The Unity of the Spirit

Theologies of the New Testament

Recommended Favorites: 1. The Message of the New Testament (by F.F. Bruce) 2. A Theology of the New Testament (by G.E. Ladd) 3. New Testament Theology (by G.B. Caird) 4. The Theology of Paul the Apostle (by J.D.G. Dunn) 5. God's Empowering Presence (by Gordon Fee) There are many theologies of the New Testament that one can learn a great deal from. These are all scholarly works and assume a high level of education and familiarity with the NT on the part of the reader. They are especially important for explaining the overall background of the New Testament including history, culture and language. They also present the perspectives and emphases of each of the NT writers. Pride of place must go to the time-honored and time-tested A Theology of the New Testament by George Eldon Ladd. This work, though a little dry at times, explains the NT plan and perspective of Salvation in clear terms and then goes through the entire NT in a logical manner dealing with almost every important NT person, word, concept and issue. The indexes in this work are invaluable and make it possible to look up almost any verse, subject, etc. of importance and to study them in-depth. A second, intriguing, thought-provoking and very readable work is New Testament Theology by J.B. Caird. This book can be read straight through and is simply loaded with insights on many subjects. By far the best theology focusing primarily on Paul’s theology is The Theology of Paul the Apostle by James D.G. Dunn. This is an outstanding and very up-to-date work and is highly recommended. It centers on Paul’s Letter to the Romans and proceeds to study Paul’s theology from there. Dunn is an outstanding scholar who is not afraid to go beyond the accepted wisdom on any given topic and offer new insights or suggestions. Though some of his positions can at times be iconoclastic, they are always worth considering and more often than not are correct.Two other major scholars of Paul are F.F. Bruce and Joseph Fitzmyer. They both have written works on Pauline theology; however, most of their insight into Paul and his theology can be gleaned from their many commentaries on Paul's Letters and the Book of Acts. Each of them also offers a summary of Paul's theology in the introductory parts of their commentaries on Paul's Letter to the Romans both of which are recommended below. Finally, a unique work that is loaded with insight for understanding the New Testament in its proper light is Gordon Fee's work God's Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul. This is the best study of this topic now existence and is highly recommended.

