Interview with Craig Blomberg on Matthew (New American Commentary)

Blomberg Matthew

Craig Blomberg joined the faculty of Denver Seminary in 1986. He is currently a distinguished professor of New Testament. Dr. Blomberg completed his PhD in New Testament, specializing in the parables and the writings of Luke-Acts, at Aberdeen University in Scotland. He received an MA from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a BA from Augustana College. Before joining the faculty of Denver Seminary, he taught at Palm Beach Atlantic College and was a research fellow in Cambridge, England with Tyndale House.

In addition to writing numerous articles in professional journals, multi-author works and dictionaries or encyclopedias, he has authored or edited 20 books, including The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Interpreting the Parables, commentaries on Matthew, 1 Corinthians and James, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, From Pentecost to Patmos: An Introduction to Acts through Revelation, Christians in an Age of Wealth: A Biblical Theology of Stewardship, Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions, Making Sense of the New Testament: Three Crucial Questions, Preaching the Parables, Contagious Holiness: Jesus’ Meals with Sinners, and Handbook of New Testament Exegesis.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Matthew?

I had written on both the historical reliability of the Gospels and on the parables of Jesus. While neither topic was limited to Matthew, both involved a fair amount of work with Matthew’s Gospel

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

At the time the conservative resurgence in the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention was still comparatively young and Broadman Press (as the predecessor to B & H Academic was called back then), the publishing arm of the SBC, did not have a thoroughly evangelical commentary series on the Bible. The NAC had local pastors particularly in mind but certainly all of the categories you mention were in view to one degree or another.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Matthew?

The uniqueness was that it was an entirely evangelical series written by mostly Baptists for a Southern Baptist readership to begin with, though obviously everyone else was welcome to benefit from the series. It was designed to be a mid-range work that was not too detailed or overly technical but still fully abreast of scholarship, well-footnoted, but written not so much for the scholarly guild as for the church. It was not that there weren’t such series available or that there weren’t individual commentaries on Matthew of a similar scope, but that the SBC at that time had a very large percentage of people who always looked to Broadman Press first before looking anywhere else (and in some cases, not looking anywhere else at all) that convinced me the series would meet an important need in the Christian community.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Matthew the Evangelist
Matthew the Evangelist

Maybe chapters 8-9. One of the things that I did try to work hard at was a very careful inductive analysis of the overall structure of Matthew. I wound up combining two popular approaches that were usually viewed as mutually exclusive. But to determine, as best as one can, Matthew’s own mind when he composed the outline of his Gospel, one has to look not only for signs that one has reached a literary seam or dividing point but also consider how each main section is structured internally, to see if a coherent segment of text with a natural beginning, middle and end emerges. The amount of symmetry I discovered as I examined these three chapters–three healing stories, two teachings on discipleship, three more dramatic miracles (including miracles over nature), two teaching on discipleship, and three healing stories—was fascinating but also significant because it showed Jesus’ authority over disease, disaster and even the demonic world.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Authors were encouraged to end sections of commentary with brief applicational insights, and preachers or writers ought not try to apply the biblical texts to others until they have applied them to themselves first. I suppose the Sermon on the Mount is perennially the most challenging, convicting, and edifying part of this Gospel for many people, and wrestling with the many different approaches to the Sermon down through history enabled me both to solidify my views of Jesus and social ethics and confirm several of our family’s ministry commitments as a result.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Matthew?

It’s been 25 years since my commentary was published so a lot of good works have come out since. Grant Osborne (ZECNT), John Nolland (NIGTC) and Don Hagner (WBC) have written very detailed and helpful works. R. T. France (NICNT), Craig Evans (NCBC), D. A. Carson (EBC rev.) and Craig Keener (Socio-Rhetorical) have written good mid-range works, though all of them are at least somewhat more detailed than mine. Focusing on exposition and/or contemporary application but also thoroughly abreast of the original meaning of the text are Keener (NTC), Michael Wilkins (NIVAC), Jeannine Brown (Teach the Text) and Ben Witherington (Smyth & Helwys).

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

Next for me today is not the same as next after Matthew, because I have been privileged to publish about twenty more books since. I am currently working on a New Testament theology for Baylor University Press. Amazon has a full complement of my books for those who are interested in seeing what I have done. Ministry and travel are posted on the Denver Seminary website (www.denverseminary.edu) under Faculty.

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Mark Bible Commentary: Interview with Mark Strauss

Strauss Mark

Mark Lehman Strauss is an American biblical scholar and professor of the New Testament at Bethel Seminary San Diego, which is part of Bethel University, Minnesota. His areas of expertise include New Testament Gospels and Bible translation. Strauss earned his B.A. from Westmont College, his M.Div and Th.M. from Talbot School of Theology, and his Ph.D. in New Testament from University of Aberdeen. Prior to joining the faculty at Bethel Seminary in 1993, Strauss taught at Biola University, Christian Heritage College, and Talbot School of Theology. He has also served on the Committee on Bible Translation for the New International Version since 2005. Dr. Strauss is married to his wife Roxanne; together they have three children.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Mark?

