Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Teaching Romans

Well it is another new term and I am teaching Romans again this year. This is one those courses that all seminary students should be required to take. Romans is a complex, difficult book and it requires some deft handling. Anyone who tells you they have got the whole epistle figured out is probably selling something.

Luckily I have some wonderful teaching assistants to help me. I bring the class some of the most experienced teachers in the form of textbooks and commentaries.

Once again I will be using Luke Timothy Johnson's Reading Romans: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Smyth & Helwys, 2001). Johnson does a superb job at boiling the epistle down into digestible sections. He not only covers the letter, but also gives attention to some of them more important debates and aspects of interpretation.

Following close behind (if not out in front in my notes) will be J.D.G. Dunn's two volume commentary (Word, 1988). For expert exegesis in the area of the New Perspective on Paul, Dunn's commentary is still unbeatable. And for Dunn theology matters as much as history.

But in case I overlook balancing out my sources I also include Peter Stuhlmacher (T & T Clark, 1994), who is going to provide something closer to the standard Lutheran interpretation. Complementing him is the Jesuit scholar Joseph Fitzmyer (Anchor, 1993). Although not as detailed and theological in format as Dunn, Fitzmyer cannot be beat for linguistic and historical insights. Dunn is a master of controlling secondary literature and Fitzmyer fills the same spot for the primary sources. I can't imagine studying Romans without both of them.

Along with these are some older favorites like C. K. Barrett (Blacks, 1957 repr Hendrickson, 1991) and C. E. B. Cranfield (T & T Clark, 1975). Both of whom, incidentally, still live in Durham although both are at least 90 and older!

Finally, this will be the first year that I will add Robert Jewett's commentary (Fortress, 2007) to the list. The last time I taught Romans it was fresh out and I had not been able to get my hands on it. At 1140 pages this is Jewett's magnum opus (though read Dunn's review).

Of course I use a variety of other sources, but these are some of the best available. I suppose that I will end up posting something about Romans at least once over the course of the new term.

Which books/commentaries/articles do you find most helpful when studying or teaching Romans?


  1. I just recently finished Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God by Daniel Kirk. I thought it was a great supplement to many of the commentaries that have been written on Romans.

    here is the amazon link http://www.amazon.com/Unlocking-Romans-Resurrection-Justification-God/dp/080286290X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1286251794&sr=8-1

  2. John--

    I think Moo's NICNT volume is good as well as Schreiner's (BECNT) as far as "Lutheran" type volumes go.

    I also enjoyed Leander Keck's volume in the Abingdon series. He is great at distilling information in a short space.

    I would agree that Dunn probably ranks at or near the top. It is brilliant with the NPP.

    Jewett's is good, but definitely has some questionable methodologies.

  3. From a socio-historical perspective, Phil Esler's "Conflict and Identity in Romans" helps set some of the context for Paul's letter.


  4. Coleman, Yes, Esler's commentary is a good one. I use it as a resource for my lectures. Matt, yes Doug Moo's commentary does provide some sold exegetical work.

  5. John,

    I almost forgot N.T. Wright's Romans in the New Interpreters. Whether or not one agrees with Wright's exegesis at various places, he is always a great read.

  6. I was hoping to use some Byron. Will you podcast it?

  7. I have often used Jewett and Dunn and found them really helpful.