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

Nate Dawson

Tom Holland’s Romans is biblical and devotional in the best sense of those terms. His striking emphasis on the theological themes of the Old Testament is uncommon among New Testament specialists. Although New Testament scholars emphasize the history and world(s) of the first century, Holland focuses on theology within the context of Scripture. Leaving room for preachers and teachers to apply Paul’s insight to their community today, Holland’s Romans will help Christians enter into deeper communion with God and one another. This work is commendable not only for preachers wanting to offer insights into Paul’s theology, it nicely disrupts current fads in Pauline scholarship. Romans: The Divine Marriage is a ‘true’ biblical theology influenced primarily by the witness of the Old Testament narrative, thankfully, without all the ‘scholarly historic fiction’ often produced by modern biblical scholars. All should ‘take and read’ in order to better understand the Bible’s narrative from Paul’s ‘perspective.’
Nate Dawson

Nate Dawson

Tom Holland’s Romans is biblical and devotional in the best sense of those terms. His striking emphasis on the theological themes of the Old Testament is uncommon among New Testament specialists. Although New Testament scholars emphasize the history and world(s) of the first century, Holland focuses on theology within the context of Scripture. Leaving room for preachers and teachers to apply Paul’s insight to their community today, Holland’s Romans will help Christians enter into deeper communion with God and one another. This work is commendable not only for preachers wanting to offer insights into Paul’s theology, it nicely disrupts current fads in Pauline scholarship. Romans: The Divine Marriage is a ‘true’ biblical theology influenced primarily by the witness of the Old Testament narrative, thankfully, without all the ‘scholarly historic fiction’ often produced by modern biblical scholars. All should ‘take and read’ in order to better understand the Bible’s narrative from Paul’s ‘perspective.’
Nate Dawson

Chris Hanna

Tom Holland has once again passionately argued for an alternative reading of the New Testament in his latest contribution to biblical studies, “Romans: The Divine Marriage.” Picking up where he left off in his earlier work, “Contours of Pauline Theology,” Holland continues his relentless demand that Paul must be read through an Old Testament lens. “Only when we have exhausted the Old Testament’s theology,” says Holland, “should we look at the possibility that the apostle was writing outside of the thought-patterns of his own upbringing.”

This bold, fresh approach to New Testament studies is a powerful corrective to the many eclectic readings that have been passed off as sound biblical scholarship for decades. Anyone reading “Romans” will immediately sense and appreciate Holland’s clear, straightforward approach to biblical studies.

“Romans: The Divine Marriage,” should be required reading for anyone interested in developing a rich understanding of the New Testament’s message of the grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Chris Hanna

Zerach Patterson

Holland takes us into the heart of Paul’s writings’! “‘What is the heart?” you might ask’. ‘In a world divided by what authors of the Scriptures meant in certain passages,’ ‘it is imperative we find the driving force behind the writer’s words’! ‘Other than the Jesus, perhaps more, Paul is the most quoted teacher in Christianity to this day. Yet where did Paul receive his theology? Holland shows us Paul stays true to the core message in the Old Testament.’ ‘Paul’s message was derived from the long history of prophets,’ ‘leaders and teachers.’ ‘For instance the Apostle brings up the justification of David and of Abraham.’ ‘Holland takes us back into the setting in which these two men received their justification.’ ‘David’s being the forgiveness of his personal sins and Abraham’s having a corporate dimension. The church today has a personal understanding of justification. It is important we find personal justification, but it is of more importance that we focus on corporate justification. A justification that the Apostle Paul and Tom Holland point eagerly to.

Thanks to Holland I am beginning to understand Paul’s great desire to see the church live in unity. Discovering what lengths the Apostle went to urge these first Christians to solidarity, and peace, and love for their new found brothers and sisters has brought more clarity to my understanding of Paul’s writings. The Jews who were part the early church found themselves having meals and conversations with people they were prohibited from having contact with earlier. These people “the Gentiles” are now equal according to Paul and other first followers of the resurrected Christ. I now understand Romans is an insistence of this solidarity between these two and other groups.

What is so brilliant about Holland’s work is it seems he has no desire to insert his opinion on certain subjects? This is hard to grasp in our highly individualistic western culture. It seems Holland lines his beliefs to which he thinks Paul and other authors of the scriptures taught. Thanks to his adhering to scholarly integrity I can recommend “Romans: the Divine Marriage” to leaders and teachers searching for solidarity in their own churches. Due to his uncanny ability to relate to the layman I recommend it to all. Holland combines scholarship with heart!

