Ephesians Commentary Q & A with Author Thomas Winger

7 Questions on Ephesians in the Concordia Commentary Series

ephesians commentary book coverThomas M. Winger is President and Professor at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary (CLTS), St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. He is also a graduate of that institution (MDiv, 1990), after having studied at Concordia College, Ann Arbor, Michigan (BA, 1985), and Westfield House, Cambridge, England. He pursued graduate studies at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri (STM, 1992; ThD, 1997).

Dr. Winger is the author of dozens of articles, many published in Lutheran Theological Review, the (co-)editor of three books, and a contributor to The Lutheran Study Bible. He has written studies for the theological commissions of Lutheran Church–Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE). He was a member of the liturgy committee of Lutheran Service Book, and is currently writing for its Pastor’s Desk Edition. He was pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Catharines, a German-English congregation, for six years before being called as tutor at Westfield House. After seven years of teaching at that theological training house of the ELCE he returned to Canada, and has been a professor at CLTS since 2006 and its president since 2012.

Born in Coventry, England, into an ELCE parsonage, Dr. Winger has lived his life alternately between England and Canada, with some years also in the United States. From the latter he received his dear wife Sara, now a happily naturalized Canadian, with whom he has two children, Anne and Benjamin. Their house is filled with music.

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

I had written my MDiv treatise (back in seminary days) on Ephesians four and its teaching on the pastoral ministry. The biblical roots of the ministry has long been a research interest. I also have been involved in a number of liturgical projects, including the hymnal Lutheran Service Book (2006). Ephesians is notable for its liturgical style, which peaked my interest. Along the way I wrote the study notes on Ephesians for The Lutheran Study Bible (2009).

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

The Concordia Commentary series aims at the well-educated pastor who has some skill with Greek and Hebrew. My volume in particular aims to be pretty thorough in the textual notes. However, the “Commentary” section doesn’t require any knowledge of Greek/Hebrew for the reader to benefit. I have heard from many lay people who have found it enriching. The theological perspective is best described as “Evangelical Catholic”, which is a good way to understand traditional Lutherans.

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

In the preface I suggest three ways in which my commentary is distinctive. Firstly, it affirms the traditional view that Paul wrote the letter while also rejecting circular letter theories and arguing that it was genuinely written to the church at Ephesus. This perspective led me to investigate what Acts teaches about Paul’s ministry in Ephesus in order to understand the content of the letter he wrote to them. Secondly, I discern and develop a number of important themes: Baptism as the overarching motif; the unity of the Church in Christ and the Church as His body; a liturgical and sacramental flavour, coupled with a focus on the office of the ministry; and an emphasis on spiritual warfare, including the opposition between idolatry and true worship. Thirdly, flowing from my doctoral research into the oral character of Paul’s epistles, the commentary pays close attention to the letter as an act of proclamation of Law and Gospel within the context of the Christian divine service. It also draws upon classical rhetorical analysis to uncover Paul’s strategies of argumentation and persuasion. Put in churchly terms, it seeks to discern the Christian rhetoric that characterises the letter as sermon.

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

Paul’s treatment of holy marriage (5:21-33) was at the same time the most difficult and the most rewarding. It goes without saying that the biblical view of marriage is counter-cultural today. I would argue that it was always so—Paul isn’t simply old-fashioned or patriarchal, but reads marriage in light of its divine institution. The challenge is to discern how God’s order in marriage can be beneficial to us both in terms of Law and Gospel. We can have “better” relationships when we listen to how God created us and designed our families. But more importantly, I learnt how much Paul wants us to be drawn closer to Christ through the picture of the Gospel that marriage offers, that God in fact designed marriage from the very start to proclaim Christ and the Church. It is the section of the commentary that has been most appreciated by readers.

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

The great gift of being compelled to spend thousands of hours in deep study and contemplation of God’s Word is something for which I am grateful. It’s hard work, but spiritually uplifting at the same time. Perhaps to pick up on a small detail, my understanding of what it means to be “in Christ”—a favourite expression of Paul in this letter—was enriched. For Paul what’s important is not so much that Christ is in me as that I am in Him, that by being baptised into Him I share in His intimate relationship with God the Father and join Him in all the blessings of the heavenly places.

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

I have always appreciated Andrew Lincoln’s commentary (Word) for its careful attention to detail and sound judgement, even though I would disagree in his sceptical assessment of Pauline authorship. Late in the game I found Clinton Arnold’s Power and Magic to be enormously helpful in understanding the focus on spiritual warfare in Ephesians. For those who can read German, Heinrich Schlier’s commentary is theologically inciteful. But mostly I would urge people to read the Greek text of Ephesians closely and learn to understand it in light of the rest of Scripture, which is its best interpreter.

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

Since the commentary was published I have been regularly presenting on Ephesians, mostly pastors’ conferences, but also lay-oriented Bible studies. As a full-time seminary professor and administrator I keep very busy, but I continue to devote time to research and writing. I recently published Lutheranism 101: Worship (Concordia Publishing House, 2017), and continue to write for the pastor’s desk edition of Lutheran Service Book, due to be published in a year or two.


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Romans Commentary Q & A with Author J.V. Fesko

7 Question on Romans in the Lectio Continua Commentary Series

romans commentary book cover

J. V. Fesko graduated from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, UK, with an earned Ph.D. in theology. Dr. Fesko’s interests include systematic theology, applied soteriology (union with Christ, justification and sanctification, and the ordo salutis), sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Reformed dogmatics, as well as the integration of biblical and systematic theology. He was the pastor of Geneva Orthodox Presbyterian church from 1998 to 2009. He is now presently the Academic Dean and Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California. He is also an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Fesko’s publications include, Death in Adam, Life in Christ, Spirit of the Age, The Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption, The Covenant of Redemption, The Theology of the Westminster Standards, Songs of a Suffering King, and Beyond Calvin: Union with Christ and Justification in Early Modern Reformed Theology. His scholarly essays have appeared in various books and journals including Perichoresis, Reformed Theological Review, Journal of Reformed Theology, Church History and Religious Culture, Calvin Theological Journal, Trinity Journal, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Westminster Theological Journal.

Dr. Fesko and his wife, Anneke, have three children and reside in Escondido.

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

From the earliest days of my seminary studies I’ve always had a great interest in Romans. For many Christians throughout the ages, the book has been a key point of interest and I was no different. Early in my pastorate I decided I wanted to preach through the book because I wanted to have a better understanding of Paul’s most famous letter. If John Calvin said it was the key to unlocking all of Scripture, then I figured it’d be a good place to start with my own pulpit ministry.

