A Commentary for the Hard Questions
By John McKinley
When I was a research student holed up in a windowless office in the library for a year, the PhD student next to my office was Jeremy Howard. While I struggled through stacks of research trying to avoid drowning in the historical theology portion of my dissertation, Jeremy was blazing through the writing of his dissertation on the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics and its use for Christian apologetics. His research world couldn’t have been farther away from mine. Years later, he has recently piloted a work that fits a gap I didn’t know I was looking for. To pass on an introduction to this new series, I interviewed the general editor, Jeremy Howard with several questions here.
I’ve learned that commentaries have been designed as tools with differing intentions. Exegesis and application can be easy to lay your hands on. Harder to find sometimes is a solid discussion of problems in a text, because the commentator is focused on the message. Apologetics and dealing with the difficult questions can take the discussion too far off-track. These things often get left out, and I’m still scratching my head wondering if there’s someone I can ask who knows something about the problem.
When I first saw the title for the Holman Apologetics Commentary on the Bible, I was not sure why this would be needed. Really? Another commentary approach? When I saw the first volume, The Gospels and Acts, I noticed the names of the authors: Michael Wilkins on Matthew, Craig Evans on Mark, Darrell Bock on Luke, Acts, and Andreas Kostenberger on John. This is a serious project produced by first-rate scholars. As I began paging through, I noticed that many of the questions I’ve had about particular passages were addressed with focus and careful discussion that often doesn’t make it into other commentaries. I find the authors to address many, many passages in the Bible that are strange, obscure, and otherwise difficult to understand. The writers show an unflinching engagement with critical scholarship. Frequently the explanation includes helpful background from extrabiblical writings and early church sources.The scholar and others who are interested in understanding the Bible will find much that is valuable to sort out the Gospels and Acts. At a length of 764 pages plus bibliography, this project goes a long way to open up the Bible for clear understanding of even the strangest passages.
Here are Jeremy Howard’s replies to my questions about this new commentary.
What is your interest in apologetics, and how did that lead you to this project?
I’ve always been passionate about tackling the hard questions, and the scholars we enlisted in this project have the same mindset. Reading through countless commentaries over the years, it was apparent to me that apologetics topics are most often neglected. That’s understandable since the task of exegeting the text does not necessitate that one interact with apologetics. But in an era of unprecedented biblical criticism, I felt there was a void to be filled. Thus I decided to pursue a project that would provide robust commentary on verses where any kind of apologetics issue arises. That is the sole focus of this project. Verses that do not involve apologetics are passed over. Interestingly, I’m already finding that many readers are surprised at how many verses do involve apologetics. It is as if this commentary is opening their eyes to the extensive pertinence of apologetics in the Gospels and Acts…
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