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Commentaries on the Book of Romans

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Question:  Dear Bob, which works would you advise for a serious study of Romans? I value your comment on this.  Kind Regards,

Response:  I'm not sure I said so in our last foray into that grand book, but I have always been personally frustrated by the utter lack of good commentary here, both from the grammatical and theological points of view. It goes without saying, of course, that no commentary can be perfect, but in the case of Romans I know of very few that are even slightly useful - ever. This is partly to be explained by the length of the epistle, which does not lend itself to short treatment (and that seems to have discouraged some commentators in the past - Eadie, Lightfoot, etc. - at least as far as I am aware, dealt with many of the other Pauline epistles, but took a pass on Romans). Many of my friends in seminary were very excited about Sanday (in the I.C.C. series), but I confess that it seldom jumps off of my shelf, and the reason is that it almost never has anything helpful to say where I find myself eager for consultation. Of course, a lot of this is what you (i.e., the user) may be looking for, so that accounts for a large degree of relative difference in satisfaction. Hodge's commentary on Romans has been reprinted by Eerdman's (I assume it is still in print), but Dr. Charles Hodge I find more valuable in systematics than in exegesis - still, it may be one to have. A less well known work from which I have gained a few insights is E.H. Gifford's On Romans, an un-presupposing little book that sometimes confronts difficult issues head-on offering straightforward solutions simply put (not deep into grammatical or textual detail, however - this may be tough to find: rpr. Minneapolis 1977, originally part of "The Speaker's Commentary" series). For text and grammar, my top pick is H.A.W. Meyer's commentary, part of the "Meyer's Commentary on the New Testament" series done at one time by Hendrickson publishers. Meyer did about half of the books, if memory serves, and various other writers did the rest, leaving the content not quite homogenized, but for Romans as well the other books there is a heavy emphasis on text and grammar and an eagerness to engage on the issues (or at least what are thought to be the issues) coupled with a large serving of synopses of the opinions of others (many of which are long since unavailable without hours of work with interlibrary loan and long waiting, if at all). For this reason alone, Meyer is valuable - even though often one would not agree with the final positions taken (and done so with a most annoying hyper-dogmatism on the most minute points).

All this said, I may not be the best person to ask about such things. In my opinion, there hasn't been much done since WWII on the commentary side of things that I find particularly valuable (years of disappointment attest to this). The reasons for this are numerous. In the late nineteenth century, one might expect a firm and orthodox faith in God, solid and deep preparation in the original languages, theology and ancient history/culture, a nobly motivated publisher, and an enthusiastic, discerning audience to be a not entirely rare combination. Nowadays, this happy constellation almost never occurs. Publishers are interested in bottom-line, authors are either secular academics (or nearly so) or well-meaning and popular figures who know little of the Greek and Hebrew text (and such). So while I don't judge these books by the cover, I do find myself prejudging them by their original publication dates very often. In closing, it strikes me as I recall that E.F. Harrison's "Romans" in the Expositor's Bible Commentary is not awful.

You might also have a look at the following links which address the issue of biblical interpretation from a more general perspective:

Study Tools and Methodologies.

Hebrew Language Study Tools.

Can you recommend some word study tools for Bible study?

Only-Begotten, Mother-of-God, On-this-Rock: English-only Interpretation is Dangerous.

The Greek Text of the New Testament and some Issues of Textual Criticism.

The Book of Job and Biblical Interpretation.

Bible Interpretation:  Interlinears, Academics, Versions et al.

How can we know whose interpretation of the Bible is right (Part 2)?

How can we know whose interpretation of the Bible is right (Part 1)?

Some Greek Questions in the Gospels (John 1:3; 2:19; 8:58; Luke 23:43)

Interpreting Revelation

I hope this is some small help - if you find something that wins you over, I would surely appreciate hearing about it.

Yours in Christ,

Bob L.


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