I did my PhD work in Luk​e-Acts, and I became convinced that Luke used Mark as a source. So I needed to do work on Mark to understand Luke. It seemed natural, then, after working with Luke for so long to move on to Mark. I became fascinated by Mark’s powerful and dramatic narrative style. It amazes me that many form critics thought of Mark as simply a haphazard collection of traditions about Jesus. On the contrary, it is a remarkably well crafted literary masterpiece.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

I was really thinking ​more ​about pastors and students than professors ​when I wrote the volume​. This is also the vision of the Zondervan Exegetical series. If written primarily for professors, it would have been more technical, with greater detail​ and more bibliography. But my primary purpose is not to be a research tool (though it can certainly be used for that), but to help the reader understand Mark’s narrative theology. Lay people can use it too, since the Greek is always translated.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Mark?

I have to acknowledge that I​’​m not the most innovative​ or ground-breaking of​​ ​scholars​. ​My best gifts are in taking complex technical material and simplifying it for readers. So I really wanted to write a commentary that was clear and accurate, and that guided readers through the exegetical complexities of the Markan narrative.

Perhaps my most unique contribution is an emphasis on a theological rather than a geographical outline for Mark. Many commentators claim that Mark’s outline is geographical: (1) Galilee (1:14–8:21); (2) The Road to Jerusalem (8:22–10:52); (3) Jerusalem (11:1–16:8). See, for example, R.T. France’s masterful commentary on Mark. Yet while this basic division is correct, the geographical emphasis is not. Unlike in Luke, where Jesus’ Jerusalem destination is identified as early as 9:51, and where the Journey to Jerusalem (chs. 9-19) is a major structural feature, in Mark we don’t hear that Jesus is even going to Jerusalem until chapter 10, near the end of the middle section and just before he arrives! The carefully structured middle section of the Gospel—which is crucial to Mark’s narrative theology—describes the (theological) “way” of the cross, not a journey to Jerusalem. So Mark is organizing around a theological theme rather than a geographical journey.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

I think I just ​mentioned it :-)​, the middle section that climaxes in the key theme verse of the gospel—Mark 10:45.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Mark the Evangelist

Mark​’​s call ​for​ believers to take up the​ir​ cross​ and follow Jesus​​ even to the point of death ​​i​s hard to fathom ​in our ​c​omfortable American Christianity​. Yet there are Christians around the world suffering and dying for their faith. We need to empathize with them. Mark reminds us of the true cost of discipleship​.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Mark?

​I mentioned ​R.T. France’s​ commentary in the NIGTC series​​, which is a favorite. David Garland also has an exceptional volume on Markan theology in the new Zondervan series. Mark as Story by Rhoads and Michie was certainly ground-breaking in terms of narrative theology. I’ll stop there since there are too many other good commentaries to mention without leaving some excellent volumes out (and so offending my colleagues who wrote them!).​

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

​I’m presently revising my gospels textbook, Four Portraits, One Jesus. Continuing in ​Mark​’​s Gospel​, ​I’m writing a critical introduction for a new series​.​ ​I’m also working a hermeneutics text and a number of other smaller projects​.

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Interview with Jeannine K. Brown on Matthew (Teach the Text Commentary)

Jeannine Brown Matthew

Jeannine K. Brown has focused much of her research and writing on the Gospels and on hermeneutics. In addition to a book on biblical hermeneutics, she has published two commentaries on Matthew’s Gospel and is currently co-writing a third. Brown has also co-written on interdisciplinary topics, such as Christian formation and interdisciplinary integration.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Matthew?

I’ve been interested in Matthew for years, dating back to my doctoral work. My dissertation (The Disciples in Narrative Perspective; SBL Academia Biblica) was on the portrayal of the disciples in Matthew, and I’ve written a shorter commentary on Matthew (The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, 2012) that whetted my appetite for commentary work.

I love following Matthew’s storyline—the way he weaves blocks of Jesus’ teaching with what Jesus does in Galilee and then in Jerusalem. For example, we hear in chapters 5-9 the interconnection between Jesus’ actions of healing—actions defined by mercy and justice—and Jesus’ teaching and preaching about the arrival of God’s reign in the Sermon on the Mount. These sections of discourse and narrative work together to communicate who Jesus is and what restoration looks like.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The Teach the Text commentary series is intended for pastors, students, and lay people. It doesn’t assume knowledge of technical vocabulary about biblical interpretation and so is well suited for laypersons. Yet it includes exegetical insights and also has sections devoted to “Teaching the Text” and “Illustrating the Text.” So, it would be very helpful for pastors and other church leaders, as well as for students who are in training to lead churches and other ministries.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Matthew?