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

The series editors have intended this commentary for the person in the pew and for pastors who are preparing sermons, as they have shaped the series to be richly exegetical, intensely theological, and imminently practical. Since the series is expositional, however, I believe that any person regardless of their level of theological education can profit from the book.

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

This commentary was forged on the anvil of the pulpit and thus strives to make Paul’s deep and rich truths accessible to the average person. Since the commentary series is dedicated to homiletical exposition, I hope that it contributes to the very growing body of Romans commentaries by modeling exegetical fidelity, theological depth, and pastoral applicability.

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

There are many passages that come to mind, but for me Paul’s words about God’s justification of “ungodly” Abraham have a special place in my heart and mind. Romans 4 gives me hope for my own standing before the divine bar.

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

Any time I pick up one of Paul’s letters he constantly reminds me about the wedding of theology and piety. The distinction between the gospel indicatives (who we are in Christ), which stand out prominently in Romans 1-11 have an unbreakable link with the gospel imperatives (how we are to live) in Romans 12-16. The gospel of Christ leads Christians to live holy and consecrated lives. I pray that in my own life, my own study of Romans has fueled my zeal and devotion to Christ so that I revel in the indicatives and live out the imperatives with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

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

There are three that stand out, Robert Haldane’s Romans, Charles Hodge’s Romans, and Douglas Moo’s commentary on Romans in the New International Commentary on the New Testament series by Eerdmans. All three are good in their own ways. Another commentary that I’m looking forward to seeing in a second revised edition is Tom Schreiner’s Romans in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series.

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

Right now I’m working on completing a doctrinal book on the covenant of works (the original relationship between God and Adam in the pre-fall world) as a part of a three-volume covenant theology. I also have a few other projects in various stages of completion. Your readers can follow my work and ministry through my personal website, www.jvfesko.com, where I provide updates on my labors.


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1-2 Chronicles Commentary Q & A with Author Andrew Hill

7 Questions on 1-2 Chronicles in the NIVAC Commentary Series

chronicles commentary book cover

Andrew E. Hill is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of the Malachi volume in the Anchor Bible Commentary series, coauthor of A Survey of the Old Testament and the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary on the Minor Prophets, and coeditor of The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary.

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

The Persian period of Hebrew history is one area of interest for my OT studies. I also teach the Biblical Foundations of Worship course at the Webber Institute for Worship Studies. The books of Chronicles feature prayer and worship in the retelling Judahite kingship.

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

The NIVAC commentary series is designed for a broad-based audience, pastors, teachers, students, curious laity.

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

The NIVAC is unique in its emphasis on contemporary application. This contribution is a bit different than other commentaries on 1-2 Chronicles in that I have intentionally tried to make application with the liberal arts disciplines in mind, since I teach in that context. The commentary also connects worship studies to the books of Chronicles.

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

I enjoyed writing about King David as a worshiper, and a worship leader. In part, because of the interest one of our sons has in the character of King David. I was also prompted to develop the topics by the work of former students who wrote thoughtful papers on the subject of King David and worship (appropriately credited in the commentary).

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

The emphasis on prayer in Chronicles was and is personally edifying.

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

Those looking for help in understanding the message and theology of Chronicles will benefit from the commentaries by Martin Selman, 1 and 2 Chronicles in the TOTC series; J. G. McConville, I & II Chronicles in the Daily Study Bible Series and Mark Boda, 1-2 Chronicles in the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary.

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

I am currently researching and writing a theological commentary on Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther for the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation commentary series published by Broadman & Holman.


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Psalms Commentary Q & A with Author Willem VanGemeren

7 Question on Psalms in the Revised Expositor’s Bible Commentary Series

psalms commentary book cover

Dr. VanGemeren (Ph.D, University of Wisconsin) taught at Geneva College and Reformed Theological Seminary for eighteen years. He has taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School since 1992. He is now Professor Emeritus of Old Testament and Semitic Languages (TEDS) and Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Theology at Chongshin University (Seoul). Dr. VanGemeren is the author of a number of books.

Dr. VanGemeren was born in the Netherlands and immigrated to the U.S. for further education to serve the Lord. His studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem confirmed his interest to specialize in the Hebrew Old Testament.

Dr. VanGemeren’s areas of expertise include Old Testament theology, poetical and prophetical books, and the books of Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah. He has served as director of the PhD (Theological Studies) in the past.

Dr. VanGemeren’s publications include contributions to such works as The Bible Almanac, Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Baker’s Encyclopedia of the Bible, Continuity and Discontinuity, and Layman’s Bible Handbook. More of Dr. VanGameren’s published books are mentioned in the interview below.

Dr. VanGemeren and his wife Evona have three married daughters and seven grandchildren, and find it to be a joy to be living close to two of their grandchildren and to watch their development.

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

I had written The Progress of Redemption (Zondervan/Baker) and was completing Interpreting the Prophetic Word (Zondervan), when Zondervan approached me with an invitation to write a commentary on the Psalms for the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC) series. I had been greatly stimulated by the work of Brevard S. Childs. He had argued for a more holistic approach to reading the Old Testament as Scripture in Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture of the Church (1979). About the same time James Kugel had opened the door to a literary approach to biblical poetry inThe Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and its History (1981). By the time of the publication of the revised commentary in the REBC, I gained a clearer vision of the shaping of the book of Psalms and had benefited from the more recent studies by Robert Alter (The Art of Biblical Poetry, 1985) and of Adele Berlin (The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism1985). I have written about these developments in “Entering the Textual World of the Psalms: Literary Analysis” (in The Psalms: Language for all Seasons of the Soul, ed. Andrew J. Schmutzer & David M. Howard, Jr. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2013, 29-48). Further, I was going through a period of eucatastrophe during which I experienced what John Calvin describes as a search for the knowledge of myself (who am I?) as I came to know God better. This period of spiritual wrestling was not unlike that experienced by Martin Luther and John Calvin, as they, too, found themselves in the book of Psalms (see Willem A. VanGemeren, “The Reformation and the Appropriation of Scripture: Dwelling in the Psalms.” Plenary Address Korean Evangelical Theological Society. November 11, 2017).

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

The commentary is written for the Church and has benefited many. More technical textual questions are treated in notes, but the issues raised by form criticism are intentionally sidelined. That my original concern was with the life of the Church was expressed in the Introduction to the commentary, (The Psalter is) God’s prescription for a complacent church. It reveals how great, wonderful, magnificent, wise, and utterly awe-inspiring he is. If God’s people before the incarnation could have such faith in the Lord … how much more should this be true among twenty-first century Christians! The book of Psalms can revolutionize our devotional life, our family patterns, and the fellowship and witness of the church of Jesus Christ.