Zerach Patterson

David Curtis

Tom Holland’s Divine Marriage is a must-have commentary for anyone seriously interested in understanding Paul’s letter to the Romans. Tom offers a truly fresh and invigorating perspective that will task your gray matter and challenge your paradigm. His illumination of the corporate mind set i.e. that Romans was not written to an individual but to a body of believers, is absolutely pivotal if we are to enjoy success in understanding this complex theological masterpiece. Tom recognizes Paul’s commitment to his Jewish roots and does not fall prey to a westernized Greek worldview. Therefore, he will challenge your non-Hebraic thinking on the subjects such as sin, flesh and slavery. I highly recommend this seminal verse-by-verse commentary because it is easy to read, yet incredibly eye-opening both academically and devotionally. Your view of Romans will never be the same!

David B. Curtis

Pete Killingley

Tom Holland’s Divine Marriage continues in the same vein as his previous work Contours of Pauline Theology setting out from the opening page his argument that the book of Romans is ultimately not about each individual’s justification, but the Gentiles’ inclusion, corporately, into the people of God. He picks up on many of the themes from Contours, such as Paul’s understanding of δουλος, the concept of the firstborn, and his use of σαρχ.

The overarching theme, that Paul did not abandon his Jewish roots with a Greek way of thinking, sheds new light on a number of passages that can be difficult to understand, as well as helping the reader to view chapters 9 to 11 not as an anomaly to Paul’s argument, but integral to his understanding of the new people of God created by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The corporate mindset that comes from seeing Paul’s writings as Jewish (as opposed to the individualism that began with Hellenism and has exploded since the time of the Enlightenment) is a welcome refresher to an individualistic church where people are so often told what Jesus can do for them individually, but not where Jesus puts them corporately. I have found that since reading what Holland has to say, that my perspective on the New Testament has been much more healthy in that respect!

But this commentary is not only useful academically or in our desire to better understand the context of Paul’s writings – it is wonderfully uplifting to read for the soul! The chapter on Romans 8 is particularly enjoyable to read, and you get the impression that his pen flowed effortlessly as he joined with Paul in celebrating some of the great truths of the Gospel and our redemption. When we read glorious passages of the Bible such as this, familiarity can sometimes dull the effect of these passages on our souls – Holland’s enthusiasm for what Paul is saying is catching and glorifies God!!

All-in-all, this is a good and helpful commentary for those planning to read through the book of Romans. To read it involves changing your mindset from the prevailing evangelical culture, and seeing Paul’s writing through an unfamiliar lens. As such it should be read slowly, allowing sometimes unfamiliar ideas and concepts to sink in. Most importantly, however, whether slowly or quickly, it must be read by anyone who wishes to get to grips with the message of Romans and who wishes to grow in their love for Jesus Christ the Saviour!!

Pete Killingley

Dunn

If there is one book that you should read and have in your library, this Romans commentary is the one. It is a massively important work for all who love the Lord Jesus Christ. Holland’s labour of love brings forth the rich Jewish theology and corporate worldview of the Apostle Paul that is so often overlooked by our individualistic Western presuppositions. Seeing Romans afresh through the lens of the Apostle’s Jewish mindset is both engaging and enlightening. Holland delves into the text with all the integrity and acumen of a true biblical scholar, seeking at every turn to discover the root context of the corporate Hebrew understanding. He shows that Yahweh has covenanted himself in marriage, through Jesus Christ, to his redeemed people, thus fulfilling the entire Messianic hope of the Old Testament scriptures. The salvation accomplished by Jesus is shown to be the grand eschatological fulfillment of all that Israel’s Passover and Exodus redemption prefigured. This commentary is thoughtfully written at a level for all Christians to enjoy and is both warmly pastoral and deeply instructive. This work is a gift of love to the Church of Jesus Christ. May the Lord add his heavenly blessing upon it for the edification of the new covenant community.

Hamer

Tom Holland in his Romans commentary interacts with the controversial teaching of the New Perspective theologians – and much more besides.

But rather than retreat into Reformed formulations, he engages with the latest views, re-evaluates traditional positions, and breathes new life into Reformed teachings without repudiating them. For example (writing as a self-styled biblical, rather than systematic, theologian) he sees that the “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness” of Genesis 15:6 has been pressed too readily into service by the Reformers as a text that teaches imputed righteousness – and yet Holland does not reject that doctrine.

Furthermore he brings clarity to the complex area of covenantal nomism. He agrees with the New Perspective theologians that Paul, along with his compatriots, rejoiced in the law – indeed Paul considered himself blameless (Philippians 3:6); but this was only before his conversion, not afterwards, when he came to see that the law in fact condemned all men and women before God (Romans 4:15).

