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Designed for the pastor and Bible teacher, the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament examines the biblical text in its original environment. Notable evangelical scholars carefully attend to grammatical detail, literary context, rhetorical flow, theological nuance, and historical setting in their interpretation. Critical scholarship informs each step, but does not dominate the commentary, allowing readers to concentrate on the biblical author's message as it unfolds. While primarily designed for those with a basic knowledge of biblical Greek, all who strive to understand and teach the New Testament will find this series beneficial. The general editor for this enterprising series is Clinton E. Arnold.
The following focused sections help readers understand the text:
- Literary Context: Explains how each passage functions within the book
- Main Idea: Summarizes the central message of the passage
- Translation in Graphic Layout: Presents a translation through a diagram that helps readers visualize the flow of thought within the text
- Exegetical Outline: Gives the overall structure of the passage
- Explanation of the Text: Provides interpretive insights into the background and meaning of the text
- Theology in Application: Discusses how the message of the text fits within the book itself and in a broader biblical-theological context, suggesting applications for the church today.
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Publication Date: 2009
Series: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
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Matthew: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [ZECNT]-eBookClinton E. Arnold(Ed.)Zondervan / 2010 / ePub$38.995 Stars Out Of 5 7 Reviews
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James: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [ZECNT]Craig L. Blomberg, Mariam KarmellZondervan / 2008 / Hardcover$19.99 Retail:5 Stars Out Of 5 2 Reviews
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Clinton E. Arnold (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is Dean and Professor of New Testament at Talbot School of Theology in LaMirada, California.
Craig L. Blomberg (PhD, Aberdeen) is distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary. He is the author, co-author, or co-editor of numerous books and more than 130 articles in journals or multi-author works. A recurring topic of interest in his writings is the historical reliability of the Scriptures. Craig and his wife Fran have two daughters and reside in Centennial, Colorado.
Mariam Kamell (PhD, University of St Andrews) is a post-doctoral fellow at Regent College, Vancouver. She has published several articles on James focused on its economics or in comparison with Hebrews or 1 Peter; her dissertation focused on soteriology in James in comparison with earlier Jewish wisdom literature and the Gospel of Matthew.
Mariam Kamell is a Ph.D. candidate in New Testament studies at the University of St. Andrews under the direction of Richard Bauckham and Grant MacAskill. She has published several articles on James; her dissertation will focus on soteriology in James in comparison with earlier Jewish wisdom literature and the Gospel of Matthew. Before beginning her PhD, Mariam served as educational director at Scum of the Earth Church in Denver, Colorado.
General Editor: Clinton E. Arnold (Ph.D., University of Aberdeen) is professor of New Testament language and literature at Talbot School of Theology in LaMirada, California.
Abram KJAge: 25-34Gender: male5 Stars Out Of 5Great exegesis, great applicationAugust 18, 2012Abram KJAge: 25-34Gender: maleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5James is no "epistle of straw," as Martin Luther once (in)famously said of the book. But many-with Luther-find it difficult to reconcile Paul and James on faith and works.
Paul: "A person is justified by faith apart from works of the law."
James: "A person is considered righteous [i.e., justified] by what they do and not by faith alone."
Here I review James by Craig L. Blomberg and Mariam J. Kamell, from Zondervan's Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (ZECNT) series. (Below I use some of my same wording from my review of Luke in this series to introduce the ZECNT series more generally.)
Like the rest of the ZECNT series, James is "designed for the pastor and Bible teacher." The authors assume a basic knowledge of Greek, but Greek is not required to understand the commentary. For each passage the commentary gives the broader literary context, the main idea (great for preachers!), an original translation of the Greek and its graphical layout, the structure, an outline, explanation, and "theology in application" section.
The introduction covers an outline and structure of James, the circumstances surrounding its writing, authorship and date, and significance of the book. It is shorter and less detailed than the introductions in Douglas Moo's James commentary and that of Peter Davids. Immediately I looked for how the authors would resolve the Paul/James (alleged) discrepancy, but they note in the introduction that they discuss James's theology after "the commentary proper." (The ZECNT series has a separate "Theology" section at the back of the book that most other commentaries include as part of the introduction.)
They give just two paragraphs in their theology section-with a bit more in the body of the commentary-to "Faith and Works" (compare Moo's lengthier discussion in his introduction), but they have their reasons for this:
"Contrary to what the extent of the discussion of the topic might suggest, faith and works is not the main focus of James's letter. It is a subordinate point that grows out of his concern for the poor and the dispossessed (2:14-26; cf. 2:1-13)."
I'm a little embarrassed to admit that this idea of faith and works as a subordinate point in James had not really occurred to me prior to working with this commentary. (A good trait in a commentary to produce such thoughts!) But if you look through James 2 (and the rest of James), it's easy to see where the authors are coming from.
In fact, the "three key topics" in James, according to Blomberg and Kamell, are "trials in the Christian life," "wisdom," and "riches and poverty." They follow Davids here, and note that James 1:2-11 lays out each of the major themes, which James then restates in 1:12-27. 2:1-5:18 then consist of "the three themes expanded," in reverse order, followed by a closing in 5:19-20.