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

The EBC and its revision (REBC) were intentionally written for the Church. Originally Zondervan had restricted me to about 500 pages. When first published it was about 900 pages and when revised, it was well over 1000 pages. The commentary reflects my personal growth in Scripture, hermeneutics, and in interpretation.

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

I was taken by the movement from lament to praise, see especially Psalms 146-150. More recently, I was privileged to develop this in “God’s Faithfulness, Human Suffering, and the Concluding Hallel Psalms (146-150): A Canonical Study” (Building on the Foundations of Evangelical Theology: Essays in Honor of John S. Feinberg, Gregg R. Allison and Stephen J. Wellum [eds.], Wheaton: Crossway, 2015, 263-84).

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

The recognition of the depth of human depravity as David and other writers wrestle with their guilt before God, express their ultimate trust in him, grow in grace and wisdom, and rest in the promise of God’s ultimate fidelity.

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

Of the “Best Bible Commentaries on the Psalms” I particularly recommend the NICOT commentary, the Word Bible Commentary, the commentaries by C. Hassell Bullock, John Goldingay, Allen P. Ross, and Gerald H. Wilson, and, for those who want to probe deeper, the more technical Hermeneia commentaries by Frank-Lothar and Erich Zenger.

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

After my retirement from TEDS (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) in 2015, I have given myself more fully to a global ministry of teaching and preaching: the TEDS’ Korean DMin program (Seoul, SKorea), the Chongshin University and Theological Seminary (Seoul, SKorea), and in churches, schools, and seminaries in Brazil, Greece, Lithuania, the Netherlands, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, the USA, and wherever God calls me.

I regularly write articles on theological and exegetical topics and have begun writing a volume on seeking the face of God.

My wife (Evona) and I live on a farmette in central Illinois where we tend to many gardens and enjoy meeting with friends, family, and former students.

I suppose that the occasional updates to the Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willem_A._VanGemeren) will inform people as to my activities past and present.


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Philippians Commentary Q & A with Author John Kitchen

7 Questions on Philippians in the Kress Biblical Commentary Series

philippians commentary book cover

John Kitchen (Doctor of Ministry, Trinity International University) has been the senior pastor at Stow Alliance Fellowship in Stow, Ohio, since 2001. Prior to that, Dr. Kitchen pastored the Plymouth Alliance Church in Plymouth, Wisconsin from 1987-2001.

In addition to his Doctor of Ministry degree, Dr. Kitchen earned a B.A. from Crown College and Master’s of Divinity from Columbia International University.

Dr. Kitchen has published several Bible commentaries. Besides Philippians for Pastors, he has written Colossians and Philemon for Pastors, The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors, and Proverbs in the Mentor Commentary series. Please see Dr. Kitchen’s Amazon page for his other books.

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

Philippians for Pastors is the third volume in my “… for Pastors” New Testament commentary series (along with The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors and Colossians and Philemon for Pastors) with Kress Biblical Resources (Kress Biblical). I have also written the volume on Proverbs in the Mentor Commentary series with Christian Focus Publications. The work on these was a big part of my ongoing desire to produce quality Bible commentaries that specifically aid serious students of the Bible who have a ministry bent. Philippians, specifically, was a passion because I am profoundly moved by the history-changing events set in motion when Paul and his band crossed the narrow neck of water that separated Asia Minor from what would come to be known as the European landmass. When they entered the city of Philippi my own salvation-story as well as the history of western civilization was involved. The story of the advance of the Gospel into Philippi is a part of my story.

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

As the title indicates this entire series of commentaries are written “. . . for Pastors,” but I often quickly add, “They aren’t just for pastors!” The target audience is all serious students of the Bible who have a heart of ministry. Sadly, it seems not all students of the Bible have a disposition toward ministry and not all who have a ministry bent are serious students of the Bible. It is my hope to engage the former through serious study of the text of Scripture and then to direct their minds toward application in the context of ministry and to urge the latter to ground their commitment to ministry in the text of Scripture itself.

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

This volume, like the others in the series, contains several unique features. I’ve designed each volume in the series to serve as a commentary, counselor, and coach.

As a commentary Philippians for Pastors provides a wealth of exegetical information regarding the text of this NT epistle. I suggest readers engage the commentary with a Greek (or Interlinear Greek/English) New Testament open to the passage and follow the development of the passage. This, I trust, will aid in personally understanding God’s Word, in preaching and teaching these texts, and in explaining the meaning of these Scriptures to the people to whom we minister.

In the midst of commentary on every verse of Philippians is included a call out box called a “Ministry Maxim.” They are designed to counsel the reader in further application of the truth found in that particular verse. These are pithy, pointedly stated principles of ministry which arise from or are suggested by the verse where they are found. Each is stated in such a way as to distill the wisdom of the given Scripture into a pointed—and sometimes provocative—statement of principle which applies in ministry contexts of all cultures and at all times. They are stated in thought-provoking ways in order to stimulate one’s mind and rouse one to interaction with the truth.

This volume serves also as a ministry coach in that it never allows you to leave a section of Scripture without stopping to ponder how its truth applies to your life and ministry. It provides bridges of application from the truths found in the text of Scripture to the work of ministry. You will find these “Digging Deeper” questions dispersed throughout the text of the commentary. My hope is that these stimulate reflection on how the truths of Philippians apply to life and local church ministry.

In addition I have provided several appendices that I believe are helpful to faithful students of Scripture devoted to ministry. One appendix provides a detailed exegetical outline as well as examples of preaching outlines for preaching Philippians in one sermon, in a shorter series of nine sermons, and in a longer series of eighteen sermons.

Other appendices include a topical guide to all the Ministry Maxims, another includes several charts that may prove helpful as teaching aids, and another provides an extensive annotated bibliography of over 85 commentaries on Philippians.

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

The entire letter to the Philippians is so rich, but I would have to say that the study of 3:7-14 was particularly enriching for me. Paul’s example of utter abandonment to knowing Christ and the passion with which he shares it is a powerful call to us all in our pursuit of Christ. The determination to lose all else if only he may know Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings reminds me of the core of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

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

I was most edified by the daily-ness of the careful study of the Greek text of Philippians over an extended period of time. Every day immersing myself in Paul’s words brought the light of truth to shine upon my own life. For me, writing a commentary is first about my own encounter with Christ in His Word and secondarily about producing a written document for the benefit of others. Others can only be helped by my writing if I have first met Christ in the process of the study and production of the commentary. I write because it is a key way in which God makes my soul to thrive. By that I mean simply that God uses all of the study and careful preparation of the books as a primary means of ministering to my own heart. I wrote like this before there was any thought that someone might publish the commentaries. Study of God’s Word and writing about what God shows me there is a primary way in which I express and grow my love for Christ.

