The other day I made mention of the EEC. Today, a few observations on the book of Philemon in that series.
First, the introductory material (date, author, occasion, etc.) is intelligently presented and readers are availed a number of hypotheses concerning such matters as provenance, occasion, and authenticity. Nonetheless the volume’s author is willing to say ‘what he thinks’ too (which I for one appreciate). So, for instance-
… we are tentatively inclined to follow the recent trend of interpreters who read the letter to Philemon as concerning a slave who intentionally sought Paul for intercession with his master (i.e., amicus domini) because we think it more likely that Paul wrote Philemon from Ephesus. Although the commentary proper does not assume this decision at every instance, the implications of this decision are explored at various places in the exegesis.
Second, the bibliography is an excellent mix of both older and more recent treatments of Philemon. Here’s a small selection- notice the dates (which I’ve emboldened)-
Bartchy, S. S. ΜΑΛΛΟΝ ΧΡΗΣΑΙ: First-Century Slavery and 1 Corinthians 7.21. SBLDS 11. Missoula, MT: Society of Biblical Literature, 1973.
———. “Philemon, Epistle to.” ABD 5:305–10.
Barth, M., and H. Blanke, The Letter to Philemon: A New Translation with Notes and Commentary. ECC. Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2000.
Baur, F. C. Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ: His Life and Work, His Epistles and His Doctrine. London: Williams & Norgate, 1875.
Beale, G. K. “The Old Testament Background of Reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5–7 and Its Bearing on the Literary Problem of 2 Corinthians 6.14–7.1.” NTS 35 (1989) 550–81.
Beale, G. K., and D. A. Carson (eds.). Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007.
Bradley, K. R. Slaves and Masters in the Roman Empire: A Study in Social Control. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.
Brown, R. E. An Introduction to the New Testament. ABRL. London: Doubleday, 1997.
Byron, J. “Paul and Slavery: 200 Years of Scholarship.” In Recent Research on Paul and Slavery. RRBS 3. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2008. 1–34.
Too many exegetes pretend that if something wasn’t written last month, it isn’t relevant. That, of course, is utter nonsense. Mining useful resources, regardless of their date, is wisdom, not folly.
Third, and most impressively, is the layout of the commentary proper. Our author gives us:
The Original Text – 4 Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου πάντοτε μνείαν σου ποιούμενος ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν μου, 5 ἀκούων σου τὴν Aἀγάπην καὶ τὴν πίστινA, ἥν ἔχεις Bπρὸς τὸν κύριον ἸησοῦνB καὶ εἰς πάντας τοὺς ἁγίους, …
Textual Notes – 5 A … A The order of ἀγάπην καὶ τὴν πίστιν varies to πίστιν καὶ τὴν ἀγάπην in certain manuscripts (𝔓61, D, 323, 365, 629, 945, 1739, (1881), pc ar, b, vgmss, syp, Ambst). …
Translation – 4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear of your love and faithfulness that you have in association with the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, …
Commentary – 4 Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου πάντοτε μνείαν σου ποιούμενος ἐπὶ τῶν προσευχῶν μου, “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers.” The singular verb εὐχαριστέω (sg.: Rom 1:8; 1 Cor 1:4; Phil 1:3; cf. Eph 1:16; cf. pl.: 1 Thess 1:2; cf. 2 Thess 2:13; Col 1:3) begins Paul’s thanksgiving section. …
Biblical Theology Comments – There are at least two features of “Pauline Thanksgivings” that are intriguing and merit discussion in the context of Philemon. …
Application and Devotional Implications – If anyone warranted the excuse “I am too busy to pray,” perhaps Paul would have been that person. …
It is patently self evident that most academics will have no issue whatsoever with any of these sections, except the last two. And will quibble and find fault, preferring to keep the biblical text enshrined as an artifact of antiquity fit only for curious museum-visitors. But for Evangelicals the task of exegesis isn’t complete until the last two steps are taken. Exegesis without application is equivalent to making a sandwich and then leaving it on the counter until it decays. Hence, well done to both the author and the publisher for taking the required final steps.
If Philemon serves as an example of what is to come in future volumes in this series, it bodes well indeed.
- Evangelicals, Don’t Be Ashamed… A New Commentary Series Called the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)