Question and Answer with Robert Yarbrough on the Pastoral Epistles

Learn more about 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus in the Pillar Commentary Series

timothy titus bible commentaryRobert Yarbrough (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is the professor of the New Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary. He taught previously at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Covenant Theological Seminary (1991-96), Wheaton College, and Liberty University. He has been involved in theological education in Eastern Europe since 1990 and in Africa since 1995. He served on pastoral staffs in Montana, Missouri, North Carolina, and Illinois.

Dr. Yarbrough is author of 1, 2, and 3 John (2008) in the Baker Exegetical Commentary Series, which he co-edits. Other books include The Salvation-Historical Fallacy? Reassessing the History of New Testament Theology; and The Gospel of John. With Walter Elwell he authored the widely used textbook Encountering the New Testament: A Historical and Theological Survey (3rd ed. 2013), which has been translated into numerous languages. At the popular level Dr. Yarbrough is author of The Kregel Pictorial Guide to the New Testament (2009).

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus?

First, I have been involved in pastoral ministry since about 1975. Paul’s “pastoral” epistles have always been a natural and favorite focus. Second, I have taught and written about Paul extensively in various settings around the world in connection with pastoral training since 1989. These epistles’ truth and wisdom are never far from my thinking. Third, since the early 1990s I have been a contributor to three different editions of the book Women in the Church, which explores 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in depth. This has kept me active in hermeneutical questions at the center of interpreting not only 1 Timothy 2 but Paul’s letters overall.

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

Don Carson’s “Editor’s Preface” in every Pillar series commentary nails it: “Designed for serious pastors and teachers of the Bible, the Pillar commentaries seek above all to make clear the text of Scripture as we have it. The scholars writing these volumes interact with the most important informed contemporary debate but avoid getting mired in undue technical detail. Their ideal is a blend of rigorous exegesis and exposition, with an eye alert both to biblical theology and to the contemporary relevance of the Bible, without confusing the commentary and the sermon.”

I would underscore “serious pastors and teachers of the Bible” in the paragraph above, but I would expand those words to include “all serious readers of Scripture hungry better to know what it says and eager to put it into practice.”

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus?

Unique? I refer to 50 Pastoral Epistles commentaries in my bibliography; all have common features and concerns. In that sense none is unique, and I doubt mine is either.

How about “distinctive”? My commentary seeks to

1) see the Pastorals (and questions like their authorship) in the light of global Christianity and not primarily the post-Enlightenment (and often post-Christian) historical-critical paradigm;

2) show how the Pastorals reflect Pauline and apostolic teaching, both linguistically and thematically;

3) pay due attention to word meanings without overlooking literary, contextual, and theological considerations of equal importance; and

4) highlight the pastoral wisdom on display in these writings, as they model an approach to care of souls in the church that will prove fruitful wherever the gospel message is received.

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

Not surprisingly, 1 Timothy 2 stands out as challenging. I was pleased to arrive at a reading that emphasizes women’s call to discipleship, not their leadership limitations, and pastors’ responsibility to maximize women’s call to and competency for serious learning in connection with the church’s pastoral teaching.

Beyond that, my abiding memory of the several years that went into the writing is two-fold.

First, commentary writing is painfully hard work. In that sense I’m glad the work is through. Yet second, at every turn deeper study revealed truths and insights I had not seen before, or had not seen with such clarity or been gripped by with such conviction. In that sense I am grateful for the prolonged intellectual-and-spiritual-retreat that work on the commentary provided.

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

I was frequently moved by the confluence of various commentators—despite the complexity of the text and the interpretive issues, there is impressive agreement in much (not all) of the literature when it comes to major points of emphasis, especially Christology, soteriology, Christian ethics (good works), and the grandeur of God that commends his worship.

Also, because I have served in pastoral roles, and trained pastoral workers, not only in the US but in eastern Europe, African, and Asia, I was reminded again and again of the global truth and force of the message that permeates the Pastoral Epistles (as it does the entire Bible). What is good in this world is the work of the God we meet in the Pastorals through his Son, by whom all humanity benefits from both his common and his special grace.

The Pastorals attest, directly and indirectly, to a theology of the cross that often led to persecution in that era. It was edifying/sobering to rediscover this as it is observable in so many quarters of the global church at present, with some of which I have had personal contact.

Some days more so than others, admittedly, researching and writing the commentary was a doxological experience. Also, I would be remiss not to mention the collegial encouragement gained from interaction with Don Carson and Eerdmans editor Craig Noll as the commentary took final shape.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus?

Phil Towner’s NICNT remains the scholarly gold standard in English. Howard Marshall’s ICC (written with Towner’s assistance) is masterful in succinctness and interaction with German commentators. L. T. Johnson’s commentaries are expansive and creative; his Anchor Bible on 1-2 Timothy is a powerful tribute to the plausibility of Pauline authorship. For preaching, a go-to resource is Andreas J. Köstenberger’s Commentary on 1-2 Timothy and Titus in the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series. Ben Witherington III in his Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, vol. 1, draws helpfully on Mounce, Johnson, and many others and often arrives at fresh insights for rumination and proclamation.

For English-speaking readers seeking church historical depth (which should be true of all preaching pastors!), Luther (on 1 Timothy) and Calvin (on all three of the Pastorals) should not be overlooked.

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

Along with other projects, I’m working on a Romans commentary in the ESV Expository Commentary series. I hope to publish lectures soon on elitism and populism in New Testament theology. I also edit the pastoral and theological journal called Presbyterion for my seminary. At just $12/year for two issues (160 pp.+ each time) it’s hard to beat! Go to


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Question & Answer with Frank Thielman on Romans

Learn more about Romans in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament Series

romans bible commentaryFrank Thielman (Ph.D., Duke University) is the Presbyterian Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School. Dr. Thielman joined the Beeson Divinity School faculty in 1989, teaching courses in Greek exegesis. He is a noted New Testament scholar, concentrating primarily in the Pauline epistles.

Dr. Thielman is the author of many books including, Ephesians in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament and Philippians in the NIV Application Commentary. The complete list of his publications is listed on Dr. Thielman’s faculty page.

He is a member of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (SNTS), and is an ordained Presbyterian (PCA) minister. He and his wife, Abby, have three adult children, a daughter-in-law, and a grandson.

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

My interest in studying Romans goes back to the early 1980’s and my work toward an undergraduate degree in Theology and Religious Studies. I had a wonderful teacher during my first year of that study, N. T. Wright, who helped me prepare for an examination at the end of the year over John’s gospel and Paul’s letter to the Romans. Dr. Wright was a clear, patient teacher who was excited about Romans and communicated that excitement to his students. Several years later, I wrote a doctoral dissertation on Paul’s view of the Mosaic law, and much of that dissertation was devoted to a study of the law in Romans. Since then, I have published a couple of book-length studies of Paul’s view of the Mosaic law and written articles that deal with passages in Romans or theological themes important to the argument of the letter. I have taught the Greek text of Romans many times, first to undergraduates and then, since 1989, to divinity school students.

