Monthly Archives: March 2013

M. Maxwell-carr

‘The Divine Marriage’ is a modern commentary which has the grace of sheer readability. This sets it apart from a lot of scholarship. Holland refrains from using terms that are likely to be misunderstood and uses simple language, which is clear and straight-forward. This is certainly a breath of fresh air! His sentences are short and to the point. He also tends to repeat himself, which I consider to be very positive. Many scholars (who frankly want to obey all the unwritten ‘rules of scholarship’) will despise some of this. But the reason Holland does it is because his mindset is really quite different and he doesn’t think like many other pastors or commentators. His repetition helps us to properly grasp and appreciate what he is saying and to see that his concepts actually are derived from the Bible. Even the structure is carefully geared towards helping readers understand. Chapters are presented with clear, gripping introductions. Conclusions are offered at the end of each chapter, which sum up the main points and draw the reader into the next section. And the commentary is verse by verse exposition, which happens to be very substantial. Not only this, but Holland also tends to apply what he believes Paul is saying. Readers will get the impression that Holland is very much desiring to interest and continue to engage them. Many find most commentaries to be useful for little more than checking out every once in a while, but certainly not to read through from beginning to end. But Holland’s commentary is more suitable than most for reading through and I am quite sure that great gain will be derived from anyone who does this.

In addition, something needs to be said about the way Holland interprets Romans. Holland seeks to enforce the OT background of Paul’s letter. This really enriches the study of the letter. ‘Explain the Scripture with the Scripture’ is a method which has been honestly sought by Holland – except he uses much more of the OT than usual in order to do this. OT concepts are clearly a primary authority for Holland in dealing with Paul’s letter. (Of course, Holland certainly does not neglect what the NT has to say either.) As a result, the work contains a healthy and wonderful balance of substance drawn from both testaments of Scripture. I believe this is an excellent model for biblical exposition and will definitely serve pastors, preachers and teachers well if they take the time to see how Holland interprets the NT.

If you spend much time with Tom Holland, you’re very likely to develop a far greater hunger for understanding the OT Scriptures! In this day, when the OT is so neglected in preaching and teaching, there is little doubt that Holland’s work is potentially one of the instruments for change. Overall, I believe that this commentary should prove accessible and wonderfully impacting upon the thinking of those who choose to read it. May the Lord use this ground-breaking work as an instrument for good!

M. Maxwell-carr

Kerry Orchard

“Isn’t it somewhat arrogant to think that anything radically new can be found to say about such a well-known text as the book of Romans?” This was the perfectly understandable comment made to this reviewer. Nevertheless, this commentary is truly path-breaking, largely because care is taken to remove layers of Western cultural baggage that have obscured the meaning of the letter as understood by the original hearers.

Hearers? Don’t you mean readers? No, Paul’s letter to the Romans would have been read to the gathered church community; individuals would not have had their own copy. The letter would have been understood for what it was – a message to the whole church and not to an individual. Application would be essentially corporate and not the way we today tend to read it – a message to me. Dr Holland argues persuasively for the Jewishness of this literature. All Paul’s quotations are from the Jewish Bible, the Old Testament. A people are addressed, not a person. His thinking was not Greek but Hebraic. We today are classic Greek thinkers, stressing the individual rather than the community. Whereas we correctly understand “the body of Christ” to be corporate, “the body of sin” is not generally understood to be the community of the unredeemed. Similarly, chapter 6’s reference to baptism is generally applied to the individual though the comparison is with the “baptism into Moses” of the children of Israel. Even “new man” is a corporate.

So what difference does this approach make? It shows the unity of the Old and New Testament. Paul’s theology was the theology of Christ, which was the theology of the Old Testament. To understand Paul we need to be saturated in the Old Testament as he was. “Obvious” you may say, but much modern scholarship has given the impression that we need to immerse ourselves instead in Greco-Roman literature or the writings of the intertestimental period. Tom Holland gives us back our Reformation heritage of one inspired, inerrant and infallible text that is self authenticating. The challenge for 21st century evangelicals is to get to know their Bibles better. The author notes that Paul interweaves 16 different quotations from Isaiah in explaining God’s way of salvation. The commentator instructs us on how these quotations should be viewed. They are vital to our understanding of the overall theme. Often a short quotation is used by the inspired writer to remind us of a much longer section of the Old Testament story. We must not be lazy readers but familiarise ourselves with the context of the short snippet quoted. Often this will open up for us the clear meaning in view – which would have been obvious to readers who knew the Torah well but may be not to most of us.

