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Author: Leander E Keck
Published By: Abingdon Press - Available in the UK through Alban Books of
Pages: 400
Price: £12.99
ISBN: 0687 05705 1

Reviewed by Author unknown.

This volume, written by the Winkley Professor of Biblical Theology Emeritus at Yale Divinity School, is a welcome addition to the Abingdon New Testament Commentaries series.

It is written in narrative form, rather than a verse by verse analysis and exegesis, which immediately makes it accessible to a very wide audience indeed. Although taking proper cognisance of the Greek text, Leck transcribes it into English pronunciation, again, suggesting that he is writing not only for a scholarly audience, but also for preachers, pastors and others in Christian leadership who may not have had the advantage of studying Greek.

The long Introduction explores the phenomenon of Romans, its historical context and the theology which Paul expounds in the letter. He then launches into his commentary in which he divides Romans into a number of major sections of varying length. For example, he takes Romans 1.16-8.39 under the single title of “The Message for the Human Plight”, then gives each mini-section its own separate title.

Some users of the commentary might find this approach helpful, but I wondered whether the multiple titles might give the impression that this is all that can be said about each section. For example, the well-known passage at Romans 8.18-30 has been given the title of “Expecting Redemption”, but surely that passage is about much more than redemption? Surely Paul is also addressing the problem, not only of suffering, but of unjust suffering, of persecution, among other things? One only has to glance at the other commentaries to realise that Leck’s title for this section of Romans is a little blinkered.

I was also disappointed by his interpretation of that most mis-quoted and misunderstood of biblical texts, Romans 8.28. He correctly rearranges the words to say that “in all things, God works together for the good of those who love God”, but fails to explore some of the other possible meanings of synergei (e.g. the ideas of intermingling or mixing, so that a possible translation is that “God intermingles all things so that they work for the good of those who love him.”).

The fact that the actual text of Romans is not included in the text of the book is another unhelpful omission. It meant that, in order to use this commentary, I had to keep referring to other Bible translations - an annoying, but tolerable weakness.

Having said all that, there is ample material here for preachers and Bible teachers. I found that the author was opening up the text of Paul’s letter, and indeed opening up Paul himself, in all sorts of helpful ways. I will certainly be recommending this volume to the beginner theologians in my parish. And at £12.99 for a 400 page commentary, it represents excellent value for money.

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You are reading Issue 38 of Ministry Today, published in November 2006.

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