The good folks at Cascade, one of the high-end divisions of Wipf and Stock, have launched a new commentary series, the New Covenant Commentary Series (NCCS), and the first two volumes are out. They are Colossians and Philemon by Michael Bird and Romans by Craig Keener. Mike and Craig are also the series editors, so they have set an example and standard.
Since I am just starting a course on Romans, I will offer a few thoughts on Craig’s commentary after a quick skim of some parts. I will come back to Colossians and Philemon later.
Craig Keener of Palmer Seminary (formerly Eastern Baptist) in Philadelphia is a prolific scholar whose knowledge of the ancient sources is nearly unmatched. (He’s also a very nice man and a very devout Christian.) In this popular to mid-range commentary (his description and the series intent), Craig of course draws on the relevant primary sources, even as he also shows his knowledge of the historical and contemporary issues in the interpretation of Romans, interacting with many of them while steering his own course.
The results are very good so far, even when I disagree on a point of interpretation. Craig is balanced and clear, and he gives good reasons for his positions, all very concisely. A few things I like/agree with so far:
1. His emphasis on justification/righteousness being more than a judicial pronouncement or (worse) legal fiction; it is transformative. He says that believers are “set right and made righteous as a gift” (58; see also 7-29).
2. His similar emphasis on faith (Greek pistis) as inclusive of faithfulness/loyalty/obedience (29-30), which reminds me of my own arguments and of Tom Wright’s insistence that pistis is “believing allegiance.”
3. His conviction that the letter is a pastoral letter about Jew-Gentile unity.
4. His frequent references to the history of interpretation.
5. His use of helpful tables. (I am a table junky.)
One point of disagreement: Craig prefers “faith in Jesus Christ” to “the faith of Jesus Christ,” but he provides good reasons and argues that the “faith of Christ” people (of whom I am one) don’t have to lose what they stress if “faith in Jesus Christ” is properly interpreted.
So…for anyone looking for a good, basic, insightful, informed commentary on Romans, this should fit the bill.
More later perhaps.