What is Your Favorite Romans Commentary and Why?

I am working on a small bibliography project and I am curious: what is your favorite Romans commentary and why?

After some comments have been made, I might venture some of my own thoughts on recent Romans commentaries, but mostly I am interested in your thoughts.

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16 thoughts on “What is Your Favorite Romans Commentary and Why?

  1. I’ve rather enjoyed Doug Moo’s commentary, it seems complete and well suited for handling all the bits and pieces of data. Of course Barth’s commentary is good for a more theological perspective,

    As a note, I believe Stanley Porter just posted a few thoughts on a project he did where he survey nearly 100 commentaries on Romans and found four or five that were the best. Maybe another place to look.

  2. Though becoming a bit dated, I think Moo’s NICNT volume is great, contains many nuggets–small but significant insights–and manages to deal with the Greek text quite well (though it’s done in the footnotes). Schreiner’s BECNT is okay, and is especially useful since, as is the case in other BECNT volumes, he provides summaries before major sections which lay bare his understanding of context, basic flow of argument, and major theological implications. He also does well at summarizing the various views concerning “difficult” passages. I’ve also used Morris’ PNTC volume which I would rank closely behind Schreiner.

  3. I cannot choose just one, but in various levels I have my favorites:

    (1) Technical – Dunn’s commentary is in my opinion hard to beat. Though Jewett provides the most up-to-date bibliography, I think Dunn brings so much clarity to Paul’s detailed arguments and sees both the forest and the trees. Although he advances a NP position, his work is not hamstring by focusing there.

    (2) Pastoral/Theological Commentary – This is a toss-up between the more recent work from Katherine Grieb’s called “The Story of Romans,” and Luke Timothy Johnson’s “Reading Romans.” Johnson brings a lot from the Greco-Roman context that is missed by many who are simply not familiar with Epictetus or Plutarch, but in a way that is readable. Grieb makes Romans accessible to everyday people in a very interesting way.

    (3) Innovative – Again something of a toss-up between Thomas Tobin’s “Paul’s Rhetoric in its Context” and Stanley Stowers’s “A Rereading of Romans.” Tobin is interesting because he develops a very different way of approaching the whole structure of the book. Stowers is interesting because of his understanding of Diatribe and Greco-Roman moral philosophy as well as ancient letter forms.

    Personally, I find Moo’s commentary a largely overrated repetition of protestant theology that people like because it reinforces what they always thought Romans was about. If I had to add an ecumenical commentary to the list I really like Brenden Byrne’s commentary in the Sacra Pagina series as well. The bottom line for me is that one Romans just doesn’t cut it and we should all read those with whom we disagree in order to learn.

  4. It’s hard to name one! Definitely, Dunn’s commentary in the Word series for technical discussion, followed by Fitzmyer and Käsemann. But I also rate Brenden Byrne’s commentary, Peter Stuhlmacher’s small volume and Douglas Moo’s NICNT contribution.

  5. If I had to choose one, it would be Schreiner. I also really like and more often consult Hultgren’s new commentary; he keeps his comments relatively brief (though too brief at times) and his bibliography seems quite up-to-date.

  6. I consult Jewett, Dunn, Byrne, Moo and Matera. Between them I find most info I need. I find Jewett being most detailed, and Jewett’s insights into the socioeconomic situation of Rome and the Roman Empire are most helpful. Jewett is also good for checking out the usage of the Greek terms – very detailed. But of course Dunn is also good for that. Dunn’s theological exposition is of course superb. Byrne is useful for he is a top scholar and his commentary is easy to use, largely because it’s shorter and hence easy to navigate. I like Matera for similar reasons, and I like the way he traces the train of thought in each pericope. Moo is of course full of good stuff from a more traditional perspective. And as Stanley Porter says in his review, Moo’s focus on the language and the text is commendable.

    I have not listed N T Wright’s commentary in NIB and his Paul for Everyone. It is because I am very familiar with them already.

  7. As a pastor, Doug Moo is superb. He addresses all of the issues, exegetical and theological. Also, his material is excellent for preaching, or as we used to say in the south, “it will preach.”

  8. Nijay, I’m rather partial to Charles Talbert because of its good background stuff and very succinct and sane comments. I think Tom Schreiner’s is perhaps the best evangelical one before he renounced most of it in his Pauline Theology text book.

  9. Hi all. Thanks for the feedback. Moo has definitely won the favor of most folks. I like Dunn, but I know it appeals to NPP folks.

    John B. – I haven’t spent much time with Fitzmyer. I will do so at your recommendation.

    John G – thanks for reminding me about Hultgren. I own it but have not worked closely with it (aside from a cursory read to write a review).

    Mike B – I was wondering if Talbert would get a mention. I like it as well and he criticizes the NPP in helpful ways, I think.

    I am partial to Wright (NIB) and I also like Barrett. I greatly look forward to Gaventa’s contribution (NTL) as well as Howard Marshall (THNT).

    Much appreciation to all!

  10. The best Romans commentary I have read is Käsemann’s (Eng trans., Eerdmans 1980). Like his many one-off articles, this is a stimulating, challenging declaration. Käsemann always invites a thoughtful engagement and a push back. Unlike most of Käsemann’s other writings, the commentary is not a thematic summary but a sustained spooling out of Käsemann’s magisterial perspective on Paul.

    You learn what you think of Paul and of his Romans letter by reading the letter beside the commentary.

    You also learn why you think as you do because Käsemann lays out the grounds for why he has reached the conclusions he has reached. A quick example – there are many on virtually every page: at Ro 8:14, Käsemann rejects the translation ‘lead by the spirit’ and insists that the (only?) correct translation here is ‘driven by the spirit’ because the phrase “is taken from the vocabulary of the enthusiasts” with K referencing I Cor 12:2.

    You say you don’t agree with K on 8:14? Why not? Is he wrong about the vocabulary of the enthusiasts or the reference to it here? Is he wrong to direct you to I Cor 12:2?

    With Ernst Käsemann’s Romans, you get more than a gentle, reassuring explication or updating of a foundational, two thousand year old letter. With Käsemann you ride shotgun to a guy who knows the track and takes the curves at speed.

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