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Paul's Letter to the Romans (The Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC)) Hardcover – June 14, 2012
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"Among the many commentaries available on Romans today, Colin Kruse's Pillar volume stands out for its combination of academic depth and accessibility."
-- Denver Seminary
"The Pillar New Testament Commentary is the finest up-to-date, mid-range commentary series on the market today. Kruse's volume maintains this high standard, meriting wide usage and a warm reception. Of particular help are numerous short additional notes on key exegetical and theological topics raised by specific passages."
Paul W. Barnett
-- Moore Theological College
"Kruse's Romans will take its place among the best of the best English commentaries on Paul's magisterial epistle."
-- London School of Theology
"Leads readers through the depths of Paul's central letter lucidly, clearly, and readably. This accessible commentary will be greatly helpful to students, pastors, and teachers."
Brendan Byrne S.J.
-- Jesuit Theological College
"Imbued with reverence for the Word and the theological depth characteristic of the evangelical tradition, Kruse's Romans is noteworthy for the consideration and respect it accords to the widest possible range of interpretations, from the patristic era to the present day."
James R. Edwards
-- Whitworth University
"Kruse's comprehensive commentary on Paul's supreme theological achievement is an anchor contribution to Pauline studies."
-- Tyndale House, Cambridge
"A wonderfully erudite and deceptively easy commentary that dodges none of the problems and deals with all the important issues."
Criswell Theological Review
“Any serious student of Romans must certainly have this volume. . . . I highly recommend this to any student or scholar who has a passing knowledge of Greek, a thirst for knowledge about Romans, and to those wanting to read a commentary committed to the text.”
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
“One of the top commentaries on Romans. I highly recommend it.”
“A lucid and learned work.”
“A helpful and informative commentary.”
Journal for the Study of the New Testament
“A very accessible and clear addition to the Pillar series.”
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
“Makes a handy, up-to-date reference source for busy clergy and a sound guide to students. . . . It wins a hearty recommendation.”
Reformed Theological Review
“A fine piece of evangelical scholarship on Paul’s greatest letter, one that we will always consult expectantly for its exegetical and scholarly qualities, whenever Romans is in our hands.”
Bible Study Magazine
“This commentary is scholarly yet accessible, and it interacts with the latest scholarship relating to Romans. . . . Its clear organization and accessible style make it well suited for teachers, pastors, and students.”
“A helpful resource for the targeted audience of serious pastors and teachers as they wrestle with the meaning and application of Paul’s longest and most detailed letter.”
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In the introduction, Kruse discusses the letter's purpose (to minister to the Roman believers), date and location (AD 54-59 from Corinth), and textual integrity (ch. 16 is integral). But the largest section of the introduction is devoted to the New Perspective on Paul and the theology of Romans. On the former, Kruse gives about as fair a hearing as one can give in such short order but is critical of its main proponents. He is faults Sanders for being too simplistic. Judaism in Paul's day did have a problem with "legalism," a term he uses without definition. He rejects Dunn's erstwhile definition of "works of the law." Kruse argues that the term does not denote boundary markers, but rather "all that the law requires" (18-19, 21). Finally, he is convinced that justification has special relevance for Gentile inclusion within the covenant community, but that, "At its heart... this doctrine has to do with God's gracious acquittal of guilty sinners, both Jews and Gentiles" (22). The copyright date suggests that Kruse was not able to interact with more recent critics of his view of justification (specifically D. A. Campbell) but, as it is, he has provided a quick entree for the busy pastor or layman.
One of the most valuable features of Kruse's work is his consistent clarity, especially when dealing with disputed issues. The reader is never left to guess where Kruse lands on an issue, and he is at his best when laying out the alternatives (often with lengthy block quotes).
So where does Kruse land on some of the biggest interpretive issues in Romans? Since I don't want to give it all away, here is just a sampling:
--The "obedience of faith" in 1:5 and 16:6 means specifically obeying the Gospel's call to trust in Christ (51) but this should not be separated from obedience that springs from ongoing faith.
--Similar to Moo, the "righteousness of God" in 1:17 refers to God's saving action and a status given by God (81).