I believe something relative unique about my commentary approach is that I provide a consistently narratival focus in it. By this I mean I highlight at various turns the literary intentionality and artistry of Matthew. My goal is to illuminate Matthew’s theology through my attention to the narrative contours of the Gospel, since it contains a rich narrative theology. And I focused the “Teaching the Text” sections primarily on Matthew’s narrative-theological vision of Jesus and the kingdom.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Over the years, I have become more and more intrigued with Matthew 18—what’s called the Community Discourse. This chapter consists of Jesus’ teachings for living life together in the Christian community and addresses both the ideals and realities of communal life. Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 18 maintain a balance among various values, including, protecting the vulnerable (“little ones”), taking seriously stumbling blocks within the community, and commending a deep and lavish forgiveness for those who have been forgiven so generously by God.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Flight Into Egypt
“Flight Into Egypt”
Eugène Girardet 1853 Paris

I’m impressed with Matthew’s “least of these” theology, which begins with his focus in chapters 10 and 18 on “little ones, who, though low in status, are to be valued within the believing community. This language moves to the superlative in Matthew 25, where Jesus illustrates his deep solidarity with “the least of these.” When we reach out in solidarity with the least, we will meet Jesus there. That kind of Jesus—one who crosses social and economic boundaries—is a Jesus I want to follow and emulate even more closely.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Matthew?

Hands down, Dick France’s Matthew commentary (NICNT). I have found it to be thorough, measured, and insightful. It was a great companion to me as I wrote my commentary. I also appreciate Mark Allan Powell’s work—for example, his article on the beatitudes in Catholic Biblical Quarterly. And I’m always helped by Amy-Jill Levine’s insights into Matthew’s Gospel. For instance, her work on understanding better first-century Jewish purity practices has been invaluable for my perspective on Matthew’s Gospel.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I’ve just finished and submitted the Matthew commentary in Two Horizons series (Eerdmans), a collaborative project with Kyle Roberts, theologian. We wrote two of the three sections of the book together, so it has the feel of an integrative biblical-theological project. I am also in the last stages of a book with Steven Sandage, psychologist, on the integration of psychology and theology (Routledge). My future projects include a revision of Scripture as Communication (Baker), a book on a narrative approach to the Gospels (Baker), and the Philippians commentary in the revised Tyndale series (InterVarsity).

Anyone interested in following my work and teaching can find me at www.jeanninekbrown.com.

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Interview with David Allen on Hebrews (New American Commentary)

Allen HebrewsDavid L. Allen serves as the Dean of the School of Preaching, Distinguished Professor of Preaching, Director of the Center for Expository Preaching, and holds the George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He was previously Dean of the School of Theology from 2004-2012. He served as senior pastor of two churches from 1982-1998.

Along with numerous other articles and chapters in multi-author volumes, he is the author of The Extent of the Atonement: A Historical and Critical Review (B&H, 2016); Hebrews in the New American Commentary Series (Broadman & Holman, 2010); Lukan Authorship of Hebrews (B&H, 2010); 1-3 John: Fellowship in God’s Family in the “Preaching the Word” Series (Crossway, 2013); and Preaching Tools: an Annotated Survey of Commentaries and Preaching Resources for Every Book of the Bible (2014, revised 2016).

Dr. Allen is also the co-editor and contributor of Anyone Can be Saved: A Defense of “Traditional” Southern Baptist Soteriology (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2016); Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism (Nashville: B&H, 2010), Text-Driven Preaching (Nashville: B&H, 2010), The Return of Christ: a Premillennial Perspective (B&H, 2011), and Preach the Word: Essays on Biblical Preaching in Honor of Jerry Vines (2014).

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Hebrews?

I became interested in Hebrews in college when I wrote a paper on the authorship of the book. Throughout seminary and PhD studies, I worked on the authorship issue and ultimately wrote my PhD dissertation on the subject, arguing the case that Luke was the independent author of Hebrews. A revised version of my dissertation was published the same year as the NAC volume on Hebrews entitled Lukan Authorship of Hebrews (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010). I preached through Hebrews twice in the two churches I pastored from 1982-1998. I taught it many times in Bible Conferences as well.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The intended audience is first and foremost pastors; especially those committed to expository preaching. However, the NAC is both an exegetical and theological series. Though I make use of the Greek text throughout, I transliterate in the body and only use Greek font in the footnotes. Professors, students, and laypeople would benefit from this commentary.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Hebrews?

The uniqueness lies in four areas.

First, in the background introductory section, I summarize the case for Lukan authorship of Hebrews. Though this theory is as old as the second century in church history, I present linguistic evidence heretofore unnoticed that suggests Luke may have been the author.

Second, extensive treatment of the structure and theology of the prologue, Hebrews 1:1-4, covers 65 pages. This text is one of the four great Christological passages in the New Testament. It is programmatic for the entire letter.

Third, I have provided the most extensive treatment of Hebrews 6:1-8 found in any commentary of which I am aware: more than 50 pages.

Fourth, I have written this commentary from a discourse perspective, showing the overall semantic structure of the letter and how each paragraph is structured semantically as well. This is an important contribution that aids the expository preacher in preaching through the letter paragraph by paragraph. As William Lane said about the author of Hebrews: “Here is first-century exegesis in the service of preaching.”