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

I provide an appendix in the back of the book which contains my annotations regarding over 85 commentaries on the book of Philippians. There I note that as I prepare to preach a book of the New Testament I seek several commentaries that work closely and carefully with the Greek text, engage in technical discussions and provide in depth insights into the original text. I then look for two or three commentaries that are more exegetical or theological in nature. Finally, I want one or two that are more expositional or homiletical in character. After my own exegetical work, I work through the commentaries in that order. Those in the first category help me with analysis (taking the pieces apart). Those in the second category assist in the transition from analysis to synthesis (putting the pieces back together). Those in the last category help me move from text to message.

To that end, after reviewing them all, I recommend (in addition to my own volume!):

Technical Commentaries:

Joseph H. Hellerman: Philippians (EGGNT)

Gerald F. Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin: Philippians (WBC)

Theological/exegetical Commentaries:

Matthew Harmon: Philippians: A Mentor Commentary

Gordon D. Fee: Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (NIC)

Walter G. Hansen: The Letter to the Philippians (Pillar NT Commentary)

Expositional Commentaries:

Tony Merida and Francis Chan: Exalting God in Philippians (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary)

A.T. Robertson: Paul’s Joy in Christ

R. Kent Hughes: Philippians: The Fellowship of the Gospel (Preaching the Word)

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

I am several years into writing a commentary on 1 & 2 Peter and Jude. I also have two books set for release in 2019: He is Able is to be published by JourneyForth Press and Chosen People, my first foray into fiction, is to be published by Cruciform Press.

I would delight to have people follow my writing ministry by going to my website (www.jkitchen.org) and by liking my Facebook Author Page (John Kitchen Author).


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Galatians Commentary Q & A with Author David McWilliams

7 Questions on Galatians in the Mentor Commentary Series

galatians commentary book coverDr. David McWilliams is the Senior Minister at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Lakeland and has served there for over 30 years. He is married to Vicky and they have a son Evan who is a pastor in England.

Dr. McWilliams’ passions are the study of Scriptures, Reformed and Puritan theology, Christ-centered preaching, and shepherding people. He is a graduate of Mercer University (B.A.), of Westminster Theological Seminary (M.A.R., M.Div.) and of the University of Wales (Ph.D.) Formerly, Dr. McWilliams served as Associate Professor of Systematic Theology on the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary in Dallas.

Dr. McWilliams has authored numerous articles published in the Westminster Theological Journal, Modern Reformation, and others. Besides Galatians: A Mentor Commentary, he wrote the Hebrews in the Lectio Continua Commentary Series. Dr. McWilliams also serves on the Board at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Greenville, SC.

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

The first book that I taught through as a young Bible teacher was Galatians and I have dearly loved it ever since. Early on I learned to read it by sight in my Greek New Testament and have studied commentaries and articles (good and bad) for years. My concerns over defection in the church from the essential and foundational truth of justification by grace through faith in Christ alone also motivated the writing of this commentary.

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

I hope that any serious believer can benefit from my Galatians commentary, but I wrote it especially with the busy pastor in mind. I hope that the commentary can model for the minister of the Word the serious work in which those of us who are pastors should be engaged. The writing of commentaries and other quality theological work should not be left to “professionals” in academic settings, no matter how valuable those contributions may be. Rather, the Minister of the Word is called to be a pastor-theologian. I have always thought that the minister had a real advantage in understanding something of the pastoral heart and circumstances of Paul. Moreover, in the Reformed heritage the very best Reformed comment and theology has been written often in the pastoral setting. This commentary was, at least, an attempt to honor that tradition and those Reformed, pastoral commitments.

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

Allow me to point out one contribution. When Dr. Glen Clary reviewed my commentary, having ‘field tested it’ as he preached to his own congregation, he saw that I had pushed consistently through the commentary an emphasis on the Pauline eschatology (in the Vos – Ridderbos sense of the expression) and was relentless in bringing it to the fore – because it is really there.

Perhaps I should add that I have attempted to open up what Paul said and the text really means with what Calvin called “lucid brevity.”

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

Working on Galatians 3:6-14, “When Curse Turns to Blessing,” was most memorable. Here Paul moves from the plight of sinners to our redemption through Christ’s substitutionary work. Christ became a curse, huper, ‘instead of’ us.

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

In a time in the history of the church in which the ‘standing or falling doctrine of the church’ is denied or radically reinterpreted out of existence, my soul has been thrilled to find, once more, the doctrine of justification by faith clearly taught on the pages of Holy Scripture and particularly in Galatians. In Galatians Paul preached to my heart by the Spirit’s application and Christ was placarded before my very eyes as crucified (3:1-5). I owe everything to Jesus Christ my penal substitute.

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

[J.B.] Lightfoot, John Brown, [F.F.] Bruce, [Leon] Morris and [Herman] Ridderbos to name a few of the best commentaries. Betz must be consulted at every turn.

The insights of J. Gresham Machen in The Origin of Paul’s Religion are helpful, wonderfully so, in understanding the true Paul. The same is true in understanding the inner logic of Paul’s thought when one pursues Vos’ The Pauline Eschatology. The work of Seyoon Kim is remarkable.

The work of Sir William Ramsay was stimulating and is too neglected or forgotten today.

Articles of Lategan, Verseput and a number by C. E. B. Cranfield are helpful.

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

I recently completed an article on the free offer of the Gospel (Puritan Reformed Journal) and I am working on some small writing projects including an article on an aspect of the thought of Cornelius Van Til. I also have notes for two additional volumes of NT exposition if the Lord is pleased to bring this to fruition.

I much regret that there are a number of editorial mistakes that were not corrected prior to publication. I hope that these can be corrected in the future and but sincerely hope that these will not hinder the reader who pursues the Galatians commentary.


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Revelation Commentary Q & A with Author Dennis Johnson

7 Question on Triumph of the Lamb: A Revelation Commentary

revelation commentary book coverDennis 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, Philippians in the Reformed Expository Commentary series, 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 Revelation?