Recommended New Testament Commentaries 

(see bottom of the page for abbreviations) Bible commentaries are indispensable for serious study of the individual books of the Bible. But, they are not for everybody. They should be used as references to help with background, word meanings, setting, etc. in order to understand a book or section of scripture in its original context. Some of these are written well enough to be read straight through, but they should never take precedence over your own reading, study and memorization of the Scriptures themselves. The commentaries below are listed in order of increasing complexity under each NT book as well as by the author and title of the series in which they appear. Two cheap and useful series in their entirety are Tyndale and NIBC. For the best overall quality of research, usability, readability and price I would choose the NICNT series. All abbreviations are explained at the end. OP means "out of print" but can usually be found. Matthew: 1. Richard T. France, Tyndale and NICNT 2. Donald A. Carson, Expositors, 2 Volumes These are both excellent commentaries that complement each other well throughout. I generally prefer France's because it is a clearer format but Carson's is more detailed. France's original work in the Tyndale series has recently been greatly expanded to become the much more detailed commentary for the NICNT. It's good to compare the views of the eschatological discourse of Matt. 24 by these commentators. The most detailed commentary on Matthew is the ICC contribution by Allison and Davies which is in three volumes. It is loaded with information but sold for an exorbitant price. Mark: 1. Larry Hurtado, NIBC 2. William Lane, NICNT The NIV Study Bible notes are usually sufficient for Mark. Hurtado's commentary is somewhat dry but it is solid in background material with good end-notes after each chapter. Lane's commentary has more detail and a real reverence for the subject but I'm not sure many really need a commentary of this size on Mark. Mark is pretty straightforward except for sections like chapter 13. Luke: 1. E. Earl Ellis, NCBC (OP) 2. Joseph Fitzmyer, Anchor, 2 Volumes E. Earl Ellis' commentary on Luke is a classic and though the NCBC series is (OP), it is well worth trying to find this particular volume. There is a lot in this commentary that you won't find anywhere else. It is written in a succinct style with an excellent Introduction. Fitzmyer's commentary is the standard: very detailed with lots of learning displayed. The format is clear and the Introduction ties together Lucan theology in Luke/Acts. This commentary is quite complex. It is always of interest to see what Fitzmyer has to say on any subject, but this two-volume set is also quite expensive. John: 1. F.F. Bruce, Eerdmans (not part of a series) 2. Raymond Brown, Anchor, 2 Volumes Bruce's work is a straightforward commentary of the biblical text that emphasizes the new age of salvation from John's perspective. It also contains a good deal of pertinent background information that relates to the context. For the most part it avoids reading Nicean ideas back into the text. Brown's commentary is something of a classic and comes in two volumes that are filled with many insightful comments and very good notes on the text. Brown also aims to summarize and interact with all major commentaries on John before his. Be prepared for a lot of speculation on setting, sources, etc. as well as a major dose of sacramentalism in this work. Acts: 1. F.F. Bruce, NICNT 2. Joseph Fitzmyer, Anchor 3. I.H. Marshall, Tyndale Comparatively speaking, there are not that many good commentaries available on the Book of Acts. The above are excellent and are by renowned scholars. Bruce’s is in a clear format and covers most of what is needed. It is especially good at showing the NT fulfillment of OT themes throughout. All of these commentaries also provide an opportunity to tap into these scholars’ wide and deep knowledge of the historical background of the NT which is so necessary to understanding both Acts and the NT Letters. Romans: 1. F.F. Bruce, Tyndale 2. Douglass Moo, NICNT 3. Joseph Fitzmyer, Anchor There are many, many good commentaries on Romans that one can learn a great deal from. Bruce's commentary is somewhat of a classic. It is compact and concise but in no way lacking in theological content. It is a wonderful exposition of the gospel message throughout with an extremely helpful Introduction on Paul's theology. Moo’s commentary has a tremendous amount of useful information and is popular amongst Evangelicals. It is very well done and fairly easy to use. However, Joseph Fitzmyer's commentary on Romans is simply the best. It is a masterpiece of learning, precision and sound judgment. Though detailed, it is presented in a very clear format. The Introduction offers a superb summary of Paul's theology. Of the many other commentaries on Romans that truly have something to offer Fitzmyer's contribution stands out for its overall clarity and its scope and understanding of every aspect of the subject. Any student of Romans should have this commentary for constant reference. I Corinthians: 1. Richard B. Hays, Interpr. 2. Gordon Fee, NICNT These are two outstanding commentaries and both are highly recommended for those who have a special interest in this book of the Bible. Hays' commentary is full of insightful and forceful remarks from beginning to end with a lot that you won't find anywhere else. It's easy to read and a joy to read. Fee's commentary is a blend of extremely detailed scholarly work and pointed comments that need to be heard by many in the church today. Both commentaries are very good on the "spiritual matters" of I Cor. 12-14 and on "eschatological" thought throughout - esp. chap. 15. In short, students of I Corinthians are very well served by these two commentaries. II Corinthians: 1. Colin Kruse, Tyndale This is a brief, solid commentary that is easy to read and follow but not lacking in insightful commentary. Well written with sound judgment throughout. Galatians: 1. R. Alan Cole, Tyndale 2. Ronald Y. K. Fung, NICNT 3. F.F. Bruce, NIGTC Cole's commentary is a clear and excellent exposition of the heart of the gospel as set forth in Galatians despite its brevity. Fung's work offers a detailed exposition of justification by faith together with a good understanding and presentation