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

tabernacle replica
tabernacle replica

Hebrews 6:1-8. This text is the single most problematic interpretative issue in the letter, and many scholars would say it is one of the top five most difficult passages in the entire NT. In addition to careful linguistic analysis of the text, I cover each of the five major interpretations (and of all the five warning passages in Hebrews), providing evidence for and against. To my knowledge, my treatment is the most extensive argument in favor of the Loss of Rewards view of the passage. I argue that the issue is not apostasy but spiritual maturity.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Life’s problems can only be met and solved by clear thinking about Christ’s High Priesthood and finished work of atonement, which is the doctrinal heart of the letter. My spiritual progress in my Christian life is grounded in my understanding of the person and work of Christ. Christ is my anchor of hope and guarantees the certainty of my eternal destiny amidst life’s currents of circumstances that crisscross one another in endless complications. Jesus Christ: the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Hebrews?

1. William Lane, Hebrews 1-8. Hebrews 9-13. Word Biblical Commentary.

2. Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews. New International Greek Text Commentary.

3. F. F. Bruce, Hebrews. Revised Edition. New International Commentary on the New Testament.

4. Gareth Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews. New International on the New Testament. (Takes the place of Bruce’s original commentary in this series.)

5. Linda Lloyd Neeley, “A Discourse Analysis of Hebrews,” Occasional Papers in Translation and Textlinguistics 3-4, (1987): 1-146.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I am currently working on two projects.

First, I am writing the manuscript for the atonement volume (The Atonement of Christ) in the multi-volume Baptist Thesaurus Series, edited by Paige Patterson and Jason Duesing. I hope to submit the manuscript early fall of 2017.

Second, I am working on a commentary on Job (Exalting Jesus in Job) in the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary Series published by B&H Academic. I hope to submit the manuscript by Dec. 31, 2017.

I can be followed on my website: www.drdavidlallen.com, Facebook (David Lewis Allen) and on Twitter (@DrDavidLAllen).

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Interview with James McKeown on Genesis (Two Horizons Commentary)

McKeown Genesis

James McKeown was Vice Principal of Belfast Bible College and lecturer in Old Testament for over 20 years. He left Belfast Bible College in 2009 in order to spend more time writing and teaching in Church settings. At present he teaches Old Testament Historical Books and Advanced Hebrew at Union Theological College and supervises postgraduate students. For the last 4 years James has been a lecturer in the Irish Studies Program of John Brown University, Arkansas.

His interests include the Hebrew language and its application to understanding the Old Testament. He has written a number of articles on Old Testament studies. James is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a member of the Board of the Institute of Theology, Queen’s University Belfast.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Genesis?

As a lecturer in Old Testament and Hebrew at Belfast Bible College, I had taught Genesis for over 20 years. The most important aspect of my preparation related to the questions that students asked during lectures. This made me aware of the areas that needed clarification.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

This commentary provides a resource for people who are studying the Scriptures. While the Hebrew language is printed for those who will benefit from it, each word is also transliterated and translated. Thus the commentary is suitable for anyone willing to take time to study seriously. The theological section of the book, gives a good overview of Genesis and hopefully will be helpful for those preparing sermons or bible studies.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Genesis?

As part of the Two Horizons series, this book has two main sections. There is a commentary based on the Hebrew text and then there is a theological section that discusses the main themes and the key theological teaching of Genesis.

Readers will be aware that Genesis 1-11 has been interpreted in many different ways and there are lots of books that seek to persuade the reader that one particular interpretation is correct. This is not the purpose of this book. Various approaches are outlined and their strengths and weaknesses are discussed. I believe that it is important for readers to be informed about the views that others hold.

This book will be useful for those who want to examine the evidence available, particularly from the Hebrew text of Genesis, and then to come to an informed decision about some of the controversial issues. The book will not be useful for those who have their minds made up and don’t want to know what the other views are.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Every passage in Genesis has a powerful message that is just as relevant today as when it was first written. To pick just one passage that is memorable is very difficult. However, the story of Hagar is particularly memorable. I was surprised by the cruelty. According to the Genesis narrative, Abraham and Sarah, never used her name. She was just a slave girl, one of their possessions. However, she is called by name in the narrative and it is God who addresses her personally and promises future blessing. I am thrilled to read this story of how our God loved someone who was alone, badly treated and unloved.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

spiral galaxy
spiral galaxy

Genesis is a book of beginnings. In this commentary, I have tried to develop a biblical theology and show how the themes in Genesis flow through the entire Bible, both Old Testament and New. I am sure that when the risen Christ taught from the Scriptures the things concerning Himself, he would have begun with Genesis.

Genesis shows how human beings chose to disobey God and it also shows that God Himself was affected by this disobedience. I quote from the commentary, “God’s observation of the evil multiplying among human beings on earth has a dramatic effect: God is grieved and His heart is filled with pain” (p. 51). God’s love and compassion are fully revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ but this compassion is also clearly seen in the book of Genesis.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Genesis?