When I began teaching New Testament at Westminster Seminary California in 1982, I was assigned to offer the required course on the General Epistles and Revelation. I initially approached the course in the form that I had taken it as a student: namely, by devoting the lion’s share (pardon the pun—see Rev 5:5) of the course hours to the epistle to the Hebrews, touching lightly on other General Epistles and even more lightly on the Book of Revelation. Over time, my experience followed that of Moses Stuart in the nineteenth century (see the quote from Stuart’s commentary on page 1 of Triumph), as my students asked for more help in interpreting the challenging visions granted to John on Patmos. I began to reserve more class hours for Revelation year by year. Lecture notes were fleshed out into a 36-page essay for students. Then our seminary bookstore manager encouraged me to polish the essay and submit it to a publisher. By the time I had finished “polishing”, the document had become Triumph of the Lamb, 360+ pages in its published form! Along the way, I had opportunity to preach through most of the Book of Revelation in our local congregation. Preaching Revelation showed me how applicable it is to Christian living, and increased the clarity of my explanations. Incidentally, I proposed the title Window on the War of the Ages; but the P&R Publishing’s editors wisely recommended that we call it Triumph of the Lamb—a title that fits perfectly (Rev 5:5, 9-10). I’m so glad they did!

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

Triumph was written, first of all, for seminary students, to introduce them to an interpretive approach that arises from Revelation itself and that will equip them to preach its message of challenge and hope to God’s people. The intended audience certainly includes pastors who have the desire and responsibility to preach through the whole book (not just the obviously-practical letters to the seven churches in Rev. 2-3) and who are searching for an alternative approach to the eschatological/political speculation that often characterizes Evangelicals’ handling of the Apocalypse today. I have been encouraged to hear from many pastors that, heartened and helped by Triumph, they have preached through Revelation, and their congregations have received the blessing promised in Rev 1:3. Triumph engages the scholarly discussion of Revelation’s genre, structure, and historical-cultural background, so it is of interest to biblical scholars. At the same time, its style is accessible also to lay Christians (who are free to skip the technical stuff in the footnotes).

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

I grew up in an Evangelical church in which Revelation was taught through a “literal-where-possible” hermeneutic formed by Premillennial eschatology. We read Revelation in the light of contemporary news, especially in the Middle East. So my assignment to teach Revelation in seminary forced me to reexamine my assumptions about the structure of the book and the interrelationships among its visions, and about the hermeneutical key that opens up the true meaning of Revelation’s symbols not only to twentieth-century Christians, but also to first-century Christians enduring Roman persecution. What I found as I looked at Revelation closely brought me to an interpretation that, I believe, has two benefits: (1) It is consistent with the “cues” that the text itself gives us, and (2) it displays the pastoral relevance of this book to the daily life of Christians in every generation.

The “cues” include such insights as these: (a) Revelation’s purpose is not to puzzle us, but to reveal. We can expect to get its message, rather than finding ourselves mired in confusion or controversy. (b) The topic of this book is not geopolitical conflict, but Jesus Christ. This is “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1), and he is the central protagonist throughout: Son of Man, triumphant Lion/Lamb, the Lord’s Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords riding to victory. (c) Revelation’s symbols are best understood against the backdrop of Old Testament events and prophetic visions. (d) Revelation’s visions, rather than always portraying historically-successive events, often provide multiple perspectives (different “camera angles”) on the same events (reduplication).

Regarding the book’s pastoral purpose, Revelation is given to bless the church as it is under attack from Satan through persecution, deception, and sensual seduction. King Jesus gives his suffering, struggling people reason to endure and stay pure by showing us that history is in his sovereign hand and he is directing it toward the bliss of the New Heavens and Earth. Pastors need to preach this book—the whole book—because our congregations are under Satan’s attack through the same stratagems. In some places, violent persecution threatens and tries to intimidate the followers of Jesus. Elsewhere, peace seems to prevail for the church in its cultural context. But there the devil’s insidious assaults through false teaching, materialism, and sensual pleasure are even more dangerous, since they are harder to see!

I am grateful that, in God’s always wise providence, I began my Christian life in a context where Revelation was read differently from the way I read it today. I think my “eschatological origins and pilgrimage” help Triumph’s readers to walk along with me toward a more faithful reading of this awesome, vivid book, which God gave for our courage, correction, and comfort.

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

I was struck by the parallel between the visions in Revelation 12 and 20:1-10, and how they mutually interpret each other. In both, Satan appears as the dragon/serpent/devil/Satan (12:9; 20:2). In both, Satan suffers a grave setback but is not yet destroyed: In Revelation 12 the dragon cannot destroy the Messiah (12:4-5) and is expelled from heaven, thwarted from accusing God’s people (12:7-11). In Revelation 20, the dragon is bound, thwarted from continuing to deceive the Gentile nations (20:2-3). As I studied the two visions of Revelation 12, I saw that the setback that Satan suffered was brought about by the incarnation and saving work of Jesus Christ, whose blood gives us victory over our Accuser. I realized that, if Revelation 12 and 20 are complementary “camera angles” on the same historical drama, then the “binding” of the dragon that launched the thousand years occurred at Christ’s first coming—as Jesus said it did (Matt 12:29). Now, since Satan cannot keep the nations in the dark, the gospel is going throughout the world (Acts 14:17; 17:30-31; Eph. 2:1-2, 11-12). Satan’s demise will not arrive until Christ’s glorious return, but in the meanwhile Satan’s binding makes world missions—along with suffering and persecution—not only possible but also fruitful!

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

Revelation’s portraits of Jesus Christ showed me even more vividly two astonishing truths about his death for us on the cross. First, his sacrifice displays the depth of his love for us: “to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood…be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev 1:5-6). I need to be reminded over and over that Christ’s death is the display of his love for me, as the inspired New Testament authors remind us over and over (John 15:13-14; Gal 2:20; Eph 5:2; etc.). Second, his sacrificial death is the “weapon” by which he has triumphed over the Evil One, our Accuser (Rev. 5:1-11). Because his suffering is the focal point of his victory, our suffering too becomes the means of our victory in him: “And they have conquered [the Accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:11). The persecuted church is the triumphant church, because our Champion won the decisive victory for us through the apparent shame, foolishness, and weakness of his cross.

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

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation (NIGTC) (Eerdmans, 1999)

Richard D. Phillips, Revelation (REC) (P&R, 2017)

Michael Wilcock, I Saw Heaven Opened: The Message of Revelation (The Bible Speaks Today) (IVP, 1975)

William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation (Baker, 1939, 1975)

Vern S. Poythress, The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation (P&R, 2000)

Scotty Smith and Michael Card, Unveiled Hope: Eternal Encouragement from the Book of Revelation (Thomas Nelson, 1997)

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 abridgement of Walking with Jesus through His Word; Discovering Christ in All the Scriptures (P&R, 2015), came out earlier this year (2018).