In addition Holland brings insights of his own – he sees that in many passages where Paul speaks of the “body” he means a body of people. He gives detailed linguistic arguments for this perspective, and shows that the “body of sin” is fallen mankind who entered into a covenant with Sin (Satan) via their federal head Adam. This body is the counterpart to the “body of Christ” – the church. Although this perspective is not unique to Holland he applies it more consistently in his exegesis than others. At first, if you are not familiar with this concept, it can seem strange – but if you stay with it there is a reward as light is cast on some verses that have always been considered to be ‘difficult’.

For me the climax of his commentary is his exposition of chapters 6 & 7. Holland sees that Paul is telling us that Christ died in the place of the bride of Satan (the body of Sin) to break the legitimate authority the law gives a husband. This explains Paul’s comments at the centre of these two chapters where he reminds us that the death of a spouse ends a marriage. We can now see it is the death of Christ that releases the elect from her former ‘husband’ for her to become Christ’s bride and his body. This, to my mind, is a convincing exegesis – and reveals the cosmic implications of Christ’s death and the “Divine Marriage” in a new and exciting way.

So, if you want a quiet read to reassure yourself that there is nothing new to learn other than what the great Reformers taught – this commentary is not for you.

But, if you want a stimulating, thought provoking, mind stretching, Christ-exalting journey through Romans that interacts with recent scholarship and yet respects the Reformers’ teaching – I think you will be hard pushed to find a commentary to best this one.

If there is intellectual integrity in the evangelical world, I am convinced this reading of Romans will win the day eventually.

Peter Wilkinson

Romans: The Divine Marriage – Dr Tom Holland

This commentary follows Dr Holland’s striking development of the ‘new exodus’ motif as a key background concept to understanding Paul in ‘Contours of Pauline Theology’. The first book provided some astonishing new ways of reading Paul, and brought out the significance of the ‘new exodus’ as a paradigm for understanding the New Testament. The Romans commentary pursues the new exodus motif in further detail.

The new exodus exploration opens up Romans in some fresh ways, not least the revisiting of Romans 3:20ff, where the key term hilasterionis provided with new exodus significance, drawing especially on Ezekiel’s use of the term in the eschatological temple’s celebration of Passover in Ezekiel 45. Dr Holland also introduces us to the influence of Ezekiel’s new exodus themes more widely in Paul.

The new exodus line of thinking leads to a rigorously corporate interpretation of passages in Romans which have conventionally been interpreted as individualistic. So the corporate emphasis of Romans 5 (full of echoes of return from exile, a key new exodus theme), continues into Romans 6-8, with surprising results. A major challenge to conventional interpretation is the locating of the word flesh within a covenantal, and therefore corporate framework. Dr Holland is careful to explore the various nuances of the meaning of the word within the biblical corpus, but the result is a much more satisfying connection of the word with its OT roots, and a shift from the usual ontological understanding with its myriad complexities and psychological introspectiveness.

The commentary develops a crucial distinction in the way justification is used in Romans 4, between its applications to Abraham and David. Through this distinction, Dr Holland is able to build on the New Perspective understanding of the term as developed by Tom Wright (in relation to Abraham), and the way the Reformers used the word (in relation to David). Dr Holland develops an argument for reinforcing the view that justification is not merely a declaration of righteousness, as asserted by the New Perspective, but includes within its semantic domain the Reformation ideas of forensic justification and being brought into a covenant relationship with God. He then incorporates the use of justification language in Israel’s ‘new exodus’ restoration from exile, relating this to the key ‘justification’ section of Romans, chapter 5.

The excursuses on righteousness, the flesh and justification are treasure troves in themselves, and the commentary is bristling with insights. The book dialogues with contemporary theological discussion, and takes on board the best results of these, whilst staunchly defending the faith of the Reformers, and presenting strong arguments for their position. Along the way, Dr Holland points out what he takes to be some key shortcomings of New Perspective positions. All agree that Holland has moved the debate on Paul decisively forwards and that a significant counter-proposal to the proponents of the New Perspective on Paul has been launched.

Above all, the commentary brings Romans alive in fresh ways, and as with ‘Contours’, drives us back to the biblical text armed with fresh insights and equipped with fresh tools for mining the gold from this letter, which proves its worth for the 21st century as for all preceding ages. Dr Holland illustrates well the maxim of the pilgrim fathers in relation to Romans: ‘The Lord has more truth yet to break forth out of his holy Word.’