What then is the big story line that the Apostle is tracing from the Old and into the New Testament? It is a “New Exodus” theme. The Old Testament records two great acts of God’s salvation: the first Exodus – from Egypt and the second – from Babylon. The New Testament writers, including Paul in Romans, use the language of these two salvation events to describe the New Exodus of God’s deliverance of a people from the dominion of Satan and sin through the death of the Firstborn of all Creation, the Lord Jesus Christ. What then of the “Divine Marriage” of the book’s title? Covenant is a key concept throughout the Bible. Dr Holland argues that it describes Adam’s relationship with his Creator. The Fall was a divorce. Humankind “in Adam” has become married to another, Satan. As a result of the New Exodus the redeemed community (the Christian church) have become married to Christ.

I hope this has whetted your appetite. I believe this is a highly significant book. It interacts with scholars across the board (eg Wright, Dunn, Piper, etc) but is written in such a way that the ordinary serious-minded Christian can understand. This is definitely worth the price.

Kerry Orchard

Toby Cowton

“I was a student of Tom Holland at WEST a year ago, just before this book was published. During the Easter holidays, when I really should have been concentrating on revising for my finals, Tom allowed us to have a draft of his commentary on Romans with the understanding that we provide a review. This I read ferociously, and was so enthused with it that my many early attempts at review fell limply below my intention. This current review takes a more reflective approach, for the sake of saying something of what I would like to say about this important work.

I believe that no other words could been spoken more truly of Tom’s work than those I stumbled across that were taken from John B. Carroll’s foreword to Whorf’s Language, Thought, and Reality:

“Once in a Blue Moon a man comes along who grapes the relationship between events which have hitherto seemed quite separate, and gives mankind a new dimension of knowledge.”

Tom’s reading of the letter to the Romans grasps the relationship between the events in a way that no other commentator can hope to claim. But that Tom is commentating on Romans is accidental. His reading is coherent because it is a product of Tom’s wider Biblical theology, which traces a coherent thread throughout the Biblical narrative and history of redemption, exemplified and vindicated in Paul’s greatest theological letter.

I understand that Tom’s book is a great contribution to Pauline scholarship. It is my own belief that the formidable weight of argument currently lies more in the broad picture that he sees, and a little less in the detail. That is not to say that I find the more detailed argument altogether unpersuasive, and I have little doubt the details will be found wanting with further research and careful argumentation. Particularly in the pastoral half of the letter (chapter 12-16), Tom’s main argument (now spent with the bulk of the theological section of the text) slows down considerably and the references to the Greek text don’t always feel robust, however helpful his reflections. Nevertheless, to continue to my concern, I feel that those who only read the commentary – or choose not read it – on the basis that it is an academic bulldog will deprive themselves of the pastoral power wreathed both by design of the commentator and by implication of the truth explained.

I know that I am not alone in the spiritual warmth I received from Tom in his lectures, nor failed to appreciate his fervour. Both these come through in his commentary. I am also not alone in the confidence that I received, as a result of his theories, in the clarity of Scripture as its own interpreter. It is much easier to explain and understand the gospel starting, as the New Testament demonstrates and Tom explains, `with Moses and the Prophets’. The fundamental divide between those in Christ and those in Adam also becomes extremely clear – and helpful in both assurance and in evangelism. There are some things that I have found difficult to come to terms with, experientially, from Tom’s perspective – particularly the implications of his views on sacraments, something I hold very dear to my experience as a Christian. Some of these implications cause some painful questions to remain in my heart. Others cause longings because of things I would love to embrace but am yet hindered, such as those things pertaining to corporate worship (the difficulties of experiencing an individual corporate experience are perspicuous). However, these things may still be cherished and enjoyed, and I remain convinced of the truth of his reading – convinced not least because I read it continually throughout the pages of my Bible, even in places I didn’t expect!

