Read an excerpt
Visit the publisher’s page
Thanks to Eerdmans for the review copy!
Thanks to Eerdmans sending Paul’s Letter To The Romans (PNTC), my Pillar New Testament Commentaryseries is once again complete. This however is the first hard copy I have (the rest are in Logos) and I really kind of wish I had the others in hard copy too.
Colin G. Kruse is senior lecturer in New Testament at Melbourne School of Theology and this is actually his second contribution to the PNTC series (his first was The Letters of John). With the publication of Paul’s Letter To The Romans, Leon Morris’ original contribution The Epistle to The Romans has now been replaced. Morris’ commentary was published just under 25 years ago, but since Pauline studies in general, and the study of Romans in particular has seen such sweeping changes, this is the first volume in the PNTC series to get a reboot.
If I wanted to be a jerk, I could just say that in this book, Kruse offers roughly 33 pages of introductory material (45 if you count the bibliography), and then comments verse by verse through Paul’s letter to the Romans. The end.
While entirely true in terms of giving an overview, it’s not entirely helpful. So instead, for the overview section, I’m going to compare Kruse’s commentary with Morris’ commentary. I think this will helpfully show where Kruse has expanded the discussion and how it justifies publishing another commentary on Romans before the series has finished. When we get to strengths and weaknesses, I’ll try to assess where Kruse’s installment fits into the larger picture of available Romans commentaries.
The introductory sections about roughly equal in length, but Kruse has a section on “The Influence of ‘The New Perspective'” as well as an overview of the theological themes of Romans. Right off the bat you can see that Kruse is well versed in some of the contemporary interpretive issues that arise the NPP.
Whereas Morris’ commentary follows a rather strict chapter by chapter division with only 5 additional excurses (called “Additional Notes” and none appear after chapter 3), Kruse has divided up the commentary along conceptual units:
- Letter Introduction (1:1-17)
- Exposition and Defense of The Gospel (1:18-11:36)
- The Ethical Outworking of The Gospel (12:1-15:13)
- Paul’s Ministry and Future Plans (15:14-33)
- Conclusion (16:1-27)
Obviously under the larger units there is further subdivision, but these are keeping with the flow of the argument rather than simple chapter by chapter divisions.
When it comes to the “Additional Notes,” Kruse provides a total of 48. This is not to say he finds 43 more interesting side topics to discuss than Morris, but rather that in this update, those discussions are bracketed out and easier to find on the fly. As such, they provide a quick window into Kruse’s conclusions on the most controversial aspects of interpreting Romans and make this volume much more accessible to busy pastors and students.
Several of these “Additional Notes” immediately grabbed my attention:
- Natural Theology
- The Nature of the Homosexual Practice Condemned by Paul
- Justification for the Doers
- The Works of The Law
- Adam’s Sin in Jewish Literature
- The Nature of The Death That Entered the World Through Sin
- Predestination in Romans – Corporate or Individual?
- “All Israel Will Be Saved”
- Paul’s Olive Tree Analogy
- The “Weak” and the “Strong”
- Junia or Junias?
- “Well Known Among” or “Well Known To” the apostles?
As you can see, just this selection of notes hits on pretty much all of the recent hot-button issues in Romans, and this is just 13 of the 48. Throughout the body of the commentary, these are placed as questions arise in the flow of Kruse’s exposition, but as I said above, you can just jump right into any one that catches your eye and then read the surrounding context to get more detailed exegesis of the passages in question.
Beyond these notes, this update to the Romans commentary in the PNTC series follows the flow of thought better, and I think is more accessible than Morris’ commentary. Though it is the first one I own in print rather than in Logos, I’ve used the hard copies of other titles in writing exegetical papers. I appreciate as well Kruse’s perspective on issues raised by the NPP. I think at this point, you can’t publish a commentary on Romans without interacting with it to some extent, and I found Kruse to be fair in his criticisms, but also willing to intergrate legitimate insights. He represents well an evangelical position that is neither wholly dismissive nor uncritically enthusiastic.
To give you an idea where Kruse falls on some issues, I thought I’d give a smattering of quotes and conclusions from some of the above additional anotes Kruse offers.
On homosexuality, Kruse quotes David Malick approvingly that “a contextual and exegetical examination of Romans 1:26-27 reveals that attempts by some contemporary writers to do away with Paul’s prohibition against present-day same-sex are false” (112).
On justification for the doers, Kruse says “Paul expected those who were justified by faith, as a result of the Spirit’s activity in their lives, to produce the fruit of good works and be judged by these on the last days” (144).
On the works of the law, Kruse says, “we may conclude that ‘the works of the law’ in Romans, while not excluding those aspects of the law highlighted in Galatians (circumcision and observance of special days and seasons), denotes primarily the moral demands of the law.” (176)
On Paul’s use of the Greek hilasterion, “the idea of propitiation should be retained alongside that of expiation. Christ’s atoning sacrifice is effective both in removing God’s wrath towards sinners in removing the stain of their sins.” (191)
On justification (201):
Though Paul used this doctrine against the Judiazers, those who would deny a place for Gentiles in the people of God unless they were circumcised and obeyed the Mosaic law, it was not for him simply a fighting doctrine that could be set aside when he was not involved in that dispute. This is indicated by the fact that he speaks of justification in passages that do not deal with the question of Gentile inclusion (cf. 8:29-30; 1 Cor. 6:11, 2 Cor. 3:9, Phil 3:9, Tit. 3:7)
When it comes to the identity of the “I” in 7:7-25, Kruse presents several interpretive options:
- It should be understood in the light of Hellenistic moral psychology
- It denotes humankind in general
- It denotes Paul’s experience as a Jewish boy
- It denotes Paul’s pre-Christian experience
- It denotes Paul’s pre-Christian and Post-Christian experience
- It denotes Paul’s experience as a Christian
- It denotes Paul’s situation intrinsically considered
- It denotes the experience of Israel as a nation
- It denotes that experience of the religious Jew
- It denotes the Jewish believer in Christ
Though I won’t reproduce the quote here, Kruse opts for the “I” being the experience of Israel as a nation, but with the potential for some aspects of Paul’s autobiographical experience to be applied as well.
Because my last Greek class at DTS was on Romans, I’m more or less familiar with all of the major Romans commentaries, though I haven’t read any cover to cover. Kruse’s commentary seems to fit into the category of commentaries that are somewhat technical, yet still pastoral in their overall approach. So, for instance, Kruse is not quite as technical as Dunn (1-8, 9-16) but fits more alongside Schreiner and Moo. However, Kruse is more concise (600+ pages instead of the 1000pg range or multi-volume) and somewhat less technical. As such, I think this commentary by Kruse has a wider audience, and because it is recent and sensitive to the literature on Romans published in the last decade (which Dunn, Schreiner, and Moo aren’t), it is perhaps the best contemporary Romans commentary to pick up if you’re only aiming to get one. It is pastoral enough to exposit the text for the average Bible student, but technical enough to answer questions that teachers and pastors will have in light of recent developments.