Book Review: The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament

Craig S. Keener (InterVarsity Press, 842 pp.)

A few hours with this volume will rapidly convince one that Craig Keener, an Assemblies of God Theological Seminary alumnus and now professor of New Testament at Hood Theological Seminary, Salisbury, North Carolina, is a rising star among evangelical New Testament scholars. A unique and helpful tool, it earned Christianity Today’s highest ranking for any biblical studies entry in the 1995 Book Awards. Written simply and clearly, though meticulously researched, this book will be a valuable acquisition for every thoughtful student, pastor, and teacher who tries to understand the original setting for any passage in the New Testament.

The Commentary begins with introductory sections explaining its nature and use. It is not a classic exegetical commentary with extensive treatment of lexical, grammatical, and literary matters. Rather, Keener concentrates on illuminating first-century life for those of us who have neither the time, tools, nor inclination to become experts on the biblical world. He begins each book of the New Testament with a brief, nontechnical introduction identifying author, date, and setting and then moves, passage by passage, providing cultural, social, and historical background useful for interpreting the text at hand. A glossary of terms is at the end along with maps, chronologies, and other useful charts, all designed for the nonspecialist.

To give some idea of the contents, Keener brings to life Paul’s exhortations about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:17–34 by showing how well-to-do Greco-Roman patrons often seated their noble guests in the best room to be served the best food and drink while the less fortunate, in plain view of the others, were seated in the large atrium to receive, to their dismay and embarrassment, inferior food and drink. The prejudices of society at large thus spilled over into the church causing anger and division. We have here a gold mine of such information for every passage in the New Testament.

Obviously, in any resource of this size, there will be occasional differences of opinion. However, the book is carefully researched and judiciously written from an orthodox Christian perspective to provide dependable information without overt theological bias. I heartily recommend it.

—Reviewed by Edgar R. Lee, S.T.D., Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and professor of practical theology, Springfield, Missouri.

This article was published in Enrichment, Winter 1996. Used with Permission.

Updated: Tuesday, December 13, 2005 11:41 AM


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