Book Review: James and Jude (Baker Academic)

Many thanks to Baker Academic for providing this free review copy

John Painter and David deSilva contribute to the one of the latest additions to the Paideia Commentary Series. Painter, who wrote the James portion, has written numerous books and articles on the person of James and has also on the Johannine epistles in the Sacra Pagina series. DeSilva has written numerous publications covering the New Testament and other Second Temple Judaism literature.

Goals of the Series

The Paideia Commentary Series is a somewhat newer series that tries that has three goals:

  1. Give contemporary students a basic grounding in academic New Testament studies by guiding their engagement with the New Testament texts
  2. Reflect the facts that the texts of the New Testament are literary units shaped by the educational categories of ancient writers and readers
  3. To form the theological convictions and moral habits of the individual authors

Both Paint and deSilva do a great job of bringing their expertise of the subject to a level that is easy for the beginning student to take in. This is not at all to say that the commentary is “fluffy” or “easy” but it is to say that it is clear and articulate on the issues. Instead of assuming one’s knowledge of “scholarly” terms these are often times defined and described showing the importance of different ideas. Another excellent feature is the use of “mini excursuses” that describe in detail particular ideas. These are excerpted out in an easy to read form that does not take away from the flow of the commentary itself. See image below

Methodology

Each author covers the basics that most commentaries cover (authorship, date, genre, theology etc.) in a compact form that is easy to digest. Painter says that even though there is much connection with early Jesus sayings it does not seem that James, Jesus’ half-brother, did not actually write the letter but is rather a pseudonymous letter written after his death. deSilva posits that the letter of Jude does not “fit characteristics associated with postapostolic writings” and is presumably written by Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, in the latter stage of his life (181–182).

Strengths

One of the strengths of the Paideia series is that it is not a “verse by verse” commentary but rather analyzes larger units together. This serves two useful purposes: 1) it allows the student to easily see the overview and complete message of each book 2) allows the authors to deal more easily with the final literary composition of each book. I found this approach to be well suited for the purpose of the commentary. By doing this it allows the authors to give adequate space to each literary unit and not have to become superficial in its analysis by going verse by verse in a shorter commentary.

Conclusion

Overall, I would highly recommend this commentary to both students and pastors. Any student or pastor that is beginning their study in either one of these books would be well advised to read through this commentary at the start of their study to be able to adequately grasp the books as a whole. The Paideia series is a welcome addition to the plethora of commentary sets out there that helpfully analyzes not only the cultural background and literary devices used but also the themes and theology of each book of the New Testament.

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