Book Reviews

COMMENTARY ON JAMES, by Peter H. Davids; Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982; 226 pages, (cloth) $14.95. (Reviewed by Prof. R.D. Decker)

This commentary is part of the New International Greek Testament Commentary, edited by I Howard Marshall and W. Ward Gasque. Peter Davids, Associate Professor of New Testament at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, Ambridge, Pennsylvania, is rapidly acquiring a reputation as one of the leading New Testament scholars among evangelicals. He is deserving of this in the opinion of this reviewer. This book contains an extensive bibliography and indexes as well as several charts. Obviously a great deal of research has gone into its writing. 

Davids applies the hermeneutical method of Redaction Criticism to the interpretation of James. Redaction Criticism, a relatively recent school of thought, arose in connection with studies of the synoptics. More recently it has been applied to other of the books of the New Testament. This school has all but replaced Form Criticism. Redaction critics regard the writers of the New Testament as editors who gathered the materials for their particular books from various Gospel sources. The writers then wrote their books with their own specific purposes. Thus one can discern distinctive themes, messages, and emphases in the various books of the New Testament. Redaction critics, for example, speak of the “Theology of Matthew” or of “Pauline Eschatology.” The various New Testament writers are considered to be independent theologians. Some redaction critics believe in some form of the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture by the Holy Spirit, Few believe the doctrine of plenary inspiration and an infallible Scripture as we do. Writing from this perspective Davids, in an introduction of some sixty pages, discusses the following subjects: Authorship and Date, Form and Structure, A Possible Sitz Im Leben (this refers to the historical circumstances, culture, etc., in which James wrote), Theology, Language and Style and Text. The rest of the book is an expository commentary on the text of James. The style is lucid. One will not always agree with Davids’ exegesis, but one will gain some fresh insights into this book of the New Testament. The book is useful for pastors, professors, seminary students, and anyone who has a working knowledge of the Greek language. Because the commentary is directly from the Greek, a knowledge of the original is a must for anyone using this commentary.