Book Review: James (ZECNT) Exegetical Commentary

Book Review: James (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Craig L. Blomberg and Mariam J. Kamell

A few weeks ago I was privileged to join a group of reviewers for a new commentary series titled The Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (ZECNT). The *copy I received was dedicated to the text from the New Testament Book of James. The intent of this commentary series is as follows (from the Zondervan website):

Designed for the pastor and Bible teacher, the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament examines the biblical text in its original environment. Notable evangelical scholars carefully attend to grammatical detail, literary context, rhetorical flow, theological nuance, and historical setting in their interpretation. Critical scholarship informs each step, but does not dominate the commentary, allowing readers to concentrate on the biblical author’s message as it unfolds. While primarily designed for those with a basic knowledge of biblical Greek, all who strive to understand and teach the New Testament will find this series beneficial.

My first impressions of this commentary are very good. I have enjoyed it for several reasons. First, let me clarify that I do not have a background in the ancient Greek languages. The majority of my Greek studies include several helps from my reference library and software tools (both personally owned and online resources). The reason for my clarification is the commentary specifically mentions that it was “primarily designed for those with a basic knowledge of biblical Greek.” Perhaps my resources and reference tools qualify me as a person who has a basic knowledge of the biblical Greek, but I do not place myself in that category. Nonetheless, I have found the commentary very accessible and readable even with my limited knowledge and understanding of the intricacies of the ancient languages. That said, I believe the authors, editor, and publisher have done a commendable job in creating a commentary that works equally well for scholar and “non-academic” Bible student.

Another aspect of this commentary that particularly enjoyed was the graphical layout of the translation. Each unit of thought from the text is broken down into commentator’s translation. I found this helpful on several levels; first, it was helpful in understanding the contextual flow of the passage. Second, I found the translation of the commentator a useful tool in cross-referencing other passages providing me an example for analysis and diagramming passages for my own inductive studies. A third aspect of the commentary I appreciated was the relevant and thoughtful suggestion for application of the ancient text to contemporary society. Regardless of whether or not I agree with the suggested application or examples, I found the explanation and application very thought provoking; which in my opinion is a win and a desired objective achieved for the goals of the commentators. These items are certainly not my exhaustive thoughts on what I liked or disliked about the commentary, but serve to highlight some of the elements that rise to the top from my perspective.

Final Thoughts

I do not think any Bible student should be relegated to a single commentary or study Bible. I say this to qualify my comment that this is not a one-commentary-does-it-all reference tool… and none should be (in my opinion). This is; however, one of the better supplemental commentaries that I have owned or used to date. I love that it is concise, I love the outline and graphical layout, I love the thought provocation from the application portion of the commentary, and I especially love the reference tools. The commentary is extensively footnoted (at least this volume 16 James is), and the Bibliography is detailed upfront and readable making it easy to continue the study and research should the student want to dig deeper or add additional reference and resource works to their personal library. The indices at the end of the commentary are helpful in their own rights; there is a scripture index, subject index, and an author index. In summary, I find this latest commentary series a quality addition to the bulging field of commentaries. I believe Zondervan has successfully bridged the gap between academia and non academia with this series without “dumbing down” the content. My verdict is “two thumbs up.”

Additional Review Links can be found here

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan Publishing to read and post a review on my site. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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