Romans never gets old. Every time I work through this theologically rich, intellectually challenging letter, the wonderful gospel that it explains remains encouraging and edifying.

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

I suspect this commentary will be most beneficial to pastors, teachers, and students with some knowledge of ancient Greek. Since all the Greek is translated, however, and the format is designed to make the commentary widely accessible, I hope that anyone, from layperson to scholar, who is interested in both the historical setting of the letter and its modern significance will find the commentary helpful.

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

The literature on Romans is vast, and Christians have many good resources available to them for understanding the letter. A couple of features of this commentary, however, may set it apart from most others.

First, the commentary contains a full diagram of the literary structure of each passage (in English) before commenting on it. This slows the reader down and lets the reader see in a diagrammatic way some of the major exegetical decisions in the commentary before reading the commentary’s exposition of each passage. Commentaries are typically difficult books to read, and the diagram hopefully makes reading and understanding the commentary easier.

Second, the commentary devotes a bit more energy, perhaps, than is common in exegetical commentaries on Romans to theological reflection on the text and the application of that reflection to the life of the church.

It is important to say that neither of these features of my commentary on Romans were my idea. They are part of the format of the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series. As I progressed in writing the commentary, I became more and more convinced that the series editors had made wise choices when they put the format together this way.

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

It is so difficult to select a favorite part of Romans! It’s joyful, life-giving message and symphonically complex structure make the study of every paragraph enormously rewarding. Probably, Romans 8:31–39 is my favorite passage in the letter simply because of the cheerful hope that it gives the believer. But your question has to do with a passage that was particularly memorable to research and write, and I think I have to answer (to my surprise!) 16:1–16. It was immensely enjoyable to see how these seemingly mundane greetings help the letter’s first century context come alive and demonstrate the practical effect of the gospel that Paul had been explaining in the preceding fifteen chapters.

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

As I worked on this commentary over the last seven years or so, I was reminded weekly and often daily of the profound, steady, costly love of God for his people and for me personally. Romans tells us that God is a God of immense love, shown most perfectly in the death of his Son for the sins of his people, but also displayed in the gift of the Holy Spirit’s power to transform their lives. Turning over every word and phrase of Paul’s exposition of this message was profoundly enriching.

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

It is hard not to talk in superlatives when talking about Romans, and this is also true of the vast body of literature written down through the centuries on this wonderful text. In chronological order, I would recommend Origen’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, available in two volumes, translated by Thomas P. Scheck. Origen anticipates many of the exegetical problems that commentators still discuss and often provides them with interesting, sensible solutions. John Calvin’s commentary on Romans, written in 1540, is a model of concise, clear, and sensible exegesis together with rich theological reflection. The same is true of the 1886 edition of Charles Hodge’s commentary.

The International Critical Commentary on the Greek text by William Sanday and Arthur Headlam (5th edition, 1902) is outstanding for its clear treatment of the grammar, its reasonable exegetical decisions, and its lucid presentation of the letter’s overall argument. C. E. B. Cranfield’s two-volumes on Romans replaced Sanday and Headlam’s commentary in the ICC and has quickly achieved the status of a classic. It is precise, clear, exhaustive in its examination of key exegetical problems, and often theologically rich. James D. G. Dunn’s Word Biblical Commentary explains the letter through the lens of the so-called New Perspective, but does much more than this. It is also a beautifully written and enormously learned study of the Jewish context out of which Paul wrote. The commentaries by Douglas Moo and Thomas R. Schreiner are models of expositional and theological accuracy and clarity. Robert Jewett’s Hermeneia volume is especially helpful in understanding the historical and cultural setting of the letter in the mid-first century Roman Empire. For any readers of German, Eckhard Schnabel’s exhaustively researched two-volume commentary in the Historisch Theologische Auslegung series will be enormously helpful.

Two books that touch on significant themes in Romans will help their readers not only understand what Paul means by “law” and “grace” in the letter, but guide them through the web of recent scholarly discussion on these issues. The first is Stephen Westerholm’s Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics. Westerholm provides a clear, sensible, and often delightfully humorous look at the modern discussion of law and righteousness in Paul’s theology. The second book is John M. G. Barclay’s Paul and the Gift. This book puts the concept of God’s grace in Paul’s theology into its original first-century setting and helps the reader understand how Paul’s concept is both similar to and different from the concepts of grace in his cultural world.

If I could only buy five books to help me understand Romans, however, I would invest in Calvin, Cranfield, Moo, Schreiner, and Westerholm. German readers should add Schnabel’s learned work to that list.

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

Lord willing, I’ll continue teaching the wonderful students at Beeson Divinity School. I just finished an article on Paul’s use of Scripture in Romans 9:32–33 that should appear soon in the journal New Testament Studies. I am also currently working on a book on Paul’s missionary career and letters, but it is in its infancy. I don’t have much of an online presence, but from time to time I show up in a podcast or chapel sermon on Beeson’s web site.


Get Frank Thielman’s commentary on Romans on Christian Book Distributors

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Question and Answer with David deSilva on Galatians

Learn more about Galatians in the New International Commentary on the New Testament

galatians bible commentaryDavid A. deSilva (Phd., Emory University) is the Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek at Ashland Theological Seminary. 

He is the author of over twenty-five books, including Day of Atonement: A Novel of the Maccabean Revolt (Kregel, 2015), The Jewish Teachers of Jesus, James, and Jude: What Earliest Christianity Learned from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (Oxford, 2012), Seeing Things John’s Way: The Rhetoric of Revelation(Westminster John Knox, 2009), An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation (InterVaristy, 2004), Introducing the Apocrypha (Baker Academic, 2002), Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture (InterVarsity, 2000), and Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-rhetorical Commentary on the Letter “to the Hebrews” (Eerdmans, 2000).

He was involved in several major Bible translation projects, serving as the Apocrypha Editor for the Common English Bible and working on the revision of the Apocrypha for the English Standard Version. He has also created several video resources and Mobile Ed courses for Faithlife, including “The Apocrypha: Witness Between the Testaments” (BI 291), “The Cultural World of the New Testament” (NT 201), and “Interpreting the Epistle to the Hebrews” (NT TBA).