Blomberg and Kamell are "the first to grant that we may still be imposing more structure on the text than James had in mind." All the same, their outline of James makes it easier to work through the book, and then finally does, I think, justify their claim in the theology section that "faith and works" is not the central theme of the letter and should be considered in its broader context. Still, they do have a good way forward in understanding Paul and James together: "But this action, these deeds or works, are not put forward in any attempt to merit God's favor but as the natural, spiritual outgrowth of one's faith."
As with Luke, the graphical layout of each passage (in original English translation) is a unique contribution in James. Being able to see main clauses in bold with subordinate clauses indented under them (plus how they relate back to the main clause) gives the reader a quick, visual grasp of the entire passage at hand. This is a highlight of the ZECNT series, and the fact that it's in English makes it all the more accessible. The translation is smooth and readable, doing great justice to both the Greek it translates and the English language.
The commentary has the full Greek text of James, verse by verse, and the full English translation (passage by passage in the graphical layout, then again verse by verse next to the Greek). A value for me in using reference works is not having to pull five more reference works off the shelf to use the first reference work! The authors make comments like this one in 1:5 throughout the work, wedding grammatical and lexical analysis to exegetical application: "We are told to ask of the "giving God" (ÃÂ´ÃÂ¹ÃÂ´ÃÅÃÂ½ÃâÃÂ¿Ãâ ÃÂ¸ÃÂµÃÂ¿Ã¡Â¿Â¦). Here the present participle suggests that "giving" represents a continuous characteristic of God."
To take another example, on James 2:20, which they translate, "Do you want to know, O empty person, that faith without works is workless?" they write: "James incorporates a pun on the word "work" (Ã¡Â¼âÃÂÃÂ³ÃÂ¿ÃÂ½), using the negative adjective from the same root-"workless" (Ã¡Â¼â¬ÃÂÃÂ³ÃÂ®). The term can also mean idle or useless. Faith that lacks works does not work! In other words, it is entirely ineffective to save."
Teachers and preachers especially will appreciate the "Theology in Application" section that concludes each passage. James may already strike the preacher as a book that just preaches itself, but the authors do well in helping the preacher connect the text with today's concerns. For example, for 2:14-17 they note that although James "provides no treatise on the most effective ways to help the poor..., true believers will take some kind of action. At the very least, they must cultivate generous, even sacrificial giving to help the poor as part of their ongoing personal and corporate stewardship of their possessions. But in light of systemic injustice, we probably need to do much more."
Amen. The authors go on, "James certainly would share the concern of liberation theologians to do far more for the poor, individually and systemically, than many branches of recent Christianity have attempted." Moo agrees-though he wants to distance himself "from an extreme `liberation' perspective," he says "we must be careful not to rob his denunciation of the rich of its power." And James 5:1-6 are pretty damning of the powerful rich who use their power to oppress the poor.
The authors write, "[These oppressors] are the financially wealthy in a world where the rich occupied a miniscule percentage of the population. James does not call them to change their behavior. Instead, he warns them of impending disaster in their lives by commanding them to mourn their coming fate. ...'Wail' [Ã¡Â½â¬ÃÂ»ÃÂ¿ÃÂ»ÃÂÃÂ¶ÃÂ¿ÃÂ½ÃâÃÂµÃâ] appears in the LXX of the Prophets in contexts of judgment and can refer to inarticulate shrieks of terror. ...James makes it clear that these rich people are going to undergo a terrible ordeal."
There were a few times in the "Theology in Application" section that I wondered (as other reviewers have) whether the authors weren't getting a bit off-topic from the text. For example, on 3:9-12 they say, "Abortion and euthanasia offend God deeply because they take lives made in his image. But abuse or neglect of the poor and outcast (including the homosexual) proves equally offensive because such treatments likewise demean individuals God made to reflect himself."
They say this to argue against the "stereotypical agendas of both the political and religious `right' and `left,'" but it was hard for me to decide whether this was a case of applying an ancient text well to a contemporary set of issues, or if it was an anachronistic stretch. Nothing they say here is incongruent with James, but I did wonder here (and in another place) whether those verses in James really speak to issues like abortion and homosexuality. A minor critique, though.
Those working their way through the Greek of James may still want to have Davids on hand. But as with the Luke volume in this series, the combination of close attention to the Greek text with contemporary application makes James a commentary very much worth using. I know I will want to go back to this commentary right away when I am doing work with the book of James in the future.
(I am grateful to Zondervan for the free review copy of this commentary, which was sent to me with the understanding that I would then write an unbiased review.)
Wendy B. Standiford5 Stars Out Of 5March 28, 2009Wendy B. StandifordI am attending a Bible College and taking a speaking & preaching course, and this book is an incredible help in laying out a sermon outline! I am just sorry that it is not available for more of the books of the Bible, well done!