Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
MSJ 14:1 (Spring 2003) p. 105
Clinton E. Arnold, ed. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. 4 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002. 2,924 pp. $39.99/vol. (cloth). Reviewed by James E. Rosscup, Professor of Bible Exposition.
This work (ZIBBC) attempts verse by verse comments on each NT book, but skips some verses. The volumes, beautifully produced, have many multi-colored pictures on customs, maps, and special panels on such topics as the background or meaning of key issues. Entries on the Roman calendars, the date of Jesus’s birth, Pharisees and Sadducees, and the meaning of the millennium (which never prefers a meaning but is content merely to mention three views) illustrate the kinds of key issues dealt with.
Several noted scholars such as Michael Wilkins (Matthew), David Garland (Mark), Mark Strauss (Luke), Andreas Köstenberger (John), Douglas Moo (Romans, James, 2 Peter, Jude), Ralph Martin (Galatians), Peter Davids (1 Peter), Robert Yarbrough (1, 2, 3 John), and Arnold himself (Colossians) deal with individual books. A major contribution explains customs behind passages, as the custom of the Roman triumph in 2 Cor 2:14. Writers display a rich awareness of ancient literature with details that shed light from the ancient world on the NT. Endnotes for each biblical book reflect an awareness of current scholarly literature.
Here and there, users will find comments especially good for understanding NT statements. Yet the thin and cursory nature of much discussion raises a question about the need for such an elaborate production in light of a plethora of available good commentaries that say much more. The work will help at certain points, adding insights covered by other works, but probably will not be practical for individuals (ca. $160.00 for the 4 volumes) who have less expensive access to fuller detail regarding the same issues. Vagueness, lack of definition, or scholarly timidity to commit to one view will be disappointing for many. One wonders about the absence of a single meaning for the “kingdom” in Matt 13:11, of a specific identification of the “restrainer” (2 Thess 2:6, 8) where a list of eight views leaves the choice up in the air, of reasons to defend verses in Matthew 24–25 as referring to the church rapture, and of the choice of and reasons for a particular view of the “thousand years” in Revelation 20. ZIBBC views Hebrews 5:11–6:11 as referring to the genuinely saved though immature (ZIBBC<...
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