Monday, November 17, 2008

New Commentary Series from Zondervan 1

Do we really need a new commentary series? After spending the weekend with Zondervan's debut volume of a new commentary series, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, I have to say yes. The first volume in this series is authored by Craig Blomberg and Mariam J. Kamell on the book of James . Blomberg talks about his hesitancy of doing another commentary but after seeing the prospectus and the format distinctive he was sold. Having worked through the book of James over many years he felt most qualified to do this entry in the series. He says, "I have had to study this epistle more intensively than any other book of the Bible." (13). Shortly after accepting the project he asked his research assistant, Mariam Kamell, if she would like to work on the commentary. Kamell had done her M.A. thesis on aspects of James. She accepted and the result is truly collaborative effort. Blomberg explains more of this in detail in the "Author's Preface."

I'll talk a little about the format in this blog and later I will comment on specific issues in James. The series is targeted towards the "busy pastor or teacher" and is designed for a "one-stop shopping approach to adequate sermon preparation or lesson planning." In order to better facilitate this goal Zondervan consulted with pastors, teachers, ministry leaders, and seminary professors to glean what would be most helpful in a commentary that would be useful to the church. The result is a commentary which devotes seven sections to each passage of Scripture treated. The first is the "Literary Context" which helps the reader see the connection between what precedes and what follows that particular material. I especially enjoyed this section as it kept me from getting lost in the details of the text. Too often we forget the larger context and can't seem to follow the "train of thought" the author is presenting. The next section is the "Main Idea." Here the main idea of the passage is presented in one or two sentences. For preachers looking for the "big idea" of a passage this will be very welcome. Then follows the "Translation and Graphical layout." Here the author provides their own translation and then diagrams the passage. This is really nice. The diagramming of a passage helps the reader to visually see how the text flows together and how the parts relate to each other. The "Structure" section describes the "flow of thought in the passage and explains how certain interpretative decisions regarding the relationship of the clauses were made in the passage." (11) The "Exegetical Outline" provides a more detailed outline of the passage. The "Explanation of the Text" is where you find the verse by verse exegesis of the passage. The final section is "Theology in Application." Here you will find the theological message of passage summarized and suggestions on "what the message of the passage is for the church today." (12)

Pastors and small group leaders will want to take full advantage of this new series. Don't let the size fool you. This is a first-rate commentary at the beginner/intermediate level. It does interact with the Greek which make some avoid using it. But there is plenty in here for those who don't know Greek.

Next time I will talk about the structure of James and how Blomberg/Kamell understand it and I'll look at a couple of passages of interest.


jeremy said...

hello friend,

I was wondering if you might also address how this series is different from the BECNT?

It seems to me as if Zondervan is attempting to imitate the success of the BECNT with their own ZECNT - Although having Blomberg author the first volume seems to indicate that Zondervan is taking this task seriously and not merely imitating for the sake of imitating.

At the same time, this imitation (if it can be termed so) shows that the BECNT series has been successful enough to warrant "spin-offs."

Look forward to your thoughts.

The BBH Church Relations Team said...

You ask a good question. Besides the similarity in names they are not much alike at all. The BECNT series is much more detailed in actual exegesis. It does provide a shaded area prior to each section which would be the equivalent to the "literary context" in the ZECNT. But the ZECNT has a few unique features like the "main idea" the "graphical layout" and the "theology in application." The first two will be especially helpful for sermon preparation and for small group leaders. So I'm not sure Zondervan is trying to imitate BECNT. But serious they are. Blomberg and Kamell were an excellent choice and the forthcoming volumes show an impressive array of scholars. You can find them on under the "series" section. I am a big fan of the BECNT series but if the ZECNT series maintains the standard of this first volume I will enjoy it as well. Both can be useful although for different audiences and purposes.