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

It was actually my early work on 4 Maccabees (of all things) that made me start thinking about Galatians in a way that drew me into the deeper study of the letter. The author of 4 Maccabees promotes strict observance of the laws laid out in the Torah as the God-given way to master the passions and desires that lead one to sin (Paul’s “works of the flesh”) and lead one to exhibit the full range of virtue. It got me thinking about how the rival teachers might have presented their “gospel” in Galatia. I approached this commentary with a great deal of trepidation and care, building up to it with a short commentary (Global Readings: A Sri Lankan Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians) which was essentially my way of proving to myself that I could develop a coherent reading of the letter, a handbook on the Greek text for Baylor’s series, and a short piece on Pauline theology (Transformation: The Heart of Paul’s Gospel) since I knew I had to sort out some basic questions there before proceeding.

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

Like the NICNT series as a whole, this commentary is written first and foremost for the pastor who needs to thoroughly understand a scriptural text for the ministry of teaching and preaching. This also makes the commentary ideal for the seminary student (and the seminary classroom). I believe that academic colleagues will find some arguments and options in my commentary stimulating for their own research (even as I have turn to volumes of the NICNT throughout my career as an academic alongside the “heavier” commentary series), but it’s not written first and foremost to serve academic ends. If the lay Christian in the local church were to ignore the footnotes entirely, he or she would find the main discussion accessible and relevant to his or her interests, though admittedly a bit on the heavy side.

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

I don’t think of the commentary as particularly “unique” – indeed, I’d be afraid at this point that something truly “unique” in biblical studies would be thoroughly off base! I do think that this commentary offers at least a distinctive blend of attention to the rhetorical, cultural, and ideological contexts of the letter and its argumentation, due diligence in the more standard facets of exegesis, and interest in uncovering Paul’s vision for the formation of the Christian disciple, the local community of disciples, and the global body of disciples. It involves itself fully in the theological questions that one would expect: What is “justification” and how does one arrive at that goal? What is the place of the Law in God’s historic plan for humanity and now in the life of the Christ-follower? If the Law will not lead us to righteousness in God’s sight, what will?

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

Galatians 2:16, because I was absolutely stalled there until I had figured out and committed myself to (in three long excurses!) the meaning of justification in Paul, the sense of the phrase pistis Christou (spoiler: “trusting Jesus” seems by far the stronger option), and what Paul had in mind by “works of the Law.” After that, Gal 3:10-14, again because there were so many questions to untangle, and the matter of the stoicheia tou kosmou, because I find the concept so important for understanding the well-worn ruts of the “old creation” into which we are all socialized – and from which we must leap up and out if we are ever to catch the vision that God has for us as “new creation.”

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

I think I have to answer this question as if you had ended it differently, namely with: “increasing my appreciation for God’s provision for and involvement in our lives.” Working through Galatians again and again held before me ever more urgently the person and role of God the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity that gets a toss-off, single line in the Apostles’ Creed. The experience of the Holy Spirit is a foundational one for Paul’s converts: knowing that they have received the Spirit should put an end to their waffling in the face of the rival teachers’ sales pitch (3:2-5). Paul tells us that a principal purpose for Jesus’s death was to secure for us this Holy Spirit (3:13-14) – and we should value the end even more than we value the means by which it was attained. Paul insists that the Holy Spirit’s effective presence is enough to guarantee victory over the passions of the flesh (and their corruption of our lives and relationships, and the corruption of the grave that is the flesh’s ultimate bequest for us) if we would but walk in step with the Spirit (5:5-6, 13-25; 6:7-8). The exegetical work significantly changed the emphasis of my work in the pulpit and the sanctuary.

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

I found Andrew Das’s commentary in the Concordia Commentary series to be extremely helpful. D. Francois Tolmie’s monograph Persuading the Galatians (Mohr Siebeck, 2005) is an important, stimulating, and insightful example of how one an execute “rhetorical criticism” of Galatians apart from relying on classical rhetorical theory. J. M. G. Barclay’s early monograph, Obeying the Truth (Fortress Press, 1988) was deeply formative for my thinking about Galatians early on in my career, and I still recommend it to my students as the best single monograph on Galatians they could read.

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

I’m turning my attention back to Revelation for a while. I am currently working on A Week in the Life of Ephesus for InterVarsity, a book that I understand will be the seventh and last in that series. The goal of each book in the series is to provide a window into the everyday, lived world of an important city (Corinth, Jerusalem, Rome) or type of person (a slave, a centurion, a woman) in relation to a New Testament text. I am trying to bring Ephesus to life in a week immediately preceding the inauguration of its great Temple to Domitian in AD 89/90, with a view to immersing my readers in the world that John addressed in Revelation. After that, a brief textbook on Revelation for Eerdmans/SPCK’s Discovering series and a commentary for Eerdmans’s socio-rhetorical series. Find me on Facebook or follow my (admittedly sporadic) blog (


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Question and Answer with Mickey Klink on the Gospel of John

Learn more about John in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary Series

john bible commentaryEdward W. Klink (Ph.D., University of St. Andrews, Scotland) is the Senior Pastor of Hope Church in Roscoe, Illinois. After serving for nearly a decade as a professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University in southern California, he was led to transition from teaching and the professorate to preaching and the pastorate. He was called by Hope Church and became their Senior Pastor in July of 2014.

Other than John in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series, Dr. Klink is the author of The Sheep of the Fold: The Audience and Origin of the Gospel of John (Cambridge, 2007), The Audience of the Gospels: The Origin and Function of the Gospels in Early Christianity (editor; T. & T. Clark, 2010), and Understanding Biblical Theology: A Comparison of Theory and Practice (with Darian R. Lockett; Zondervan, 2012).

Dr. Klink has been married to Laura since 1999, and they have three children: Jacob, Benjamin, and Ruth. He enjoys reading, camping and hiking, playing basketball, and watching the Chicago Bears.

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

I have had an interest in John since I was an MDiv student at TEDS in Grant Osborne’s class on the Gospels. We covered the Synoptics for 14 weeks, and John for only one week, which only made more mysterious to me the elusive and unique Fourth Gospel. When I had the freedom to select a ThM thesis topic later in my studies, I chose a textual issue in the Gospel of John (the so-called Johannine Pentecost in 20:19-23), and my love for the Fourth Gospel began. After focusing on John for my PhD under Richard Bauckham at the University of St. Andrews, my research in this Gospel was
well underway.

In one sense you cannot prepare to write a commentary, for it requires all the skills developed over years of study and research. Certainly my research focus on John was foundational. At least for my commentary on John, or for my approach to the exegetical task, I found my understanding of biblical and systematic theology, even historical theology, were important contributors to the nature and process of my exegesis.

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

Most commentaries are desired and designed by publishers to reach a multi-faceted audience, although the ZECNT makes clear that it is clearly concerned to be useful for pastors. At the same time, the in-depth exegetical explanations, the engagement with the original language, and the theological summaries makes it very useful for students as well as a worthy contribution to Johannine scholarship.