I’m often saddened to discover some half-hearted attempts at getting to grips with the perspective portrayed in the commentary – even uncharacteristically (to my grief) by Don Carson, whose unnecessary and derogatory comment on Holland’s work during his lectures on the New Perspective is unrecognisable, having clearly failed to engage with it at all. On the other hand, it is not without good reason that Holland’s reading is beginning to be recognised by world renowned evangelical scholars. Initially, the argument is not easy to grasp – it is a subtle and difficult paradigm shift, but I really recommend taking the time and effort to get to grips with what results in a simple and clear understanding of the gospel throughout Scripture.”

Toby Cowton

Dubious Disciple

First, my apologies to Tom and PICKWICK Publications for taking so long on this review. The thing is, reading Holland’s take on Romans is like reading a foreign letter. So unfamiliar is Holland’s corporate spin that it took me forever to get through the book … not just because it’s a comprehensive work, but because I wound up reading several passages twice to pull myself away from the more common individualistic interpretation. You’ll learn to recognize two distinct, corporate communities at odds with one another: one in Adam with sin as its head, the other in Christ with Jesus as its head.

This is a verse-by-verse study of the book of Romans, and would make a good university text. Remember: Romans is Paul’s magnum opus, with every verse saturated with meaning. I try to write reviews appropriate for casual readers, but this book belongs in academics as well. Not only is every verse explored, but Holland delves into several topics in detail. I think there are nine such “excursions” peppered throughout the text.

Now, Tom is a conservative believer, so I don’t quite see eye to eye with him on every topic, but his research is deep and not at all preachy. Holland bemoans the way other scholars tend to interpret the New Testament by relying on Greek secular literature, instead of appreciating its Hebraic flavor. “The only allusions or echoes we can safely consider are those which reflect the Old Testament literature” (quotation reprinted without supporting context, which is substantial). So, he digs deep.

This book could sit on your shelf for reference, but that would be a misuse. Holland’s particular interpretation really requires analyzing the letter as a whole. Themes of corporate justification, Passover, the second exodus, and the pilgrimage of God’s chosen resonate throughout, and these underlying themes set the tone for Paul’s more confusing passages. Baptism (dying and rising with Christ) carries a different meaning in this light. Even the word “sin” gets a remake with a corporate meaning: Paul sees sin as a predator, waiting to attack and kill. Try replacing the word “sin” with Satan throughout to get a better grasp of Paul’s meaning. Remember the Adamic community? That’s Satan, not sin, at its head. Also as you read, I suggest you keep the book’s title uppermost in your mind: The Divine Marriage. We’re talking about the eschatological marriage with its great cosmic banquet. Paul’s theology is so deep that it’s easy to lose track of the fact that he really is going somewhere in this letter.

My favorite discussion in the book was Holland’s exposition of the following passage: 10:6-7 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or `Who will descent into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.) After a ten-page explanation, these two verses finally makes sense.

Dubious Disciple

Paul Yeulett (The Evangelical Movement of Wales)

This new biblical theological commentary on Paul’s greatest letter is a most important work by a long-time lecturer at WEST. It represents the fruit of many years’ profound scholarship and familiarity not only with Paul, but with the entire Bible. This book, like his earlier Contours of Pauline Theology, will make a major contribution not only to Pauline studies, but consequently to all related areas of Christian doctrine. Dr Holland continually demonstrates the way in which Paul’s letter picks up the great themes of the Old Testament, most notably from the Exodus, Isaiah and Ezekiel. His central thesis is that Romans ought to be understood in the corporate and covenantal character which saturated Paul’s own thinking — hence the title. A Western, individualistic interpretation of Romans is inimical to its meaning and the purpose for which it was written.
There is much about this approach which is both necessary and refreshing. And yet this book is bound to generate a good deal of discussion and even controversy. The traditional Reformed and Confessional definitions of righteousness, sin, justification and faith — weighty themes, all of them, not simply in Romans but in the entire framework of Christian truth — undergo various measures of recasting in the course of Dr Holland’s exegesis. The general shift in his thinking is from legal to covenantal categories. Sin, for example, is primarily understood not as the breaking of God’s commandments, but as the forsaking of the covenant relationship with God and entering into covenant with Satan. It may well be wondered whether there is a false dichotomy here. Parallel patterns con be witnessed in Dr Holland’s treatment of the other mighty themes handled in Romans.
Though he seeks to put some distance between himself and the protagonists of the New Perspective on Paul and justification — James Dunn and N.T.Wright — the trajectory and tendency of his arguments seems rather similar in places.
Paul Yeulett
The Evangelical Movement of Wales

