

  • Natural Theology and the Identity of the Accused in Romans 1:18-32
  • Interplay between Romans 3:27-8:17 and Galatians 3:1-4:7
  • Salvation, Redemption, Deliverance, and Atonement in Romans
  • The “I” In Romans7
  • Divine Foreknowledge and Predestination in Romans 8:28-30
  • The Salvation of “All Israel” In Romans 11:25-27
  • The Disputed Originality of Romans 16

These excurses are substantial (over fifty pages total). By separating them from their context in the main commentary, Sherwood achieves his goal of an accessible and readable commentary since the average reader is not prepared for a protracted discussion of the “I” in Romans 7. Sherwood argues Paul’s speaker in Chapter 7 is “a representative Jew who is both convicted of his obligation to obey Torah perfectly and is perfectly appalled by his inability to do so” (p. 629). Regarding predestination and Election in Romans 8:28-30, Sherwood avoids both Reformed and Arminian positions, stating that his exegesis is compatible with either position (which is probably not going to make either side very happy). Regarding the originality of Romans 16, he states clearly “all things considered, there are no compelling let alone sound reasons for rejecting the originality of Romans 16:1-23” (p. 851).

He does not think that “all Israel” in Romans 11:25- 27 refers to future salvation of unbelieving Jews (p. 841). In his view, the best reading of this passage is that Paul is making a positive statement about God’s process of reconstituting his people, come what may. “All Israel” therefore “refers to God’s corporate Christocentric people” (p. 846) and that a reading of Romans 11:25-32 “with an expectation of ethnic Jews’ salvation would be a mistake” (p. 847).

Conclusion. Sherwood achieves his goal of providing an accessible commentary that sheds light on Paul’s Letter to the Romans. He avoids tedious comparisons of views from other major commentaries, although he is certainly informed by them. Nor he does not get bogged down in exegetical details which distract the commentator from Paul’s overarching theological themes.

 

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.

 

Logos Free Book of the Month for February 2021 – Joel Green, 1 Peter (Two Horizons Commentary)

Joel Green 1 Peter Two Horizons CommentaryLogos partners with Eerdmans for an epic Free Book of the Month promotion for February 2021. The free book is Joel Green’s two Horizon’s commentary on 1 Peter. The Two Horizons series uses the methods of Theological Interpretation of Scripture. Each commentary starts with a traditional exegetical commentary followed by a series of essays on theological issues arising from the exegesis. I have reviewed several of the Two Horizons commentaries over the years, see this review of Scott Spencer’s Luke volume (there is an index of all the Two Horizon commentaries reviewed). Geoffrey Grogan’s Psalms commentary in the series is only $2.99, both are excellent additions to your library.

There are two Pillar Commentaries offer at significant discounts, Robert Yarbrough’s The Letters to Timothy and Titus (read my review here) and a pre-order of the second edition of Douglas Moo’s James commentary. A pre-order is a great way to save on new resources. Logos measures interest in new resources by taking pre-orders, but you will not be charged until the book ships.

There are also two New International Commentaries offered this month, Robert Mounce’s excellent commentary on Revelation and Bruce Waltke’s Proverbs 1-15. Although a little more expensive than the rest, these are both excellent exegetical commentaries and worthy addition to your library.

  • Joel B. Green, 1 Peter (The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary), Free!
  • Juan I. Alfaro, Justice and Loyalty: A Commentary on the Book of Micah (International Theological Commentary series), 99 cents
  • Geoffrey Grogan Psalms (The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary) $2.99
  • Robert Yarbrough, The Letters to Timothy and Titus (Pillar New Testament Commentary), $3.99
  • Gordon Fee and Robert Hubbard, eds., The Eerdmans Companion to the Bible, $5.99
  • Walter Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming, $7.99
  • Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), $9.99
  • Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1–15 (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament), $14.99
  • Pre-Order Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, 2nd ed. (Pillar New Testament Commentary), $19.99

Pitre, New Covenant JewUsually Logos does “Another Free Book” promo mid-month, but this month they posted it early. (HT to Ruben De Rus for pointing this out to me!) Get a free copy of John Pilch, A Cultural Handbook to the Bible. This book was the 2000 Catholic Press Association Award Winner. From the blurb, “For those who seek to understand the Bible as a document from the ancient Mediterranean world and communicate it to people in other cultures, The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible is an ideal tool.” On deep discount is Brant Pitre’s excellent study on Jesus and the Last Supper (his chapter on the Last Supper and the Messianic Banquet has some really good footnotes). I reviewed Pitre, Barber, and Kincaid, Paul, a New Covenant Jew: Rethinking Pauline Theology here.