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

I tried to offer a fresh reading of John that I do believe provided several helpful contributions. Here are three specific examples that come to mind: an explanation of the role of the prologue for reading the rest of the gospel, the nature and function of dialogues, and the development of a less common view of the story of Nicodemus. More generally, I think my reading of John offered a reading that tried to read the parts with the whole, and in a sincerely theological manner. I was not trying to do something new; if anything I was trying to do something old – read John as Christian Scripture and not merely as an ancient text. I believe this alone was a significant contribution, not only to Johannine studies, but also to the study of exegesis and interpretation.

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

The prologue of John (1:1-18) was the most memorable section to research and write, not only because it serves as the launching pad for the message of the rest of the Gospel, but also because of its rich mode of communication and dense theological message. I spent three months writing on those 18 verses, and could have spent even more.

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

The Gospel of John presents the reader with a beautiful and compelling portrait of Christ and “the gospel,” and winsomely invites the reader to participate in the reality it presents. As I worked through the Gospel, I was strengthened in my understanding of my identity as a child of the Father through Christ, the wonderful grace of the gospel, and the nature and bounty of the Christian life.

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

I will list a few with a brief comment, though in no particular order:

–E. C. Hoskyns – the best theological commentary in the last century. [link]

–D. A. Carson – my former teacher and a skilled evaluator of interpretive issues. [link]

–L. Morris – a very careful reading of John in its historical context. [link]

–R. E. Brown robust in all dimensions of the exegetical task. [link]

–R. Bultmann – I usually disagreed with his conclusions, but he sees the text so well. [link]

–Augustine – don’t neglect the pre-critical; Augustine’s writings resonated with the message and theology of the Fourth Gospel. [link]

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

I am working on two book projects right now. The first is a book on ecclesiology and the Christian life, and the second is a book on creation, Gen 1-2, and the physical world. Both of these projects are driven by my social location as a pastor, as I try to write in ways that help the church grasp and live out the gospel in daily life.


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Question and Answer with Joshua Moon on Hosea

Learn more about Hosea in the Apollos Old Testament Commentary Series

hosea bible commentaryJoshua N. Moon (PhD University of St Andrews) is Fellows Tutor at Anselm House, on the campus of the University of Minnesota, St Paul. He has served previously as a senior pastor, and is the author of Jeremiah’s New Covenant: An Augustinian Reading in Dialogue with the Christian Tradition.

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

I fell in love with the prophets when I was in seminary. I was sitting in the library reading through Jeremiah for the upteenth time in my life, and all of a sudden the rhetoric, passion, and directness of the preaching came alive. Luther speaks of Scripture as the “sermo dei,” and I found that the case for the prophets for the first time that day. I began to do all of my seminary papers on the prophets (whether relevant or not to the assignment!), did Masters and Ph.D. work in the book of Jeremiah—the “new covenant” text and its history of interpretation—and have lived and breathed with the prophets ever since.​

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

​The main audience was pastors who are wanting to preach, but of course that is to say it is aimed for any generally educated Christian. Each paragraph/unit of Hosea is discussed under different sections: Translation, Notes on the Text, Form/Structure, Comments, and Explanation. The emphasis of course is on the latter two, with the Explanation as the goal. There is technical material, but it is contained largely within the “Notes” section, so it should not be overly intimidating to someone without languages or interest in grammar and textual details.

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

​Two parts, I hope, contribute rather uniquely ​to Hosea studies. I talk about one of them, Hosea’s marriages, under #4 below. The other is more general: the Explanation section of each part of the commentary deliberately brings the book of Hosea into discussion with theological matters. The separation of theology and biblical studies, as though one could flourish without the other, has gone on far too long in the prophets. Theology has an enormous amount to contribute to our readings of the prophets, from discussions of divine justice to idolatry, from worship as formative practice to hope in the midst of trial. These are theological concerns that should shape, and be shaped by, readings of the prophets. I want to bring the prophets into Christian imaginations, and this commentary works to do that.

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

​Without a doubt the discussion of Hosea’s marriages. On the one hand, it’s the only thing people tend to know about Hosea if they know anything: he married a prostitute (or at least a disreputable woman). I had a light bulb moment on the text as I was reading in other fields about honor/shame discourse and the nature of honor/shame as a social commodity.​ Readers have struggled immensely with understanding the text, how to construe the marriage, why it is there, why Hosea doesn’t say a thing about Gomer’s infidelity towards him if that is actually the point at issue. I was able to resolve all of these with a simple, I think elegant, proposal that the concern here has to do with marriage as a public institution in the ancient world and one in which honor/shame were at stake. Hosea was commanded to marry a woman who brought shame upon him in the public eye, an illustration of the shame brought on Yhwh by his being bound to his people. It’s a common enough theme throughout the prophets, and resolves the problems in reading while allowing the emphasis that is in the text to come through.

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

​While I could speak to a number of aspects here, to me the most important has again been the discussion of Hosea’s marriages. In the first instance, the Lord commands Hosea to bring shame on himself through this disreputable marriage so that he can expose the disgrace of his people (and the ways in which they disgrace him). ​It is a standard theme in the prophets in a hundred different forms, here embodied in social customs that would have been recognizable even in our own culture a couple of generations ago. Hosea exposes the people’s disgracefulness which justifies their being sent away. But in the second marriage (Hos 3) the same dynamic is at play—Hosea must go and take a disgraceful wife—so that the Lord can demonstrate that he loves his people knowing their shame. And he covers over their shame with his own honor and love. It is the glory of the Gospel that God takes our shame to himself so that we are made honorable, entirely by grace. I have experienced that, and getting to see it at play in Hosea has been a gift.

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

Andrew Dearman has a recent commentary in the NICOT that I really like. We depart from each other on lots of things, but I highly recommend his work. Derek Kidner is always worth reading because he can say so much in so little space, and his small popular work on Hosea is a perfect example of it. In a different vein I enjoyed reading the sermons by the late John Webster, compiled in “Confronted by Grace.” I love Webster’s theological work and many of these sermons fit so well with Hosea and the prophets generally, though they are largely taken from the Gospels.​

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

​I have two projects in the works, one is a theological introduction to the prophets—really a work on why we must introduce the prophets theologically, rather than in the standard forms of modern Introductions. The other is more basic on the covenant(s) of the Hebrew Bible, which takes me back to the work I did for my doctoral studies.​


Get Joshua Moon’s commentary on Hosea on Amazon

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Question and Answer with Roy E. Ciampa on 1 Corinthians

Learn more about 1 Corinthians in the Pillar New Testament Commentary Series

corinthians bible commentaryRoy E. Ciampa (Ph.D., University of Aberdeen) is the S. Louis and Ann W. Armstrong Professor of Religion and the Chair of the Department of Religion, at Samford University. Before arriving at Samford in August 2018, Dr. Ciampa was with the Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship at American Bible Society.

