be able to understand what I write (I think that’s important, and I’m quite sure
Finally, I know that you’ve already looked at the DDT Rating, so you already know
the conclusion: this is a good resource with relatively broad appeal. Now,
let us commence with the Review!
In order to rightly understand the Bible, you not only need to understand grammar,
language & vocabulary, but you also need to understand at least the important cultural
considerations of any particular Bible passages. Most commentaries that focus on
a right understanding of the Bible focus on language/grammar/vocabulary, and (at
best) under-utilize the history & culture of any particular passage. It’s been that
way since the printing press starting cranking out commentaries.
Now, there are lots of books that focus on the history and cultural backgrounds of
the Bible, but those are typically written in a topical format. You can study “Roman
History in Palestine,” or “Greek Influence on Pauline Literature” (both of those
titles are made up, and simply intended to illustrate my point), ad nauseum. But
for the laymen who wants help on a specific paragraph of the Bible, these works are
simply far too cumbersome (i.e. “boring”) to use.
Author Craig Keener thought that laymen needed access to a background book of the
Bible layed out in a verse by verse format. So, when InterVarsity Press desired to
publish a commentary that focused solely on the historical background of the New
Testament, Mr. Keener thought their invitation for him to write it was a match made
This commentary solely focuses on the background of any particular verse or passage.
There are very few grammatical comments. (There are plenty of other books focusing
on those, right?) And for the most part, Mr. Keener does a good job of explaining
the culturally relevant material on a verse by verse basis.
Expositional & Doctrinal Overview
The hardcover book is 800+ pages covering every book of the New Testament. So, you
can imagine that there is ample material here. Just about every verse is treated
- at least in a cursory fashion as part of an entire paragraph. It must be remembered,
though, that this is not a commentary based on grammar; so it isn’t “phrase by phrase”
as some might expect. It is basically a topical commentary laid out in an expository
As to the doctrinal background to this module: I don’t think Keener (nor IVP) will
be confused with being of fundamentalist theology. However, because his comments
are comprehensive but relatively brief, he doesn’t delve much into Higher Criticism:
he doesn’t have the space to do so.
While Keener (and IVP) lean a little to the left, this work is relatively neutral
in it’s practical theological outlook.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a commentary sample is worth, well,
what is it worth? Not sure! But here is a representative entry from the commentary.
This one is from Rom 3:24 (please note: the digital text comes from the premium resource
formatted for TheWord Bible Software).
“Redemption” (freeing a slave) was a standard Old Testament concept; the Old Testament
terms always involve the paying of a price, sometimes to get something back. God
“redeemed” Israel, making them his people by grace and by paying a price for their
freedom (the Passover lamb and the firstborn of Egypt), before he gave them his commandments
(cf. Ex 20:2). In Paul’s day, the Jewish people were looking forward to the messianic
redemption, when they would be delivered from earthly rulers; but the malevolent
ruler here is sin (3:9).
This section is fairly representative as to how Keener handles the text.
The value of this commentary comes from it’s unique perspective on the New Testament.
That alone will probably make this volume worthwhile to those who enjoy studying
the Bible. Pastors, Sunday School teachers, and adult students of the Word will probably
find this book helpful. It is a good resource that will have broad doctrinal appeal.
I recommend it to you on this basis.
Amazon.com offers 31 reviews (as of March, 2012). Average rating: 4.8 stars. Read
Purchase InverVarsity Press Bible Background NT Here
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The strength and appeal of this one volume commentary comes from it’s unique perspective:
it attempts to unveil the history and culture behind every verse of the Bible. It
does a pretty decent job of doing so, too.