Skip to main content

Book: James: A Commentary on the Greek Text

Review:
William Varner
Fontes Press, softcover, 423 pp.

The Epistle of James is one of those Bible books that we like to proof-text out of, but it's sometimes a bit tough to digest it as a complete book. It is fairly easy to grab a verse or two and not deal with the content. However, in the process, we risk missing the beauty of the book as a whole. James did not write, after all, in just verses. He wrote an entire letter. How should we go about understanding the book as a whole?

Enter the new work from William Varner, James: A Commentary on the Greek Text. While it is not the only recent commentary on James (Dr. Varner has recently released a more devotional-type commentary himself), the newness of this volume allows it to take full advantage of newer resources in Greek studies. That includes access to the newest Greek lexicon and the recently published Greek New Testament from Tyndale House. 

The text is focused on understanding James from the Greek text rather than from any specific English translation. Readers will need to recall their Greek skills to make the best use of Varner's work, although placing the commentary side-by-side with an English translation still brings many of the benefits. However, without a good understanding of Greek, the reader will not understand what is happening here. 

Within the commentary, the reader will find the standard features one expects. There is an introduction which addresses authorship, date, and audience. There is excellent material here which addresses not only the identity of James but also his role in the early era of Christianity. Further introductory material speaks to the issues of text and language, with some notes on the textual basis for James.

From there, Varner moves into the standard commentary format of explaining the text portion by portion. His method makes this work stand out, though, as the text is in Greek (as mentioned above) and he starts with notes on the textual variances for each section. He offers a translation that illustrates sentence structure and works into some of the flows of discourse analysis. (I will admit to being a very basic student of that aspect of Greek study, and so cannot comment if he does it well or not.)

In all, Varner's commentary is helpful. He takes the approach of engaging all of James and showing how the pieces fit rather than breaking James up as if he had written a collection of 1st Century Christian tweets. He also draws from the well of the Apostolic Fathers to show how James influenced the early church. 


I'm happy to have this on my shelf alongside other resources on James. It will help for both personal study and sermon preparation. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: The Heart Mender by @andyandrews (Andy Andrews)

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second ChancesEver read a book that you just kind of wish is true?  That's my take on The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews.  It's a charming story of love and forgiveness, and it's woven into the historical setting of World War II America.  For the narrative alone, the book is worth the read, but the message it contains is well worth absorbing as well.However, let's drop back a minute.  This book was originally published under the title Island of Saints.  I read Island of Saints and enjoyed it greatly.  Now, Andrews has released it under a new title, with a few minor changes.  All of this is explained in the Author's Note at the beginning, but should be noted for purchaser's sake.  If you read Island of Saints, you're rereading when you read The Heart Mender.  Now, go ahead and reread it.  It will not hurt you one bit.Overall, the story is well-paced.  There are points where I'd like more detail, both in the history and the geog…

Abraham Lincoln Quoted by Jesus! Mark 3

Mark records a curious event in his third chapter (link). If you look at Mark 3:25, you'll see that Jesus quotes the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. After all, one of the highlights of the Lincoln years is his famous speech regarding slavery in the United States where he used the phrase that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." This speech was given in 1858 when he accepted the nomination to run against Stephen A. Douglas for Senate, but is still remembered as the defining speech regarding slaveholding in the United States. I recall being taught in school how brilliant and groundbreaking the speech was, how Lincoln had used such wise words to convey his thought. Yet the idea was not original to Lincoln. Rather, it was embedded in Lincoln from his time reading the Bible. Now, I have read varying reports about Lincoln's personal religious beliefs: some place him as a nearly completely committed Christian while others have him somewh…

Book: The Gospel Call and True Conversion

A quick note: This book, The Gospel Call and True Conversion, is currently available on Kindle for $4.99. This is the second in a series of 3, and the first, The Gospel’s Power and Message, is available for $2.99.The Gospel Call and True Conversion. The title of this book alone sounds intimidating, and adding that it’s written by one of the heavyweights of American Reformed Christianity, Paul Washer, does not lessen the intimidation factor. Washer is known to be a straightforward preacher—for good or for ill.What did I find in The Gospel call and True Conversion? I found some things to like:1. Paul Washer is passionate for the truth. He wants to know the truth. He wants to proclaim the truth. He wants the truth heard. He wants you to know the truth. This is good. It is good to see someone not try to base theology on popularity or as a response to modern events, but to base it clearly on truth. 2. There is a strong emphasis on the reality that true conversion (from the title) will resu…