THE EPISTLES TO THE COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON AND EPHESIANS (New International Commentary), F.F. Bruce; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984; 442 pp., $18.95. (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko)
The New International Commentary Series is different from other series because the volumes of the set are periodically rewritten. The original volume on Ephesians and Colossians was written by E.K. Simpson and F.F. Bruce, while the original volume on Philemon was written by Jac. J. Muller. This volume is literally an entire rewriting of the older commentaries.
It is, in the judgment of this reviewer, one of the better works of Dr. Bruce, especially because it does not give evidence of the influences of higher criticism to the extent that some of Bruce’s other works did.
It is really not a helpful volume for Gods people; it is rather technical and is written with the minister in mind, although a great deal of the technical material (such as textual criticism, Greek words and their meaning, references to scholarly works by others) has been relegated to the footnotes. Those who are more than passingly acquainted with New Testament scholarship can profit by the commentary and ought to have it on their shelves. It gives insights on occasion into the text which are helpful and interesting. And Dr. Bruce is a scholar who must be taken into account in New Testament studies, whether one always agrees with him or not.
Nevertheless, there are some things about the commentary which trouble me greatly. In the first place, there seems to be more emphasis in the commentary on dealing with interpretations of others (often going back to the early history of the New Testament Church and giving interpretations of those who really were part of sects) than in coming . . . to grips with the text itself and explaining it. In close connection with this, one looks in vain for a careful development of concepts, concepts with which Colossians and Ephesians are loaded. One, e.g., never finds any clear definition of such great truths in these epistles as election, adoption, reconciliation, etc. And in close connection with this, the historic theological terminology of the church, developed over many centuries, is rarely used, in an attempt to be contemporary. The result is that the truths these terms set forth are no longer clearly defined and expressed. By doing this, one cuts himself off from the church of the past not only, but loses a precious heritage of the truth without which we cannot live. Perhaps this is the result of rewriting commentaries in an effort to keep them up to date.