I like reading the Bible. I’ve been doing it daily for the past two years, and before that I tried to do it often, and even spent quite a few years studying theology which help me read the Bible in different ways. Because I like reading the Bible I know that I don’t know nearly enough about the text context the world the text and what it might be saying to me. That is why I read commentaries. Last year I started intentionally using countries in my devotional time, to help me focus on a biblical text, and to get my brain engaged with Watt God is saying to me through the text. I’ve taken the opportunity to try a couple of commentary series that I haven’t used before.
I like reading the Bible, and I’m not a Roman Catholic, so picking up this volume on Romans in the Catholic commentary on sacred scripture series, might look like a strange choice. There were a number of places where the Roman Catholicism of the author did appear to me to get in the way – particularly around the church in Rome, and some of the distinctives of understandings of grace and justification – but by and large I found this a faith building, heartwarming, and interesting commentary. The weakest point, in my view, was the section on chapter 16. It seems to me to be almost an afterthought – echoing the authors view that this chapter of the letter is different in someway from the previous 15.
One thing I particularly liked about this commentary was the fact that each section has the biblical text printed out, and it’s relatively easy to follow the relation of the comments in the commentary to the text being commented upon. User friendliness is something that I don’t always find in commentaries, whether I’m reading them through as a book or referring to them as a reference tool. This volume also had handy little sign bars for context, as well as occasionally sharing extended quotations from scholars from other traditions, or early church fathers. These side bars were welcome, showing the ways that the text has been read and interpreted been throughout church history, and offering insight on why Paul wrote certain things in the way that he did.
As a Protestant, I wouldn’t recommend this book without the caveat that the author’s Roman Catholicism is fairly fundamental to it. That said, it is a readable, encouraging and practically-oriented commentary on the book of Romans. If I’m ever privileged to preach through the book of Romans, I’ll probably have this on my desk, to shine a light on some parts of the text which are quite tricky, and for the aforementioned historical detail. Simply put, if you are a Christian looking to read a commentary on Romans then this might not be the one for you. If, however, you are a pasta or Bible scholar/student looking for a different angle on Paul’s letter then this would be a good place to start. The series is published by Baker Academic, and is generous in its referencing and commending of other books from across the Christian traditions. I look forward to taking in to the book of Mark next, using another from this series.