Interview with Peter H. Davids on James in the New International Greek Testament Commentary Series

 

Peter H. Davids (Phd, Victoria University of Manchester, 1974) is biblical scholar with professional focus on the Catholic Epistles. Dr. Davids is a professor of Christianity at Houston Baptist University and part-time professor at Houston Graduate School of Theology. He has taught biblical studies at Regent College (Vancouver, British Columbia) and Canadian Theological Seminary (Regina, Saskatchewan), and he continues to teach in theological schools in Europe.

Dr. Davids has written several books, including some of the best-reviewed New Testament commentaries. Other than his commentaries on James (see below), he has written commentaries on The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude in the Pillar series, II Peter and Jude in A Handbook on the Greek Text series, and The Epistle of First Peter in the NICNT series.

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

The NIGTC commentary was based on my doctoral research. One of the editors, who knew me, was staying in our home in Germany overnight and asked to borrow my thesis. What he read was apparently enough to convince him suggest to the other editor offering me a contract for James. And since the research was “in hand,” they wanted that commentary relatively quickly. The thesis itself started with a paper I wrote in seminary, which made clear to me that James was a book needing research.

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

The intended audience are those who are interested in James and can read at least some Greek. At the time of its writing, most seminary-trained pastors had taken Greek, so that was the biggest audience, but since the commentary engages the scholarly discussion going on about James, professors and other scholars were certainly in view. Some students in seminaries would have found it useful, as would a few lay Christians, but I would later write a commentary on James published by Hendrickson (1989) and later taken over by Baker for those who did not know Greek and finally A Biblical Theology of James, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude (BTNT: Zondervan, 2014), which would update the commentary and develop the theology for lay Christians, pastors, students, and professors.

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

The NIGTC commentary was a state-of-the-art scholarly commentary on James that was based on extensive background research. It used tools such as discourse analysis that were just being developed. I was aware of the latest developments in Jewish studies and Greek linguistics. At the time, there was no scholarly commentary on James like it, certainly not in English.

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

I found working on James 5:13-16 as particularly influential, for as I was finishing the commentary I was ordained, and God spoke clearly to me through that passage about my duty as a presbyter to pray for the sick. But in doing the research behind the commentary, passages such as James 1:13-18 and its echoes later in James were significant for I found the issue of the origin of sin in the person fascinating.

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

At the time of the writing, God was developing me into a pastor. I had always loved the church and thought I was pastoral, but during the work on the book I developed more of a heart for pastoral care. Thus understanding where God is in trials, how God gives good and not evil, where the sin in people (including me) came from, God’s role in giving life and providing the solution to our sinful tendencies, God’s great grace in receiving us back when we wander into spiritual adultery, and God’s provision of healing and forgiveness through the pastoral care of his presbyters were all significant for me. I realize how much Christ/God loved his church.

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

I would obviously include Peter H. Davids, A Biblical Theology of James, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude (BTNT: Zondervan, 2014), for that updates and extends ideas rooted in the original commentary. When it comes to other scholars, Dale C. Allison has written the most extensive commentary on James (ICC; T&T Clark): he has the data, even if I disagree with some of his positions. You cannot do extensive research on James without it. In German the best works are those of Hubert Frankenmölle (2 volumes) and Wiard Popkes. But for English readers Scot McKnight has a fine recent volume in the NICNT. Of course, there are specialized studies on various topics in James, especially in the journal literature, but they would be too many to list.

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

I have written at least two commentaries for each of the non-Johannine Catholic Letters, and out of that has come a continuing fascination, based on pastoral care, in the passions as the root of sin on a person’s life, how these passions were a concern for both Jewish and Stoic thought before James and the other Catholic Letters were written, the theological response in the New Testament, and how this was developed in the Patristic writers. Add in my interest in contemporary spiritual direction and family emotional systems, and one has the outline for what I hope will be my next book.

As for following me, I do have a website (www.davidsnet.ws/biblical) and a blog I sometimes write in (phdavids.com or www.phdavids.wordpress.com) and am on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.


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