Compare the NIVAC and IVPNTC Commentary Series

The NIV Application Commentary series and the IVP New Testament Commentary series are two of the most well-reviewed academic resources utilized by pastors and teachers today.

The volumes in each series are known for offering non-technical, high-quality biblical interpretation in an easy-to-read format, as well as for helping the reader apply the text to contemporary life through preaching and teaching. Because the NIVAC and IVPNTC series’ have similar purposes, it’s important to understand the differences between them.

NIVAC commentary thessaloniansIn fact, the series’ are so alike that in G.K. Beale’s well-reviewed volume on 1-2 Thessalonians in the IVPNTC series, he writes that he avoided consulting Michael Holmes’ well-reviewed 1-2 Thessalonians volume in the NIVAC series — not because its scholarship is lacking — but because he wanted to make sure he was presenting readers with original applications. [1] Because these are two of the most well-reviewed commentaries on 1-2 Thessalonians, they will be the basis for comparing and contrasting the two series.

Please note: At the end of this article, you can follow the link to the Bible Commentary Series Comparison Chart to compare dozens of different commentary series all at once.

Michael W. Holmes (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is professor of biblical studies and early Christianity at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Greogy Beale (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) holds the Kenneth T. Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies and is professor of New Testament, graduate biblical and theological studies at Wheaton College (Illinois). He is also Visiting Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia).

A Brief Overview of the NIVAC and IVPNTC Series

The NIVAC series was established in 1995 under the guidance religious studies professor, Terry C. Muck. The first volume published in the series was Frank Thielman’s Philippians commentary. In 2004, the 22-volume New Testament series was complete with the publication of Michael Wilkin’s Matthew commentary. Some of the best-reviewed volumes include Darrell Bock’s Luke commentary, Craig Blomberg’s 1 Corinthians commentary, and George Guthrie’s Hebrews commentary.

The NIVAC series intends to help readers apply the biblical text to modern living. To this end, each passage is discussed is three categories: (1) Original Meaning: this section contains exegesis. (2) Bridging Contexts: here, the principles that relate to all generations are drawn out. (3) Contemporary Significance: finally, applications are suggested. [2]

IVPNTC commentary thessalonians
old cover design

The IVPNTC series was established in 1991 under Scottish New Testament scholar, I. Howard Marshall. The first volume published was Marshall’s 1 Peter commentary. In 2009, the 20-volume series, which does not include Old Testament books, was completed with the release of the 2 Peter and Jude volume in 2009. Some of the best-reviewed volumes include Craig Keener’s Matthew commentary, G.K. Beale’s 1-2 Thessalonians commentary, and I. Howard Marshall’s 1 Peter commentary.

The IVPNTC series “Seeks to move from the text to its contemporary relevance and application.” The editors posit that the series “offers the unique combination of solid, biblical exposition and helpful explanatory notes in the same user friendly format.” [3]

Neither series is technical, so readers who don’t have a working knowledge of Greek will not be lost. Both use the NIV translation as the basis for their comments.

The series’ authors are broadly evangelical. Some in the IVPTC are Reformed (e.g. Beale), yet others are Arminian (e.g. Osborne, Romans). Likewise, some in the NIVAC series are Reformed (e.g. Thielman, Philippians), yet others are Arminian (e.g. Keener, Revelation). Since these are mid-level series, most authors don’t spend significant time discussing argumentative theological issues. Authors in both series are committed to the inerrancy and infallibility of the biblical text and interpreting and applying it within the evangelical tradition.

A Representative Passage

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 will be used as a representative example to compare and contrast the commentaries.

thessalonians commentary beale
current cover design

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” (ESV)

  • Both authors devote a similar amount of space to the passage. Holmes discusses the verses in 23 pages (p. 227-250), while Beale discusses them in 26 (p. 198-224).
  • The authors take a different approach to labeling the passage. Holmes titles the passage, “The Parousia of Jesus and the Man of Lawlessness,” which is a reference to Paul’s argument in the passage. Beale titles the passage, “A Firm Standing in Biblical Truth Protects Against False Teaching,” which alludes to his application of the text.
  • In a similar way, the authors take a different approach to their subheadings in the passage. Holmes labels the first two verses, “Introduction to Topic and to Paul’s Concern,” while Beale titles them, “Do Not Be Deceived by False Teaching That Christ’s Final Coming Has Already Occurred.”

Comparing their approach to application

The biggest difference between these similar series are how the authors approach applying the biblical text. The difference isn’t in the applications themselves, but the way they are discussed in the commentaries.

Holmes

As the format of the NIVAC series dictates, Holmes saves his insights concerning application for the third of the prescribed categories mentioned above, “Contemporary Significance.” In total, Holmes devotes approximately seven (of the 23) pages to discussing applications for this passage. Furthermore, his main ideas are in bold type and in in the representative passage listed above, his subheadings include, (1) “Keep the focus on Jesus!” (2) “The deceptiveness of evil” (3) “Preparation versus speculation,” and (4) “A reason for hope in the face of oppression.” He illustrates his applications using magazine articles, song lyrics, and historical references. Preachers will find the application section helpful sermon preparation.

Beale

Beale, on the other hand, discusses application throughout the 26 pages he devotes to the passage. Even before discussing the first verse, Beale reflects on modern life when he laments certain shifts in education over the last century:

“A significant shift in all levels of education has occurred over the past century: a slow but sure downgrading in the academic core content of curricula and quality in the training of teachers. The Christian subculture has not been immune to this broad ‘dumbing down’ influence. Most seminary curricula have been affected, so that there is a snowballing effect in which the church is influenced not only by the wider culture but also by inadequately trained pastors. When there is less of a focus on the content of the Bible in seminary education and in the church, then the church becomes fertile ground for the seeds of false teaching-and we know there are numerous false teachings sprouting up in churches today.” [4]

Then, following two pages of interpretation on the first two verses, Beale illustrates his application when he discusses the failed prophecies found in the history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. [5] Then, after discussing the false teachings the Thessalonian church was subject to, he tells a story about a near-disaster he and his wife had while remodeling their home. [6] Following that, in the next five pages, he discusses the seven different views of who, or what, “the restrainer” is that Paul mentions. Throughout the section, Beales weaves interpretation and application.

