Book Review – NIBC Acts (David Williams)

Brief Summary

A 455 page commentary on the book of Acts in the NIBC series, which is based on the New International Version. The focus of this commentary is on explaining more fully the meaning of the text, and providing the appropriate historical and contextual information.

The Introduction

He begins by quoting J B Phillips – the church we see in Acts is "the church as it was meant to be". The introduction is a fairly concise 17 pages, and presents Luke as the author and discusses his purposes in writing. Luke is not interested in writing a general history of the church, but in following the route of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome. Williams takes up the challenge of defending Luke’s historicity in a number of places throughout the commentary, arguing that Luke writes with integrity.

The Commentary

The commentary itself does not include the biblical text, but where words or phrases are commented on they are included in bold. He does not often spend time on the Greek text, but is quite thorough in providing the historical and geographical background needed to fully appreciate what was going on.

The style of this commentary is not an exposition, so he does not often enter into discussion on the theological matters raised, but occasionally will add a comment (sometimes more freely in the footnotes).

He argues that the visit of Gal 2:1-10 is the same as that of Acts 15:1-29. He claims that Stephen believed the building of the temple to be a mistake – God had never intended for there to be a temple. On the matter of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, he sees this as a once-for-all historical event not to be repeated.

Strengths

The main strength is that he is thorough but has a good sense of what material to relegate to the footnotes, which avoids the commentary becoming too longwinded.

Weaknesses

While it is good at what it attempts to achieve (explain the meaning of the text), the real lack for me is reflection on theology. He seems reticent to enter into too many theological debates. To be fair, this may well be due to the nature of the commentary series, but with hindsight, it wasn’t the most thrilling commentary to read cover to cover (as I have found with a few other Acts commentaries!).

Why Buy It?

As I have said already, it is not the best for reading right through, but it will serve a purpose as a reference book. However, I would probably recommend the TNTC commentary on Acts by I. Howard Marshall or the NICNT commentary on Acts by F. F. Bruce ahead of it. My favourite Acts commentary remains John Stott’s "The Message of Acts", which has a much stronger emphasis on application (even though I don’t agree with all his conclusions). It might also be worth checking out the recently released Revised Expositor’s Commentary on Acts by Richard Longenecker and Darrell Bock’s new commentary on Acts.

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