--Romans 2 is not hypothetical but includes a real judgment of believers according to their works. How does this square with justification by faith? The short answer is "the Spirit's activity in [believers'] lives" (144). Despite a three-page "additional note," I felt like this one needed some more attention.
--Romans 3:21-26 provides a justification for God's justification of the ungodly, primarily through the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ (Kruse takes hilasterion in 3:25 as both expiation and propitiation).
--The "boasting" in 3:27 does not refer to Jewish boasting in their unique relationship with Yahweh (al la Wright) but to boasting in works as a basis for one's standing before God (193).
--In one of the few places where Kruse discusses textual variants, the indicative "we have peace" is preferred over the subjunctive "let us have peace" in 5:1 (226).
--Romans 7 is about Israel's history under the Mosaic Law. Since Paul too was under the law, his description may reflect his own past, but only as viewed from his present. It does not in any way describe is Christian experience (321).
--Theos in 9:5 refers to God the Father, not to Jesus Christ (374).
--The "burning coals" in 12:20 refer to shame-induced repentance not divine judgment. An Egyptian background is not likely (485).
--Junia is indeed a woman and indeed an apostle, but he takes apostle in its weaker sense of "emissary" and so makes little of it theologically (567).
That's a little taste. Kruse's careful presentation of opposing views and often-lenthy citations of others will be a big help to pastors working through Romans for the first time. Most helpful are the plethora of "additional notes" that expand on theological and interpretive issues all along the way without bogging down the main commentary.
If I have a major critique of Kruse's volume it would be the lack of rich theological discussion. Often one is left at the end of a discussion with a clear answer but with little more. I kept wanting Kruse to tease out the "so what"--for Paul's theology and for ours. As it is, a number of theological topics were addressed carefully (e.g., election), but I still felt kind of left hanging. I found myself wondering what to do with Kruse's conclusions. A second, more minor critique, is that Kruse rarely interacts with the major interpreters of the past. Occasionally one is treated to a quote from the likes of Origen, Chrysostom, or Augustine, but these are sparse. Fortunately, one might solve both these problems together by reading Kruse alongside a commentary by the likes of Barth, Calvin, or even Ambrosiaster.
In summary, Kruse has written a fine commentary within the goals of the Pillar series. Those looking for the most recent Reformed treatment of Romans need look no further. Pastors will appreciate it for being clear and to-the-point. And with numerous "additional notes," finding a quick answer in a bind is easy too. But Kruse's experience in Paul's writings and his interaction with a host of modern scholars mean the answers found are neither cheap nor trite. Kruse's Romans will serve pastors well for many years to come.
In the admirable words of DA Carson, "The Pillar commentaries seek above all to make clear the text of Scripture as we have it...informed contemporary debate [without] undue technical detail... ideal blend of rigorous exegesis and exposition, with an eye alert to biblical theology and contemporary relevance of the bible...
"Objective scholarship" (a vain chimera) may actually be profane. God stands over against us; we do not stand in judgment of him...If the text is God's word...we respond with reverence..."
Kruse has succeeded admirably in keeping within the parameters set by Pillar. This commentary has a devotional bias. It is straightforward, not confusing and uncontroversial. Kruse does not introduce anything radical like Rudolf Bultmann, and is content for God to say to him, "Well done, faithful servant".
The biblical quotations are from the 2011 NIV, which had a major update in 2001 from the familiar 1978 NIV, which was used in the Pillar's 1988 edition by Leon Morris. I use the KJV, and I realised the NIV and TNIV differences when I started underlining scripture in both editions. It should not be a ruinous expenditure for the publishers to have the scripture quotations and headings in blue (to match the dust jacket) - at the rate e-books are overtaking conventional texts, liberal use of colour coding will help the survival of the conventional texts.
Pillar Introductions are rather short, 2012-33 pages, 1988-31 pages. The Commentary then runs continuously from Romans 1:1 to the doxology ending at Romans 16:27. It is one continuous treatise without any chapter breaks, and you know where you are by the Chapter and Verse heading on top of each page.
I like this treatment, as it is similar to the way Romans was originally written, before Romans was punctuated and broken into verses. It is like reading an original scroll. It allows Kruse more control over the subject matter, instead of letting the well-known chapter headings of Romans break up his themes.