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

I recently 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)


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Esther, Ruth Commentary Q & A with Author David Strain

7 Questions on Ruth and Esther in the Focus on the Bible Commentary Series

ruth esther commentary book coverDr. David Strain was born in Glasgow, Scotland. He holds degrees from Duncan Jordanstone College of Art, Trinity College Glasgow/School of Divinity, the Free Church of Scotland College in Edinburgh, and Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson.

He was ordained to the gospel ministry in the Free Church of Scotland in September 2003, and has held pastoral charges in London, England, and Columbus, MS.

Since May 2013, David has served on the pastoral staff of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson and was installed as Senior Minister in May 2014. He was awarded a Doctor of Ministry degree from Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson) in 2016.

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

The commentaries on Ruth and Esther both grew out of a deep love for Old Testament narrative, and began life as several series of sermons preached in two different congregations. Suffice it to say, the emphasis in both books on the covenant faithfulness of God and his sovereign providence has been a piece of profound comfort to me, and I trust, some help to those who first listened to much of the material that made its way into this volume.

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

In keeping with the ethos of the Focus on the Bible series in general, this commentary is aimed at the lay reader. There is a concern throughout to connect the narrative to the broader themes of redemptive history, and to lead the reader by safe paths to Jesus Christ crucified. The applicatory character of the material is undoubtedly popular and devotional rather than scholarly, though I hope that it will be precisely here that preachers will find it useful in their preparations for the pulpit.

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

I have tried to model Christ centered exposition, helping connect the already vivid, though sometimes quite alien, Old Testament narrative to the gospel. Many academic commentaries are invested in the study of philology and the various disciplines of biblical criticism. One sometime wonders if, in order to be credible as a scholar one must refrain from reading the Old Testament as Christian scripture, clearly pointing us to and teaching us about Christ and the salvation he has won. I contend that this is the only way for a Christian to read it faithfully.

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

Its very hard to single out a single passage in either Ruth or Esther, partly because they are both such brilliantly written works of literature. The story is a unit. Having said that the obvious absence of the name of God in Esther is a challenge, as are some of the obscure customs Ruth (like the fascinating scene in 4:7f. at the city gate where Boaz and Mr. So and So agree that Boaz should marry Ruth. The man takes off his sandal and gives it to Boaz. What Boaz was supposed to do with it, or how Mr So and So was supposed to get home after that, I don’t know.) One important note to sound in writing is to capture something of the humor and the pace of the narrative. In both there are laugh-out-loud-funny moments when sin is shown to be self defeating, or when the machinations of a scheming mother-in-law are unmasked. The text is meant to evoke joy and make us delight in the wise and good providence of God. We should finish reading Ruth and Esther with a broad smile on our faces. I didn’t want to write a commentary that left the reader frowning.

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

To see in both the marvelous wisdom of God who works in both the macro and the micro levels of life for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose!

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

Daniel Block, Judges and Ruth, NAC, (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 1999), Robert L. Hubbard, The Book of Ruth, NICOT, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 1988), Iain Duguid, Esther and Ruth, REC (Phillipsburg, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2005) Karen Jobes, Esther, NIVAC, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999).

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

Please visit David Strain’s staff page at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi. You can listen to his sermons here and read his articles here.

Follow David Strain on Twitter here.



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Micah Commentary Q & A with Author Daniel Smith-Christopher

7 Questions on Micah in the Old Testament Library Commentary Series

micah commentary book coverDaniel Smith-Christopher (Ph.D., Oxford University) is Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University with specialization in Old Testament Studies and Theology.

Besides Micah in the Old Testament Library series, Dr. Smith-Christopher’s recent publications include, The Religion of the Landless: The Social Context of the Babylonian Exile, The Old Testament: Our Call to Faith and Justice, and Sacred Scripture: A Catholic Study of God’s Word.

Dr. Smith-Christopher lectures frequently for various adult education venues of the Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Uniting Church in Australia, and other Christian churches.

He is frequently quoted in the History Channel’s Mysteries of the Bible and other documentaries on religious themes for A&E, the History Channel, National Geographic, and PBS.

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

The initial request to work on MICAH came from editors at Westminster/John Knox. 8th-7th Century is not really my main period of specialization in OT, so I was a bit surprised. I normally work on Exile/Persian Period materials (Daniel, Esther, Ezra-Nehemiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah). I certainly admire the 8th Century Prophetic traditions, of course. So, it is not that I ignored the Neo-Assyrian period of Prophetic material – and I was certainly aware of James Luther Mays’ wonderful older work on Micah in this venerable series, “The Old Testament Library”, so I was frankly honored to be asked to work on this new volume. I don’t care if I was their 3rd choice…or their 15th choice…I was still honored!

Micah, of course, is a wonderfully complex and profound work. It features some of the most famous passages in all the prophets – “swords into plowshares”, “what does the Lord require of you…?”, etc. But Micah is also a work that is passionate about justice, about the dangers of corrupt leadership, the dangers of war-mongering, and yet words of encouragement when you feel overwhelmed about what you see around you. It was a delight to work on.

I also made the decision to be quite forthright about my own interests. These days, it is considered important to state one’s own orientation to scholarship in scholarly work – so I decided to not only be open about my Quaker background (informed by Anabaptist ideas as well) but also to actually assert those values as part of my analysis. For example, I believe that an anti-war perspective actually enhances a more accurate reading of Micah and I passionately argue the case that the prophet behind this book was stridently anti-war (which is not quite the same as claiming he was “pacifist”, which I do not claim)!

However, given that Micah is such a stirring read, I should not have been surprised (but I was!) with HOW MUCH scholarly material there is on Micah! The background reading was far more extensive that I originally anticipated. It was a joy, of course, to be able to read so much on 7 chapters of Hebrew Bible – but the debates and writing on Micah is rich and varied, and it was a real pleasure. Along the way – there were some delightful discoveries, such as Wessels’ essays in South African journals. I tried to pay attention to writers from non-Western countries as well, of course, as I believe that cross-cultural interpretation is an extremely important development in Biblical Studies.

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

I wrote this work for anyone willing to seriously engage the text of the Bible, but with the old adage firmly in mind: “The Bible in one hand, the Newspaper in the other”. Some attribute that statement to Karl Barth, but I’ve heard others credited with it, too. I do a great deal of sociological and political observation in the commentary because I believe it is essential to maintain a dialogue on these matters when reading Biblical texts…precisely because I would argue that the Bible is ALSO a socially informed writing, and thus deeply political in orientation.

