Romans

Article excerpt

Romans. By Robert H. Mounce. The New American Commentary 27. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995, 301 pp., $27.99; Romans: God's Good News for the World. By John Stott. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1994, 432 pp., $19.99.

Following in the wake of two expansive and technical two-volume commentaries (by Cranfield and Dunn), several one-volume treatments of Romans are emerging (besides the two covered in this review, see most importantly J. Fitzmyer's submission in the AB series [Doubleday] and the NICNT [Eerdmans] volume by D. Moo). Able, experienced and widely-known interpreters, Mounce and Stott have produced commentaries on Romans that eschew most of the highly technical discussions in order to focus on the theological and applicational significance of Paul's most important epistle. Though Mounce writes within the space guidelines imposed by the New American Commentary series, his work on Romans is even shorter than what readers might expect. The commentary section itself comprises only 225 pages, versus, for example, 369 pages for the volume on Galatians in the same series. This is perplexing, given the crucial nature of this pivotal letter.

The brief introductory section includes the standard items: authorship, destination, date and place of origin, occasion and purpose, the original form of the letter, and an overview of the themes of the letter. No surprises surface. That is, none unless one wishes to keep abreast of one of the most volatile discussions among contemporary Pauline scholars: Was the rabbinic Judaism of Paul's day characterized by legalismthe attempt to earn or merit salvation through keeping the law? Or was it essentially a more benign "covenantal nomism" (the description coined by E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism)-a religion of obedience to God's grace in establishing a covenant with Israel? A discussion of this debate is beyond the scope of this review, but it strikes me as strange that so crucial a concern is never mentioned either in the introduction or in the potentially relevant texts in Romans. The introductory pages also lack any bibliography, merely citing a list of abbreviations. Several indexes conclude the book.

The format of the Mounce volume includes an outline of each section, the NIV text of the section, and the author's verse-by-verse analysis. Technical matters, particularly those dealing with the Greek text, occur in footnotes. The envisioned readers are pastors who require practical help to prepare their weekly sermons. Mounce's goal is to help pastors see the relevance of what Paul has written.

Mounce interacts with many key works on Romans, and the footnotes amply document his reading. As he admits in the preface, his favorite commentators are Cranfield, Morris, Dunn, Moo and Fitzmyer.

The strength of Mounce's work lies in its clarity and conciseness. Readers can rely on his conclusions and can see them simply and clearly expressed. Yet brevity often comes at the expense of sufficient explanation and defense. For example, in explaining 1:4 Mounce uses three phrases interchangeably: "designated Son of God," "declared to be Son of God," and "installed as Son of God" (pp. 61-62). "Declare" and "designate" convey a different meaning than "install." Did the resurrection declare Jesus to be divine or did the resurrection install Jesus in the position of Son of God? Mounce provides no defense of his view (which seems to be the former). We need better analysis of the verb horizo.

What about Mounce's understanding of some other texts? A small sampling must suffice. "Righteousness" (1:16-17) describes humans' righteous status resulting from God's activity of justification (with Cranfield), though it includes, as well, components of God's righteous character and his action of making people righteous. "Homosexuality, as a perversion of God's intended relationship between man and woman, carries its own destructive penalty" (on 1:26-27; p. …