Summary: Readers who prefer a commentary to separate the process of interpretation and application, may prefer the NIVAC series’ three-category approach. Readers who like to think through application throughut their study of the text, may prefer the IVPNTC series’ approach.

Commentary Reviews

Both volumes have been well-reviewed. In his review of Holmes’ volume in the journal Evangel, Ray Van Neste wrote,

“In conclusion, this commentary succeeds well in its stated goals of illuminating the text with informed exegesis and practical application, Beale is particularly good at probing the theology of the text and makes appropriate, pointed applications to today. If a commentary is going to make applications it needs to be more than simply generic and Beale has done a fine job of making pointed application precisely because he is thinking theologically through the letters. This commentary will assist in bold proclamation of the Word of God, I commend it warmly.” [6]

In his review of Beale’s volume in the Calvin Theological Journal, Jefferey A.D. Weima wrote,

“Holmes has produced just the kind of work that preachers and students of Scripture are looking for in our increasingly pragmatic age: a readable commentary that not only faithfully explains the meaning of the ancient text for the Thessalonian believers but also applies the text in helpful and specific ways to our contemporary culture and life.” [7]

Affordability

Currently, the IVPNTC volumes are published in paperback. Previously they were published in hardback and used volumes can still be found in used bookstores and online. As of this writing, new paperbacks, like Craig Keener’s Matthew volume is approximately $20, Grant Osborne’s Romans volume is the same. Darrell Bock’s Luke volume, Beale’s 1-2 Thessalonians volume, and Rodney Whitcare’s John volume are all about $25. Some volumes have a Kindle edition, which are priced $3-5 cheaper than the hardcopy.

Currently, NIVAC are published in hardback. Michael Wilkin’s Matthew volume is about $35, Douglas Moo’s Romans volume, Ajith Fernando’s Acts volume is about $30, Darell Bock’s Luke volume is $30, George Guthrie’s Hebrews volumes is $25, Gary Burge’s John volume is $35, Craig Keener’s Revelation volume is $20. In the OT, John Oswalt’s Isaiah volume is $34, John Walton’s Job volume is $25, Karen Jobe’s Esther volume is $20. Some electronic editions of the NIVAC series are significantly less expensive, like Blomberg’s 1 Corinthians, which is $18 in hardback, while the Kindle version is $10. Douglas Moo’s 2 Peter and Jude volume is $23 in hardback and $8 in Kindle.

Get Michael Holmes’ 1-2 Thessalonians commentary on Amazon or Christian Book Distributors.

Get Gregory Beale’s 1-2 Thessalonians commentary on Amazon or Christian Book Distributors.

Please see the Bible Commentary Series Comparison Chart to compare dozens of different series.

More information from the publishers

IVPNTC: Pastors with a passion for sound exposition and scholars with a heart for pastoral leadership have joined forces to produce this exciting, accessible, and informative commentary series. Each volume, informed by the best of up-to-date evangelical scholarship, presents passage-by-passage commentary based on the NIV along with background information on authorship, setting, theme and various interpretive issues. A unique format allows the main commentary to focus on the vital message of the New Testament book being studied for today’s church, while bottom-of-the-page notes include valuable scholarly information to support those who use the volumes as a resource for preaching or teaching preparation.

Fascination with the end times is not just a recent phenomenon. The young church at Thessalonica, having taken root during Paul’s brief stay there, pondered when the end might come as well. Paul, in order to instruct them more fully, wrote them two letters, which taken together expound the “already-and-not-yet” character of the end times. His instruction and counsel can serve us well today. Throughout this commentary, G. K. Beale explains what each letter meant to its original hearers and its application for us today.

NIVAC: Michael W. Holmes presents what are perhaps Paul’s most unique letters with stunning historical clarity. Holmes, also a scholar of the earliest non-canonical writings of the early church provides a rich contextual framework for the Thessalonian letters which then provides the grounds upon which he derives a rich application of the letters for us today. The emphasis on eschatology and daily living in these letters make them the ideal subject matter for the scope of the NIVAC series, and Holmes’ well-rounded and insightful work is an exceptional example of biblical exposition.

Most Bible commentaries take us on a one-way trip from our world to the world of the Bible. But they leave us there, assuming that we can somehow make the return journey on our own. In other words, they focus on the original meaning of the passage but don’t discuss its contemporary application. The information they offer is valuable — but the job is only half done! The NIV Application Commentary Series helps us with both halves of the interpretive task. This new and unique series shows readers how to bring an ancient message into a modern context. It explains not only what the Bible meant but also how it can speak powerfully today.



Footnotes

  1. Beale, G.K. 1-2 Thessalonians. IVPNTC. P. 11, “Author’s Preface”
  2. Holmes, Michael. 1-2 Thessalonians. NIVAC. “Series Introduction” found at the beginning of each volume
  3. Beale, from the “General Preface” found in each volume
  4. Beale, p. 198
  5. Beale, p.201-202
  6. Ray Van Neste, Union University V. Source: Evangel, 24 no 2 Sum 2006, p 62.
  7. Jeffrey A. D. Weima. Source: Calvin Theological Journal, 34 no 1 Apr 1999, p 210-213.