Posted by: William | March 7, 2008

PNTC: The Epistle to the Romans

Back in January I started a slow study through Romans along with the Pillar New Testament Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans written by Leon Morris. This morning, I finished the study.

When I started the study, I was looking to walk through something that wouldn’t spend too much time teaching the reader how to apply the text (not that that’s a bad thing) but would spend more time exegeting the actual text and leave the application up to the individual. That’s quite exactly what this commentary did; I know that has a name, but I’m not accustomed to it.

The format of the commentary is simple and familiar. A block of scripture is laid out, followed by a deconstruction and explanation of each verse. Explanations on any one verse ranged anywhere from one or two sentences, up to three or four pages, but with most of them coming in around two paragraphs. Multiple verses are scarcely combined into one comment. The first four chapters of Romans make up about forty percent of the commentary, as much of the foundation for the Apostle’s theological statement fall within those chapters.

Morris has a manner of writing that communicates an appealing sense of humility. While he holds his particular views, he also (usually) uncritically presents the opposing views and the arguments for all of them. During my reading of the book, this style helped me to look at the text and think critically for myself about what is said. In the majority of cases, Morris’ standpoint is the most rational and represents of the majority view of bible scholars.

Morris is clearly a member of the reformed theology tradition, but in his writing he presents himself as firstly committed to scripture. This comes out clearly in several places in which he is not at all afraid to unpack scripture that appears ‘dangerous’ to reformed thought. Rather than trying to fanangle the scripture, he treats in plainly and openly.

Although it’s based on the NIV, the PNTC Epistle to the Romans comes across as a scholarly commentary. It finishes out at about 550 pages and spends a good deal of time on linguistics and Greek.

Looking back on the commentary, I have only two real criticisms. The first criticism being that it’s not too clear why the commentary was based on the NIV. In Morris’ comments he regularly makes reference to NIV having “missed the mark”; not every time, but often enough to make one wonder why they didn’t just go with the ESV (a translation that Morris regularly refers back to with fond words). The other criticism is that Morris places a lot of information within parenthesis. This makes reading choppy at times. Had the parenthetical information been placed in the footnotes, reading would have been much clearer and smoother. Both of these are minor concerns.

All in all, this is a good commentary that I recommend as a reference tool to anyone, and a good tool for a student’s private study. The average reader may not benefit from purchasing this commentary purely for reference, as similar reference tools are available for free online (check my links to the right). For a student, the purchase is easily justified. And likely beneficial.


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