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The Letter to the Hebrews (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC)) Hardcover – February 22, 2010

4.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


D. A. Carson 
— (from editor's preface)
"It would be difficult to find a more helpful guide than Peter O'Brien or a guide better endowed with his combination of competence and genial wisdom."

David Peterson
— Moore Theological College
"Peter O'Brien has produced an engaging new commentary on Hebrews that will be of particular benefit to preachers, teachers, and students. Using insights from discourse analysis, he explains how shifts in the argument take place and clarifies the way exposition and exhortation function together to achieve the author's aim. Although there are detailed discussions of technical matters at critical points, these do not disturb the flow of the commentary."

Paul Ellingworth
— University of Aberdeen
"O'Brien's commentary on the letter to the Hebrews is a balanced and comprehensive assessment of current work on the epistle, together with many fresh insights. The text of the commentary is clear, both in detail and in its general structure. . . I cannot commend this work too highly."

George Guthrie
— Union University
"For careful scholarship and clear thinking there are very few commentary writers I respect more than Peter O'Brien, and his commentary on Hebrews does not disappoint. Masterfully interfacing with recent scholarship, O'Brien time and again plunges into the discussion of difficult passages with spot-on exegesis, lucidly explaining both the intent and the implications of the author's words. Due to a noticeable upturn in Hebrews research over the past two decades, the church has been blessed with many fine commentaries on this most enigmatic of New Testament books. Yet pastors are sure to embrace this particular commentary as theologically rich, consistently edifying, and singularly useful. I gladly recommend it."

About the Author

Peter O'Brien is senior research fellow in New Testament, Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC)
  • Hardcover: 630 pages
  • Publisher: Eerdmans (February 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802837298
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802837295
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The book of Hebrews is both a masterpiece and an enigma.

Serious readers of the letter have always recognized the powerful effect of its carefully crafted discourse. They have also grappled with the implications of its theologically complex message. With his contribution to the Pillar New Testament Commentary series on The Letter to the Hebrews, Peter O'Brien takes his place in this long line of interpreters. Research fellow at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, O'Brien is a well-established figure in the world of New Testament studies.

As with most commentaries, O'Brien begins with a brief overview of the introductory issues (1-43). O'Brien holds that the author of Hebrews was a prominent leader among the churches and a competent exegete exceedingly familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures. The letter was most likely written in the mid first century to Jewish Christians located in Rome and in danger of returning to some form of Judaism. As a "word of exhortation," Hebrews takes the form of a written sermon meant to be "read aloud again and again" (22). The many sermonic qualities of the text such as the use of the first person, the language of speaking and hearing, and the intimacy of the discourse confirm this observation.

Accordingly, the structure of the book reflects this "complex interplay between exposition and exhortation" that runs throughout, with "major turning points" at 4:14-16 and 10:19-25 and central theological exposition in chapters 5:1-10:18 (34). Theologically, Hebrews stands within the mainstream of early Christian tradition but also contributes its own distinctive developments.
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I always hesitate to start digging into a commentary of over 500 pages. Many are written in a way that is difficult to keep the reader interested. Not the case with this commentary. I think O'Brien did a great job of putting the cookies on the low shelf. I learned a lot about Hebrews through O'Brien's scholarship and the knowledge motivated me towards life application and transformation. I was studying the book with a group of friends. We used NT Wright's "Hebrews for Everyone" as our main study guide. It was good but light. If you want to go deeper, I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Hebrews is one of my favorite books of the New Testament. The author was a master of Greek, the Old Testament and rhetoric. The way he moves through comparing Moses and Melchizedek with Christ is incredible. He gives us an insight into how we ought to understand and interpret the Old Testament. Nevertheless, there are things in this letter (or sermon) that can be difficult to understand. Many people throughout history have been quick to make hasty conclusions about portions of Hebrews, myself included. It would be beneficial for all of us to think carefully about this very important NT book.

Peter O'Brien's commentary on Hebrews helps us do that. He writes with a scholars sharp thinking and a pastor's heart. He understands that this isn't just an academic exercise, he is offering a guide to aid men in the proclamation of God's Word to his people. There is more at stake than scholastic street cred.

Most importantly, for a commentary on Hebrews sensitive to pastoral concerns, he deals generously and carefully with the infamous warning passages. As he explores the text he clearly explains the constructions and the available options. Whether everyone will be convinced of his conclusions is not the ultimate value of O'Brien's commentary. Instead, he shows how we can be gracious and careful in our Bible study. This is a model that we can all follow and benefit from.

This is a welcome addition to any pastor's library. O'Brien's careful exegesis will help any minister or bible study leader as they lead their people through this beautiful and powerful book of the NT.

NOTE: In accordance with the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission I would like to state that I received a complementary copy of the aforementioned text for the purposes of review. I was not required to furnish a positive review.
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My wife and I read through this commentary cover-to-cover last year. We read it out-loud and I didn't do any formal additional study on the book. So that's going to affect my review a lot. I don't have familiarity with the other commentators (Lane, Attridge, Ellingworth, Guthrie, etc.) so take that into consideration in assessing my review.

What I think stands out the most to me about O'Brien is that he is "readable". Especially when you're reading a commentary out-loud for devotional purposes, you want something that keeps your attention and if you find the text getting sidetracked in academic disputes, you want for it to be a dispute that actually matters.

This book has everything you'd expect from the Pillar series. A footnote every other sentence - often summarizing large bodies of work. And an eye towards biblical theology, which is always nice.

Some of the other reviewers (particularly the "readable and rigorous" one) have better, more professional reviews of the book, but I thought I'd explain the things I liked about the commentary and the things I didn't like.

Things I liked:
- Orthodox: Goes without saying for the pillar series, but I thought I'd mention it as top on the list.
- Brevity: Again, this means more if you're reading the commentary out-loud than if you're using it as a reference. But O'Brien keeps it simple. He doesn't waste words.
- Robustness: As you'd expect, O'Brien doesn't put it on paper unless he's thought about it a lot. The words in this book have clearly gone through the filter of spending years in his brain and being discussed at the university with students, and other colleagues.
- Sympathy: Definitely not the best word to describe this.
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