The Word Biblical commentaries on Genesis by Gordon Wenham, are detailed and tackle many technical issues that a shorter commentary cannot deal with.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I have also written a commentary on Ruth which was a very interesting experience. It is also in the Two Horizons series. At present I am busy preparing lectures for the autumn semester. I am a member of the adjunct faculties of Union Theological College (Belfast) and John Brown University (Arkansas). However, I don’t teach in Arkansas, but many of their students come to study in Belfast each year.

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Interview with Wendy Widder on Daniel (God’s Story Commentary)

Daniel Widder

Wendy Widder is an author, teacher, and scholar, who loves helping people understand the Bible better. Most of her study has been devoted to the Old Testament, and she is especially passionate about helping the church restore an appreciation and love for this oft neglected Bulk-of-the-Bible.

She has a PhD in Near Eastern Studies (University of the Free State), an MA in Hebrew and Semitic Studies (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and an MDiv with an emphasis in educational ministries (Grand Rapids Theological Seminary). She is the author of two books for single adults and a third book for Christian school teachers, which she co-authored with her father. Additionally, her master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation have been published, by Logos Bible Software and Walter de Gruyter, respectively.

Wendy currently works at Logos Bible Software, where she helped author half a dozen books for Lexham Press, the publishing arm of Logos.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Daniel?

I landed in Daniel studies less by choice than by necessity, but I’m thankful I did! My earliest life experiences with the book, aside from the familiar set of stories in chapters 1-6, were tied to end times charts and a fair bit of evangelical scare tactics. Understanding the book seemed far too complicated for an average Christian since even the experts kept changing the details about what would happen, who would be involved, and when events would transpire. As a result, I steered clear of Daniel for most of my adult life.

But when I was in my last year of dissertating, I needed cash and credentials on my CV, so I approached the dean at my alma mater seminary to see if he had any courses I could teach. He came back with “How about Daniel?”—and I mustered an enthusiastic “sure!” in response. After I taught that initial course (and loved it!), I ended up at the seminary teaching part-time for two years—and due to the school’s needs at the time, I ended up teaching the course multiple times. So, I guess the best answer to the question is that providence led me to this project!

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

My “Daniel” is in the Story of God series, a series designed for pastors and laypeople. My husband, an electrical engineer by trade, read the entire book on a six-day business trip—could hardly put it down—and thinks it should be required reading for all Christians, but he might be a little biased… I might be a little biased, too, but I think it’s really readable.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Daniel?

The series is committed to reading the biblical text in its ancient Near Eastern setting and also focusing on the continuing significance of the text for us. It is unique in that it also specifically addresses how the Old Testament texts reveal Christ, that is, how they fit within the full story of God as revealed in both Testaments. I hope that my Daniel commentary accomplishes this!

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Nebuchadnezzar
Nebuchadnezzar

I think the second half of the book, which is by far the more difficult half, was especially memorable. Maybe that’s just because I wrote it later, so I remember it better. 😉 Seriously, though, the first half of the book is such familiar terrain that it’s easy to forget the message because we’ve heard it so many times. But the crazy visions of chapters 7-12 were new terrain and as I approached them, I thought, “What on earth am I going to say about these that’s relevant for day-to-day life?” But as God is wont to do, He surprised me with the profound in-the-trenches relevance of the visions.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

I wrote this commentary during a particularly difficult season of life that caught me by surprise—as many seasons of life do. 🙂 It was deeply and profoundly painful, and while my suffering did not register on the global scale, it was mine and it was what I needed to get through by the grace of God. Much of that grace came in the form of this writing project. As I spent a couple hours each day in the world of Daniel, where suffering made no sense but God was still in control, I was daily reminded that the One on the throne knew what was happening in my life and had it all in His hands. I took great comfort in this truth.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Daniel?

I appreciate Tremper Longman’s Daniel commentary in the NIVAC series, as well as Ernest Lucas’s in the IVP Apollos series. I’ve used both of them when teaching the book. James Hamilton’s With the Clouds of Heaven (IVP) is thought-provoking and useful as well, as are Sidney Greidanus’s Preaching Christ from Daniel (Eerdmans) and Bryan Chapell’s The Gospel According to Daniel (Baker).

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I’m presently working on a second Daniel commentary — this one for the ZECOT series (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament). You can follow me on my blog (wendywidder.com), though I have not been much of a blogger over the past two years. Life has gotten in the way!

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Interview with Mark Seifrid on 2 Corinthians Bible (Pillar New Testament Commentary)

Seifrid 2 CorinthiansMark A. Seifrid is professor of exegetical theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. He has been the Ernest and Mildred Hogan professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois and he received his Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1990.

His books include, Justification by Faith: The Origin and Development of a Central Pauline Theme (1992), Christ, Our Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Justification (2000), and Justification And Variegated Nomism: Volumes I and II, with D.A. Carson and Peter T. O’Brien (2001, 2004).

