I’ve read commentaries, I’ve studied with different types of commentaries, I’ve recommended commentaries, and they all typically come with caveats. Unfortunately with each commentary recommendation, I have to follow up with other recommended sources to make up for deficiencies.
I express deep thanks to the men and women at Logos Bible Software for giving me the opportunity to review William Varner’s James Commentary in the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary.
Without any reservation, I recommend Varner’s commentary. He has provided a healthy balance of text-critical notes and grammatical analysis with biblical theology. He has provided a quality Evangelical argument to the greater Jacobean scholarly world.
William Varner, James, ECC (Review)
I am aiming to publish this article. Therefore, I’ve taken the majority of this article down. If you read this entry, keep in mind it may “sound” choppy due to eliminating the majority of my argument. I am wanting to maintain my introduction and conclusions for multiple reasons. First, I’d like to whet the appetite of those engaging eschatological language, persecution, and biblical theology. Second, for those desiring to pursue kingdom of God studies or sources for the Thessalonian epistles, I’ve maintained by bibliography to assist those researching. Finally, I desire readership and limiting the paper to the introduction and conclusion makes readership more feasible.
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Introduction: The Need for Changing Eschatological Language
Some elements of the future eschaton are making headway into the present era. Evaluating modern consensus, eschatology reveals hermeneutical and theological presuppositions in attempting to describe the already/not-yet tension. Problematic to the discussion resides in determining what elements are future and what elements are present. Are some elements fulfilled now, implying no substantial change/modification will happen later? Furthermore, if nascent elements appear now, is there progressive development throughout the present era, if any?
Jörg Frey provides a helpful overview of the historical development of eschatological language. The landscape of scholarship demonstrates eschatological doctrine, but Philipp Heinrich Friedlieb, a classical Lutheran dogmatician, introduces “Eschatology” to designate the “last things”. In 1644, he published a work with Eschatologia as part of a book title. This title was first used as a systematic description of “death, the resurrection of the dead, the last judgment, the end or dissolution of the world, about hell or eternal death, and finally, about eternal life.” By strictly limiting few future-referent elements to this title, it is no wonder the subsequent history of eschatological interpretation has vacillated; it is difficult to include all necessary theological categories under the single umbrella “eschatology.”
An exegetical method places high demands on the biblical interpreter and invokes a mastery of skills outside himself. Careful attention to grammar, skill within textual criticism, ability to observe the greater whole of biblical theology, etc. beckon the attention of the exegete. The dexterous skill of grammatical and textual expertise must be matched with an artistic ability to encapsulate the overarching biblical description.
Our kind friends at Logos Bible Software have provided me the opportunity to review James in the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, written by William Varner. When using commentaries, I tend to have a love/hate relationship with them. Some do not provide answers to the questions I am asking, others critically interact with the grammar but neglect to provide a theological synthesis, while others focus on a theological overview and minimize technical detail. It thrills me to interact critically with this commentary for multiple reasons. Suffice to say, this commentary, whether or not I agree with the interpretations, the theological positions, or argumentation, mimics my exegetical method.
William Varner provides an excellent model of exegesis in his James commentary. He supplies a translation of the text, pertinent text-critical decisions, an exegetical outline, clausal diagraming, careful attention to grammar and the message of James, a biblical theology of James and its relationship to the theology of the Bible, practical implications, and a bibliography for further analysis. Stay tuned for this book review; I anticipate a fruitful review.
Here is my book review