This applies even to issues of textual interpretation, including reading the Hebrew and Greek texts. Questions of nuanced translation can ALSO be influenced by social observations, for example. Nothing about Biblical interpretation is just pure theoretical mathematics, after all! Attitudes, experiences, insights, cultural experiences, all matter deeply.

But if there was a readership that I had in mind – I would have to say that it was foreshadowed by my personal comments at the front of the book. For example, I have many treasured friends among Maori Anglicans in Tairawhiti including the young Maori Anglican Archbishop, Rev. Donald Tamihere they are based on the East Coast of the North Island of Aotearoa/New Zealand, and I have learned a tremendous amount from them about interpreting scripture in the context of indigenous issues and identity. So, besides colleagues already interested in Micah and Prophetic literature, and besides my fellow Quakers and Mennonite who will certainly recognize many themes throughout, I hope that my work is found to be useful to my Maori Christian brothers and sisters, and indigenous Christians struggling with issues of identity, justice, and renewal.

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

I don’t know if it is “original” but I hope that my observations are considered helpful in that they are informed by an abiding interest in issues of social justice, minority and indigenous rights, and a critique of all forms of militarism and violence. Given the setting, the book of Micah speaks with a powerful critique. There is no mistaking this commentary as anything other than a serious Quaker’s reading of Micah, deeply informed by my Mennonite teachers in seminary, and continuing to be informed by my reading of progressive people of faith (esp. Jewish, Muslim, and Christian) in the modern world. In short, there are lots of “Micahs” out there!

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

The opportunity for a Quaker Bible teacher to work hard on the famous “Swords into Plowshares” passage was a gift. There is so much more to be said about this famous passage. I am convinced that there is a monograph in there somewhere…

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

Two passages haunt me. The first one is quite difficult in Hebrew, and the NRSV does the following:

Micah 2:8 But you rise up against my people as an enemy; you strip the robe from the peaceful, from those who pass by trustingly with no thought of war.

I have (what I believe to be) strong reasons to read this passage differently. The details of how I think the Hebrew  grammar can make sense for my reading are a bit complex, but suffice it to say that I think that the Hebrew can quite fairly read to actually refer to what we would call today: “war-mongers” – and I believe he is referring to officials in Jerusalem who insist on mustering “war-mongers” – and I believe he is referring to officials in Jerusalem who insist on mustering local villagers (like Micah’s village) for wars that will only result in destruction of their peaceful villages in the foothills even if Jerusalem – a city with it’s walls and wells – might well survive. I read Micah as a very angry villager bitterly angry at Jerusalem for fomenting unnecessary rebellion for it’s own ends. On this, by the way, I think Micah may significantly differ from the “city-boy” Isaiah. It would certainly not be the first time that Biblical voices disagree, and I am by no means the first to propose that Micah and Isaiah might see things somewhat differently!

The other passage is far easier to understand, and is a really good sample of Micah’s fiery rhetoric of justice and injustice:

Micah 3:1 And I said: Listen, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Should you not know justice?– 2 you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin off my people, and the flesh off their bones; 3 who eat the flesh of my people, flay their skin off them, break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat in a kettle, like flesh in a caldron. I am convinced that the contemporary American (esp. Evangelical) Christian obsession with political and economic conservatism (everybody for themselves) does a serious disservice to the passion for justice in a book like Micah – and the passion of the ministry of Jesus. I have for some time been concerned about reading and hearing Jesus as Prophet (among other aspects and titles). This particular emphasis has been sadly neglected, in my opinion. There is always a potential revolution when Christians begin to be as concerned to live what Jesus taught – just as concerned with living the message as they are concerned to be dogmatically specifically about who Jesus was (and is). It’s like the early Church councils. For example – some of our dear Christian predecessors spent so much time debating the specific Greek words to DESCRIBE Jesus (homo-ousias…homoi-ousias) but I wish they had spent some more of that time deciding how to minister to the poor and feed the hungry in OBEDIENCE TO Jesus rather than talking ABOUT Him. Now, maybe they did – but the point is that we don’t hear much about it. Wouldn’t it have been marvelous if an early Christian “Micah” had shaken up Nicea or Chalcedon with the needs of the urban and rural poor? Surely reading Micah might help shake us out of endless bickering about such doctrine? Especially when we face dark times? Contrast Nicea and Chalcedon with Medellin, Columbia, in 1968 when the Catholic Bishops met and gave official sanction to the movement we know today as Liberation Theology! Now THERE was a Church council Micah would have approved of!

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

[Hans Walter] Wolff, of course, has written some of the classic works on Micah. The Anchor Bible volumeAnderson and Freedman, is essential (even though I don’t go in for their detailed poetic verse analysis); and Dempster’s brand new volume on Micah is also helpful (but it came out after mine). Willi Wessel’s journal articles, written mostly in South African journals, is compelling reading. Mays’ previous volume in the Old Testament Library was a classic and still worth a serious read. Some of the feminist readings of Micah are also quite provocative, like Erin Runions.

But if you want to understand a really interesting way of reading Micah, read the lyrics of the great socialist anthem, “The Internationale“. There are so many thematic parallels, I would almost believe that the French writer of the original, Eugene Pottier, had been reading Micah while manning the barricades of the Paris Commune! 

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

I am becoming increasingly fascinated with late 19th, early 20th Century Christian Socialists and their reading of the Bible. I am working on a book on this theme. Obviously, this is moving toward “History of Interpretation” a bit, which is new for me, but I hope to continue proposing that these interesting activists have some readings that are worthy of serious consideration textually and critically as well.

Like many Christians (but, apparently, not quite enough yet), recent events have pushed me to the left (where Jesus is to be found waiting for us), and my reading of the Bible continues to move that direction as well. I have been helped profoundly by the fact that previous generations of activists and social thinkers also derived great inspiration and comfort from Scripture in equally dark times.

I would have to say that – in a profoundly real way – Micah pushed me further left on the social and political spectrum.


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1-2 Samuel Commentary Q & A with Author Paul Evans

7 Question on 1-2 Samuel in the SGBC Commentary Series

samuel commentary book coverPaul S. Evans (Ph.D., University of St. Michael’s College) is Assistant Professor of Old Testament at McMaster Divinity College. Dr. Evans specializes in Old Testament studies and in his teaching and research emphasizes the theological significance of the Old Testament and the value of its application for the Church today.