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on 2 Corinthians?

I have had an interest in Paul, his message, and its relevance for us today for a very long time. Second Corinthians receives less attention than Romans, Galatians, and even First Corinthians. But its message concerning the “word of the cross” and the nature of Christian life speaks directly and powerfully to contemporary Christianity.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The target audience includes any and all who are interested in listening to the message of Scripture with close attention to the biblical text. I had pastors and their needs in mind as I wrote, but also interested laity. It will speak, I think, to the scholarly community as well.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of 2 Corinthians?

Corinth Canal
Corinth Canal

I have attempted to hear Second Corinthians as a “word on target” (Beker), addressing the needs of the Corinthian church after a long and contentious relationship with Paul. The letter is to be read and understood as a whole — and furthermore as the theological complement to First Corinthians where the question of the marks of an apostle and the marks of a Christian likewise stand at the center of the contention. Once the center of the conflict becomes clear, the relevance of the message of Christ’s power hidden within weakness and suffering becomes clear.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

I suppose that I would have to say Second Corinthians 3, the contrast between Paul and Moses, the ministry of life and that of death. Its relevance for the interpretation of the entire letter should not be underestimated: God gives life only where he has put to death. That is the message of the crucified and risen Christ.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

The fresh discovery of comfort in Christ, sufficient for living and dying.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on 2 Corinthians?

I found Ulrich Heckel’s Kraft in Schwachheit (Power in Weakness) especially helpful (although that is only in German). I still like Furnish in the Anchor Bible series. Frank Matera [New Testament Library series] should not be overlooked.

7. What’s next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I am currently working on a commentary on Galatians. Aside from googling my publications, the best way to keep track of what I am doing would be to visit the Concordia, St. Louis website.

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Interview with Allan Harman on Deuteronomy (Christian Focus Commentary)

Harman DeuteronomyAllan Harman is an Australian Presbyterian theologian and Old Testament scholar. He has written commentaries on Psalms, Daniel, Deuteronomy and Isaiah. Dr. Harman studied at the University of Edinburgh, gaining a Bachelor of Divinity in 1960, and Master of Letters in Hebrew and Semitic Languages, before going on to Westminster Theological Seminary where he achieved a Master of Theology in 1961 and later a Doctor of Theology. In 2003, he was granted an honorary Doctor of Theology from the Australian College of Theology. He was also one of the translators of the New King James Version.

What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Deuteronomy?

I first became especially interested in Deuteronomy during graduate studies at Westminster Theological Seminary under Dr Meredith Kline, who was linking the Near East treaty documents with the OT. When I started lecturing in OT myself I dealt with some of the issues regarding covenant, but being asked to work on Deuteronomy for the NKJV stimulated my interest more deeply. Teaching graduate courses on Deuteronomy, prompted me to commence a commentary to draw together some of the insights I had developed.

Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? Professors? Students? Lay Christians in the local church?

Along with other commentaries in the Focus on the Bible Series, this commentary was intended to reach an audience more particularly of students and pastors, but with some interest for more academic discussions particularly on the structure of the book. I try and write without a great deal of discussion with other commentators, and I think that that helps lay readers to use my commentaries as well. My aim is to try and explain the Hebrew text as I understand it.

What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Deuteronomy?

Probably the most distinctive feature is how I argue that chapters 6-26 are structured around the Decalogue. If we want a detailed exposition of the Decalogue we turn to Deuteronomy to see how Moses explained its significance, and applied its basic covenant stipulations to life in Israel.

What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Deuteronomy consists of Moses’ preaching to the children of Israel before the entry into Canaan. The sermons come to a climax in chapters 29 and 30, and I was amazed at the intensity with which Moses pressed home his message. He sets before Israel the alternatives of life and death, and wants them to choose life (30:19-20). This passage, of course, lies behind Paul’s words in Romans 10:1-13. It is a reminder that true preaching brings hearers to a crisis point in responding to the challenge set before them — belief or unbelief?

What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Mount Nebo
Mount Nebo

It was a blessing to work on the translation of the book, which forced me to be so conscious of many details in the text. Deuteronomy refers back to the previous history of Israel, especially at Sinai and then in the wilderness journeys. But it also shows how submission to the lordship of a sovereign God has to be demonstrated in obedience to God’s covenantal requirements. In general, its teaching emphasises redeeming grace, displayed in the Exodus, and which came to even fuller expression in Christ’s redemptive work. This concept of grace was a particular blessing when working on the book. Passages such as the institution of kingship (17:14-20) and prophecy (18:9-22) were also very helpful in pointing forward to Christ’s ministry as prophet and king.

Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Deuteronomy?

One of the most suggestive commentaries on Deuteronomy is Meredith Kline’s commentary in the Wycliffe Bible Commentary (pp. 155-204). This was reprinted in his book Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of Deuteronomy (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), along with his articles on covenant contributed to the Westminster Theological Journal.

I have always liked the Tyndale Commentary by my fellow Australian, John Thompson, and the exceedingly clear study by Peter Craigie in the NICOT series.

