By Thomas R. Schreiner
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010
ISBN: 0310243726 (WorldCat, Google Books, Book Mole)
With so many different commentary series on the market today (e.g., ACCS, BECNT, BST, EPSC, NIBC, NICNT, NICOT, NIGTC, REC, WBC, etc.) one may rightly ask: Why the ZECNT? According to the general editor, Clinton, E. Arnold, the answer is simple: to be “useful to the church” (p. 10). He explains that this series will appeal to you if:
- you know basic biblical Greek and would like to use your language skills in studying a commentary without needing to be a linguistics super-scholar,
- you appreciate concise summaries of the main points of each passage,
- you would like to see the thought flow of each passage displayed visually,
- you are seeking to be guided through the main interpretive issues of each text by a solidly evangelical scholar who engages the latest scholarship,
- you would find it useful to read a brief summary of the main theological points of each passage with brief suggestions toward the relevance of these points for today’s church (see the full list at p. 9).
Every volume in the series employs seven exegetical tools to facilitate interpretation of each passage:
- Literary context
- Main idea
- Translation and graphical layout
- Exegetical outline
- Explanation of the text
- Theology in application
Perhaps the most innovative of these tools is the translation and graphical layout. The grammatical function of every phrase is indicated next to the authors’ translation. For example, Schreiner’s translation of Galatians 3:7a is labeled as an inference of v. 6a-b, and v. 7b is marked as an appositional phrase of v. 7a. Then, the translation itself is arranged hierarchically according to the thought flow so that the reader can visualize the logical arrangement of the phrases. These visual arrangements allows the reader to quickly grasp the structure of a passage, say, for example, Paul’s contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-24 (p. 341).
Turning to the Galatians volume in particular, I want to make just three brief observations:
First, note that Professor Schreiner writes for a specific audience and a specific purpose: “This commentary is written especially for pastors and students who want some help with the Greek text” (p. 13). Thus this exegetical commentary is not designed to be an exhaustive treatment of Galatians, polemically, theologically, or otherwise. Nonetheless, Schreiner does briefly engage other views on select points, such as, the interpretations of “justification” and “the works of the law” and “the faith of Jesus Christ” vis-a-vis the New Perspective on Paul (pp. 155-66).
Second, as a correlate of the first point, Schreiner’s commentary is all about the biblical text. Aside from a brief introduction to Galatians (pp. 21-59) and a brief concluding section that summarizes important doctrinal themes in the book (pp. 387-401), the bulk of the commentary sticks to explication of the text. This is a refreshing feature since many commentaries frequently bog down the reader in technical issues that are of secondary importance to pastors.
Third, the layout of the book is attractive, and the binding is solid. The fonts in each section, including the grey asides boxes spread throughout, are large and readable.
If you have had a year or two of New Testament Greek and desire to use and further develop your language skills in service of your preaching and teaching, then the consider adding ZECNT series volumes as unique and useful exegetical tools. If the Galatians commentary is any indication, the future of the series looks promising.
(Note: This post is part of the ZECNT Blog Tour sponsored by Zondervan. Several other brief posts introducing Schreiner’s Galatians commentary and other volumes in the ZECNT series are available here, here, and here.)