When Doug Moo recommends something on Romans, I take note because he’s the Jedi-master of Romans.
Tom Holland. Romans: The Divine Marriage; A Biblical Theological Commentary. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011. 543 pp.
- Douglas J. Moo: “As the subtitle indicates, Tom Holland’s Romans is truly both biblical and theological, as the letter is set firmly in its unfolding canonical context. Holland shows how Romans contributes to our understanding of God’s covenant arrangement with humankind. The commentary digs deeply into current scholarship on the Old Testament roots of Paul’s teaching, yet presents its conclusions in accessible language.”
- Robert W. Yarbrough: “This vigorously argued commentary seeks to allow Old Testament themes and thought patterns, not misguided scholarly conventions, to control Romans’ message. . . . Scholars of Romans will be stimulated by interaction with this canonically alert, creative, and frequently contrarian exposition and synthesis of a Pauline classic.”
- Anthony C. Thiselton: “Tom Holland always remains alert to the influence and relevance of the Old Testament and emphasizes the impact of Paul’s thought upon the church as a community as well as on the individual as part of that community. Above all, Tom Holland deploys his scholarship to produce a very salient and practical commentary.”
Holland explains in the preface,
Why subtitle a commentary on Romans The Divine Marriage? 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. (p. ix)
We’ve lined up Guy Prentiss Waters to review the book for Themelios in an issue next year, so I’ll let him do the heavy lifting. Here are a few observations after spending less than two hours surveying the book:
- It’s very readable. It’s not technical (though it occasionally uses Greek without transliterating).
- Holland focuses on the new exodus theme and the corporate nature of the letter. I need to give this more thought, but I’m not persuaded that Romans is about “the church’s experience of God’s saving work as its focus rather than that of the individual Christian” (p. 310, emphasis added). I suspect that Holland develops this argument more fully in Contours of Pauline Theology.
- Contra John Piper, Doug Moo, Tom Schreiner, and many others, Holland thinks that Romans 9 “speaks about election for honor (privilege) and service rather than salvation” (p. 310, emphasis added). I’m not persuaded.
- The section on Rom 11:33–36 (which I wrote my second dissertation on) is typical for most Romans commentaries—not nearly penetrating enough. (A few months ago I revised my dissertation for Pickwick to publish in 2012: From Typology to Doxology: Paul’s Use of Isaiah and Job in Romans 11:34–35.)