Everyone wants to talk about the “original context” in which a passage of the New Testament occurs. Who is the author? What is the “authorial intent”? What year did the author write this text? Why did the author write this text? What do certain phrases mean and why were they important then? These questions deal with the historical, cultural, and social background of a specific religious text (for our purposes, the New Testament).
Craig Keener’s “The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament” is “an indispensable resource” to the student of the New Testament and pastors who are preaching from the New Testament. Typical commentaries (such as the Word Biblical, New American, Abingdon New Testament Commentary, etc.) attempt to give background to the text, and no doubt those authors do a superb job, but those commentaries do not provide only background information. Their purpose is to show the applicability of a text in light of the historical context and how we might interpret the text today. Not so for Keener.
Keener’s commentary is given solely for the purpose of historical background. Keener states that he is not interested in giving the applicability of the text (in this particular commentary) but to simply shed light on the necessity of understanding the historical setting of the Bible. The Bible invites us to interpret it, but we cannot interpret the Bible properly if we do not have an appropriate understanding of the text (both historically, sociologically, and theologically).
I thoroughly appreciate Keener’s efforts in each chapter to provide an introduction to the author and key themes/aspects of each book (or set of books in the case of 1-3 John). I also appreciate that he provides a list of commentaries at the conclusion of the introduction which provides the reader numerous sources for further investigation into a book or particular portion of text. I also appreciate at the end of the book the glossary for all of the terms that have an asterisk beside them. Following the glossary are maps, charts of familial dynasties, and a development of the politics of the New Testament.
I am thankful to have this book on my bookshelf and I look forward to digging into the historical background of the New Testament as my preaching and study permits. I recommend this resource to you to use as you faithfully study the Word of God.
Disclosure: I received this book free from InterVarsity Press (IVPress, IVP, Downers Grove, IL) through the IVP Bloggers Review program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
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