I need your help and would greatly value your input/insight. For the past two years (maybe more), I’ve been toying with the idea of writing commentaries on the NT–primarily, to begin with, the letters of Paul. I know: go figure. My plan is to start small(ish) and work my way toward the longer Pauline letters. I should say this plan also involves a consideration of the level of theological detail/content of the letters. In other words: I want to begin with letters that address only a small handful of topics and work my way through those where discussion is more involved. (NB: this is not to suggest that the ones with fewer topics are less important than the others). Accordingly, my tentative schedule is as follows:
- 1-2 Thessalonians
- Colossians and Philemon
- Pastorals (i.e. 1-2 Timothy, Titus)
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
However, when it comes to coverage and content, I’ve been rather stuck on what to include. There are loads of details that I find fascinating but would surely bore the socks off of just about everyone else. That is to say: I realize and accept that commentaries are not everyone’s cup of tea (or coffee) and that their often technical nature tends to be kryptonite for most would-be readers. Because of this, I thought it best to ask around and see what would be interesting or of value to readers. Hence, I need your help.
In the main, and if you are unfamiliar with commentaries, most writers will adhere to a general two-part format, which might include any number of sub-topics:
- Introductory matters
- Date and place of writing
- Occasion (i.e. why the letter was written)
- Major themes
- Structure (i.e. outline of the letter)
- Placement in the canon
- Detailed comments on the text/document
- Text-critical issues (i.e. dealing with variants in the Greek manuscripts)
- Analysis of key words, phrases, clauses, sentences–usually referring to the Greek
- Connections with (similar) NT ideas/themes/teachings
- Relevance for the church–whether past, present, and/or future
Riveting stuff, I know. By and large, this format and many of its features, specifically their content, reflect the ongoing dialogue between scholars in the field, with the hope that non-specialist wanderers will find it interesting or even informative. Moreover, the kinds of topics discussed–and the level at which they are discussed–are often determined by the aims or purpose of a given commentary series.
For example: the International Critical Commentary (ICC) series is geared more for academics while the Interpretation (Int) series is orientated more for pastors and church-goers. (NB: this is not to suggest that the Interpretation series is not academically minded; all of the contributors in this series are experts in their respective fields). For comparison, with regard to the letter to the Galatians: the ICC¹ expends 65 pages on introductory matters, while the Int² covers just shy of 11 pages. And in terms of total coverage, the Int falls short of 160 pages (excluding bibliography) and the ICC swells to just over 500 pages (excluding bibliography and indexes).
So, to come back round to my request for assistance: what kinds of things, or level of details, would you like to see in a NT commentary? What interests you? What bores you tears? What would be something that would enhance your reading and/or understanding of a NT text? What questions would you like answered–or at least addressed? What about style and/or format? I’m looking for insight from anyone who is willing to offer it, no matter if you are an expert in NT scholarship or if you have a scintilla of understanding about Christianity or somewhere in between. I would love to hear from you so that I can write for you.
¹ This refers to E. de Witt Burton’s 1920 commentary in the ICC series.
² This refers to C. Cousar’s 1982 commentary in the Int series.