Here are the other discounted resources from Eerdmans on the “Another Free Book” page.

  • Frank Matera, God’s Saving Grace: A Pauline Theology, $3.99
  • J. Patout Burns Jr., Romans: Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators (The Church’s Bible), $5.99
  • Brant Pitre, Jesus and the Last Supper, $7.99
  • Pitre, Barber, and Kincaid, Paul, a New Covenant Jew: Rethinking Pauline Theology, $9.99
  • Oliva Blanchette, Maurice Blondel: A Philosophical Life, $9.99

If you do not have Logos 9 yet, you can get the Logos 9 Fundamentals or the (free) Basic Edition and begin reading these books right away. Right now First-time Logos users save 50% on the Fundamentals bundle, only $49.95. By following that link you can also choose five additional resources for free. Logos Basic is the free version of Logos Bible Software and has limited free resources, but you do get the Lexham Bible Dictionary and can use the basic edition to add the free and discounted resources listed above.

These free and discounted commentaries are only available through February 2021.

 

 

 

 

Logos Free Book of the Month for January 2021 – J. V. Fesko, Galatians (Lectio Continua Expository Commentary)

Logos Bible Software is offering a nice collection of Reformed resources as part of their Free Book of the Month promotion for January 2021. These books are published by respected Reformed publishers P&R and Reformation Heritage.

You can add the Lectio Continua Expository Commentaries (LCEC) on Galatians by J. V. Fesko for free for the month of January. Fesko is a well-known writer in the Reformed community, current he is Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi. He has a blog, although it has not been updated since April 2020.

This series is edited by Joel R. Beeke and Jon D. Payne and published by Tolle Lege Press and Reformation Heritage, Grand Rapids, Michigan. The series seeks to recover solid biblical preaching in the church, to Provide a guide for uninterrupted, systematic, expository proclamation of God’s Word and to communicate the context, meaning, gravity, and application of God’s inerrant Word. If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Continua Commentaries, here is a video trailer for series.

In addition to this free resource, there are an additional eight books on deep discount through the end of January:

  • Herman Ridderbos, Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures (P&R, 1998), 99 cents. Ridderbos stresses that the foundation for the canon lies in the history of redemption itself, wherein Christ gave distinctive authority to his apostles. 
  • J. V. Fesko, Songs of a Suffering King: The Grand Christ Hymn of Psalms 1–8 (Reformation Heritage, 2014), $1.99. This commentary hopes “to awaken the Church to the majesty, beauty, and splendor of Psalms through a devotional exploration of Psalms 1–8, a “grand Christ hymn,” in which David, as the suffering king, prefigures the King of kings, Jesus Christ.
  • Ian Duguid, Living in the Gap between Promise and Reality: The Gospel According to Abraham (Gospel according to the Old Testament series; P&R 2014), $2.99. Duguid pulls the reader into the dramatic unfolding of the story of Abraham as a significant stage in the larger story of salvation.
  • Matthew Barrett, Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration (P&R, 2013), $3.99. “Barrett also provides a helpful evaluation of both the Arminian position and contemporary attempts to chart a middle course between Calvinistic and Arminian systems.”
  • The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Volume 1: God, Man, and Christ, $5.99. First published in 1700, The Christian’s Reasonable Service (De Redelijke Godsdienst) ran through 20 Dutch editions in the eighteenth century alone.
  • The Works of William Perkins, Volume 1, (Reformation Heritage, 2014), $7.99. This is the first of a projected 10-volume set edited by J. Stephen Yuille. This volume contains three treatise: A Digest or Harmony of the Books of the Old and New Testament; The Combat between Christ and the Devil Displayed. Expounding Matthew 4:1–11; A Godly and Learned Exposition upon Christ’s Sermon in the Mount.
  • Richard Phillips, John, 2 vols. (Reformed Expository Commentary, P&R 2014), $9.99. J. I. Packer described this series as “well researched and well reasoned, practical and pastoral, shrewd, solid, and searching.”