Before arriving at Samford in August 2018, Dr. Ciampa was the Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship at American Bible Society, where he provided advanced professional development in biblical studies, Bible translation and Scripture engagement for leaders in that area of scholarship around the world. Previously he was Professor of New Testament and chair of the Division of Biblical Studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary near Boston, where he taught for thirteen years and where he continues to provide leadership for their Doctor of Ministry track in Bible Translation. Before going to Gordon-Conwell, he was a missionary professor of biblical studies in Portugal for over a decade and served as a translator for the Portuguese Bible Society’s contemporary Portuguese translation of the Bible.

Dr. Ciampa teaches New Testament and biblical studies, and his research focuses on the use of the Old Testament within the New Testament and Pauline studies. In addition to co-authoring The First Letter to the Corinthians in the Pillar New Testament Commentary Series with Brian S. Rosner, he is also the author of The Presence and Function of Scripture in Galatians 1 and 2 (Mohr Siebeck, 1998) as well as numerous scholarly articles and essays.

Dr. Ciampa is an ordained Baptist minister who has served in various roles in churches in Portugal, Scotland and the U.S.

He is married with two adult children and one grandson. He enjoys hiking, boating, traveling, studying and teaching about the Bible, and spending time with his wife, his family and his students.

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

The original invitation to write the commentary was extended to Brian Rosner, who had published his doctoral dissertation and various articles on 1 Corinthians. I had carried out my doctoral work on Paul’s dependence on the OT in Galatians 1 and 2 under Brian’s supervision. During that time we became good friends. We had similar approaches to understanding Paul and his way of responding to pastoral challenges. Brian invited me to co-author the commentary with him. I was eager to expand my earlier work on Paul to focus on this incredibly important letter, full of pastoral wisdom and exegetical challenges.

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

The commentary has something for all of those audiences, and we have received positive responses from people in each of those categories. It was written with pastors and students foremost in mind, but it includes exegetical proposals that reflect fresh research and that are of interest to scholars/professors as well. It is written at an accessible level so that more intellectually oriented lay Christians also find it helpful.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of 1 Corinthians?

Three areas come to mind. First, unlike previous work on 1 Corinthians, we do not see the structure of the letter as simply reflecting a series of responses to a random set of questions (some communicated in person and others in writing). Rather, we discern a structure that reflects early Jewish and Christian responses to Gentile vices and their sources. That structure perceives an organic relationship between following true of false wisdom (chapters 1-4) and a tendency to engage in or commitment to flee from sexual immorality (chapters 5-7) and idolatry (chapters 8-14), with the gospel rooted in Christ’s resurrection (chapter 15) providing the key moral point of departure. The key parts (wisdom’s relationship to porneia and idolatry) are seen laid out in an extremely concise way in Romans 1:21-25. The evidence for this macro-structure for 1 Corinthians, and its implications for our understanding of the key thrust of the letter are provided in the commentary.

Secondly, our commentary also suggests a biblical-theological framework behind Paul’s pastoral engagement with the Corinthians, one which we think provides contemporary pastors and other church leaders with rich insights for dealing with similar kinds of challenges in ministry today.

Finally (to keep this from going into too many points), most research on 1 Corinthians has generally moved on from the theory that an over-realized eschatology was the primary problem with the Corinthian Christians’ understanding and living of the faith to an understanding that they were being overly influenced by dominant ways of understanding the world in their cultural environment. In the modern period has tended to provide exoticized portrayals of the Corinthians: they were influenced by Gnosticism or by the thought that they had already become like angels and so should stop having any sexual relationships, even within marriage, etc. Our commentary is more consistent than others in arguing that even when it comes to sex the Corinthians were responding in terms of dominant debates about kinds of appropriate sex, rather than the more exotic idea (based in part on a misunderstanding of the euphemism in 7:1) that they were committed to celibacy even in marriage. In general our commentary reflects both a very careful study of Old Testament and Jewish backgrounds (which are the primary though not exclusive influences in Paul’s own theology) with a fresh consideration of dominant Greco-Roman ideas that seem to have distorted the Corinthians understanding of the gospel.

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

Chapter 7 was particularly memorable since we came to a rather different understanding of the likely background to Paul’s argument in that chapter. It entailed significant research into the euphemism of touching as well as other ancient Greek and Roman backgrounds related to sex and marriage. We wrote 100 pages just on 1 Corinthians 7!

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

The biblical-theological orientation of this commentary had us constantly wrestling with and being edified by the theological vision informing Paul’s missionary/pastoral teaching. Our understanding of the centrality of God’s glory in Paul’s thought and argument and its role in the structure of the letter magnified the edifying nature of each section.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on 1 Corinthians?

David Garland’s commentary is excellent and comes closest to what we are doing, although there are innumerable places where we differ (e.g., the structure, elements of the situation, various particular interpretive issues). Gordon Fee’s commentary still has great value on many particular points, even though we think his overall framework for understanding the letter is now a bit dated. Anthony Thiselton’s NIGTC commentary on the letter is a great source of information about various things that have been written about the letter. Richard Hays’s concise Interpretation commentary provides great insight in short scope.

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

Besides various shorter essays, Roy is working on the Tyndale Commentary on the Johannine letters and Brian is working on a book on personal identity and a critical introduction to 1 Corinthians. Together we have proposals for a co-authored book and a co-edited book with publishers at the moment and we hope to be able to announce those books soon. People can follow us on Facebook or on our faculty pages using the following links:


Get Roy E. Ciampa’s commentary on 1 Corinthians on Amazon

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Q & A with Dennis E. Johnson on Philippians

Learn more about Philippians in the Reformed Expository Commentary series

philippians bible commentary

Dennis E. Johnson (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) was professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary California and associate pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Escondido, California, until his retirement in June 2018.

Dr. Johnson taught at Westminster Seminary California from 1982 to 2018. He previously pastored Orthodox Presbyterian churches in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and East Los Angeles, California. He has served as moderator of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church General Assembly and Presbytery of Southern California, moderator of the South Coast Presbytery in the Presbyterian Church in America, member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church Committee on Christian Education, and Trustee of Covenant College.

Dr. Johnson preached and taught in various countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

He is the author of Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures, The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, Let’s Study Acts, and Walking with Jesus through His Word: Discovering Christ in All the Scriptures. He is also coauthor of Counsel from the Cross and editor of and contributor to Heralds of the King: Christ-centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney. He has contributed essays to Theonomy: A Reformed Critique; The Pattern of Sound Doctrine; Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry; Resurrection and Eschatology; and Speaking the Truth in Love. He is a contributor to the Reformation Study Bible and the English Standard Version Study Bible.

Dr. Johnson and his wife, Jane, have four married children and many grandchildren. They now live in Dayton, Tennessee.

