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Thanks to Zondervan Academic for the review copy!
Gary Shogren has been teaching at ESEPA Bible College and Seminary in San Jose, Costa Rica since 1998. He’s written extensively on everything from a guide to counseling drug addicts, to a Spanish commentary on 1 Corinthians.
Here, he offers the installment on 1 & 2 Thessalonians in Zondervan’s Exegetical Commentaries on the New Testament. This is probably one of my favorite series for teaching (and/or preaching) prep. This is mainly because of the structure of the commentary, which offers structural and exegetical analysis of each passage before the commentary proper, and then follows it up with “Theology in Application” sections. These sections help the commentary span a range of needs. While not as application driven as say Zondervan’s NIV Application Commentaries, it nonetheless offers suggestive possibility for bridging the passage in question into our modern context.
Shogren in particular is an able interpreter and spends a fair amount of time digging into Greek grammar and word usage. In terms of interpretive issues, Shogren offers extended sidebars on the following topics:
- Were the Thessalonian Believers Evangelistic? (70-71)
- “Gentle” or “Infants” in 1 Thess. 2:7? (99-103)
- Was Paul Anti-Semitic? (118-120)
- Light and Darkness, Day and Night (205-206)
- Did Jesus Teach That He Would Return at the End of the Age? (254-255)
- How to Show Hell’s Relevance (265)
- The Critical Text and the Textus Receptus in 2 Thessalonians (274-275)
- Who Is the Man of Lawlessness? (290-291)
- “Tradition in 2 Thessalonians (305-306)
- Lexical Note on “Meddle” (327-328)
- Summary and Conclusion: Who Were These Disruptive People? (331-335)
Particularly distinctive to this volume in the ZECNT is Shogren’s organization of the “Theology in Application” sections:
- Theology in Thessalonica
- Biblical Theology
- Message of This Passage for the Church Today
In this way, he is able to summarize the theology of the particular passage, trace it through other Scripture passages, and then move it into our context. This format is useful, though curiously, he doesn’t stick to it throughout. The very first “Theology in Application” section (1 Thess. 1:1-10) is more in line with other volumes and presents a theology of prayer with three sections. Then, in the next section, he presents the above format, then sticks to it for several sections, but then deviates in 1 Thess. 5:1-11. It is not a drastic deviation, but instead of using the above categories as headings, he presents two different theologically oriented headings that each have the final two categories from above as subheadings. Then, the next section (5:12-22), goes back to a format similar to the first section, only to return to the above format in the next section for the remainder of the book (or at least until the final 3 verses of 2 Thessalonians). This struck me as perhaps an editorial oversight, since it seems unlikely to be intentional. I would have preferred to have the same format throughout since I think it is especially helpful in thinking through the passage.
At the end, like the other volumes, he presents a theology of Thessalonians that moves along systematic theological categories. This can either be read as the culmination of thought at the end of the commentary, or in tandem with the introduction to prepare for teaching the book with the picture theological conclusions in mind.
Other than the odd shift in format in the “Theology in Application” sections, I didn’t find much to critique in Shogren’s treatment of Thessalonians. Granted, I didn’t do an in-depth evaluation, but if that is something you are interested in, there is a review in the most recent issue of Themelios. That particular review is written by an author (Gene Green) who has a commentary on Thessalonians himself, and he gives the book a hearty commendation. I would echo his commendation of the book itself, as well as the value you get for the price. This is a fine exegetical-theological commentary on Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians and should make its way into your library if you plan to teach or preach these epistles any time soon.