donderdag 2 januari 2014

Review of: David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles (Pillar NTC), Eerdmans, 2009; in: JETS

David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles (Pillar NTC), Eerdmans, 2009.

Review in: JETS 54.1 (March 2011),pp.169-170
Review door: John B. Polhill
Gevonden op:
David G. Peterson
The Acts of the Apostles (Pillar NTC),
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009, lv + 790 pp., $65.00.

When I taught my first elective in Acts in the early 1970s, commentaries on the book were slim pickings. Several classic older volumes were available in reprint, such as Rackham’s and Cadbury and Lake’s commentary in The Beginnings of Christianity. Brief contributions were available, such as Foakes-Jackson in the Moffatt series and Williams in Harper’s. The most thorough and up-to-date commentary was that of Haenchen. The situation is quite different now. With the many recent commentary series have come a number of excellent volumes on Acts, including Barrett’s two volumes, Bock, Dunn, Fernando, Fitzmyer, Gaventa, Johnson, Larkin, Marshall, Neil, Parsons, and Spenser. Excellent independent volumes are the 1990 enlarged commentary by Bruce, Tannehill’s two-volume narrative treatment of Luke-Acts, and Witherington’s “Socio-Rhetorical” commentary. An important contribution is Jervell’s volume as Haenchen’s successor in the Kritisch-Exegetischer Kommentar, which is as yet unavailable in English. Peterson shows no awareness of this commentary or of Conzelmann’s, which is available in English. Also neglected is Fitzmyer’s Anchor Bible contribution. Except for a few holes such as these, however, he does reflect a thorough acquaintance with his predecessors as reflected in this comprehensive and highly useful treatment of Acts.

Peterson is well qualified to write an Acts commentary. He has participated in the multi-volume series The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting from its beginning, having contributed an article in the first volume entitled “The Motif of Fulfillment and the Purpose of Luke-Acts.” He also served as co-editor with I. H. Marshall of the sixth volume, which deals with the theology of Acts. Indeed, perhaps the greatest contribution of this new commentary is its extensive treatment of the theology of the book.

The introduction to the commentary treats such standard matters as authorship and date, but also matters more specific to Acts. Particularly useful are the sections dealing with genre and literary features. Some standard issues are treated rather briefly, such as the speeches in Acts. These speeches comprise nearly a third of the entire text of the book and are the primary source for its theology, and one might expect a more thorough discussion. This brevity, however, is compensated by Peterson’s thorough treatment of the speeches in the commentary proper. The same applies to his introductory comments on the text of Acts. He gives only scant attention to the Western text of Acts, which is 8% longer than the Alexandrian and Byzantine texts. On the other hand, he makes frequent allusions to the distinctive Western readings in the commentary and footnotes. The most valuable portion of the introductory matters is a 44-page discussion of the theology of Acts. In addition to considering such standard features as the theology of God, Jesus, the Spirit, salvation, the church, atonement (or the seeming lack thereof), he also examines less discussed topics like elements of the magical and demonic in Acts. The emphasis on theology is continued throughout the commentary, and the introductory sections are regularly cross-referenced in the commentary proper where applicable. In addition to the approximately 100 pages of introductory matters, the book concludes with 64 pages of indices, covering subjects, authors, Scripture references, and extrabiblical references.

The organization of the commentary is based on the theme of the progress of the Word of God, which is reminiscent of previous treatments, such as Haenchen’s emphasis on “the triumph of the Word.” The emphasis on the Word is combined with a standard geographical outline, which is obviously supported by the narrative flow of Acts. Peterson develops his outline around multiple divisions and subdivisions that set forth the text in brief sections. Every division and subdivision is provided with a summary introduction that makes the narrative easy to follow for the reader. Sections usually end with a brief but useful application to the contemporary setting of the church. Interspersed throughout the commentary are a few brief notes on topics that require extra attention, including one on the problem of OT references in Stephen’s speech and one on contemporary application of lessons learned from the Jerusalem Conference.

Peterson’s methodology is eclectic, not being confined to any one approach. Overall, he sets forth the meaning of the text with sound exegesis. He often cites the Greek text in transliterated form, placing it in parentheses beside the English translation. This is done in an unobtrusive way that will clarify the translation for those with Greek facility without being distracting for those with none. The commentary series is based on the TNIV translation. Being a more-or-less “dynamic” and not a literal rendering, it will sometimes “close the door” on other possible renderings. Peterson does not hesitate to challenge the TNIV when he considers the best translation to be otherwise but always gives his justification for so doing.

Peterson also uses a narrative-critical approach, discussing the development of the narrative without using the technical language characteristic of so many works that use this methodology. For example, he discusses such things as “narrative asides” and “narrative time” by noting these features in the text but without using the jargon. He also notes rhetorical features in the text, but this is confined primarily to the trial scenes, where the influence of rhetoric is obvious. He does not force rhetorical categories on non-rhetorical contexts.

Peterson’s commentary provides a balanced discussion of alternative interpretations to those advanced in the commentary, either in the text itself or in the footnotes. He does not ride particular denominational horses. He writes in a clear, easily understood style that is generally free of technical language. The commentary will serve one well as a general work on the text of Acts that reflects the best in contemporary scholarship. It will prove useful to the pastor preparing a sermon on a particular passage, to a teacher preparing on a limited text or the whole book, and as a textbook for students. Its treatment of the narrative flow will also make it an excellent guide for anyone wishing to work through the entire text of Acts.

John B. Polhill
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY