Craig Keener on Romans

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.

6 Responses to “Craig Keener on Romans”

  1. dan says:

    Dr. Gorman,

    Thanks for the heads up. Also, what are Keener’s thoughts on Romans 2 in regards to it be hypothetical or describing a Gentile Christian?



  2. Andy Rowell says:

    Michael, thanks for your great early review. Craig is indeed a great guy. Thanks for highlighting it.


  3. MJG says:

    Hi, Andy—

    You’re welcome; nice to hear from you. How are things going back at Duke?


    Craig labels 2:1-16 “God’s Impartial Judgment” (see similar heading in my Apostle of the Crucified Lord). According to him, the audience is sort of Jewish (moreso of course in 2:17ff) but really everyone. And there is a potentially righteous person but only believers are really so—yet that is not Paul’s concern here. His concern is human sin and especially divine impartiality.

  4. JASON JOSEPH says:

    When we believe in Christ Jesus, our Church says that by his stripes we are healed, that means to say that we should refrain from taking medicines, have faith in God, God is the healer, so many people are following that, our pastors died by not taking the medicines, but they stuck to the Church faith, some seeing death in front of them, started taking medicines, but we are also workers in our church and do a lot of work in the church, but not taking medicines is a bitter pill which I cannot digest, please let know, whether taking medicines and believing in the Lord is right, or abstaining from medicines and having kept the faith till the end is called faith in the Lord.

  5. Doug Wilson says:

    Jason, why would believing in God as our healer mean we should refrain from taking medicine? After all, doesn’t Paul suggest a medicinal aid to Timothy when he says “use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses”? He didn’t say that because Timothy was lacking in faith. Paul was recognizing that God in his grace and wisdom has given us many means to cultivate a healthier way of living — think of how things such as laughter, wise counsellors, medicine, sleep, Sabbath rest, confession of sin, are commended to us in the Bible as aids to better health. None of these are opposed to faith in God. “Keeping the faith” does not mean we should go beyond what God has said in his Word, which is what your church leaders have done by saying “by his stripes we are healed” means that we should refrain from taking medicine.

  6. I think it is damn weird that demonstrants are against the plans of the mosque, as the planned mosque isn’t purely a religious building. Heck, it is open to everyone, and even a basketball court is planned to be built inside the mosque. A community center sounds better, and way less frightning.

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