Guy Prentiss Waters (Reformed Theological Seminary Jackson, Mississippi, USA)

Tom Holland has shouldered an unusual mantle in his commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. He desires to stand squarely within the Reformation tradition, while taking issue with many Reformational readings of Romans. For Holland, many readings of Romans (Reformational or not) falter in one of two areas. First, they insufficiently acknowledge the fundamental indebtedness of the letter to the OT. Second, they insufficiently grasp the corporate character of Romans. Romans, Holland maintains, was written to a community. It speaks to individuals only in so far as they are members of that community (p. 19).
The subtitle of this commentary captures both of these concerns. Romans reflects a “divine marriage”-in Christ, God has constituted believers his bride. This marriage is “the culmination of the new exodus” theme that Holland argues is central to OT and NT biblical theology (p. ix). For Holland, the promises of the OT converge upon a promised new exodus that would entail, among other things, restoration from exile, a Spirit-anointed Davidic scion, a new covenant, heart-circumcision, a return to Jerusalem, a new temple, and a marriage with a cosmic banquet (pp. 8-9). This cluster of promises provides the interpretative matrix for the whole of the NT.
How do these commitments inform Holland’s reading of Romans? Holland understands Paul’s personification of “sin” in Romans in terms of a “pseudonym for Satan” (p. 62n12; cf. pp. 82n11, 236n70). Consequently, the fall of Adam resulted in “Adam [being] taken as Satan’s willing prisoner,” and his posterity “in bondage to Satan” (p. 79). The fall is nothing less than “spiritual adultery” (p. 160). This condition, according to Rom 3:9-18, is one that Paul also represents in “new exodus” terminology-Adamic man is in a state of exile (p. 75).
Not surprisingly, Paul depicts the saving work of Jesus in specifically paschal terms (Rom 3:21-26). Christ has “freed” a “community . . . from its covenant bondage to Sin” (p. 227). In Rom 6, Paul “urges the local Roman church, to live as the servant of God, just as Israel was urged to after her redemption from Egypt.” Her redemption, to put it another way, was Yahweh taking the church to be his bride (cf. Rom 7:1-6; p. 227). The work of the Spirit in Rom 8 is the Bridegroom’s “bridal gift” to the church, who is led by the Spirit on her “pilgrimage to the New Jerusalem” (pp. 252, 269). Romans 9-11 answers the question “where do the Jewish people fit into the new exodus?” (p. 297), and Rom 12-15 develops the church’s corporate life in distinctly new exodus terms (see pp. 423, 434-35, 449, 467).
How does Holland understand “justification,” a leading theme of the epistle, to operate in Romans? He is satisfied with neither Reformational nor New Perspective readings of this concept: the New Perspective is “wrong” in its rejection of the Reformation, while the Reformation is incomplete (pp. 109-10). Justification is “a rescue from a condition of condemnation to an experience of covenantal relationship with God” and, as such, is a corporate category (p. 126). God justified “the community” and did so at the “moment of Christ’s death” (p. 126). Individuals “become part of the justified community” through faith and so “catch up experientially with what Christ has already done for all his people” (p. 126). What does it mean to be corporately justified? It means, in part, that the church, the bride of Christ, may not be charged with “adultery in the new marriage” (p. 191). And yet, Holland cautions, “Paul’s argument [here] cannot be directly applied to the experience of the individual” (p. 191). What does it mean to be individually justified? Justification is legal and forensic, but it is more than that-spiritual “circumcision” (Col 2:11-12), “salvation,” and “God making covenant” are all necessary components of corporate-and presumably individual-justification (p. 129).
Holland’s exposition of Romans is an engaging and stimulating one. Given Paul’s express concern to anchor his gospel and the righteousness of God in the OT (Rom 1:17), Holland’s instinct to place Romans on the biblical-theological trajectory extending from the OT, and his identification of Romans as a fundamentally covenantal letter are all surely correct. Holland’s proposal, furthermore, may help to explain both some of the background of Paul’s marriage analogy in Rom 7:1-6 and the preponderance of Isaianic quotations in the epistle.
As suggestive as Holland’s thesis is, it is not altogether persuasive. Had the OT narrative that Holland charts informed not only the content but also the structure of Romans in the way that Holland proposes, one might have expected more explicit indication of this fact in the epistle. As it stands, a number of the exodus and exile connections for which Holland pleads seem to me to be exegetically tentative at best. The “new exodus” may contribute to the biblical-theological background of Romans, but it may be putting matters too strongly to assign to it a controlling and generative role in the letter.
Furthermore, Holland’s treatment of justification raises questions that do not receive full answers. Precisely how do what Holland terms communal justification and individual justification intersect? To what degree do they overlap in Christian experience? What exegetical grounds are there for claiming that justification in Paul is a concept inclusive of non-forensic and arguably transformative blessings?
One of the greatest strengths of Romans: The Divine Marriage is that it compels readers to read Romans in light of the categories and covenants set forth in the OT. Whether or not one agrees entirely with Holland’s reading, this work serves to remind us that the Scripture is a unified, not a fragmented, book with a single, coherent, and integrated message. And for that reminder we may be genuinely grateful.
Guy Prentiss Waters
Reformed Theological Seminary
Jackson, Mississippi, USA