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

I had taught a course on Paul’s epistles for 16 years before the editors of the Reformed Expository Commentary invited me to contribute a volume in the series. One distinctive of the REC is that its exposition of biblical books originates in sermons preached to Christ’s people. Even as a young Christian (adolescent), I had loved certain passages in Philippians (such as 1:21 and 4:13), and I had preached some passages in Philippians in church settings. I was attracted to this little letter by a series of conference in which a friend showed us the centrality of Christ in each of the four chapters, and in every pastoral issue that Paul addresses. But I had never preached straight through the whole book. So from the point when we signed the book contract, I made it a point to preach successively through Philippians with every invitation I received. During those months of preparation, I also enjoyed teaching an evening elective course on Philippians for a group of seminary students and Christians from our community. I think they learned through me, and I know I learned from them!

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

Like every REC volume, a main target audience is pastors who preach regularly to the church. Our goal is to provide an exegetical resource, grounded in solid research into backgrounds and a careful reading of the text and weighing of other scholars’ views—but, more than that, we want to provide a model of how serious interpretive labor should come to expression in preaching that connects directly with hearers in the pews. Seminary students need examples of biblical study expressed vividly and pastorally. Since these chapters originated as sermons preached in local churches, they should be edifying to lay Christians, too…if I’ve hit the target that the REC aims for!

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

Claiming to make a “unique” contribution is risky, since I’ve learned so much from others. Perhaps what is distinctive, at least, is a particular combination of two themes: First, Paul addresses every pastoral issue confronting his beloved Christian friends in Philippi (he enjoyed a special bond of affection with the Macedonian churches in Philippi and Thessalonica) by taking them to the centrality, grace, sufficiency, and preeminence of Jesus Christ. Second, Paul addresses their issues by presenting his own response to those same issues, in his own experience, as an example that the Philippian Christians could and should imitate. In effect, Paul tells them: “whatever your issue, Jesus is the answer. Let me show you how.” Let me illustrate. The Philippians were confronted by opponents and suffering for their faith in Jesus (1:28-30). Before Paul mentions their sufferings, he gives a report on his own: now in chains, awaiting a verdict from the emperor that could lead to Paul’s release or his execution (1:12-26). His purpose is not just to relieve their anxiety for him, but (more importantly!) to show them how he “processes” suffering: it’s all about Christ being preached (by himself to the Praetorian guard, but also by others in Rome) and about Christ being exalted in Paul’s body, whether he dies or lives. Again, it seems that the Philippians (much as Paul treasured them) were tempted to selfish ambition and self-centered priorities, so they grumbled and argued (2:1-4, 14-16). Paul knew of Christians in Rome who preached Christ out of unworthy motives—selfish ambition, trying to compete with Paul (1:16-18). Paul didn’t let them bother him, because Christ was preached—and he knew that Christ himself had embraced the humility of self-sacrifice for his and the Philippians’ sake (2:5-11). And Christ’s mindset had transformed Paul himself as well as his fellow-servants Timothy and Epaphroditus (1:25-26; 2:17-30). Paul’s strategy is the same as he addresses the threat of Judaizers: “Only Christ’s righteousness counts—I speak from experience” (3:1-11). And the threat of complacency: “I keep pressing ahead to know Jesus better—so should you” (3:12-21). And the temptation to worry, posed by lacking resources: “I have learned the secret of enjoying plenty or enduring poverty, because Christ strengthens me in every condition of life. He will provide your every need, too.” (4:4-20). Again and again, Paul says, “Whatever your ‘issue,’ the remedy is Christ. Let me show you how, in my own experience.”

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

I had researched the majestic Christological hymn (perhaps a hymn) in 2:5-11 as part of my Ph.D. dissertation in the late 1970s. But it was both a challenge and a great encouragement to return to it and delve even more deeply into that mystery: the One who has eternally been the Father’s equal, the fullest and most personal revelation of God, embraced human nature; and, even more humbly, the slave’s role; and, even more humbly, obedience to death; and , even more humbly, to the shameful death of the cross. And even as the Son had glorified the Father in his suffering, the Father was delighted to exalt this self-humbling Son, placing him above all, to be worshiped by every creature on bent knee and with confessing tongue. Astonishing!

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

Obviously Paul’s portrait of Christ in 2:5-11 increased my affections for Christ greatly. I also found Paul’s opening of his heart to set an example for others—his Christ-oriented response to suffering from enemies, and to competition from fellow-believers, and to challenges to one’s self-image, and to tight budgets—quite a challenge as I examined my own heart, and as I considered that, as a shepherd-teacher in the church, I should be able to say with Paul (humbly, knowing that I have not arrived, 3:12): “Let those who are mature think [as I think]” and “join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (3:15, 17).

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

Gordon Fee (New International New Testament Commentary)

Peter O’Brien (New International Greek Testament Commentary)

Moisés Silva (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)

Walter Hansen (Pillar New Testament Commentary)

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

Journeys with Jesus: Every Path in Scripture Leads Us to Christ (P&R) an abridgment of Walking with Jesus through His Word; Discovering Christ in All the Scriptures (P&R, 2015), came out in May 2018.

Volume 12 of the ESV Expository Commentary, containing my commentary on Hebrews was published in July 2018 (Crossway).

A couple of weeks ago I submitted introduction and notes on Philippians for the Grace and Truth Study Bible (forthcoming from Zondervan)—Al Mohler is general editor.

My next project may be an introduction to Biblical Theology (redemptive-historical hermeneutics)


Get Dennis E. Johnson’s commentary on Philippians on Amazon

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Question and Answer with Gary Burge on John

Learn more about John in the NIV Application Commentary Series

john bible commentaryGary Burge (Ph.D., King’s College, Aberdeen University, Scotland) is the Visiting Professor of New Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary. He joined the seminary faculty in the fall of 2017 after completing 25 years as professor of New Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. His interests center on the gospels (particularly the Gospel of John), the historical Jesus, and the contextual and cultural background of the first century Judea as a framework for interpretation. He has also taught graduate seminars on the integration of psychology and theology as well as the integration of theology and the politics of the Middle East.

Dr. Burge is ordained in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats and churches. For over 15 years while at Wheaton he was on the teaching staff of Willow Creek Community Church (S. Barrington, IL). He also leads faculty development workshops at colleges and seminaries based on his 2015 book, Mapping Your Academic Career.

He is also deeply invested in the Middle East and its churches from Iraq to Egypt and travels there annually. He has organized pastors’ conferences, taught at seminaries, and been a frequent conference speaker in the Middle East. He is often called on to interpret the Israel-Palestine conflict at American churches and denominational settings.