Besides 1 and 2 Samuel in the Story of God Bible Commentary series, Dr. Evan’s earlier work includes a monograph entitled The Invasion of Sennacherib in the Book of Kings: A Source-Critical and Rhetorical Study of 2 Kings 18-19, which was awarded the 2010 R.B.Y. Scott Award by the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies recognizing an outstanding book in the areas of Hebrew Bible and/or the Ancient Near East. Paul also co-edited a volume on the book of Chronicles entitled Chronicling the Chronicler which was published by Eisenbrauns in 2013.

In addition Paul has 17 research articles in print, with most focused on the historical books of the Old Testament, with the most recent appearing in the Journal of Biblical Literature 136.4 (2017): 749-764. Many of Dr. Evan’s articles are accessible through Academia.edu.

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 Samuel?

The focus of my writing has been on the historical books of the Old Testament. My first book looked at Hezekiah and the invasion of Jerusalem by the Assyrians under their king Sennacherib and I also have written several articles on this part of Israel’s history. I have also written several articles on the historical narratives of the book of Chronicles, many of which have parallels in Samuel or Kings. Given my love of the historical books, I welcomed the opportunity to write a full commentary on Samuel.

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

This commentary is written with pastors, students, and lay Christians in mind. It provides an accessible exposition of Samuel, keeping in mind the larger story of the Bible. At the same time, it is born out of new research, incorporates the best of biblical scholarship, and contributes to the scholarly discussion surrounding this important text.

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

This commentary incorporates the best of critical biblical scholarship but is written from a faith based perspective. For example, important work has been done on the complexity of Samuel’s characterization—that despite being God’s prophet, he shows much self-interest and is not an ideal character. In this commentary I look at where we see this in the text but also wrestle with statements that speak of Samuel as God’s faithful prophet. In the end I suggest Samuel’s flaws and humanity are underscored in the story, as are his faithful service to God. From this we can see that God used flawed people (as there are no other types of people) and this is encouraging to a flawed person like myself. Also, it is not helpful to try to idealize biblical characters and such approaches go against the intent of the text itself.

My commentary also underscores King Saul’s downfall as related to his obsession with superstition and ritualistic assurances of success, the relevance of which has often been overlooked. The relevance of this for Christians’ lives is brought out in the commentary as many people of faith often struggle with similar issues as we try to walk in faith rather than rely on signs. The commentary also highlights the importance of David and the promises to David (2 Sam 7) as a precursor to the Gospel and salvation by faith and not works. David and his role as God’s anointed one (messiah) is also emphasized and there are some amazing ways in which his life often prefigures events in the lives of Jesus, the Anointed One.

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

The story of Absalom’s rebellion in 2 Sam 15-18—which meant that David had to flee Jerusalem—was fascinating to write, especially because much of David’s story resonates with Jesus’ passion narratives in the gospels. David was cursed by Shimei (2 Sam 16) and had stones and dirt thrown at him, and like Jesus, “was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly” (1 Pet 2:23). David rebuked his loyal follower (Abishai) for wanting to kill Shimei in defense of David (2 Sam 16:10) saying that the Lord was behind Shimei’s assault (2 Sam 16:10–11), similarly, Jesus had to rebuke his loyal follower (Peter) for taking up the sword in defense of Jesus (Matt 26:52) similarly saying that God was behind the assault (John 18:11). David’s trusted counselor, Ahithophel, betrayed him to those who would kill him, and Jesus’s disciple Judas Iscariot (John 13:29) betrayed him to his death. Many of the locations mentioned in David’s flight from Jerusalem and Jesus’ passion narrative are the same. Both David and Jesus ascend the Mount of Olives and there learn of the betrayal (David is told by a messenger, while Jesus is betrayed with a kiss there). Also, both Ahithophel and Judas (Matt 27:5) hang themselves after betraying the anointed one. What is more, they kill themselves before the fruits of their betrayal are completed.

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

The book of Samuel was encouraging to my faith in many ways. Examining the complexity of Samuel and David, with both their flaws and their strengths provided encouragement that God can use a flawed person like me. The tragic story of Saul, and David’s downfall in his later life provide cautionary tales about the importance of our choices and the consequences of sin, which continue to urge me to holy living. God’s enduring commitment to David, regardless of his failures (2 Sam 7) elicit continued encouragement to trust God with my future and not rely on my own strength or successes. God’s longsuffering, compassion and amazing love come to the fore in these narratives and lead me to love him more and cling to him in faith as our hope for the future.

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

Alter, Robert. The David story: a translation with commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel. New York: Norton, 1999.

Anderson, A. A. 2 Samuel. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas, Tex.: Word, 1989.

Bodner, Keith. 1 Samuel: A Narrative Commentary. Hebrew Bible Monographs. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2008.

Brueggemann, Walter. First and Second Samuel. Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching. Louisville, Ky.: John Knox, 1990.

Fokkelman, J. P., Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel: Vow and Desire (1 Sam. 1–12). Assen: Van Gorcum, 1993.

Fokkelman, J. P., Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel: A Full Interpretation Based on Stylistic and Structural Analysis: Vol. 1, King David (II Sam. 9–20 & I Kings 1–2). Studia Semitica Neerlandica. Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1981.

Klein, Ralph W. 1 Samuel. WBC. Waco, Tex.: Word, 1983.

Long, V. Philips, The Reign and Rejection of King Saul: A Case for Literary and Theological Coherence. Edited by David L. Peterson. SBLDS, 118. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989.

Polzin, Robert, Samuel and the Deuteronomist: A Literary Study of the Deuteronomistic History: Part Two: 1 Samuel. Indiana Studies in Biblical Literature. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989.

Polzin, Robert, David and the Deuteronomist: A Literary Study of the Deuteronomistic History. Part Three: 2 Samuel. Indiana Studies in Biblical Literature. Bloomington; Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993.

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

I am currently researching and writing on the history of seventh century B.C. Judah and their recovery from the Assyrian invasion. At issue partly is how the Bible understands the Assyrian king Sennacherib’s retreat as a victory for Judah when most of their fortified cities were destroyed, and the Assyrians understand their campaign against Judah as a success when they failed to depose Hezekiah and take the capital city of Jerusalem. I also continue to work on the narratives of Chronicles and am working towards a book on the method of the Chronicler in his rewriting the historical narratives of Samuel and Kings. I regularly present my latest research in papers given at the meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies and the Evangelical Theological Society and some of my work in print can be accessed on my academia.edu page where many of my articles are available for download.


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