Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Review of THE EARLY CHRISTIAN LETTERS FOR EVERYONE by N.T. Wright

Early Christian Letters for Everyone (New Testament for Everyone)



By N.T. Wright
ISBN 978-0-664-22798
Westminster John Knox Press
Reviewed by Clint Walker

About the Series
A generation ago, William Barclay wrote a New Testament commentary series called The Daily Study Bible. Although the theology of its author was more progressive than many of the American pastors who used Barclay’s commentaries, the series sold well and was used often because of its readability, brevity, and the ease in which it aided preaching and bible study.

In many ways, Westminster John Knox’s “For Everyone” commentary follows in the footsteps of Barclay’s Daily Study Bible. In other ways, this layman’s commentary does MUCH better than Barclay. The New Testament commentaries in the “For Everyone” series are written by N.T. Wright, who is clearly one of the most accomplished and well-known theological scholars  of the twenty-first century. The layout is easily accessible, with each small periscope of Scripture newly translated, followed by a one to two page comment on every passage.

Most of the commentary articles in the series begin with a short illustration of what is happening in the passage, followed by an explanation of what was happening in Bible times, and then a few thoughts about what the passage means for believers who are studying it today. With Wright’s deft communication skills, it combines the best of scholarship with an explanation of the passage that everyone should be able to understand.

About this Book
The Early Christian Letters for Everyone is a small commentary volume about several of the general epistles; namely James, I John, II John, III John, I Peter, II Peter, and Jude. I found this commentary very helpful. I was pleasantly surprised that even though this was a small volume covering several books of the Bible at once, Wright several lengthy entries when necessary to thoroughly interpret the passage. I enjoyed all of the commentary, but I especially enjoyed studying through I John and Jude.

Wright’s commentary on I John is especially helpful because he clears up a number of misconceptions that can arise from the book. For instance, Wright guides his readers through a proper understanding of the terms “world” and “flesh” so that they will not misconstrue them in a way reinforces the material world as bad and the non-material as good (p. 147). He also clearly explains why John ended his epistle with the phrase, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (pp. 167-169).

What I enjoyed about Jude (or Judah) is something different. From the first entry to the end of this small epistle, Wright draws me into the story of this small book. He helps me to feel and understand with my heart why Jude was writing with such energy and urgency. He communicates this message in a way that when I can teach it, I can help my congregation think and feel their way through this passage as well, and get to the core of what he is trying to say.

I would recommend this book to teachers and students of Scripture alike. I would especially recommend it as a supplement to a Bible study one is doing as a group or individually. Whether you are theologically educated, or just a neophyte to reading God’s Word, there is something “for everyone” to learn.

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