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

My interest in Johannine studies began with my Phd dissertation, The Anointed Community, which I completed with I. Howard Marshall in Aberdeen, Scotland. But my interest continued from there with Interpreting the Gospel of John, a textbook that is used widely by seminaries introducing students to the writings of John.

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

This is a commentary that is designed for pastors who are thinking through a text for the upcoming sermon. Many (most?) commentaries are so often “deep in the weeds” exegetically that many pastors tell me that they find little help in distilling the essential ideas of the text. The entire NIV Application series was written with exactly this need in mind. Therefore the student or pastor can read this commentary, find a summary of all the essential academic issues, and then — best of all — find ways to distill the text into teachable items. The series sells extremely well even after over ten years for this very reason. Pastors use it. And return to it again and again.

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

The uniqueness of the commentary is found in how it makes three steps in its writing: (1) The basic exegesis of the text representing current scholarship; (2) Bridging the context so that we distill the main ideas that can be lifted into the 21st century; (3) Application — where as authors we try to show how we might apply these timeless themes to a preaching/teaching setting. Very few other commentaries do all three.

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

I have always had a fondness for the farewell discourse (Jn 13:31 – 17) when Jesus is in the upper room. Not only do we find here some of the most memorable sayings of Jesus, but we also find texts that have served the theology of the church for centuries.

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

John’s Gospel is simply inspiring. Just ask any large group of adults what their favorite “quotes” from Jesus happen to be and 9 out of 10 will come from John. The gospel is deceptively simple and yet it has proven to be the most profound study of Jesus’ life ever. People return to John again and again for the rest of their lives.

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

I think that for sheer exegetical heft, Craig Keener’s commentary is absolutely essential reading. This is followed closely by Brown’s older two volume work. But if a teacher/pastor owned Keener, Brown and a more practical guide like this volume, they’d be all set for preaching on this gospel.

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

I am presently writing a commentary on Galatians for Kregel and then I’ll begin one for Cambridge on Colossians/Philemon. I am also finishing up a volume for IVP called The New Testament in Seven Sentences. It is a digest of the essential teachings of the NT in seven chapters or themes. This little book of 140 pages could easily be a series in church where we bring laity to the “next level” in their understanding of the scriptures.


Get Gary Burge’s commentary on John on Amazon

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Question and Answer with Matthew Gordley on New Testament Christological Hymns

new testament hymnsMatthew E. Gordley holds a PhD from the University of Notre Dame in the area of Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity, an MDiv from Alliance Theological Seminary, and a BA from Wheaton College (IL). He also completed doctoral courses at Princeton Theological Seminary prior to matriculating at the University of Notre Dame.

Since 2015 Dr. Gordley has been serving as the Dean of the College of Learning and Innovation and as an Associate Professor of Theology within the Humanities Department. He teaches courses in biblical studies and related areas including a Contemplation and Action course within the Carlow Compass curriculum, “Parables of Jesus: Ancient Stories with Enduring Meaning.” His research centers on reading the New Testament in its original cultural and historical contexts and he has written extensively on early Jewish and Christian psalms and their place in the wider Greco-Roman world.

His work has been published in the Journal of Biblical Literature, Journal of Jewish Studies, Journal of Ancient Judaism, Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, and the Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters. Prior to joining Carlow University Dr. Gordley served as an associate dean, a department chair, and a faculty member at a sister CIC (Council of Independent Colleges) school in Virginia.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests helped prepare you to write New Testament Christological Hymns? How was this particular project born?

My fascination with early Christian hymns was really sparked in a doctoral seminar I took at Princeton Theological Seminary called “Earliest Christianity in its Greco-Roman Context.” As we read ancient texts representing different facets of first-century life, I was particularly struck by the ways that the language of ancient hymns in praise of the Egyptian goddess Isis sounded so similar to early Christian praise of Jesus. Isis was hailed as a savior, a deliverer, and she was praised for her saving work in language that was not unlike what was said of Jesus in the New Testament hymns. This led to my focusing my doctoral dissertation on the Colossian hymn (Col 1:15-20). Once that was published I turned to a broader survey of ancient hymns with special attention to the formative dimension of hymns. That book, Teaching through Song in Antiquity: Didactic Hymnody among Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Christians, focused on the ways that hymns convey teaching to a human audience in addition to the ways they offer praise to a deity. New Testament Christological Hymns is my attempt at a scholarly survey of the hymnic materials in praise of Jesus in the New Testament, and it is the fruit of my last fifteen years of research on these passages. Aside from my scholarly work, I have been a worship leader in a number of different congregations over the years. So in that sense I have a deeply personal connection to understanding the dynamics of early Christian worship.

2. Who is the intended audience for New Testament Christological Hymns ? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

I’d like to think that this book is for anyone interested in the earliest worship of Jesus. But this is first and foremost an academic book that delves into scholarship on the earliest Christian hymns and I believe makes an important contribution to future scholarly work on these passages. However, because the subject matter connects directly with Christian worship today, I have written it to be accessible to a much broader audience than just New Testament scholars. So I do hope that this will be used by professors in undergraduate and graduate classes in New Testament and particularly in worship classes. But I think that my focus on early Christian worship in its Jewish and Greco-Roman cultural contexts provides a really stimulating model for contemporary Christians who are struggling with how to bridge cultural gaps in their own worship. So pastors and worship leaders who wrestle with these issues will find encouragement here. A deeper understanding of some of the dynamics of early Christian worship can help contemporary worshippers reflect on their own worship in new ways.

3. What is unique about New Testament Christological Hymns ? What contribution does it make to biblical studies and/or biblical theology?

The passages that we call New Testament christological hymns offer us a unique entry point into early Christian understandings of Jesus and his work and also into early Christian worship. But there is also a lot of debate among interpreters about their significance. Though in most cases we lack the evidence to be able to claim that a passage was a hymn that was utilized by a community of believers in a worship context, I argue that there is still good reason to conclude that these passages are reflective of what was occurring in early Christian worship. Taken together they can tell us a great deal about the shape of early Christian worship. My approach is unique in that I do take seriously the claims of the critics of identifying early Christian hymns in the New Testament, while at the same time I use an appropriate and methodologically defensible way to gain a fuller appreciation of the hymnic nature of many of these passages. A key part of my approach is to consider these hymnic passages within the larger context of both Jewish and Greco-Roman hymns and praise poetry in antiquity. When we view these passages within this larger cultural context, new insights emerge about Christian worship of Jesus. Some aspects of early Christian worship reflect shared cultural norms; other aspects indicate ways that Christian worship moved in unprecedented directions. Taken as a whole, these passages enable us to hear echoes of the earliest worship of Jesus.

4. In the book, you write that your “aim is to provide a comprehensive, comparative, and exegetically informed analysis of New Testament christological hymns in light of their cultural, literary, and theological contexts” (p. 11). What kind of application can readers expect to have from this study?

