Friday, November 11, 2016

Hebrews, by D. Stephen Long

We used to joke in seminary that we should read the Bible every now and then so we can see what the commentaries are talking about.  For Hebrews, I took the opposite approach.  I was reading Hebrews in my devotional time, reflected on some of the difficult passages, and picked up D. Stephen Long's Hebrews, from Westminster John Knox Press's Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible.  Long, a Methodist theologian, is Professor of Ethics at Southern Methodist University.

The first thing you'll notice in reading Long's commentary is that a theological commentary is very different from what I think of as a traditional commentary.  This is not a verse-by-verse commentary such as one might use in sermon preparation to glean grammatical insight, historical background, or structural help.  Long treats Hebrews as a unit, as single sermon, and examines theological themes with a broad view. 

The theological breadth is a strength and a weakness.  By bringing in resources and perspectives from far afield, Long helps the reader to see Hebrews in the wider picture of theology and philosophy.  But it can be distracting for a reader who is more interested in a historical, contextual treatment of the book.  Long appreciates that Hebrews can be one of the most difficult and frustrating books in the New Testament.  He writes, "I continually wonder why Hebrews continued to write after his first sentence.  He tells us God has definitively spoken in the Son such that no more needs to be said, and then goes on to say a great deal more for thirteen chapters." 

Just as the writer of Hebrews can expand our understanding of the work of Jesus, so can Long, in a different way, expand our understanding of the book of Hebrews.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

2016 Reading Challenge: A commentary on a book of the Bible

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