Socio-Rhetorical Bible Commentaries (SRC) | Reviews, Theology

The Socio-Rhetorical Bible commentary series is the project of biblical scholar, Ben Witherington.

Current volumes cover New Testament books. The series is near completion.

The unique characteristic of the Socio-Rhetorical commentary series is its aim to offer readers “insights that would otherwise remain hidden using only form criticism, epistolary categories, and traditional criticism.” [1]

socio-rhetorical bible commentary
Socio-Rhetorical Commentary series cover design

Witherington teaches at Asbury Theological Seminary and is on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland.

He is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church. Witherington is the author of how over 30 books and has appeared on the History Channel, Discovery Channel, and other major networks. He also writes at [2]

Witherington has written several volumes in the Socio-Rhetorical commentary series.

Craig S. Keener contributed the Matthew commentary and David A. deSilva contributed the Hebrews commentary.

Witherington, Keener, and deSilva are Arminian. [3]

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

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Socio-Rhetorical Bible Commentary Series: Reviews

Witherington’s Acts commentary in the SRC series has been widely-praised, in part because what is gleaned about the book using the socio-rhetorical approach.

Keener’s Matthew volume has been well-reviewed by Theology Today:

“Craig Keener’s commentary on Matthew brings his breathtaking acquaintance with the ancient literature of the first century to illuminate the First Gospel. This book offers a unique catalogue of references to Hellenistic and Judaic literature. Keener’s remarkable capacity to associate these texts to the Gospel makes this work valuable for the references alone.”

deSilva’s Hebrew volume has also been well-reviewed by the Evangelical Quarterly.

“Perhaps deSilva’s most important single contribution is the fresh light he throws on central aspects of the Christian faith, notably presenting grace and gratitude as complementary elements in a binding relationship analogous to that between patron and client.”

socio-rhetorical commentary
Ben Witherington created the Socio-Rhetorical Commentary series

Interviews from the SRC Series on Best Bible Commentaries

Dr. Witherington recently participated in a Q & A interview with Best Bible Commentaries on the Romans volumes in the SRC series. Here is a preview:

“Romans 8 is not about people being chosen from before the foundation of the universe to be saved or elect.

It is about the destiny of those who are already in Christ — God is working things together so they will be conformed to the image of Christ in the end. Rom. 9-11 is a defense of God’s faithfulness to Jews, and in Rom. 11, Paul predicts that once the full number of Gentiles are saved by grace through faith, then in like fashion ‘all Israel will be saved’ at the return of Christ.”

Please see the entire Ben Witherington interview.

Volumes in the Socio-Rhetorical Bible Commentary Series

The links below go to Amazon, which sells new and used copies.

The Gospel of Matthew – Craig S. Keener | Published: 2009

The Gospel of Mark – Ben Witherington III | Published: 2001

Marion L. Soards, professor of New Testament studies, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary:

“Drawing on a host of ancient authors who were concerned with the form and function of rhetoric and writing, Ben Witherington interacts with a broad range of contemporary New Testament scholarship to offer his own informed interpretation of Mark’s Gospel.

With clarity and conviction Witherington guides readers through complex, often controversial, issues of interpretation. This commentary offers both a new exposition of Mark’s Gospel and an intelligent introduction to scholarly Markan studies.”

Mark Allan Powell, Robert and Phyllis Leatherman Professor of New Testament, Trinity Lutheran Seminary:

“Witherington provides scholars and church leaders with an impressive, reliable, and often surprising commentary on the Gospel of Mark.

He treats the book as an ancient biography of Jesus, written by and for people who were convinced that Jesus was the Son of God and Savior of the world.

By being faithful to the literary dynamics of Mark’s text and attentive to the social dynamics of Mark’s world, Witherington reveals Mark’s life-transforming message of hope for our world today.”

The Gospel of Luke – Ben Witherington | Published: 1998

Joel B. Green, professor of New Testament interpretation, Fuller Theological Seminary:

“Witherington has done students, pastors, and scholars a great favor by providing an analysis of the book of Acts that is fully conversant with the enormous secondary literature on Acts yet neither loses sight of Luke’s text nor bogs down in scholarly minutiae.

His appraisal of Luke’s second volume in relationship to his Gospel and against the backdrop of classical rhetoric and ancient social sensibilities makes this book an instructive companion for readers of Acts.”

Romans – Ben Witherington | Published: 1998

Craig S. Keener, professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary:

“Ben Witherington is one of the most outstanding New Testament scholars of our generation, and in this commentary on Romans he brings his usual breadth of knowledge and reverence to the text.