Great question. In each chapter of this book I study one major hymn or a selection of shorter hymnic passages. Those chapters delve deeply into those passages within the first-century context. It is really in the conclusion that I take a broader look and consider contemporary application. And the way I do that is by walking readers through a set of questions based on what we have seen in the New Testament hymns. So, for example, I argue that the New Testament hymns show a pervasive interest in presenting Jesus as inaugurating a “new era”—the era of God’s fulfilling of the promises of the Jewish scriptures. If that is so, then the question for worshippers today is: to what extent does our worship reflect this recognition that Jesus has inaugurated a new age? And a second question is: in my own life, to what extent am I living my life, going about my daily activities, with an awareness that I am living in the new era which Jesus initiated? Rather than being prescriptive about what we should do, these passages invite us to see the world, to see ourselves, and to see Jesus in a particular way, and to live our lives in light of those realities.

5. You discuss christological hymns found in Philippians, Colossians, and the Gospel of John, as well as Ephesians, 1 Timothy, Hebrews, 1 Peter, Luke, and Revelation. In other words, christological hymns are found in books written by different authors, who are in different contexts, who are writing in different literary genres, and for different purposes. What does this diverse yet collective use of christological hymns tell us about first-century Christology and ecclesiology?

On the one hand, it suggests that acclamation of Jesus in hymnic forms was very widespread and that this acclamation centered on a few things: his death, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation to a place of lordship over all. On the other hand, the diversity of the kinds of expressions (ie, none of these hymns seems to be directly quoting any of the others, even though they express related ideas) suggests that there was a great deal of freedom in expressing these ideas. Further, the fact that these are poetic and worship texts that invoke awe and emotion rather than prose explanations directed to the intellect reminds us that these are not precise expressions of doctrine. Of course, with their high christology they have been a rich resource for the construction of theology and doctrine ever since. But what I have uncovered is the affective dimensions of these texts as early hymns. They convey ideas, yes, but they also work like poetry in grand imagery designed to inspire.

6. What section or passage of New Testament Christological Hymns was particularly memorable to research and write? What personally edified you in writing this book, increasing your affections for Christ?

It was definitely the chapter on the Philippian hymn (Phil 2:6-11). Whenever I have taught this passage or written about it, I have always felt that I did not do justice to the grandeur of this majestic, poetic portrayal of Christ—or to the rich tradition of scholarship on this passage. One scholar has aptly referred to this passage as the “Mt. Everest of Philippians study.” But treating this passage in the larger context of this comparative study, I got closer to feeling really good about my understanding of this passage and also how I explained it. Though not every reader will be interested in the 20th century German scholarship on the Philippian hymn, for me spending some significant time with the works of Käsemann and Lohmeyer was very enlightening. Overall though, gaining a renewed perspective on the scope and grandeur of the earliest worship of Jesus in its historical and social contexts was particularly uplifting.

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

Right now I am doing some research on a first-century BCE Jewish collection of psalms called Psalms of Solomon, a text which I refer to a number of times in the present volume. This collection of psalms from around Jerusalem is the only collection from this time period outside of some Hebrew psalms found at Qumran. It seems very likely that the group that produced these psalms represents currents of Judaism not unlike the Jewish background of Paul. Notably, the Psalms of Solomon look forward expectantly to the advent of a messiah who will fulfill the biblical promises and rescue God’s people. Surprisingly, this collection of eighteen psalms has not received as much attention among New Testament scholars as other early Jewish writings. With my interests in early Christian worship, there is a lot more there to explore.

I welcome anyone to follow me on twitter @matthewgordley. I also have a blog in which I write from time to time about my research, my classes, and other items of interest that I come across as a college dean in higher education. My blog is at


Get Matthew Gordley’s book New Testament Christological Hymns on Amazon

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Question and Answer with S.M. Baugh on Ephesians

Learn more about Ephesians in the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary Series

ephesians bible commentaryS.M. Baugh (Ph.D., University of California, Irvine) has taught Greek at Westminster Seminary California since 1983 and New Testament and Greek since 1991. He is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Dr. Baugh wrote the two main textbooks used for Greek I–III: New Testament Greek for Interpreters (third edition) and A First John Reader.

Other than his Ephesians commentary in the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series, his other recent book is The Majesty on High: Introduction to the Kingdom of God in the New Testament. His other writings include a commentary on the Pastoral Epistles and Philemon in the award-winning Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, study notes on Ephesians in The ESV Study Bible, and many scholarly articles for academic journals and book collections of essays.

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

I did my doctorate in ancient history studying the Apostle Paul and the city of Ephesus relating to Acts 19, soon after that I started a study guide teaching Greek from Ephesians (it’s still in my file cabinet somewhere because I eventually used First John), and I wrote the notes on Ephesians for the ESV Study Bible. This last project was so edifying to me personally that I thought it would be great to get into more depth with a commentary on this wonderful book, so I jumped at the opportunity.

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

I always write for seminary students and pastors. As a seminary professor all my adult life, these are the folk I serve. I’ve been surprised that some lay Christians are also reading this commentary, which is great, but a little unexpected! I think the appeal is obviously Ephesians itself which is such a wonderful New Testament book.

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

I had three areas to contribute to the study of Ephesians: Greek literary composition and grammar; historical background on Ephesus and the Greco-Roman world at large as it illumines the text; and, textually driven exegesis. These are all areas I’ve done lots of work on over the years in classics, ancient history, Greek grammar, theology, etc. In addition, you will notice that the first sentence introducing each section is a “thesis sentence” summarizing the passage. Commentaries tend to fragment the text into little pieces, so I was trying to always interpret the details while keeping track of the message of the larger whole.

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

I would have to say Eph 2:1-10 is most memorable just because it is such a powerful text. Paul really pulled out the stops here when reflecting on the wonders of the Gospel and of God’s lavish mercy and grace toward us in Christ. It’s an incredibly rich passage that draws one back again and again.

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

The fatherly grace of God in Christ lavished upon us through the Holy Spirit. In short, Ephesians is just soaked in the Gospel. There are times when working on this book I would have to stop and thank the Lord for the privilege of handling this rich word of grace.

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

I think Charles Hodge’s commentary on Ephesians is among my favorites on the book. He was a very sensitive, careful commentator. He’s known for his systematics, but he began his career as a biblical scholar. Secondly, Clinton Arnold has several books on the ancient spiritual climate that relates to Ephesians and other New Testament books that are very perceptive about the real nature of paganism.

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

I am laying the groundwork now for a commentary on Hebrews which will undoubtedly take me many years to complete. I’ve been teaching and studying this book for 30 years already and it still fascinates me.

To follow me there is a link on our seminary’s web page:

And Amazon:


Get S.M. Baugh’s commentary on Ephesians on Amazon

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