Archives For Commentaries


Two New Books on Early Christianity

What’s With Paul and Women?
Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2
Paperback: Ekklesia Press, 2010.
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Commentary on the Gospel of John
(Ancient Christian Texts Series)

Theodore of Mopsuestia
Hardback: IVP Academic, 2010.
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Jon Zens’ newest book with the Seinfeld-esque name What’s With Paul and Women? offers a brief, but pointed critique of the literal and superficial reading of I Timothy 2 that understands that passage as saying that women should categorically never be able to teach men in churches.  Zens, who is editor of the engaging and long-thriving periodical Searching Together, does a wonderful job here of confirming my intuitions (and I suspect those of others as well) that Paul’s instruction was contextual – for the church in Ephesus in that time – and not universal.  Many objections that might be raised are identified and delicately dismantled.  This clear and thorough treatment of this passage is essential reading for anyone who has questions about the place of women teachers in the church, or for anyone in dialogue with those who doubt that women should teach.

The newest volume in IVP’s Ancient Christian Texts Series is Theodore of Mopsuestia’s Commentary on the Gospel of John.  Before I picked up this volume, Theodore was not a figure with whom I was familiar, and there is good reason why Theodore’s name is not a familiar one: in the mid-sixth century, more than a hundred years after his death, his writings were condemned as Nestorian and thus heretical and were in large part destroyed.  However, as described in the book’s introduction, the latest scholarship (and specifically variant versions of this text that have survived the centuries) calls into question Theodore’s condemnation as a Nestorian.  Since the Nestorian controversy centered on the nature of Christ’s person, this commentary on John’s Gospel gives us a excellent vantage point for exploring Theodore’s position, and for broadening our own perspectives on Church History, reminding us of the reality that historical situations – even within the Church – are almost always more complex than what we learn in our basic historical introductions.


ORION Magazine’s Review of
Brush Cat: On Trees, the Wood Economy,
and the Most Dangerous Job in America

By Jack McEnany

MUCH OF Jack McEnany’s Brush Cat feels like a eulogy for a passing age, when small towns in the north woods of New Hampshire could depend on woodlots and lumber mills for steady work and community cohesion. As McEnany points out, it still holds true that the commercial life of every wooden or paper product we use begins when someone with a chainsaw tramps out into the woods. But thanks to big tree farms in the western U.S. and shifts in forests and snow pack due to climate change, it no longer works for that someone with a chainsaw to be an independent logger, keeping the tradition of his father and grandfather alive. McEnany does not romanticize the lives or work of these loggers, but he does reveal the ecological, cultural, and historical consequences of losing New England logging entirely, of letting forests grow—and die—unmanaged while the men that used to know them intimately look for work elsewhere for the first time in generations.

Read the full review:

Brush Cat: On Trees, the Wood Economy,
and the Most Dangerous Job in America
Jack McEnany.

Hardback: St. Martins, 2009.
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Scot McKnight Reviews a New Commentary on
The Latter Half of Mark’s Gospel

Pastors, professors, and students, with a light sprinkling of ordinary churchgoers, read commentaries on books of the Bible. “Commentary” is a unique genre, unique both for users and writers. My own story of commentary writing is spotty. My first contract as a young professor, which arrived with a personal invitation from F.F. Bruce, led to seven years of misery for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that I wanted to reinvent the wheel on interpreting the Gospel of Matthew. Well beyond half of those years, I realized, when I was still working on chapter 1 and thinking that all I had written was rubbish, it would take two volumes to write the commentary. F.F. Bruce had passed on to his eternal reward and Gordon Fee had been appointed as the general editor of the series, and he gave me permission to write two volumes. After another year or so, now into chapter 2 of Matthew and convinced it was still rubbish, I ashamedly asked Gordon to excuse me from the contract, and I promised myself I’d never do that again. I’ve since finished a commentary on James (due in 2010), but I learned some valuable lessons early on.

I could generalize my experience into”don’t ask young professors to write substantive commentaries,”but some, like my friends Ben Witherington and Joel Green and Craig Blomberg, have managed to write commentaries effortlessly for more than two decades. My own conviction about commentary writing is that one can write out what one knows and get the thing done in a year or two or three, or one can work for a long, long time. Joel Marcus, whose second and concluding volume on Mark has just appeared in the ever-evolving Anchor Yale Bible series, belongs to that latter group. Marcus, a professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School, confesses that he worked on this commentary on Mark for approximately sixteen years, and it looks like it.

Read the full review:

Mark 8-16:
A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary.

Joel Marcus

Hardback: Yale UP, 2009
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PATROL Magazine Reviews Carlene Bauer’s

GROWING UP steeped in evangelicalism in the New Jersey suburbs, Carlene Bauer knew all about cognitive dissonance. Uncomfortable with emotional suspicion of the churches she grew up in, she prayed that she might someday find one that “didn’t mind if you wanted to enjoy life in a big city rather than drag its inhabitants toward repentance,” as she wrote in Salon earlier this summer. She took the leap into New York after college, without money or connections, and began trying to make her name on the city’s inbred literary scene. As she carved out a living working in publishing and writing for Salon, Elle, the New York Observer, and the New York Times Magazine, she struggled to hold together the disparate lives of a New York intellectual and a struggling believer.

Bauer tells her story in her first book, an engaging memoir titled Not That Kind of Girl (HarperCollins). She opens with a retelling of the parable of the wise and foolish virgins from the Gospel of Matthew. The account is moving along swimmingly: there are those wise virgins with the oil for their lamps and the foolish ones, of course, without. The bridegroom comes and the wise virgins with their brightly burning lamps are welcomed in to the wedding feast while the fools are off looking for an open 7 Eleven that sells lamp oil.

But then, Bauer deftly slips herself into the persona of one of the wise virgins and begins to imagine what happens when she realizes that the wedding feast is kind of lame and the bridegroom is “an insufferable boor.” Has she been wasting all her time being the wise virgin instead of living? Can she leave? Is it too late to catch up with the foolish girls?

Read the full review:

Carlene Bauer.

Hardback: HarperCollins, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]