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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imagine that....a theologian reading the Bible!
I had the wonderful opportunity to get this book early as it was offered at the American Academy of Religion conference in November before it hit the shelves.

The concept of this whole series is fascinating and its intention, if carried through, should have a lasting impact on the relationship between biblical and theological studies. Too often there has been...
Published on February 9, 2006 by Robert Knetsch

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14 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What a Disappointment
This is not a commentary on the Book of Acts. It is instead a discourse by Professor Pelikan, telling us how much he knows about the ways the Church Fathers and the Greek Orthodox Church interpreted the Book of Acts.
It includes far, far too many sentences like this one: "The resurrection of Christ was the supreme manifestation of the divine dialectic that had been...
Published on August 18, 2007 by Bozemaniac


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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imagine that....a theologian reading the Bible!, February 9, 2006
This review is from: Acts (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) (Hardcover)
I had the wonderful opportunity to get this book early as it was offered at the American Academy of Religion conference in November before it hit the shelves.

The concept of this whole series is fascinating and its intention, if carried through, should have a lasting impact on the relationship between biblical and theological studies. Too often there has been a traditional divide between the two fields and Brazos has decided to show how theology not only is "useful" for biblical interpretation - it is the very breath of theological talk.

In this first Volume on Acts, Pelikan has arranged his commentary so that he can pull out major theological "themes" - everything from Mary as Theotokos to the "Gospel of 40 days". With a rich analysis of the greek text and enlightening insights into the strong theological backbone if the book, Pelikan exemplifies the reality that theology is not about the Bible, but the other way around.

If you are looking for the typical textual and historical analysis, dry criticism and a search for redaction, please, go elsewhere. Pelikan, and I suspect the authors of the rest of the series, simply take the Bible to mean what it says. It is a reading "in faith".

What Pelikan has also been able to do is not only present to the reader a great scholarly work that is of interest to those who are in professional ministry, but also to make it accessible to people who may wish to use the book for personal use in biblical reflection. I would love to see this and the subsequent books to be used by bible study groups to really get a sense of the theological "meat" that can be found in all biblical text.

I look forward to reading more from this series.

Read and Enjoy!
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars theological and church historical commentary on Acts, January 17, 2007
By 
Daniel B. Clendenin (www.journeywithjesus.net) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Acts (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) (Hardcover)
Any new book by Jaroslav Pelikan is an automatic read for me. I cannot think of another writer whose erudition in the service of the church fires my mind and soul more than him. Magisterial, meticulous, encyclopedic, prolific, and prodigious, Pelikan is the Sterling Professor Emeritus of History at Yale University where he served on the faculty from 1962-96, the past president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2004 the recipient of the Library of Congress's annual John W. Kluge Prize in the Human Sciences (the $1 million award focuses on academic disciplines not covered by the Nobel prizes). Most in his guild would consider him the greatest historian of Christian thought in his generation.

Born in 1923, and showing no signs of scholarly fatigue, Pelikan converted from his Lutheran heritage to Eastern Orthodoxy a few years ago (he dedicates this volume "To my liturgical family at Saint Vladimir's"), and so this book, like many of his recent publications, exemplifies his hearty and unapologetic embrace of Christian orthodoxy. Noting that even the most extravagant claims made about the Bible enjoy their moment in the sun, Pelikan admits that this commentary "is based upon what may turn out to be the most radical presupposition of all: that the church really did get it right in its liturgies, creeds, and councils--yes, and even in its dogmas."

Pelikan's volume is the first in this Brazos series that will publish distinctly theological commentaries, as opposed to traditional exegetical commentaries written by Old and New Testament technical specialists. Stanley Hauerwas of Duke, for example, is writing the volume on the Gospel of Matthew. Pelikan's method, then, is refreshingly different than most commentaries. For each of the twenty-eight chapters in the book of Acts he focuses on three distinct theological themes. Acts 15, for example, provides opportunity to discuss controversy and polemics, along with the emergence of creeds and councils, while for Acts 17 natural revelation takes center stage. The eighty-four themes traverse most all of Christian theology.

In Acts 1:4 the disciples were instructed "not to depart from Jerusalem" until so instructed, then in the final chapter we read "and so we came to Rome" (28:16). "Six monosyllables in English (though not in Greek)," writes Pelikan, "this sentence is the signal that the Way (11:26) was being transferred--or rather, already had been--to a world stage and was no longer hidden 'in a corner' (26:26). These words from the first chapter and from the last chapter are the bookends of the Acts of the Apostles" (p. 290). Whether treating matters of history, theology, rhetoric, philology, the Greek and Roman classics, textual variants, creeds, councils, art, music, and the early mothers and fathers of the church, Pelikan displays a deft and judicious touch, an eloquent writing style, a staggering command of the sources, and a sensitivity for "the predicament of the Christian historian" (Florovsky, p. 279) who must abide by the canons of his discipline while not suppressing his own vibrant faith commitment (Pelikan likens it to a young doctor doing brain surgery on his mother)--all of which inspire confidence in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as proclaimed by the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Theologian's Interpretation Of Acts, September 22, 2007
This review is from: Acts (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) (Hardcover)
'Hence this commentary will repeatedly have to draw on the use of Acts in the broader corpus of patristic literature and thought, Eastern as well as Western.' p 26