Commentaries by two other evangelical writers are also ones I recommend. Eugene Merrill contributed the volume in the New American Commentary series (1994), while John Currid wrote in the Study Series of Evangelical Press (Darlington: 2006).

What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I now have written several commentaries on OT books. They are:

Psalms (Mentor Series: Christian Focus, 1998)
Deuteronomy (Focus on the Bible Series: Christian Focus, 2001)
Isaiah (Focus on the Bible Series: Christian Focus, 2005)
Daniel (Study Commentary Series: Evangelical Press, 2007)
Psalms, 2 vols. (Mentor Series: Christian Focus, 2011)
Exodus (Focus on the Bible Series: Christian Focus, 2017)
Amos (forthcoming from the Banner of Truth)
Joel (in the Minor Prophets volume of the Crossway commentary on the ESV, scheduled for publication in September, 2018)

At present I am working on some shorter articles on OT subjects. Though I gave up the editorship of the Reformed Theological Review in 2013 (after 35 years), I am still connected with it, and both write articles and contribute book reviews. Most of my writing is done for three Christian publishers — Christian Focus Publications, The Banner of Truth Trust, and Evangelical Press — and readers can look on their websites.

Another interest interest of mine is the biblical commentator Matthew Henry (1662-1714). I own twenty-nine of his sermons in his own handwriting, and edited them for publication. The volume is entitled Matthew Henry’s Unpublished Sermons on the Covenant of Grace (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). They also appeared in Dutch (2002) and Spanish (2005). My biography of him, Matthew Henry: His Life and Influence, was published by Christian Focus Publications in 2012.

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Interview with Rodney Reeves on Matthew (God’s Story Commentary)

Rodney Reeves (Ph.D. in New Testament, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the College Dean and Courts Redford Professor of Biblical Studies at his alma mater, located in Bolivar, MO. His publications include Rediscovering Paul. (co-authored with David B. Capes and E. Randolph Richards) and Spirituality According to Paul (IVP Academic).

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Matthew?

As a former pastor (and current college professor), I’ve been concerned about the divorce between the academy and the church. It’s easy for scholars to do their work in isolation, only promoting the guild, with barely an eye on the needs of the church. That’s why I’ve always admired scholars who see their work in service of the church, like Scot McKnight and NT Wright. So, when Scot asked me to join the effort of producing a commentary that seeks to bridge the academy and the church, I jumped at the chance.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The Story of God Bible Commentary is designed to benefit ministers of the Church (clergy and laity, professors and students), informed by academic scholarship, written at a very accessible level without a lot of scholarly jargon.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Matthew?

Some commentaries try to convert narratives to propositions, extracting lessons for today. What I love about the SGBC is the series’ emphasis on the power of story. In each passage, we try to not only “listen to the story” (pointing out threads of other biblical stories woven into the fabric of Scripture), and “explain the story” (for example, how Matthew is telling a grand story within the episodic narrative), but also “live the story” (where we ask, “What would it look like if we were to live this story now!”).

Matthean scholars won’t find ground-breaking ideas in my work. Rather, I’ve taken what scholars have said about Matthew and translated it to the needs of the church today.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Jesus’ charge to the twelve to recover the lost sheep of Israel (9:35-11:1). We misread his instructions, as if he were telling us how to convert pagans to Christ. Jesus specifically told his disciples not to go to the Gentiles (unbelievers), but only to the Galileans who were “lost sheep”—which, I think, was an indictment on the leaders of Israel. These “lost sheep” were Jews who had been abused by “wicked shepherds.” Therefore, we should take his advice as wisdom for recovering our “lost sheep,” Christians who have left the church due to abusive leaders.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Seeing Jesus as the last King of Israel for the sake of the whole world, how he ascended David’s throne through the cross, and required his disciples to follow him by doing the same—losing our lives—helped me see even more clearly the way the kingdom of heaven comes to earth.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Matthew?

Gethsemane
The Garden of Gethsemane

I benefited greatly from W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison (ICC), Ulruch Luz (Hermeneia), R. T. France (NICNT), David Garland (Reading Matthew), John Nolland (NIGTC), and Craig Keener’s commentary on Matthew. Scot’s commentary on the Sermon for this series was also very beneficial—especially since we read the SOM similarly.

Finally, I really enjoyed working through John Chrysostom’s commentary on Matthew—there are some overlooked gems in there: great insights and one-liners that are humdingers. One of my favorites, when referring to the odd collection of the evidence that we are blessed of God—poor, mourn, persecuted—Chrysostom wrote, “In pronouncing them blessed, who are persecuted, and chased, and suffer all intolerable things; not for them only, but also for all who arrive at the same excellency, He weaves His crown.” That is brilliant.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I’m currently writing, Spirituality according to John (IVP)—a companion volume of sorts to my work on Paul’s Spirituality. I’ve also just begun working with my colleagues (David Capes and Randy Richards) on another “Rediscovering” book: Rediscovering the New Testament (IVP), where we are going to introduce the student to the NT literature chronologically (rather than follow the canonical order of the NT). We’re essentially trying to answer the question, “Why did God inspire the NT like that—Paul’s letters before the literary Gospels?”