Rob van Honwelingen (Kampen, Netherlands European Journal of Theology 2 • 171)

‘This commentary seeks to correct the faulty reading that results from placing the individual at the center of the message of Romans. One of the repercussions of such individualism is that almost all hymns speak of individual Christian experience instead of the corporate people of God.’ With these bold words, Tom ‘Holland introduces his new commentary on Paul’s letter to the Christian church in Rome.
Holland is Head of Biblical Research at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology and the author of Contours of Pauline Theology (2004), in which he has already proposed a corporate reading of Paul’s letters. Central to this approach is the ‘New Exodus’ paradigm: Jesus the Messiah is greater than Moses, and the New Testament shows that God has acted decisively in the death of his own Son, to bring about salvation, not from physical or political bondage but from spiritual slavery. In Romans, Holland applies this corporate reading to Paul’s letter to the Romans.
After a brief introduction which deals more with biblical theology than with the usual introductory questions, Holland gives a verse by verse explanation of the letter, each chapter starting with the NIV translation. References to earlier research are given in footnotes, Greek words are transcribed and ten excursuses added (e.g. detailed essays on righteousness, justification, sin).
With regard to the New Perspective on Paul, Holland makes a crucial distinction in the way justification is used in Romans 4, between its applications to Abraham (Genesis 15: God’s promise) and to David (Psalm 32:the acquittal of sin) respectively. Through this distinction, he is able to build on the New Perspective understanding of the term as developed by N.T. Wright (in relation to Abraham), and on the way the Reformers used the word (in relation to David). This approach reinforces the view that justification is not merely a status of righteousness because of covenant member ship, as asserted by the New Perspective, but includes the Reformation ideas of forensic justification and being brought into relationship with God.
Why subtitle a commentary on Romans The Divine Marriage? From the preface, I cite Holland’s own answer to this obvious question: Mainly because the central message of the Bible has to do with the drama of God seeking out a people for himself. The Old Testament described Israel as God’s bride because she was called to a unique, personal relationship with her God. However, Paul’s contention is that national Israel’s exclusive claim to be the bride no longer stands. The apostle’s message is that God has created a new covenant with those who believe in his Son, and that believing Jews and Gentiles have now become the true bride of God. The Jewish remnant and believing Gentiles both draw from the same divinely-appointed stock as they share the promises given by God to Abraham. The theme of the divine marriage (which is the culmination of the new exodus) shaped and guided the letters that Paul wrote. This is especially true for the letter to the Romans, the letter of the divine marriage.
Personally, I can fully understand the warm reception of this book within the evangelical world. However, exegetes working in the Reformed tradition (with Herman Bavinck as the best known name) have long been familiar with redemptive history as a major guiding thread in the reading of the Bible. A covenantal approach is not new for them, but they will surely appreciate that this approach is now presented to a broader public.
A more serious objection is that the connection between the covenantal approach and the theme of the divine marriage will seem strange to them. Why not opt for ‘body’, a typical Pauline metaphor, also used in Romans, or ‘family’, or ‘kinship’ (like Scott Hahn’s Kinship by Covenant, 2009) instead of ‘marriage’? I would rather see a divine marriage motif in the letter to the Ephesians (chapter 5) or the book of Revelation (chapters 19-21).
Does the letter to the Romans provide enough literary context to read almost every chapter through this lens, or was Holland creating a Pauline theology of marriage prior to his exegetical work in the letter to the Romans? It is hard to avoid the impression that he sometimes uses this framework artificially in the exegesis of Romans.
The fact remains that Tom Holland has written a thought-provoking book that will undoubtedly be fruitful for many teachers and preachers. More than any other commentator on Romans so far, he uncovers the Old Testament roots of the letter and shows the impact of Paul’s thoughts upon the Christian church today.

