The first volume in the Revised Expositor’s Bible Commentary series was recently published, containing commenataries on Hebrews (R T France), James (George Guthrie), 1,2 Peter & Jude (Daryl Charles), 1,2,3 John (Tom Thatcher), and Revelation (Alan Johnson). This is just a review of the Hebrews commentary. The book itself has been well put together, with a very easy to follow layout. It includes the full text of the NIV, although France seems to wish that he was commenting on the TNIV, and regularly prefers the TNIV wording. He is non-commital on authorship – but he does say that it was someone like Apollos, writing a word of exhortation as a pastor, with a probable pre-AD 70 date. He is writing to Jewish Christians tempted to question whether they have made the right decision in converting to Christianity, and his main structure is based around the idea of supercession – how much better the Christian gospel is than the temporary provisions of the Old Covenant.
Hebrews makes much use of Old Tesament quotations, and France gives some space to discussing the sometimes unconventional hermeneutics of the author. Basically, in the Old Testament what is true of the Father is assumed to be true of the Son. In fact, in many instances, the author’s exegetical methods are remarkably similar to our own.
For Calvinists, the warning passages in Hebrews present a possible contradiction to other text emphasising the security of the believer. France does discuss this issue, but doesn’t attempt to provide a resolution other than noting the differing pastoral intentions that are present in Hebrews (Paul wants to give assurance to doubters, Hebrews wants to give warning to the complacent). Moreover, France believes that the author of Hebrews really does indicate that ‘real’ Christians can deliberately abandon the faith. The use of “we” in 10:26 indicates to him that again “real Christians” are in view. While not interacting directly with a Calvinist approach to 3:14, he sees this as a verse stating that our “sharing remains conditional” – the race is not run until it has been finished. France sees apostacy also in the mention of Esau in 12:16.
There are helpful explanations of what Christian maturity is about, and how Jesus became perfect through suffering (5:8,9). While he does not wade right in to controversial debates on the atonement, he does emphasise understanding the cross in terms of the Old Testament sacrificial system. Commenting on 10:14 he says that it is pastorally essential to recognise the believer’s ongoing battle with sin. His introductory material to chapter 11 is helpful in explaining the nature of faith, and how the author sees faith in some Old Testament stories that do no explicitly mention it. France sees chapter 13 as naturally concluding the letter and so doesn’t see the need to consider it a later addition.
Overall, I found this commentary very helpful in following the argument through the book, and explaining some of the more difficult parts. It is not a long-winded commentary, which may mean that in places you would like a more detailed explanation. Although he touches on some theological debates and practical applications, on the whole he is happy to do the exegesis, and leave the systematic theology and contemporary application to the reader, which is probably about right for a commentary series aimed at preachers. The volume as a whole represents good value for money compared to most other commentary series available, providing commetaries on nine books for the price of one hardback book.