If you were looking to load up on Reformed Resources, now is the time to head over to the Logos Free Book of the Month page. These free and nearly free books are only available through January 2021.

 

 

 

 

Logos Free Book of the Month for December 2020 – Philip Ryken, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory (Preaching the Word Commentary Series)

Logos partners with Crossway this month for  December’s Free Book of the Month. You can get Philip Graham Ryken commentary on Exodus, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory for free. This is part of the Preaching the Word series. Ryken is a well-known author and eighth president of Wheaton College and former senior minister of Philadelphia’s historic Tenth Presbyterian Church. 

The Preach the Word series is intentionally “theologically instructive and decidedly practical.” The series is edited R. Kent Hughes (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), senior pastor emeritus of College Church in Wheaton Illinois. In this series, “experienced pastors exemplify expository preaching and provide practical applications. . . this series is known for its commitment to biblical authority, its pastoral tone and focus, and its overall accessibility.” 

Here is a short one-minute video of Kent Hughes explaining the method used in the series

In addition to the free volume, other individual volumes of the series are discounted:

  • R. Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapel, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus—To Guard the Deposit, 99 cents
  • Philip Graham Ryken, Jeremiah and Lamentations: From Sorrow to Hope, $1.99
  • David Allen, 1–3 John—Fellowship in God’s Family, $2.99
  • Christoper Ash, Job: The Wisdom of the Cross, $4.99
  • R. Kent Hughes, Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, 2 vols., $6.99
  • Doug O’Donnell, Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth, $9.99

For about $28 you can add seven pastoral commentaries to your Logos Library. Not convinced?

There are 39 volumes in the Preaching the Word series (Hebrews is two volumes, so there are 40 physical books), If you ever choose to purchase the entire series from Logos, they will factor these purchase into your final price so you do not have to buy them twice.

As with all Logos books, these commentaries fully utilize  the features of Logos Bible Software, including fully searchable text, links to other resources in your library, and robust note taking tools.

These Logos resources are available only until the end of December 2020. Be sure to get these books while you can!

 

Logos Free Book of the Month for November 2020 – William Hendricksen, Romans

Hendricksen, Romans CommentaryLogos partners with Baker Academic this month for their Free Book of the Month promotion in November. Add William Hendricksen’s commentary on Romans for free to your Logos Library. Originally published in 1981 in two volumes, this commentary reflects a classic Reformed view of Romans and years of preparation. Hendricksen was Professor of New Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary from 1942 to 1952. After Hendricksen died in 1982 Simon Kistemaker (Reformed Theological Seminary) finished the series. 

Logos is offering several other commentaries from Baker at deep discounts. The Understanding the Bible Commentary was formerly the New International Biblical Commentary, published by Hendricksen. When Baked acquired the series they renamed it and updated the covers, but as far as I know the content is identical. Although they are brief commentaries, I have always found them quite helpful.

The Teach the Text Commentary Series  attempts to bridge the gap between exegetical and devotional commentaries “by utilizing the best of biblical scholarship and providing the information a pastor needs to communicate the text effectively.” Here is a video trailer for the series from Baker Academic.

  • Donald Hagner, Hebrews (Understanding the Bible Commentary), $1.99
  • Robert Chisholm, 1 & 2 Samuel (Teach the Text Commentary Series), $2.99
  • Craig C. Broyles, Psalms (Understanding the Bible Commentary), $3.99
  • William Hendricksen, John (Hendriksen & Kistemaker New Testament Commentary), $5.99
  • Edward Curtis, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs (Teach the Text Commentary Series), $7.99
  • Simon J. Kistemaker, James and the Epistles of John (Hendriksen & Kistemaker New Testament Commentary), $9.99

As with all Logos books, these commentaries fully utilize  the features of Logos Bible Software, including fully searchable text, links to other resources in your library, and robust note taking tools.

These Logos resources are available only until the end of November 2020. Be sure to get these books while you can!