John Harvey Q & A on Romans in the Kregel Library Series

Romans commentary by John HarveyJohn D. Harvey (Th.D., Wycliffe College) is the Dean of the Seminary and School of Ministry at Columbia International University. He is also the author of the Romans volume in the Kregel Exegetical Library series.

Dr. Harvey joined the faculty of CIU’s Seminary and School of Ministry in 1992 and taught New Testament and Greek until 2011. He has served as dean from 2011 until the present.

He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature.

He has had opportunities to teach in Germany, the Netherlands, Moldova, Zambia, and South Africa.

Dr. Harvey’s books include Interpreting the Pauline Letters and Anointed with the Spirit and Power. He is an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.

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

Romans has been one my favorite Pauline letters since I read John Stott’s book, Men Made New, shortly after becoming a Christian in 1972. (Sadly, that book is now out of print.) I had just finished the Romans volume in the Exegetical Guides for the Greek New Testament. That work focused on the exegetical details of grammar, syntax, and word study. This commentary let me build on that exegetical work while focusing on the message of the letter and thinking about ways to communicate that message effectively.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? Professors? Students? Lay Christians in the local church?

The intended audience includes pastors, Sunday School teachers, and lay leaders. Hopefully, the commentary will give them a model for interpreting, applying, and communicating the text of Romans, contribute to their understanding of the letter, help them understand how each passage fits into Paul’s theology, and provide suggestions on how they might organize and develop sermons or lessons for their own congregational contexts.

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

The primary contribution is that the commentary seeks to be both exegetical and expository. It is easy for commentaries to get lost in the details. Details are important, and they can fascinate us. Sometimes, however, those details can distract us from focusing on the primary purpose of Scripture: how to know God and how to live in relationship with him. In Romans, Paul was seeking to communicate what his original readers needed to know for a reason that was pertinent to them. He was not writing abstract doctrine; he was applying doctrine to life. The task of exegesis is to understand (a) the truth the author was trying to communicate, and (b) why his original readers needed to know that truth. The task of exposition is to identify (c) ways in which contemporary readers share similar needs, and (d) how best to communicate the truth effectively to meet those needs. For the preacher and teacher, three questions capture those tasks: What did the author say? Why did he say it? What should I do with it? For each text section (e.g., Romans 3:21-26), the commentary seeks to explain the meaning of what Paul has written, identify the need contemporary readers share with Paul’s original readers, and suggest an objective for communicating that message in a way that meets the need.

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

I face the same challenge with this question that I do with the question “What is your favorite course?” The answer is “Whatever I happen to be studying at the moment.” I love Romans 1-4 because in those chapters Paul tells us that, despite our total lack of righteousness, God declares us righteous by grace through faith apart from works, religious ritual, or keeping the law. I love Romans 5-8 because in those chapters Paul tells us that the gospel delivers us from condemnation, sin, death, the law, the flesh, and all possible opposition. I love Romans 9-11 because in those chapters Paul tells us that God keeps his word and shows mercy to all. I love Romans 12-16 because in those chapters Paul tells us that we can live our lives and exercise our liberty as we renew our minds with the truth of the gospel. I love the letter’s opening (1:1-17) and closing (15:14-16:27) because in those sections, Paul shares his heart about his own ministry and challenges to Romans to be involved in the task of getting the gospel to those who have never heard. I came to love that long list of names in Romans 16 because they remind us how extensive and inclusive the impact of the gospel is. So, pick a section or passage . . .

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

This work reinforced my conviction that, as believers, we don’t fully understand who we are in Christ or the difference who we are should make in the way we live for Christ. It has challenged me to do my best to help others understand those truths live accordingly.

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

Longenecker’s commentary explores the history of scholarship at some length; Schreiner’s commentary does a good job of discussing the overall argument of the letter; Moo’s commentary is helpful on exegetical details; Jewett’s commentary is helpful on the structure of each passage and on scholarly bibliography as a whole; Stott’s commentary has the best analysis of Romans 5-8.

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

I am currently working on a commentary on Acts. A colleague and I also have a proposal under consideration for a preaching textbook that seeks to integrate exegesis and exposition, with a special focus on different literary genres. Both projects take a similar approach to the” three questions” model of the new Romans commentary. You can check out what’s going on at Columbia Biblical Seminary by visiting any of the following options:




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