Q&A with James D.G. Dunn on His Romans Commentary

James D.G. Dunn (1939-2020) is the author of the Romans commentary (Romans 1-8 and Romans 9-16) in the Word Biblical Commentary series. Dr. Dunn (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) was a New Testament scholar and Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham.

romans commentary james dunn

Dr. Dunn is well-known for his teaching on The New Perspective on Paul. He is one of the most accomplished and decorated biblical scholars alive. For 2002, Dunn was the President of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, an international body for New Testament study.

Only three other British scholars had been made President of the body in the preceding 25 years. In 2006, he became a Fellow of the British Academy.

In 2005, a festschrift (i.e. a collection of writings published in honor of a scholar) was published dedicated to Dunn, comprising articles by 27 New Testament scholars, examining early Christian communities and their beliefs about the Holy Spirit in Christianity.

In 2009, another festschrift was dedicated to Dunn for his 70th birthday, consisting of two forewords by N. T. Wright and Richard B. Hays and 17 articles all written by his former students who went on to have successful careers in either academic and ministerial fields around the world.

Dr. Dunn has written numerous books including The New Perspective on Paul, Christianity in the Making (three volumes), and The Oral Gospel Tradition. (links go to Amazon)

Which commentary series is best for your purposes? See Best Bible Commentaries: Top 50. Based on aggregate reviews.

7 Questions on Romans in the Word Biblical Commentary Series

Recently, Dr. Dunn graciously answered my questions about his Romans commentary. Readers will learn how this commentary came to be, what is distinct about it among Romans commentaries, how the project edified him personally, and more.

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

I have always been very interested in Paul, as the one who spelled out Christian theology more extensively than anyone else in the first generations of Christianity, and most systematically and carefully in Romans. So I was delighted to be commissioned to write a commentary on Romans and return to its thought and passages therein regularly in preaching and teaching.

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

It is written for any and all who want to take Romans seriously and to engage with it.

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

I’m not at all sure that I am the best person to answer this, but I suppose it serves as a working out of the ‘new perspective’ on Paul, making clear what he was drawing on and what he was reacting against in his reaction to the Judaism of his day, his own Judaism.

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

As long as I can remember I have been fascinated by the way Paul expounds his gospel and particularly the transition he works through in Rom. 6-8.

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

I suppose it was the degree to which Romans spoke to me personally, both theologically and spiritually.

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

I would like to say Luther, Lightfoot, and Barth, but when I look at the ‘Index of Modern Authors’ at the end of my Romans, it’s much more like Cranfield, Kaesemann and Wilckens. (links go to Amazon)

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

I have just published a little book on Jesus according to the New Testament (Eerdmans) and before that little booklets on Who was Jesus? And Why Believe in Jesus’ Resurrection?, both by SPCK. I am not sure whether I will write any more, though every so often the thought of doing a more popular(!) book on Romans runs through my mind.

Own James Dunn’s Romans commentary in the Word Biblical Commentary series

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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