Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jude Commentary Reviews

In my recent study of Jude I selected five commentaries to use to aid my study. I'll briefly rate and review each of them here.

It was a tough call, but Peter David's commentary on Jude was my personal favorite. This was the first time I've extensively used one of his commentaries, and in many ways it reminded me of Peter T. O'Brein's Ephesians commentary in the same series, which is very high praise coming from me. He substantiated his claims without weighing the reader down with extensive detail. I never felt like I lost the larger point while examining the finer details, which is a complaint I sometimes have with detailed commentaries. Davids blends different approaches well. It was clear that he had an in depth understanding of the text and of Mediterranean culture. I previously highlighted his comments on the doxology. They added depth to my understanding of the doxology by showing how it functioned in an honor-shame society. I also appreciated how he preserved the tension that is present in the text between keeping oneself in the love of God and being kept by God. He doesn't settle for easy answers. I highly recommend this commentary, especially for pastors it should be the first one off the shelf. 5 stars out of 5.

If Davids is choice 1A, Bauckham is choice 1B. Bauckham's commentary is undoubtedly the best commentary for academic work on Jude. In particular, his excursus on Jude's usage of the Testament of Moses was a masterpiece of scholarship, and I found his reconstruction of the general contents of the lost ending of the Testament of Moses to be very convincing. His notes on textual variants were also very helpful (there are a couple of very difficult readings in Jude). The whole commentary was a model of detail and thoroughness. My only complaint is that I wish he had written a little more for the 'Explanation' section of the commentary. 5 stars out of 5.

The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary series is a bit different than most others. The first section of the commentary is a typical mid level commentary, I would say somewhere between what you would find in the Pillar series and in the Interpretation series. What makes this commentary series unique is the collection of theological essays after the regular commentary which discuss theological themes, in this case of Jude, first discussing Jude in its own right, then in the context of the wider cannon, and finally it applies the theology of Jude to our contemporary context. I would describe the regular portion of the commentary as workmanlike. It's solid. A couple of times she did raise my eyebrows with thought provoking interpretations, but the value of the commentary doesn't lie in that section. I found the essays to be much more helpful and interesting. She thought hard about some of the difficult issues raised in the letter. I especially enjoyed Reese's efforts on the 'Us and Them,' 'Responses to Division in the Cannon,' and 'The Theology of Jude in Contemporary Contexts.' 4 stars out of 5.

If it weren't for Bauckham's excellent commentary, Green's would be the commentary of choice for a detailed treatment of Jude. Green's primary strength lies in incorporating insight from the social sciences into a traditional commentary, making Neyrey, in my opinion, superfluous for all but those who are very interested in social science approaches to Jude. This is part of the biggest advantage that Green has over Bauckham, which makes Green worth owning in addition to Bauckham, since it's much more recent. Bauckham's commentary is phenomenal, but published in 1983. Green's commentary is not quite as good in my opinion (but still very good), but published in 2008. A lot of research has been done in the mean time, especially in sociology, and Green's commentary definitely benefits from it. 4 stars out of 5.

The final commentary that I used was Neyrey's. This is a very narrow commentary. If you are very interested in understanding Jude within the wider culture of the Greco-Roman world, then this is the commentary for you. Otherwise, it is at best a supplement to other, more traditional commentaries. There were a couple of occasions where the additional insight was helpful, primarily in the letter introduction and doxology, but they weren't bountiful. I also think he may have pushed his sociological and rhetorical analysis a little far at times. I felt Green's tempered approach to be better. 3.5 stars out of 5.

3 comments:

  1. Marcus, thanks for your excellent reviews. It's a real benefit to the Church.

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  2. Marcus, your comments are very helpful. When I studied Jude in seminary a few years back, there was a real dearth of good commentaries. Bauckham was the only real option at that time. Since then, Davids, Green & Reese have all come out. I think you may have inspired me to get Davids in the near future.

    The rumor is that Bauckham is updating his commentary soon. My concern is that in the Word series, these updates are often just updating the bibliographies, which is annoying. I'm hoping he can incorporate some of the insights that Green did in his commentary.

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  3. Thanks Danny.

    I did hear about the update that Bauckham is supposed to do to his commentary. If and when it comes out, I'll peruse the contents to see what has changed. I'm torn, part of me wants to see him do a thorough update, but part of me wants to see him finish other commentaries that he's been contracted to write, especially the commentary on John in the NIGTC series. I have no idea how far along he is in that one, but its been a while since we've had a really thorough scholarly treatment of John.

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