Thursday, July 22, 2010

Robert Gundry's Commentary on the New Testament - Some Observations - 2

This is my second post on Robert Gundry’s Commentary on the New Testament. In my first post I said there was nothing on authorship, dating or audience. I was a bit premature on that. There is a short paragraph which heads up each book though the content varies from book to book. For example, at the beginning of Luke Gundry tells us that “early church tradition attributes the writing of this Gospel to Luke, a physician who accompanied the Apostle Paul on at least some of his travels.” (221) There is nothing on the date or audience. Again, I don’t see this as a problem since this information is readily available from many other sources.

Heb. 10:24-25 – I’ve often seen this verse used simply to encourage church attendance and was left with the impression that the occasion for this admonition was people were slackers about getting up on Sunday morning. I think Gundry has an important insight I’ve not seen before. He comments, “In view of the upcoming mention of persecution (10:32-34), ‘the habit’ of some to abandon the assembling of themselves with other Christians probably has the purpose of avoiding persecution. But to forestall a consequent apostasy, they should encourage one another in their assemblies.” (902)

2 Peter 2:9-10 – Throughout the commentary Gundry provides his own translation. In some cases he offers a new translation which opens up new interpretive possibilities. 2 Peter 2:9 Gundry translates as “the Lord knows to be rescuing godly people out of temptation and to be keeping unrighteous people for the Day of Judgment.” He comments, “Despite other translations to the contrary, Peter doesn’t write that the Lord knows ‘how’ to rescue godly people. There’s no word in the Greek text which has that meaning. Peter isn’t concerned with the Lord’s method in rescuing godly people—rather, with the fact that he rescues them, which fact encourages them not to forsake the path of righteousness.” (961)

Matthew 13:35 – At least one of his translations caught me off guard as in this passage which Gundry translates “so that what was spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled, saying, ‘I’ll open my mouth with parables, I’ll belch [an attention-getting figure of speech for speaking] things hidden since the founding of the world.” (Emphasis mine. I’ve not found another translation that is quite so straight forward!)

Jude 21-22 – There are some wonderful pastoral moments as when Gundry comments on this passage with “So ‘kept [by God] for Jesus Christ’ (verse 1) doesn’t absolve Christians from their own responsibility to keep themselves in the love of god ‘while waiting expectantly’ for mercy instead of condemnation at the second coming and Last Judgment. The expectation enables the waiting; the waiting requires the keeping; the keeping ensures the mercy; and the mercy results in eternal life. In his exhortation Jude notably involves the Holy Spirit, God, and Jesus Christ—all three persons of what has come to be called the Trinity.” (995)

Hebrews 6:1 – This week I had a customer ask about a new Bible translation called the International Standard Version. On the website I noticed that David Alan Black (one of the members of the translation committee) commented on this passage and he said when you look at the verb in the passage “there is nothing here of going on or pressing on or self effort or struggle to make progress in the Christian life. The verb is better translated be carried along and that to me makes a big difference.” That prompted me to see what Gundry did with this verse since I couldn’t find another translation to support Black’s comment. Here’s how Gundry translates it followed by his comment: “let us allow ourselves to be carried on to maturity. . . Since the author has compared his audience to infants (5:11-14) and since infants need to be carried, he exhorts, ‘let us allow ourselves to be carried on to maturity.” (885)

Let me now summarize some of my thoughts on the commentary as a whole. First, please don’t get the impression that Gundry’s comments are limited to a paragraph or two on each passage. For a one-volume commentary there is a good deal of discussion of much of the New Testament and some of it is quite lengthy. On the other hand you will find many places where you could wish for more. That comes with the territory. I like much of what I’ve seen and will feel very comfortable in recommending this to anyone looking for a good one-volume commentary. Small group leaders and laity will gain much from having this in their library. Pastors should not be too quick to give it a pass because there are some gems both from a scholar’s perspective and a pastoral perspective. I think the last two examples above are good illustrations of both. I wish it good sales.


Andrew said...

Thanks for this post. I looked up each passage of scripture you listed above to do my own comparisons. Really, really interesting stuff. Is the book bound well? Jacketed?
Just curious,

Louis said...

Hi Andrew,

This group of passages was very interesting to me as well. There really is a lot more. For a volume this size the binding looks good. The one I've been using is holding up really well. It does look to be sewn which always helps.