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Book: Exploring James

Today’s Review is presented by Kregel Academic. No influence is demanded or granted, only a book for a review.
Exploring the Epistle of James is a volume in the John Phillips Commentary Series. For clarity’s sake, it is written by John Phillips. Dr. Phillips was long a part of the Moody Network, helping teach others the Word of God. The entire series is available from Kregel.
James is written as a section-by-section commentary. There is an outline that breaks down the whole book, and then each segment is given individual attention through the remaining 200 pages. These comments focus more on the practical implications of the passage than the linguistic or cultural markers behind them, but the historical issues are not left out entirely.
Overall, James does not lean too heavily on digging back into the Greek language. Instead, the primary focus is drawing on the New King James translation that is used throughout the work. Phillips makes his commentary accessible in this manner, as anyone can use it.
Further, the outline of the book is straightforward. This runs counter to some attempts to make James more complicated, and instead develops linear thoughts from the text. This also becomes an easy borrow for teaching and preaching.
While the practical outlining of James makes Exploring James helpful, there are some shortcomings that drive the reader to need an additional James resource. First, there is very little discussion of the background issues of James. It is assumed that James was the brother of Jesus and the first author of a New Testament document. Further, the introduction makes several assertions which, while they are possible, are not certain. The serious student is advised to consult an additional resource to consider whether or not Phillips has filled in the blanks properly.
My largest concern is with the heavy assumption that Phillips makes in Exploring James regarding the legalism of James himself. While it is certainly plausible, it is not necessitated by the text and should at the least be treated in discussion rather than assumed.
One other question regarding Exploring James is the inclusion of an essay at the end as an appendix. The essay addresses some issues with Martin Luther, the Reformer. While Luther will long be connected to the Epistle of James due to his dislike for it, the essay does not address Luther’s opinion on James. Rather, it treats Luther and Zwingli’s clash over the nature of the Lord’s Supper. This is fascinating—but wholly unnecessary. It’s inclusion has no real bearing on the remainder of the text.
In all, I have only a few volumes on James on my shelf, but this will remain there as a helpful resource.

Free book from Kregel in exchange for the Review.

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