Author Paula Gooder
Publisher Hodder & Stoughton £14.99
This is a clever book which delights on two levels. It is first a fictional narrative, based on the imagined but plausible life story of Phoebe, the deaconess named in Romans 16.1 as the emissary who delivered Paul’s great letter to the city of Rome. Gooder, well-known for the excellence of her scholarly biblical studies, reveals herself as an accomplished writer of fiction, producing a charming and entirely believable tale of first century Rome. She brings many names from the New Testament Church into plausible roles. But if the story is good, the commentary is better, and one suspects this is Gooder’s prime purpose. The second half of the book is essentially a companion volume of facts and analysis, providing a thorough grounding in the character of the early Church and the culture of the Roman Empire. It guides us through Paul’s theology, the background to his travels and imprisonments, and shows how Paul’s writings reflected the turbulent society of the first century. I strongly recommend this book, which will both entertain and inform.
Mark Through Old Testament Eyes
Author Andrew T Le Peau
Publisher Kregel £21.95
This is the first of a new series of New Testament commentaries emphasizing the dependence of the New Testament upon the Old. Le Peau has thoroughly found all the important citations of significant NT words, so that there are 25 citations for ‘follow’, for example. The reward for this diligence is a host of ideas for interpretation of this Gospel – material that will be new to many Readers – while taking the opportunity to comment briefly on the OT writings he selects, old ground though that may be for most of us. The book is particularly strong on the chapters from Mark 11 onwards, clarifying many of Christ’s difficult sayings. The writer includes some essays on general topics within Mark. These read like sermon extracts and will appeal most to those who appreciate American Evangelicals. This will make a useful supplement to the standard commentaries we already have, such as writings by Nineham, Wright and Williams.
Acts – A Commentary (The New
Author Carl A. Holladay
Publisher WJK Books £60
This is an extensive commentary, over 600 pages long, but quite readable despite its length. It is, however, one that is intended for the theological student rather than the general Christian reader. It considers that the author of Acts, whom Holladay does not consider to be a former companion of Paul, had access to some historical documents of the early church as well as traditions concerning Paul and others. Holladay treats Acts as a historical novel with the text shaped more by the Septuagint, by literary tradition, and by the author’s evangelistic intent than as a historical record. As a result, one ends up with a history of the early church where it is unclear as to what might actually have happened. This is an academic commentary concentrating on literary style over devotional content.
The Gospel According to Luke
Author James R. Edwards
Publisher Eerdmans/Apollos £42.84
This latest addition to the Pillar New Testament Commentary series is a most worthwhile acquisition for any preacher who is serious about trying to give a sense of the overall narrative shape and main themes of the third gospel. Edwards quotes the text of the NIV English translation, but there is frequent reference to the Greek text and an astonishing array of extra-biblical texts from the Nag Hamadi codices to Josephus, the Babylonian Talmud to Latin classical writings. Full author and subject indexes are strangely set off by only 3 pages of bibliography. However, bibliographies go out of date quickly and I will want to consult this book for many years to come. It is well written in an easy, lucid style, the scholarship balanced by fine imaginative insights. I was particularly struck by Edwards’ suggestion that, on the allegorical level the older brother whose younger sibling was so prodigal, is not just symbolic of the Pharisees, but a portrait of
Saul of Tarsus. The ending of the story is delayed on purpose, to be taken up again in
the Book of Acts.
New Testament Commentary