Get updates from the Courts Redford College of Ministry at Southwest Baptist University here.

Find Dr. Reeeves blog here and a collection of his sermons and presentations on podacst here.


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Interview with Gregory Cook on Nahum (GAOT Commentary)

Gregory Cook Nahum

Gregory D. Cook has completed a PhD in hermeneutics and biblical interpretation from Westminster Theological Seminary, prior to which he was the pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church (PCA) in West Virginia and the youth and college pastor at Evangelical Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Delaware.

He has written a number of academic articles that may be found at http://minorprophets.org/articles/ or https://independent.academia.edu/GregCook2. You may contact Greg via http://minorprophets.org/contact/.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Nahum?

My fascination with Nahum began when I decided to preach through Nahum. I really struggled in that series, but I became captivated by the final verse:

“There is no easing your hurt; your wound is grievous. All who hear the news about you clap their hands over you. For upon whom has not come your unceasing evil?” (Nah. 3:19 ESV)

To me, it seemed a prophecy of Satan’s doom and I began looking for evidence of this within Nahum. I found much more than I expected, and this became the foundation for my Ph.D. dissertation. That dissertation eventually led to Severe Compassion.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

Severe Compassion is the latest in a series entitled The Gospel According to the Old Testament. The purpose of the series is to help those in the Church understand how various portions of the Old Testament prophesy of Christ and are fulfilled in Christ. I wanted to provide a resource for preachers and Bible study leaders to preach and teach through Nahum; I believe all of Scripture deserves attention and I knew that there were few resources to help someone who wanted to understand Nahum’s significance. My book provides enough material for a sermon series but is written so that high school student can understand it. Anyone who has little understanding of Nahum, but desires more, could read my book devotionally.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to the study of Nahum?

Nahum is the least-known, least-taught, and least-preached book in the Bible. Each book of the Bible is important—none is redundant. Severe Compassion gives preachers and laity a tool to understand the historical situation of Nahum as well as its application to the modern Christian. Furthermore, it is explicitly Christocentric. The purpose of reading Nahum—or any biblical text—is to exalt and reveal Christ. Unfortunately, many commentaries on the Old Testament do not give this aspect of biblical interpretation the attention it deserves. I do not know of any other book devoted to Nahum that interprets Nahum in a Christocentric manner.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

I have an interest in ministries fighting human trafficking. Because of this, I found Nahum 3:4–7 fascinating as it condemned ancient Assyria for its wide-scale human trafficking. I wrote two chapters on those four verses. The parallels between ancient Assyria and modern traffickers are striking. This has implications for our understanding of Christ as our Redeemer as well as the Church’s role in spreading God’s love.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Bull-hunt wall sculpture from 7th century B.C. Ninevah
Bull-hunt wall sculpture, 7th century B.C. Ninevah

Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32 ESV). Any portion of Scripture that we understand more deeply will bring freedom. I had the rare privilege of writing a dissertation in which I was fascinated by the subject, came to a greater understanding of Jesus, and reached conclusions that I believe will help the Church. The period of time I spent researching and writing my dissertation and Severe Compassion were sweet times because I was discovering and communicating truths from an oft-neglected prophet.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Nahum?

This question is more difficult for Nahum than for other books. First of all, there are not very many books on Nahum. Usually a commentary series will have an author produce a work on several Minor Prophets at once—typically Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah will be treated together. The second—and more significant—problem is that most Nahum books treat the prophecy as a three-chapter lesson on God’s general judgment against wickedness. For instance, one well-known conservative commentator wrote,

“The book of Nahum runs the risk of being monotonous because of the singularity of the author’s purpose and theme. He is intent on saying only one thing: Nineveh shall fall. But the variety of methods which he employs in saying this one thing are quite remarkable and lend great force to his message.”

Unfortunately, this idea that Nahum has a simple and singular message is found in most of the literature. I found many books on Nahum helpful in some way, but none that I would recommend as a whole.

7. What’s next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

It is increasingly common for evangelicals to interpret the book of Jonah as a parable rather than a historical event. The constant assault and ridicule of Jonah as real history has caused some to say we were not meant to interpret Jonah literally. The problems extend beyond the question of the fish. Commentators find the human behavior of the sailors, prophet, and (most notably) the Ninevites problematic. I believe the 8th century B.C. provides substantial evidence that the events of Jonah are an accurate historical record. This is my current project.

My website (www.minorprophets.org) is the best way to keep up with my writing. As items are published, I update the website and post the articles there if allowed by the publisher. The website also has the first chapter of Severe Compassion available for downloading in either e-book or audiobook form, as well as links to some of the online retailers who offer the print, e-book, or audiobook for sale. Currently, christianaudio.com is running a $5 promotional price for the audiobook, which is the cheapest way to obtain it.


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