Book Review: James – Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

By Craig L. Blomberg, Mariam Kamell
Clinton E. Arnold – General Editor

Amazon Sales Rank: #100938 in Books
Published on: 2008-12-01
Original language: English
Number of items: 1
Binding: Hardcover
288 pages
Sample Pages

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy, specifically:
Jesse Hillman
Associate Marketing Director, Academic and Reference

Product Description

Authors Craig Blomberg and Mariam Kamell use the historical, theological and literary elements of James to guide their interpretation of this often-overlooked early Christian text. Their concise discussion of how the book delivers consistent, challenging instruction will help pastors and church leaders teach the message of James to today’s readers.


My initial thought with this book was “this is my first theological book written (co-written) by a woman theologian.”  I am glad to see Zondervan publishing books by evangelical women theologians.

Why another commentary, and for that matter another series of commentaries?  Dr. Blomberg addresses this very questions, as he himself was reluctant to write another one.

According to Dr. Blomberg

…There is such a glut of commentaries at every level and from every angle imaginable that it could not be good stewardship of time to work on yet one more series just to compete with all of the resources already available.

Then I read the bulk of the prospectus.  Not only was the format distinctive, but it truly captured the variety of information and collection of insights that a busy preacher or teacher needs for a “one-stop shopping” approach to adequate sermon preparation or lesson planning.

This book truly does meet the needs of a busy preacher and/or teacher.  Being a busy pastor/teacher, I work a full time job married with a teen son, so to me this book is a God sent.  I own various commentaries and this volume is different than the others that I own.  It is not wordy nor full of stories, but rather it gets to the point.   Let me first start by talking about the layout of the book.

Those of you that have a good handle of the Greek language will benefit the most, however I am by no means a Greek expert, I am self taught in reading and I have been able to follow the Greek notes so far.  If I need a bit of help I just use my ESV Reverse Interlinear New Testament, and I am fine.

The fist thing I noticed about the book was the width of the book itself.  After opening it up I noticed that it has wide margins, wide enough for you to write your own notes on it.  Which is something that is lacking in most commentaries and books for that matter.  They only use up all of the space in acutal commentary section.  The second thing that I really liked was having the Bibliography in the front of the book instead of the back, it is right after the Introduction.  The third thing that I liked is that it references all modern translations, even the HCSB which is not getting much attention.  Also, since it is a new commentary it takes advantage of much of the recent scholarship that has been written in the last 20 years, and does not neglect its predecessors.  The forth thing that I liked are the footnotes.  They have done a good job of referencing other works for those that might find a particular subject of interest.  Again, much of the footnotes references recent work, and that can assure you that if you want to buy those books for further research they will be available.

The breakdown of the chapter and verses (using verses 1:1-11 as an example).  The layout for each set of verses follows this pattern.  They first give you the Literary Context, Main Idea, Translation (which are done by the authors), Structure, Exegetical Outline, and finally the Explanation of the Text.  I really enjoy the Main Idea that it provides for each verse segments.  For example for verses 1:1-11 the Main Idea states: “Christians should respond to trials by rejoicing at the maturity they can foster, by asking God for wisdom, and by viewing them as leveling experiences that often invert the roles of rich and poor.” This commentary is targeted for busy pastors and teachers, so formulating a main idea for you is very helpful.  If you don’t like this, just skip it and formulate your own main idea when you are done with your studies.

The second part of this commentary are these sections they include called “In Depth”.  They are located within a gray shaded box so that it stands out and provides exactly what it says, a bit more depth on the subject at hand.  As an example for James 1:1-11 the in depth topic is “Are the Rich in 1:10-11 Christians”?.  At the end of each commentary section which is broken down by verses they provide a summary section called “Theology in Application”.  Which is really helpful in putting things in perspective.   Finally they provide a complete theological summary at the end of the book.  The goal is to consider the major theological contributions of the book of James.

I hope that the other commentaries to follow will use the same pattern they have used with the book of James.  I have found this commentary to be very useful.  I have almost stop buying commentaries because I rarely use them as much, but I must confess that given the size which was kept small in my opinion, the amount of information that was packed in, and the style that they chose makes this a very useful commentary, one that I actually don’t mind sitting down and reading it (which I think Nick Norelli will appreciate that).   This commentary is targeted for pastors and bible teachers, and they don’t hide this fact at all as it is clearly stated in the back of the book.  I would highly recommend this series to any busy pastor or teacher, and it is highly useful for any church setting where the book of James is being taught.  I will be using it as a text book for our own Bible Institute as well.


9 thoughts on “Book Review: James – Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

  1. Hey Nick, I actually thought of you when I was reading through, and evaluating this commentary. I thought Nick, might actually enjoy this one 😉

    But honestly, I don’t try to buy commentaries anymore and this was a real treat (well I didn’t buy it). It is targeted towards busy pastors, and I fit that mold very well. So something like this that provides me a good exegetical analysis and lots of great references for further reading is hard to beat.

  2. Jeff, Yes I really like this commentary since I am not a Greek expert, nor do I plan to be one. Here is a great example of a commentary that bridges the gap between the expert and non-expert. Which I think are the type of books that pastors such as myself need. It’s a good example of the useful contributions that scholars can make for the church. This is by no means a slam to other commentaries just to be clear. I think that this commentary will find a place, and is different enough that they should complete the series.

    Mike, you are fairly advance in Greek so this book won’t be a problem for you at all. I think where you may find it interesting is how Craig, and Mariam chose to translate James, and their exegetical outline. Keep in mind that this commentary assumes you are not well trained in Greek.

    Check out the sample page, that I will give you enough information to figure out if this is a commentary for you. I only say that because I read your blog, and you are deep in Greek so you may be looking for something more advance.

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