I am so grateful to Zondervan for publishing this series and I commend them on their choices for commentators. All of the commentators represent a broad stream of solid Evangelical scholarship and exegesis. I chose to review the Ephesians commentary by Dr. Clinton Arnold (NT professor at Talbot seminary). I am familiar with Dr. Talbot’s previous work, especially his monograph, “Ephesians: Power and Magic”. He has done some great work on the topic of Spiritual warfare as well.
I can’t review this entire commentary or else my review would be hundreds of pages, so I will redact my feedback to that which I specifically like about the “Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament “ series itself. As a point of reference, I own about 50 commentaries on Ephesians and will compare and contrast the Zondervan series with some of the others I own.
What’s to Like?
- The wide double-column format. I love this feature which you don’t find in many other series’. I personally read commentaries by keeping my thumb in a page and constantly looking back and forward to maintain a “Forest” view perspective on the text. With the double-column format, one has access to a total of 4 columns when viewing the open book with 2 pages open. I personally love this.
- Literary Context Section. T. David Gordon suggests, in his book, “Why Johnny Can’t Preach”, that many pastors simply don’t know how to read and engage in basic literary analysis. The very first subsection within each passage section is dedicated to literary context. Surveying the commentary, I was pleased to find this section deal with such things as genre, type of speech, repeated words and themes, among other things. This is invaluable for the person who really wants to understand the oral culture and how the written text would be heard to the listeners. Our culture is becoming increasingly illiterate, not that we don’t know how to pronounce words per se, but that we don’t know how to perceive certain literary features within the text.
- Main Idea. Many commentaries don’t distinguish the forest from the trees and leaves the reader thinking every single word is a really big deal, thus focusing on the trees and not seeing the forest, or flatlines the text in such a way that one only sees the forest and fails to acknowledge the beauty of particular trees.
- Translation and Graphical Layout. This is my most favorite feature. Some commentaries may include some sort of chiastic structure outline of the text, but this series actually provides a true outline based on syntax, noting particular clauses within the pericope. This alone is worth half the price of the book (with the additional features making the commentary a good investment).
- Structure. The structure section provides something of a chiastic structure of the text, noting parallelism, etc. At this point, you might think the commentary overkill on all the subsections dealing with the passage, but this just confirms how important it is to see the text on its own terms before you even get to Arnold’s exegesis. All good exegesis requires this preliminary work and Zondervan chose to enhance this often neglected preliminary work that is usually absent in many commentaries.
- Exegetical Outline. Yes, there’s even more before you even get to the commentary on the text. The exegetical outline provides a good skeletal outline that could very well serve as a homiletical outline for the preacher/teacher. Such an outline is pretty common in most commentaries, but I appreciate how this outline comes after the previous labors which point to the summation.
- Theology in Application. This section is somewhat similar to what you would find in the NIV Application Commentary Series, however the NIV series emphasizes more of a hermeneutic “So What?” answer that is helpful in bridging the text to contemporary concerns, whereas this series engages in Biblical Theological and Systematic Theological applications. Compiling all of the “Theology in Application” could very well serve as a Biblical Theology work on Ephesus as a standalone book that could well retail for $15 alone.
I admit that the $36.99 retail price may seem steep; however this is less than the comparable Pillar series ($44) and Baker exegetical series ($44.99). Note that this volume is over 500 pages and double columned in the commentary portion of the text, whereas the Baker series is the same in pages but single columned in the commentary section, making this essentially larger in raw word count.
I highly recommend this volume for all pastors and would commend it to a general lay audience as well. I will be purchasing this series as I preach through NT books in the future.