The Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament is a newer series of solid, scholarly and evangelical commentaries available. I am pleased to provide a brief overview of the series through the eyes of Thomas Schreiner’s contribution on Galatians.
The ZECNT is truly a unique commentary series with its original structure and features. I believe all forthcoming commentary series will have to take it into consideration as they try to develop a comparable model. While being an exegetical commentary of the Greek text, those who are either not educated in Greek or who are loosely familiar with it will still find a lot here to benefit from. The final form of the ZECNT series “was refined over time by an editorial board who listened to pastors and teachers express what they wanted to see in a commentary series based on the Greek text (pg. 9).” I believe the editors of the ZECNT have lived up to the desires of pastors.
The ZECNT series has a 7-fold outline for each chapter. This review will show the 7-fold outline through the eyes of chapter 13 on Galatians 3:26-29.
First, the chapter starts out with setting the Literary Context. The context of each pericope is explained in one or more paragraphs. Following the explanation the pericope is placed within the larger context of the whole book.
Example – Following Paul’s argument in 3:1-25 concerning the nature of the law in relation to the promises of God, Paul now moves to show “that the law as pedagogue is now passed since all believers are now God’s sons and daughters in Christ through faith (pg. 253).” All believers, Gentiles included, are the promised sons of Abraham by virtue of being in Christ who is Himself the one true offspring of Abraham (3:16).
Second, following the literary context is the Main Idea. This section is self explanatory as it seeks to summarize the central message of each pericope in a few sentences.
Example – Schreiner states that the main idea of Galatians 3:26-29 “is that believers are the offspring of Abraham by virtue of their union with Christ Jesus (pg. 254).”
Third, after the main idea is the Translation & Graphical Layout. In my opinion this is by far the best feature of the ZECNT commentary series and one in which no other commentary series to my knowledge possesses. The translation of the text is presented in a block diagramming fashion. For those who know Greek and have done this in their exegesis classes you will readily realize the immediate value of this. This is a benefit to all who use these commentaries. This will help the expositor to see from the text itself what is being conveyed. This feature will allow one to see the natural outline of the text as it falls out of the grammar. Not only is the translation outlined but each line is given its grammatical function (ground, means, series, condition, etc). All of the block diagramming rules are followed in terms of showing how each clause relates to each other and the whole. Again, knowledge of the languages will help one get more out of this. NOTE: having all of this exegetical work done for you is not an excuse to not do the hard work for yourself. It should be seen as an aid and not a crutch. Something to check your work against and not to count as your own work.
Example – Schreiner lays out Galatians 3:26-29 as such:
26a assertion/basis For you are all sons of God
b sphere in Christ Jesus
c means through faith
27 basis (of 26a-c) For as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28a inference (from 27) There is neither Jew nor Greek;
b series there is neither slave nor free;
c series there is neither male or female.
d basis (of 28a-c) For you are all one in Christ Jesus
29a condition And if you belong to Christ, you are the offspring of Abraham,
b parallel heirs according to the promise
Fourth, once the translation and graphical outline have been established we move to the Structure of the passage. With the translation and diagram done the next step is to describe what we see the grammatical structure of the passage communicating. It summarizes and interprets the meaning of the different clauses within the pericope.
Example – The “for” in vs. 26 serves as the ground for 3:23-25. Verse 27 serves as the ground for vs. 26. Verse 28 explains what vs. 26-27 mean that there is no distinguishing between persons in Christ. Verse 28d grounds the previous part of vs. 28 and repeats vs. 26. Verse 29 serves as the climax to the pericope, those who are in Christ are the true offspring of Abraham and are part of Abraham’s family and as such are his heirs to his promises.
Fifth, moving from a more detailed look at the pericope, the writer focuses on how each passage fits into the overall flow of the book by placing it in its Exegetical Outline. The exegetical outline places each pericope within the larger context it is part of in the whole book. This is similar to the outline in the literary context but is narrower in focus.
Example – Schreiner designates Galatians 3:1-4:11 as the second (II) major movement in Galatians and titles it – Paul’s Gospel Defended from Experience and Scripture. The third (C) section in this second movement covers 3:15-4:11 and is titled – Argument from Salvation History: Priority of Abrahamic Covenant and Temporary Nature of Mosaic Covenant. Galatians 3:26-29 is the second (2) part of “C” and is labeled – Sons of God are Abraham’s offspring.
Sixth, being an exegetical commentary the bulk of each chapter is devoted to a verse by verse Explanation of the Text. For each verse the NIV translation is placed first in highlighted lettering followed by the Greek text in (parenthesis). Following this is the authors commentary on each verse in the same fashion most commentaries are structured.
Finally, each chapter is closed out with the Theology in Application section. While the application section is not unique to commentaries (cf. NIV Application Commentary), it is fairly unique for an exegetical commentary like the ZECNT.
Example – Schreiner points out that since all believers are part of the same family of God we are to live like one family. This is not to be blind to our differences that make us who we are. Rather, when it comes to the body of Christ we are all one in Christ and part of the promised family of Abraham. In response to feminist theology, Schreiner points out that the passage speaks to the fact that in God’s family we are all the same – that is in the context of salvation. This is not to say that our differences are meaningless like gender or ethnicity. These differences are real and are a part of who we are as believers. There is no hierarchy of children in God’s family as we are all one in Christ.
I am very excited about the new ZECNT series! I think it will serve the church and its pastors well.