Interview with George Guthrie on Hebrews in the NIV Application Commentary Series

 

George Guthrie is the Benjamin W. Perry Professor of Bible at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Guthrie holds a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies and is considered to be one of the premier authorities in the United States on the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament. He has authored numerous books, including commentaries on Hebrews in the REBC series, Hebrews in the ZBBC series, Hebrews in the TNTC, and 2 Corinthians in BECNT series.

On April 28, 2017, it was announced that Guthrie was appointed as Professor of New Testament at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, beginning in September 2018. Dr Guthrie has been invited as Guest Lecturer at The Bible Institute of South Africa’s Winter School in July 2018.

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

In 1984-85, when I was taking German in preparation for Ph.D. work, I was tasked with translating an article on Hebrews’ use of the Psalms behind the “Gethsemane parallel” in Heb. 5:7. I was intrigued. Following from this interest, I ended up doing a Master’s Thesis under Grant Osborne at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on the use of Ps. 110:1 in the structure of Hebrews. Grant and Walt Liefeld thought I was on to something and suggested I should pursue the topic of Hebrews’ structure as a Ph.D. dissertation topic, which I did at Southwestern Seminary. Toward the end of my Ph.D. work I contacted Bill Lane, who was finishing his Word Biblical Commentary, asking for input on my work. Bill opened his life and expertise to me and requested to be the external reader on my dissertation. He ended up including about 19 pages of my work in the introduction to his wonderful two-volume commentary, which gave me a hearing with E. J. Brill, the publisher of my dissertation in the monograph series, Novum Testamentum Supplements. Not long after, Scot McKnight, one of the NIVAp editors at the time, asked me to do the Hebrews volume and set up a meeting with Zondervan editor Jack Kuhatschek, who had envisioned the series. Jack and I hit it off, and I loved the particular vision for the commentary series.

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

The NIVAp series is envisioned for pastors and laypeople. I tried to write it with both in mind. One of my greatest joys has been hearing from pastors around the world who have benefited from the commentary as they preached through the book. However, I also have heard from many professors who have used the volume in the classroom to great effect.

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

The NIVAp series attempts a balanced approach between basic exegesis, the hermeneutical move from the ancient world to the present, and application. The editors stressed that these were to be fairly balanced, and I tried hard to follow that direction. I especially worked hard to give pastors a head start on application by including great quotes, stories, etc. in the application section. I think the commentary more reflects some of my contributions to Hebrews research, such as insights into the structure, the role of rabbinic techniques of handling the Old Testament, and particular interpretive points. I was able to bring the research I had already done for a number of years to bear on the commentary.

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

Grappling with the “apostasy” sections (e.g. 3:6,14; 6:4-8) was quite the process. What struck me was that I could find no commentary that had really summarized the arguments on 6:4-8, so I tried to do that. That passage also has been the #1 passage about which people contact me, especially those who are struggling with assurance of salvation.

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

As I came to the climax of the christology in Hebrews, particularly 9:11-10:18, the decisiveness of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins really impressed me and has continued to be a cornerstone of my own faith.

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

Wow, there are so many, I almost don’t know where to start. [William] Lane’s commentary [in the WBC series] is still very valuable. [Harold] Attridge [in the Hermeneia series] is great on backgrounds issues. Others such as Gary Cockerill [in the NICNT series], [Craig] Koester [in the Anchor series], and [Paul] Ellingworth [in the NIGNT series] have much to offer. Lincoln Hurst on the background of Hebrews is still valuable. Over the past fifteen years especially there has been an explosion of Hebrews research, with dozens of good monographs being published.

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

Currently I am finishing a commentary on Philippians for the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series, after which I will begin a volume on Hebrews in Zondervan’s New Testament Theology series. My wife and I are moving to Regent College in Vancouver, BC, Canada in May 2018, so we are excited about a new phase of life and ministry. People can take a look at my website, georgehguthrie.com and follow me on Facebook.


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