Bags of Bran

Another lesson from Philippians: some books are better than others
November 17, 2014, 6:06 pm
Filed under: Bible, Bibliophilia, Personal Adventures | Tags: ,

My Philippians Combat Shelf would include the following volumes:

Markus Bockmuehl, The Epistle to the Philippians, Black’s New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998).  Bockmuehl was sensitive to the larger discussion, but was primarily driven by the flow of Paul’s thoughts. Of all the commentaries I consulted, I looked forward to Bockmuehl’s perspective because he seemed, of all the authors, to have the best grasp of the mind of Paul. Needless to say, he was regularly a sane and trustworthy guide through difficult passages.

Moises Silva, Philippians, 2nd ed., Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2005). Silva was routinely full of good sense. He often helped me with structure and exegetical decisions, which he lays out with great clarity. When you disagree with Silva, you know exactly why. Highly recommended.

Fred Craddock, Philippians, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1985). Don’t let the slender size of this volume, or the fact that it lives in the Interpretation series (a friend called it the “liberal Ironside commentary set”) dissuade you from the clarity that is Craddock. He blazes an often frustratingly narrow trail through the text, sometimes through the weeds and into the ditch. But his clarity and insightful reading of the text, uncluttered with ponderous research, was refreshing.

Lightfoot. Nobody needs me to defend the use of Lightfoot. His tome is an embodiment of painstaking research and thus inefficient for time-crunched prep, but necessary reading nonetheless. His discussion of the Praetorian Guard is unparalleled. Nothing comes off as half-baked in this volume.

Other helpful volumes include:

H.G.C. Moule, Philippian Studies. This is good supplementary reading, but less often helpful than I imagined it would be.

Ralph Martin, Philippians, IVP. Martin was occasionally a voice in the wilderness. Worth owning, and probably affordable.

Calvin. Calvin needs an updated translation to make his rich insights a little less blocky. Very sensible and pastoral though, as one would expect from Calvin.

Lenski. He’s quirky and ornery, but often brilliant. Sometimes his quirkiness and orneriness were good for my sermons. Lenski is often blustery in the absence of firm evidence (aren’t we all?), and not exactly well-researched, but nevertheless, I found myself consulting him week by week.

Don’t waste your money:

Frank Thielman, NIV Application Commentary. I liked Thielman’s NT Theology. I thought I’d like this volume, but I found it to be derivative and often a bit shallow in the first chapter and a half or so that I consulted it. The applications themselves reminded me of a sermon on evangelism delivered by someone who never ever interacts with actual people outside the evangelical ghetto.

Ironside. I honor Ironside as a man, but his exegetical insights remind me of somebody playing with Duplo blocks. This is one of the first “commentaries” I ever bought, so I was hopeful to be able to use some insight or another, but I felt that his judgments were birthed more from his own blandly orthodox impressions than from Paul’s.


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