Reflections on Cousar’s new Philippians/Philemon commentary

I am a pretty glass-is-half-full kind of guy, so I usually am able to spin a new book in a positive direction.  With this new commentary (WJK, 2009), I am having trouble coming up with reasons (or even a reason) why someone would buy it.

The first thing you will notice when picking it up is how thin it is – a slender 106 pages of text.  This is strange for a new commentary and a world that demands large technical and exhaustive resources.  What is more unusual is that last year WJK release Jerry Sumney’s commentary on Colossians (a short book than Philippians) which is over 3x longer than Cousar’s!  And Cousar’s also includes Philemon (though the actually commentary on Philemon is a mere 6 pages)!

As for the content of Cousar’s work, he focuses mostly on literary issues and standard exegetical questions.  As for interest and influences, he comes from a perspective appreciative of apocalyptic and cosmology, and when he does quote a scholar, he turns to Barth’s commentary on Philippians more often than anyone else.

What Cousar how been known for is a helpful theological discussion of the death and resurrection of Christ – thus, he has some interesting and useful things to say when you get to the Christ hymn in chapter 2 and also Phil. 3.9-10.

All things considered, I really don’t think this commentary will attract many readers.  It lacks length, depth, and the series doesn’t really have its own niche, so it is bound to just be ‘another commentary’ that a student consults for an exegesis paper.

If one is looking for a ‘short commentary’ for sermon prep or quick reference, I would prefer Gordon Fee’s shorter treatment in the IVP NT commentaries (the litle blue books).


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