7 Questions on Hebrews in the New American Commentary Series
David L. Allen serves as the Dean of the School of Preaching, Distinguished Professor of Preaching, Director of the Center for Expository Preaching, and holds the George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He was previously Dean of the School of Theology from 2004-2012. He served as senior pastor of two churches from 1982-1998.
Along with numerous other articles and chapters in multi-author volumes, he is the author of The Extent of the Atonement: A Historical and Critical Review (B&H, 2016); Hebrews in the New American Commentary Series (Broadman & Holman, 2010); Lukan Authorship of Hebrews (B&H, 2010); 1-3 John: Fellowship in God’s Family in the “Preaching the Word” Series (Crossway, 2013); and Preaching Tools: an Annotated Survey of Commentaries and Preaching Resources for Every Book of the Bible (2014, revised 2016).
Dr. Allen is also the co-editor and contributor of Anyone Can be Saved: A Defense of “Traditional” Southern Baptist Soteriology (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2016); Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism (Nashville: B&H, 2010), Text-Driven Preaching (Nashville: B&H, 2010), The Return of Christ: a Premillennial Perspective (B&H, 2011), and Preach the Word: Essays on Biblical Preaching in Honor of Jerry Vines (2014).
1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Hebrews?
I became interested in Hebrews in college when I wrote a paper on the authorship of the book. Throughout seminary and PhD studies, I worked on the authorship issue and ultimately wrote my PhD dissertation on the subject, arguing the case that Luke was the independent author of Hebrews. A revised version of my dissertation was published the same year as the NAC volume on Hebrews entitled Lukan Authorship of Hebrews (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010). I preached through Hebrews twice in the two churches I pastored from 1982-1998. I taught it many times in Bible Conferences as well.
2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?
The intended audience is first and foremost pastors; especially those committed to expository preaching. However, the NAC is both an exegetical and theological series. Though I make use of the Greek text throughout, I transliterate in the body and only use Greek font in the footnotes. Professors, students, and laypeople would benefit from this commentary.
3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Hebrews?
The uniqueness lies in four areas.
First, in the background introductory section, I summarize the case for Lukan authorship of Hebrews. Though this theory is as old as the second century in church history, I present linguistic evidence heretofore unnoticed that suggests Luke may have been the author.
Second, extensive treatment of the structure and theology of the prologue, Hebrews 1:1-4, covers 65 pages. This text is one of the four great Christological passages in the New Testament. It is programmatic for the entire letter.
Third, I have provided the most extensive treatment of Hebrews 6:1-8 found in any commentary of which I am aware: more than 50 pages.
Fourth, I have written this commentary from a discourse perspective, showing the overall semantic structure of the letter and how each paragraph is structured semantically as well. This is an important contribution that aids the expository preacher in preaching through the letter paragraph by paragraph. As William Lane said about the author of Hebrews: “Here is first-century exegesis in the service of preaching.”
4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?
Hebrews 6:1-8. This text is the single most problematic interpretative issue in the letter, and many scholars would say it is one of the top five most difficult passages in the entire NT. In addition to careful linguistic analysis of the text, I cover each of the five major interpretations (and of all the five warning passages in Hebrews), providing evidence for and against. To my knowledge, my treatment is the most extensive argument in favor of the Loss of Rewards view of the passage. I argue that the issue is not apostasy but spiritual maturity.
5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?
Life’s problems can only be met and solved by clear thinking about Christ’s High Priesthood and finished work of atonement, which is the doctrinal heart of the letter. My spiritual progress in my Christian life is grounded in my understanding of the person and work of Christ. Christ is my anchor of hope and guarantees the certainty of my eternal destiny amidst life’s currents of circumstances that crisscross one another in endless complications. Jesus Christ: the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8.
6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Hebrews?
4. Gareth Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews. New International on the New Testament. (Takes the place of Bruce’s original commentary in this series.)
7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?
I am currently working on two projects.
First, I am writing the manuscript for the atonement volume (The Atonement of Christ) in the multi-volume Baptist Thesaurus Series, edited by Paige Patterson and Jason Duesing. I hope to submit the manuscript early fall of 2017.
Second, I am working on a commentary on Job (Exalting Jesus in Job) in the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary Series published by B&H Academic. I hope to submit the manuscript by Dec. 31, 2017.
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