October 19, 2017

Accessible NT Bible Commentaries

By Chaplain Mike

In my opinion, the church owes a great debt to N.T. Wright in the area of biblical theology. Few in my lifetime have had the kind of impact on NT studies that Wright has. Every serious student of theology should read his “Christian Origins and the Question of God” series that now consists of three books (there will eventually be five):

In addition, his more mid-level theology books provide important perspectives on basic Christianity, the Christian eschatological hope and its implications for today, Christian living and ethics, and the role of the Bible in the church.

Wright is so prolific that you can find other books, articles, and media easily on these and many other topics. The best resource on the web is The N.T. Wright Page.

Today, I want to talk briefly about the NT commentaries he has written for people at all levels of the spiritual journey. It is called the “…for Everyone” series of guides to the books of the NT.

Eugene Peterson says of the books in this series:

A rare event: a commentary that is learned without being stuffy, accessible without being reductionist. Tom Wright joins us in our homes and workplaces, our sanctuaries and classrooms, in genial, prayerful conversation over this text that forms our lives, the New Testament Scriptures.

That is spot on. N.T. Wright is not only a first-class Bible scholar but a master communicator as well. I once heard Don Carson say that he doubts that Wright has ever said an uninteresting sentence in his life. Each concise study in these guides consists of and emphasizes the following:

  • A fresh translation of the NT text (I understand the complete translation will be available in the U.S. this fall—here is an early review)
  • An illustration introducing the main topic of the text
  • A clear simple exposition of the text
  • An emphasis on the text’s context within the Biblical story, within its NT cultural surroundings, and the text’s relationship to the Gospel
  • An encouragement to ponder the implications for our lives and for today’s church

These studies would be excellent for daily personal devotions, families, Sunday School classes and small group Bible studies, seeker groups, and as study resources for pastors and teachers to complement more detailed commentaries.

What sets these guides apart is that there is no sacrifice of scholarly integrity, no “dumbing down” of the teaching. Tom Wright has a knack for making the complex clear and for bringing the main points of a passage out and into focus. So, if you have read Wright’s scholarly works, you will recognize the rich theology and have before you a wonderful example of how to present that in simple, concise terms. If you have not delved into the depths of his academic books, these provide a wonderful introduction to his approach.

In my opinion, only an expositor like John Stott can compare to him in the rare combination of scholarly integrity, pastoral wisdom and compassion, lucid communication, and prolific output.

Can you tell I love these little books? I make use of them all the time when preparing talks, sermons, and posts for Internet Monk. My only disappointment is that there is no Old Testament counterpart.

For fresh, joyful, Jesus-shaped commentary on the New Testament, accessible to anyone who reads, I cannot recommend these guides highly enough.

Comments

  1. I’ve used a couple of these “For Everyone” books and found them more useful for devotional use than for group study. In each case I had to consult other commentaries before I felt prepared enough to lead the study. Maybe it is just ME and the way I study or maybe I just don’t get Wright’s approach. More than likely the fault is mine…

    • I don’t disagree. Because they are concise, they have limitations.

    • He actually has a series of Bible Studies that go along with this commentary set. They go by the same name “For Everyone” but they add “Bible Study”. They work great for small groups interested in not just feelings and emotions but actual Bible Study.

  2. They are terrific!

  3. There is an OT counterpart, with John Goldingay as author – it looks like he’s done Genesis through 2 Kings so far. I haven’t used them yet though, so I can’t vouch for whether they’re as good as Wright’s.

  4. Steve in Toronto says:

    First of all I love the commentaries but more conventional evangelicals might want to proceed with caution. Wright in spite of his unimpeachable orthodoxy is much more open to modern biblical criticism than most mainstream North American’s evangelicals are use to (for instance he is open to the pastoral epistles being pseudepigraphal and he thinks we have lost the end of Mark). Don’t get me wrong He’s great, read him for sure but keep in mind that he is coming out of a very different context then most imonk readers are used to (this may in fact be a good thing)

  5. Clay Knick says:

    I use these all the time, Mike. Love them. Wright has another book coming out in the fall, “Simply Jesus” (I think that’s the title. Can’t get enough of his writing. Heard him at Duke Div. last fall; he was an excellent speaker.

  6. textjunkie says:

    I have a couple of his dialogues with Crossan and Borg on my stack to read…

  7. Prof. Wright is one of my favorite writers. I enjoy the everyone series although I use it as a devotional. I should try the study guides. All of the books you mentioned are good. The book, The New Testament and the People of God is great for getting a grip on first century Judaism. Also, I think Revelation for everyone is coming out in the fall. I’m going to the SBL’s annual meeting in November and I think he’ll be speaking there. 🙂

  8. How much NPP emphasis is there in these?

    • Wright’s theological position in these commentaries is consistent with his positions stated elsewhere.

    • Josh in FW says:

      What is NPP?

      • The New Perspective on Paul. I don’t follow it entirely, but something having to do with the Jews of Jesus’ time understanding grace. Also, Wright whinging a lot about imputed righteousness.

      • Dana Ames says:

        Josh,
        the initials are as Ned has noted.

        As I understand it, there is as much diversity within the NPP as there are proponents of it. The one thing they all have in common is that they take seriously and as a given, what we know were the Jewish sensibilities and beliefs and filters of the 1st century, and the Jewishness of Jesus and particularly Paul.

        Dana

  9. Nedbrek, what do you mean by “Wright whinging a lot about imputed righteousness.” I hope it’s not simply a misspelling of “whining,” because Wright certainly does not “whine.”