There has been a worldwide steady decline in traditional Protestant church membership, and an increase in churches with more recent origins. Research has proven that the common denominator for this has been an unprecedented return to the Book of Acts and the re-interpreted views on church growth, which was exponentially phenomenal in the first two centuries of the church's existence. Emblematic of this trend, C Peter Wagner includes extra-biblical spiritual gifts and offices in his The Book of Acts - martyrdom, exorcism, voluntary poverty, and modern missionaries as "apostles" based on the Vulgate's Latin poor translation for apostles: "missio". Wagner lists 27 spiritual gifts, but preaching is not one of them. As far as Wagner is concerned, there is no correlation between preaching and church growth.

What makes this commentary great to use, is the 3-per-chapter anecdotes, or loci communes (p 30) of the developing church. All 84 are all listed in front of this edition. It makes a pleasure to discover alongside the Lord's apostles how the church expanded. The formulation of doctrine and tradition is well recorded here, and is standard Lutheran fare, with a good touch of Eastern orthodoxy. The 'catholic' church in its embryo stage is brilliantly analyzed by a theologian whose strength was early church history.

'It bears explaining, on the basis of the distinction between 'theology' and 'economy' (15:8, 9), that this 'sending' of the Holy Spirit by Father and the Son was described as 'economic', that is, within the dispensation of human history, by contrast with the eternal 'proceeding' within the Godhead (John 15:26).' p 51

On Acts 2:31:
'The resurrection of Christ was the supreme manifestation of the divine dialectic that had been typologically foreshadowed in the recognition scene between the patriarch Joseph and his brothers: "You took counsel against me for evil, but God took counsel on my behalf for good." (Gen 50:20 LXX) - that declaration "but God took counsel" is suggested also in the phrase of this chapter "the definite plan and foreknowledge of God". The crucifixion and resurrection supremely documented the fulfillment of prophecy. Peter's Pentecost message was a catena of the familiar passages from the prophets and the Psalms in which David "foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ." pp. 54-5

'The distinction between Scripture and the word of the gospel (Anglo-Saxon good spell) was that the word of God in the gospel was primarily oral, because it did not come by reading, but "faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" (Roman 10:17). The verb that went with "the word of God" in the book of Acts was not 'write', but "speak" or "preach" or "proclaim" or "announce" or "teach".' pp. 112-3

A definite change occurred when Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, began to pen his epistles. Hopefully the Word will always remain the primary means of grace. Pelikan's is an informative and historiographical presentation, with the added anecdotes definitely a worthwhile resource for students and pastors alike. It is not a verse-by-verse commentary.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good primer on historical theology....at the expense of Luke's theology, January 2, 2007
By 
scourge39 "scourge39" (Archbald PA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Acts (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) (Hardcover)
This first volume on Acts in the Brazos Theological Commentary by the late modern Church historian, Jaroslav Pelikan, serves as a primer in historical theology. Instead of providing a verse-by-verse theological reading, Pelikan offers thematic reflections on each chapter. The thesis of the book is that correct doctrine, particularly as it was formulated by the Nicene Creed, is what unites the Church. This is a fitting thesis for this inaugural volume to the Brazos Theological Commentary series. It also serves as a wake-up call for the contemporary Church which is becoming increasingly more detached from its historical roots and as a result, more theologically ignorant.

Pelikan's thematic approach (3 themes per chapter) makes this commentary more suitable for topical preaching than for full, verse-by-verse exposition of the book of Acts. Preachers and teachers will want to supplement Pelikan's volume with a more exegetical Acts commentary that addresses the text of the book in its entirety. Some of the topics discussed by Pelikan are more firmly connected to the text of the book of Acts than others. However, the topics dealt with are so interesting that it's hard to fault Pelikan for taking this approach. Pelikan's discussions of 'The Gospel of the Forty Days,' Mary as Theotokos ('Mother of God'), 'Christus Victor, ' baptism, religious affections, private revelations, the authority of Church councils, the theological importance of textual variants, the Church's relationship to government, and 'due process' are among some of the best articles in this commentary. They provide excellent material for topical preaching and teaching. Pentecostals and Charismatics in particular, who generally view Acts as a mere 'handbook' on ecclesiology and pneumatology, would do well to read Pelikan's commentary. They'll quickly discover that Luke's account is much more than that.

The commentary seems to focus on post-apostolic theological/creedal formulation without firmly connecting it to the texts under discussion in several instances. This volume seems to fall short of the series' goal because of this weakness. While Pelikan offers some perceptive insights regarding Luke's historiography, he offers almost nothing specific to help the reader understand Luke's theological framework, which shapes the book of Acts itself. Having a discussion of Luke's theology in addition to the topical and historical discussions would've made this a more well-rounded commentary. Pelikan seems too quick to enter into historical discussions without addressing the text being highlighted in several instances. Perhaps the decision to approach Acts topically was meant to ensure that Pelikan completed this commentary. He wrote it while battling lung cancer, which ended his life on May 13, 2006, less than three and a half-months after its publication. However, the series preface by general editor R.R. Reno indicates that some of the other contributors to forthcoming volumes also will be using a topical approach when commenting on their respective books of the Bible.