of the many other issues in Galatians as such as the role of the Spirit, continuity between the OT and New, etc. Bruce's commentary is detailed and extremely precise. The NIGNTC format in this case is not difficult to follow even if you can't read Greek. Ephesians: 1. G.B. Caird, Paul's Letters From Prison (OP) 2. F.F. Bruce, NICNT with Ephesians, Colossians & Philemon 3. Andrew Lincoln, WBC Anyone who can find G.B. Caird's Paul's Letters from Prison (OP) would also be well advised to do so. This is an outstanding work that deals with Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. There is much is this small volume by Caird that you'll have a hard time finding anywhere else. Fortunately, others have built on his work. For insightful understanding of Paul's thought Bruce's commentary is first class and it comes together in one volume with his commentary on Colossians and Philemon. Together with Caird's this is my favorite and it’s a super value! Lincoln's commentary is detailed, massive and theologically rich. It is loaded with valuable information but also loaded with Greek and the WBC series, though excellent for serious students, is not easy to follow. Philippians: 1. Gordon Fee, NICNT 2. Gerald Hawthorne, WBC G.B. Caird's work Paul's Letters from Prison (OP) is the best if you can find it. Fee's and Hawthorne's larger commentaries also have a lot to offer in understanding Paul's theology and thought within the setting of this Letter. Fee's is now considered the standard but his understanding should especially be compared with Caird. Colossians: 1. F.F. Bruce, NICNT with Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon. 2. James D.G. Dunn, NIGTC with Philemon As above in Ephesians and Philippians Caird's work is outstanding. Also, as above in Ephesians Bruce's work is solid as usual and comes in one volume with his commentary on Ephesians and Philemon. James Dunn offers a great deal in his commentary that you won't find anywhere else - especially in his understanding of Col. 1:15ff. Above all, he offers a solid and consistent exposition of the text in the light of true Jewish/Christian monotheism. I & II Thessalonians: 1. David Williams, NIBC 2. F.F. Bruce, WBC The NIV Study Bible has excellent notes on I and II Thessalonians and most people won't need much more than that. Williams' commentary is good, especially if it is used with, and compared with, The NIV Study Bible notes. Bruce's detailed work is first class and is a model of sound scholarship. It is cautious in judgments about matters that are debatable from the text. He sets forth the major alternative views and then his own solid judgments. I & II Timothy and Titus: 1. Gordon Fee, NIBC 2. I. Howard Marshall, ICC Fee’s commentary is a generally good commentary with a strong defense of Paul's authorship and a good Introduction and endnotes. It is easily accessible to the generally educated reader of the Bible. Marshall’s commentary is an in-depth masterpiece that requires advannced knowledge of biblical studies. However, it is one of the finest commentaries in existence today on any book(s) of the Bible. Hebrews: 1. F.F. Bruce, NICNT An excellent commentary throughout with the usual solid emphasis on the continuity and liberating effects of the new covenant gospel message that is so characteristic of Bruce. James: 1. Douglas Moo, Tyndale 2. Peter Davids, NIBC The notes in the NIV Study Bible are excellent on James. Moo's work is solid and doesn't go in for speculation beyond the plain meaning of the text. Davids' is good, with good end-notes, but should be compared with Moo's, especially on the subject of "works" and on the setting of the Letter. I Peter: 1. Peter Davids, NICNT 2. J. Ramsey Michaels, WBC Both of these are excellent commentaries on I Peter with a good grasp of the main themes and are very helpful on the more difficult sections. Davids' is much easier to read and follow but Michaels' has a lot of interesting detail and sound comments. I’d highly recommend it but for the technical difficulty of the WBC format. II Peter & Jude: 1. Richard Bauckham, WBC Outstanding. There is much to be learned from Bauckham's massive work, but it is highly technical. I, II & III John: 1. I. H. Marshall, NICNT A straightforward exposition of the text with a good presentation of the balance necessary in understanding the Semitic language of John with his use of absolutes such as "light and darkness," "love and hate," etc. Revelation: 1. G. E. Ladd, Eerdmans (not part of a series) 2. Robert W. Wall (NIBC) 3. NIV Study Bible and The Harper-Collins Study Bible or Commentaries by Robert Mounce (NICNT) and David Aune (WBC) Any interpretation of the Book of Revelation should not be allowed to override the clearness and simplicity of Christian beliefs and practices that are set forth consistently throughout the rest of the NT. The first two commentaries recommended above set forth most of the various viewpoints on Revelation that are worth considering. Both of these are extremely cheap, readable and usable. Ladd’s skill in understanding and explaining Revelation in the light of biblical eschatology as a whole is outstanding and his exposition of the text is always edifying and interesting, even if one disagrees with his interpretation at times. Wall’s forty page Introduction and his End-notes at the end of each chapter are extremely useful and his exposition of the text is a good balance to Ladd’s. Many other commentaries have a lot to offer. Robert Mounce’s work (NICNT) is also generally solid throughout and David Aune’s new commentary (WBC) in 3 volumes is by far the most up to date, detailed, and scholarly, but it is too complex for most people. It should also be noted that Mounce provides the study notes for The NIV Study Bible on Revelation and Aune provides the study notes for The Harper Collins Study Bible on Revelation. I recommend buying Ladd’s and Wall’s commentaries and using the Study Bible notes for the other two.


NIBC: New International Biblical Commentary Interpr: Interpretation Expositors: Expositors Bible Commentary NCBC: New Century Bible Commentary (OP) NICNT: New International Commentary on the NT Anchor: Anchor Bible Commentary WBC: Word Biblical Commentary NIGTC: New International Greek Testament Commentary ICC: International Critical Commentary OP: Out of print
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