Scholars will appreciate the fresh analysis and rhetorical insights, while the work’s clear language and sensitivity to Paul’s message make it ideal for general readers desiring a readable commentary.”

Conflict and Community in Corinth – Ben Witherington III | Published: 19985

Andrew T. Lincoln, professor of New Testament studies, University of Gloucestershire

“Ben Witherington blends the best of recent sociological and rhetorical scholarship on Paul into a distinctive, rich, and accessible commentary on the Corinthian correspondence.

His work operates at two levels: the main commentary offers an informative and edifying resource for students and preachers, while the more detailed investigations, bibliographies, and footnotes provide plenty to stimulate scholars.

This is a bold, comprehensive, and impressive attempt to set Paul’s dialogue with the Corinthian church squarely in its social context and to illuminate the apostle’s art of persuasion.”

Grace in Galatia – Ben Witherington III | Published: 1998

Frank Thielman, Presbyterian professor of divinity, New Testament, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University:

“Witherington’s lucid and thoughtful commentary is driven by the text rather than by some overarching theory about Paul or his opponents.

The result is that Paul’s own concern in the letter emerges clearly — to proclaim the end of the Mosaic law and the powerful presence of the new era.”

Richard Longenecker, distinguished professor of New Testament, McMaster Divinity College:

“A work characterized by clarity of vision regarding the critical, historical, and theological issues involved . . . and by a crispness and vividness of language in setting out the message of Galatians in contemporary form. This commentary will undoubtedly have a long and useful life, capturing the interest and hearts of many.”

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians – Ben Witherington III | Published: 2011

Jerry L. Sumney, Lexington Theological Seminary:

“Drawing on an impressive range of interpreters (including those who have critiqued his previous work), Ben Witherington provides a careful and helpful reading of Philippians and the issues it addresses.

His lucid prose guides both beginning and practiced readers through the argumentative function of each section, consistently affirming that rhetorical criticism is the most appropriate lens for reading Paul’s work.

At the same time, Witherington’s socio-rhetorical method leads him to highlight the ways that seeing the letter in its Greco-Roman and Macedonian social and cultural contexts enriches our understanding. . . . This commentary is certain to become a work that students and teachers will refer to often.”

The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians – Ben Witherington III | Published: 2007

Darrell Bock, professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary:

“A solid commentary, a sane introduction, and a superior integration of these letters historically and culturally.

The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians is Witherington at his best.

Anyone with questions about how these letters function and who wrote them would do well to start and finish here.”

1 and 2 Thessalonians – Ben Witherington III | Published: 2006

Bruce W. Longenecker, professor of religion, Baylor University:

“Ben Witherington is a master at crafting commonsense commentaries that are accessible to a broad spectrum of readers and conversant with the best of scholarship. In this regard his 1 and 2 Thessalonians does not disappoint. It is one of his best.”

[Hebrews] Perseverance in Gratitude – David A. deSilva | Published: 2000

Peter H. Davids, independent scholar and educational missionary in Europe:

“Perseverance in Gratitude is a masterpiece that provides plenty of value for all types of readers. Specialists will appreciate the application of socio-rhetorical criticism to Hebrews.

Non-specialists will appreciate the clear explanation of socio-rhetorical criticism and of ancient rhetoric. Preachers will appreciate the ‘Bridging the Horizons’ sections.

And all readers will appreciate the clarity of deSilva’s writing. . . . I warmly welcome this commentary as a fine textbook for teaching Hebrews in the classroom.”

Letters and Homilies for Jewish Christians – Ben Witherington III | Published: 2007

Michael Bird in Booklist:

“The value of this book is that Witherington offers a helpful exegesis of the text and wrestles with the issues that each book raises resulting in a commendable resource for students and pastors.”

Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1-2 Peter – Ben Witherington III | Published: 2008

Kelly David Liebengood, Midwestern Journal of Theology:

“This commentary format allows Witherington to showcase his greatest strengths as an exegete ― his familiarity with ancient rhetoric, his vast knowledge of both Greco-Roman and Jewish backgrounds, and his keen and creative historical imagination.”

Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians (1-2 Timothy, Titus, 1-3 John) – Ben Witherington III | Published: 2006

Duane F. Watson, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly:

“. . . this commentary provides solid interpretation of these letters in a very readable style. It is accessible and profitable to the layperson and scholar alike. . . . well worth the investment of time and money.”


From the Preface, found in any volume in the series.

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