This work has earned well-deserved praise for the many stand-alone mini-essays, which crop up in the Commentary text section, otherwise running continuously from pages 35 to 589. This is in the style of the 1988 Leon Morris' Pillar. Kruse adds these excurses, [using Chapter 1 as an example]
Paul's Use of Credal Material
From Faith to Faith
The Righteousness of God
The Wrath of God
The Nature of Homosexual Practice
Paul's Depiction of the Roman World
... et passim we find mini-essays like:
[holy] Kissing, Hilasterion, The 26 named individuals in Romans.
The Greek alphabets have all been Romanised: appropriate for a second level commentary. BECNT ROMANS (Baker 1998, Thomas Schreiner) has both original and Romanised Greek, but most other commentaries, like the previous 1988 Pillar, use original Greek lettering only. This edition is about the same size as the 1988 Pillar - the typeface is elongated and the lines more spaced out for easier reading. I estimate the word count to be about 10 to 15% less than Leon Morris' 1988 edition. Printed in the USA, the paper is pleasantly white and smooth. It is well bound and should last, but Pillar cover hinges could do with a tad more reinforcing.
My earlier impression of the contents was that Kruse assembled this commentary by Autopilot Cruise Control, with default setting on cut and paste. It seemed to be without conviction, having on the one hand this opinion, and on the other hand that. But so what? President Truman's well known wish for an expert with a third hand comes to mind.
On closer re-reading, it became clear Kruse controlled his own agenda by subtle inputs. His editing of secondary literature is as astute as the results are memorable. For controversial Chapter 13 verses 1-7, I referred to his original "ancient" reference materials, which I had on hand, e.g. Robert Jewett's 2007 Hermeneia, James Dunn's 1988 Word, Cranfield's 1975 ICC volumes 1 and 2, Ernst Kasemann's (undated) Romans, Fitzmeyer's 1993 Anchor Yale, etc, for comparison.
Kruse extracts the most essential takes for the reader. From Hermeneia, "Caution is necessary when applying Scripture to [different audience situations]" well summarised. Jewett again: Rome in 58 AD had exemplary administration, which did not occur before and after. Jewett summarised again: Roman churches must have been very rich to enable doing public good, on a scale large enough to earn rulers' praise and honour. From Word: the obligations of good citizenship, summarised. From ICC, Paul had only civil authorities in mind.
Kruse's most potent exegesis of Romans 13:1-7 is in his deliberate choice of heading, "Christians and the Roman Authorities". I have not seen any study restrict the "sitz im leben" of 13:1-7 so clearly and specifically, to only Roman civil authorities, other than Leon Morris'.
Kruse exercises the same control on the masses of material in the Chapter 7 "wretched man" exposition, another critical area. Kruse tells his story of Romans, using the speaking voices of other academics, from Origen to Douglas Moo. Kruse is economical with words, but not at the expense of rhythm of his prose. Even if not much is groundbreaking, it is packed to the gunnels with information. Kruse is a master redactor. The whole book is a very pleasant read. Not much head busting theology.
Pillar Editor DA Carson's preface again: "In recent decades, Romans has called forth a disturbingly large array of interpretations. That means a good commentary must not only provide a reliable unpacking of the text, but it must also be a useful guide to the plethora of books and essays that swirl around this letter." In this respect, Colin Kruse exceeds expectations.
This also means that 1988 Leon Morris' Pillar is still relevant. Leon Morris was characteristically himself. Carson did not read Morris the Riot Act for his 1988 Romans, but Leon Morris turned out very devotional. Leon's Romans is still a standard other books are measured by. Colin Kruse supplements, but does not replace Leon Morris' work. As a gauge of Leon Morris' enduring relevance, look at the price of his JOHN NICNT, which was replaced in 2010. A copy of NICNT JOHN by Morris costs >$250 new on Amazon, and second hand copies >$150.
I would unreservedly recommend Colin Kruse's Romans, and as a good companion, get Leon Morris' 1988 Romans while it is still at market price. They really complement each other. For a first commentary, Kruse's approach may be best for an epistle as well known as Romans.
I believe he will be told "Well done, faithful servant."