Due to his Orthodox commitments, Pelikan uses the Western Byzantine Greek text of the NT as his primary source material on the book of Acts. It is important to note that the Western Byzantine text is slightly longer than the Alexandrian Greek text traditionally used in translation of the New Testament by other ecclesiastical bodies within the Christian church since the mid-nineteenth century. As a result, Pelikan provides some interesting commentary on textual variants, particularly Acts 8:37, which are often dismissed by commentators writing from within other ecclesiastical traditions and relegated merely to footnotes in most English translations of the NT.

I wish Pelikan would've spent more time addressing Luke's citations from the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It's surprising that he did not do so, given that the Orthodox Church views the Septuagint, not the Hebrew Masoretic Text, as the authoritative translation of the OT.

In addition, I would've appreciated reading Pelikan's perspective on some of the more perplexing events recorded in Acts, such as the unsuccessful attempt by the seven sons of Sceva to perform an exorcism and its obvious juxtaposition with the genuine miracles performed by the apostle Paul in Acts 19:11-16. Clearly, Luke shows the fulfillment of Judaism's eventual inability to miraculously authenticate its spiritual authority, which Jesus predicts in Luke 11:14-28 (cf. Matthew 12:22-37). According to the parable of the tenants found in Matthew 21:33-46, Mark 12:1-12 and Luke 20:9-19, the obedient Jewish Apostles (both who recognize Jesus as Messiah and do not refuse to evangelize Gentiles) would gain the authority that would be stripped from the disobedient Jewish leaders. How I wish Pelikan had addressed this clear transition of Spiritual authority, despite its controversial nature. Its ecclesiological importance is significant.

Theological reflection on why Luke arranges the events recorded in Acts the way he does would have been extremely informative and helpful also. Exegetical commentators writing on Acts do not address this area nearly as thoroughly as needs to be done and tend to address the events individually. Pelikan could have surely filled that gap with this commentary by helping readers view the book of Acts more holistically, which would have allowed for greater theological reflection on the Church, the Holy Spirit, etc.

Hopefully, someone will revise the present work with specific discussion of Luke's theology as it unfolds throughout the book of Acts. So much has been written about Luke's theology over the years. It's a shame that Pelikan fails to interact with such a large body of scholarly work. This commentary is still a great read despite that obvious weakness. Readers within the Orthodox tradition will find this commentary particularly useful. However, Leithart's volume on 1 & 2 Kings is a much better representation of what a theological commentary should be. It balances theology, historiography and exegesis more adequately than this volume. The end result is a commentary more suitable for preaching and teaching the entire text. Hopefully, future volumes in the series will follow the chapter-by-chapter format of Leithart instead of the topical approach used by Pelikan.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, February 23, 2013
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This review is from: Acts (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) (Hardcover)
I love this study of the Book of Acts. Jaroslav Pelikan looks at the Greek, the Latin, the various historical controversies and the context of Acts within the Bible and brings it all to life. It is really insightful in a gentle non-pushy way.
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14 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What a Disappointment, August 18, 2007
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This review is from: Acts (Hardcover)
This is not a commentary on the Book of Acts. It is instead a discourse by Professor Pelikan, telling us how much he knows about the ways the Church Fathers and the Greek Orthodox Church interpreted the Book of Acts.
It includes far, far too many sentences like this one: "The resurrection of Christ was the supreme manifestation of the divine dialectic that had been typologically foreshadowed in the recognition scene between the patriarch Joseh and his brothers: . . . "
The Brazos commentary on Matthew, by Stanley Hauerwas, is one of the most helpful and enlightening commentaries I have ever read. But this one on Acts is deadly dull. Be warned.
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1 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't work for me, February 2, 2011
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This review is from: Acts (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) (Hardcover)
I did a sermon series on Acts and bought a few commentaries, and this was the least helpful one. Pelikan uses specifically ancient orthodox theology, assumes that these doctrines are correct, and tries to fit the texts and all thoughts related to the texts to these ancient doctrines. At times, it felt a bit like reading a fundamentalist commentary, except rather than being unwilling to question a literal, evangelical reading of the text, Pelikan has an unquestioning allegiance to ancient orthodox theology. The language and style is also very difficult to read. So if you just want to learn about ancient theology, I guess this book could help, but if you are more concerned with finding a readable commentary on Acts, and especially if you are not wedded to following ancient orthodoxy, I would check out something else. As the one reviewer says, the commentary by Hauerwas on Matthew is excellent - theological, but more contemporary and readable - and I assume other commentaries in the series are good as well.
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Acts (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible)
Acts (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible) by Jaroslav Pelikan (Hardcover - January 1, 2006)
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