Rob van Honwelingen,
Kampen, Netherlands
European Journal of Theology 2 • 171

Reading Romans like a Jew

I reviewed Contours of Pauline Theology by Tom Holland and it changed the way I read the New Testament. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of his second book about Romans.

The same themes developed in Contours of Pauline Theology are unpacked in Romans: The Divine Marriage. He argues against those who have said the Christian message was Hellenized and argues instead that Paul’s message was distinctively Jewish (pp. 2-3). He demonstrates this Jewishness by examining the theme of the New Exodus and the corporate nature of much of the New Testament (pp. 18-22).

When I was struggling with my salvation and the weight of my sin was bearing down on me Romans was balm to my soul. It’s the book I’ve read the most and am most familiar. But after reading Holland’s commentary I’ve experienced the gospel in Romans anew.

A Balancing Act
What I appreciate most about Holland’s methodology is his carefulness with the text. For instance, he stands within the Reformed stream on justification but also persuasively and carefully argues we must not assume every instance of the word justification carries the legal connotation. He points out

“Justification” (Rom 3:24) is also a new exodus term. When Israel was brought out of exile in Babylon, she was said to have been justified (Isa 50:8; 53:11). The expression spoke of being removed from one kingdom and placed in another. (p. 91)

Some might feel uncomfortable with this idea of justification meaning more but again Holland doesn’t deny the forensic meaning rather that both meanings are linguistically valid and paint a much grander and clearer picture of the work of God. I won’t get into all the details but this balance and richness shines in his exegesis of Romans 4 and the progression in Paul’s argument from the justification Abraham (covenantal thrust pp. 110-112, 147) to David (forensic thrust pp. 117-19, 206). Also, Holland walks the line with his emphasis on the corporate election. He understands election primarily as corporate a la the covenant community but he argues that doesn’t wipe out a possible individual aspect of election.

Chewing On This
I’ve been digesting Romans: The Divine Marriage for the last few days but two passages in particular hit home. I could’ve come up with a dozen more passages but these two were my favorite. First, Holland just briefly made a comment about Jesus’s parables but his point stuck with me. He says,

This understanding of the reason for Israel’s blessing [God doesn’t show favortism] is found in many of the parables of Jesus. Often they are read as teaching for the church, and while there is obviously instruction in them, they were not intended or delivered in that way. The parables were essentially critical assessments of Israel’s failure to be the true servant of Yahweh. So, for example, the “talents” of Jesus’ parable recorded in Matt 25:14-15 are not natural abilities but money or treasure. They were symbolic of the treasure of the knowledge of God that Israel was to share with the Gentiles. The severity of God’s judgement is the measure of how signally Israel failed in her task (p. 60)

Second, I have often wrestled with my own depression through the message of Romans. I’ve cried out “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” (Rom 8:33) but Hollands drives the point of this passage home forcefully. He expounds,

