by M. Eugene Boring and Fred Craddock. Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, Hardcover; 827 pages. ISBN: 0-664-22754-6, $39.95.
Here is a one-volume commentary on the New Testament with up to date information that is also very much in line with what Presbyterians believe. I am tempted to say, “This is the commentary for you;” because I firmly believe that every household should have one handy reference work that helps each person understand Scripture, and you would find this book to be exactly that.
Yes, I know you will tell me that we live in the age of the Internet with many commentaries available on line. But have you noticed? It is not always easy to tell whether you are reading a blog by someone with a theological axe to grind or some dusty old eighteenth century “divine” who, scholarly as he may have been, is unquestionably passé. You need fear none of that with these authors. Eugene Boring is anything but boring. He is the Briscoe Professor Emeritus at the Brite Divinity School of Texas Christian University. Fred Craddock is Distinguished Professor of Preaching and New Testament Emeritus at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Dr. Craddock is undoubtedly America’s dean of contemporary preaching and Biblical interpretation. Published by our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Westminster- John Knox Press, it is rooted firmly in the Reformed tradition, and designed to serve Presbyterians well. It was also one of the top selling religious books of 2004.
Looking inside, each New Testament book is treated in this way, first with background information about the author, sources, readership, date and place and structure and outline. There are a few choice suggestions “for further reading.” Then the outline of each book is fleshed out with up to date information. There are sidebar articles about such things as “Interpreting the Miracle Stories” and “Testing Prophesy.” As one further inducement, there is a fine article called “Interpreting Revelation’s Violent Imagery.” All well worth your time and attention. Also, the authors include “Figures” that show summaries of The Sermon on the Mount, Apostles Listed in Scripture, Comparative Chronology of the Passion and Form of Greeting in Letters. These are all tremendously helpful study tools.
The meat of the book offers insights on the verses of Scripture. The Introduction does an outstanding job of setting the tone, describing terms such as “Testament” “New” and the realities of the formation of the canon. There is a good summary of that time period, called “The Church’s Book,” in which the authors remind us that the New Testament was written by, selected by, edited by, transmitted by and translated by “the Church.” As the authors state in the Preface, “This commentary is an expression of the fundamental conviction that the New Testament is the people’s book. The book and the community of faith belong together, and out of the conversation between the text and the people come the preaching, teaching, believing and behaving of the church.” The book is handy in size (about the size of a hardback novel) and convenient to use. The print, while on the small side, is crystal clear and easy to read. Long after pseudo pundits of the faith have been forgotten, this work will still be a sure and steady reference.
JOHN DALLES is pastor of the Wekiva Church in Longwood, Fla.