Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
FM 16:3 (Summer 1999) p. 87
Ephesians, by Ernest Best. ICC. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1999. Pp. 686.
I’ll admit it. After working hard to produce a master’s thesis on Ephesians (and later “milking” it in published form), I won’t turn my nose up at another commentary on Ephesians. If you do any serious work on Ephesians, chances are you’ve found the commentaries by Markus Barth and Andrew Lincoln to be indispensable. Enter Ephesians by Ernest Best, professor emeritus of New Testament at the University of Glasgow. It comes in an intimidating 686-page package, replete with additional notes and a Teutonic-length introduction. My first reaction was to compare this lofty tome with software programs such as PowerPoint: a useful tool, but one too often inspiring tedious slides for interminable meetings. Happily, a few pages into the commentary I began to enjoy the expeditious but sometimes bumpy ride. As a kind of self-dare, I decided to immerse myself in the book, even though this meant reading certain parts I would normally have avoided, such as the appendices. Yet even here I found that, if I stripped away the underbrush, there was much to learn.
Having said this, the book is best read, not straight through as if it were a Helen McInnis novel, but rather as a kind of encyclopedic compendium of scholarly sagacity—a sort of Reader’s Digest summary of wisdom on Ephesians from the last three decades of New Testament scholarship. (This approach is typical, I think, of the entire ICC series.) Some readers may find the book a bit too reticent to strike off in new directions, yet as a synopsis of scholarly opinion it is a worthy excursion from a deeply serious and accomplished workman. At the very least, there are enough unexpected twists and turns in these pages to keep graduate students on the prowl for years.
Few will be surprised by the author’s conclusions regarding the letter’s authorship (Who really knows? It’s probably pseudonymous), audience (Probably located in Asia Minor, but, again, who can be sure?), purpose (The letter engages in a bit offence mending between hyphenated believers: Jewish-Christian and Gentile-Christian), and theology (Many of the thoughts are characteristically Pauline even though Paul isn’t the author of the letter). Yet there’s honesty and energy in Best’s work, and its tediousness is more than offset by its lucidity and unblemished prose.
One of the best parts of the book is the brilliant discussion of the marriage covenant (5:22 ff.). Other less-talented writers might have overlooked the
FM 16:3 (Summer 1999) p. 88
Jewish imagery here, but Best goes the seco...
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