A Book Review from Books At a Glance
by Mark Baker
Thomas Schreiner’s Handbook on Acts and Paul’s Letters is the inaugural volume of the Handbooks on the New Testament series published by Baker Academic and edited by Benjamin Gladd. These handbooks were conceived to bridge the gap between an introduction and a commentary. Introductions provide a 40,000-foot overview while commentaries include detailed verse-by-verse exposition. If you want more detail than a New Testament introduction but don’t want to get bogged down with the minutiae of a commentary, then this handbook is for you.
The handbook contains 14 chapters—a chapter devoted to each of Paul’s letters and one additional chapter for Acts. Each chapter begins with a brief introductory section that covers authorship and date as well as several suggestions for the organization of the book. Each chapter also ends with a detailed bibliography for further reading. The rest of the content is simply a section-by-section overview.
Schreiner’s mature biblical scholarship shines through on every page. He has a strong grasp of all the major issues in each book, and he clearly lays out his interpretation of each issue in a concise manner. He also wisely avoids an overly dogmatic stance when the interpretation proves especially difficult. Readers who are unfamiliar with the “handbook” genre may be surprised at first to find the complete absence of footnotes or endnotes. But the purpose of such a work is not to engage with secondary literature, but rather to focus on a survey of the biblical text itself.
The key for getting the most benefit from this handbook is knowing when and how to use it. Teachers and preachers will benefit from the excellent section-by-section commentary on each book. If a preacher is preparing a sermon series on Ephesians, he would benefit greatly from reading the corresponding chapter in this handbook before moving into commentaries for his week-by-week exposition. The handbook would also serve as a great supplement to daily Bible reading for those who want to go deeper into interpretation. Students who want easy access into secondary sources might feel frustrated by the lack of footnotes, and those interested in point/counterpoint overviews will find the description of diverse viewpoints lacking. Nevertheless, these points are not shortcomings of the purposes of the handbook, they are simply outside the purview of the genre.
Overall, the Handbook on Acts and Paul’s Letters represents a treasure trove of concise insight from one of evangelicalism’s greatest contemporary scholars.
Mark Baker (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is an elder at Christ Church and Dean of Faculty at Paideia Academy, both in Knoxville, TN.
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HANDBOOK ON ACTS AND PAUL'S LETTERS, by Thomas R. Schreiner