Paul already dealt the possibility of an accusation of guilt being brought against the church for entering into another marriage relationship (Rom 6:7; 7:1-4). Satan will accuse Christ and the church that their union is not lawful. Should the call go out: “if anyone can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together in matrimony, let him now declare it, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace” he is read to cry out: “She is mine. She is already married.” It is into this awful scene that Paul confidently declares: “It is God who justifies!” The judge of the whole earth will accept there is a charge to answer, and Paul states why this is so in the next verse [i.e., we have died with Christ and have risen to new life]. Of course, if Satan cannot persuade believers that it was unlawful for Christ to take his people as his bride then he will find other means to charge them. The answer to all charges, whatever they may be, is: “Christ has died and is rise! Hallelujah!” (p. 287)

Whether you agree or disagree with his conclusions you will appreciate Holland’s respect for the Word of God and his desire to be faithful to the text. If you want to wrestle with a view different from yours which highly values the Word of God you shouldn’t ignore Holland. As a matter of fact, I would argue that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you have been. We all have cultural glasses which impact our reading of Scripture. Holland provides a necessary splash of water to the face of the slumbering evangelicalism–especially our infectious individualism. Bottom line: if you buy one commentary on Romans it should be this one.

Matt Sim Grace4Sinners

Unfailing Waters

This is a commentary of almost five hundred pages written by the Head of Biblical Research at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology; it is both Biblical and theological in its approach.
Two important and illuminating elements shape the thinking of this author as he moves through the chapters, firstly the fact that New Testament writings, including the epistles are thoroughly Jewish and steeped in the Old Testament. Holland both exposes and rejects the Hellenistic influences that have shaped much Biblical scholarship over the centuries. The second dominant idea that is fundamental is that the epistles were written primarily to churches, communities of God’s people rather than to individuals.
Hellenistic individualism has dominated so much in both the teaching and evangelism in which the churches have engaged and a re-reading of Paul in the light of these two matters means that this commentary brings many refreshing insights to the important doctrines unfolded as the gospel is presented to the church in Rome. Unfortunately many leaders and preachers read the New Testament through the lens of individualist ideas not only Hellenistic but heavily influenced by enlightenment thinking. This inevitably leads to all sorts of distortions and in these pages some of these are very helpfully pointed out. Many would say that the epistle to the Romans is all about salvation as justification and sanctification and employs forensic concepts as indeed reformation doctrine has done for centuries, following on and influenced as it is by the medieval church fathers.
This commentary shows that the forensic, language of the law court and of justification is but a part of the covenant faithfulness of God with not only mankind but the whole of His creation. Although Holland interacts with current scholarship ideas this does not make what he writes obscure or impractical, this is an illuminating book and all leaders and pastors will profit from the challenge to re-evaluate what God is about in His salvation history. Some will know of the controversy that has hotted up in these last fifteen years between those known as ‘the New Perspective’ scholars, writers and pastors and those who represent the familiar evangelical/reformed position.
Although Tom Holland cannot be regarded as belonging to either camp nevertheless his commentary moves the debate forward and adds to our understanding. It is really tremendously helpful to allow Old Testament themes and thought to shape and control what Paul is writing in his epistle. Themes like the Passover and what is called the ‘new’ exodus are fundamental and this writer is to be commended for the increase of understanding his writing brings.

Unfailing Waters

John K. Goodrich (Moody Bible Institute)

This commentary is as an extension of Holland’s earlier monograph, Contours of Pauline Theology (2004). As in his earlier work, what Holland does well, he does very well—namely, interpreting Paul’s letter in light of the LXX. On the other hand, implausible readings abound in the exegesis, as Holland forces Paul into a model of “Jewishness” that filters out any influence of non-Jewish thinking—as if a diaspora Jew like Paul could escape all forms of Hellenism. The author does not seem to be familiar with recent scholarly proposals to go “beyond the Judaism/Hellenism divide,” perhaps most famously endorsed by T. Engberg-Pedersen et al. We are therefore left with a reversion to the strictly Jewish conceptualization of Paul’s thinking popularized by Schweitzer. The liabilities of such an approach become most apparent when Holland suggests that, due to the apostle’s New Exodus paradigm, Paul’s doulos (“slave”) metaphor in Romans 6 depicts the believer as a free servant to God/righteousness, even though Paul also uses doulos both to portray unbelievers as slaves to sin and to contrast eleutheros (“free”) language. Thus, while the book will be useful to those seeking to enrich their understanding of Paul’s biblical roots, it must be engaged critically.

John K. Goodrich
Moody Bible Institute