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Romans. By Jack Cottrell. College Press NIV Commentary. 2 vols. Joplin: College Press, 1996, 1998, vol. 1: 525 pp., $28.99; vol. 2: 499 pp., $28.99.

This two-volume commentary belongs to the College Press NIV Commentary series. College Press is the publishing house for the Independent Christian churches and the Non-instrumental Churches of Christ. Though some eight or more volumes have been released in this series, it does not seem to have as yet circulated widely. Jack Cottrell is Professor of Theology at Cincinnati Christian Seminary. He has published a number of works with such varied titles as God the Creator, God the Redeemer, God the Ruler, Baptism, and Feminism in the Bible, all published by College Press.

Cottrell's Romans commentary is formidable. Volume 1 contains a 10-page bibliography, a 34-page introduction, a 4-page outline of Romans 1-8, and nearly 500 pages of commentary on Romans 1-8. Volume 2 contains an additional 7-page bibliography, a 4-page outline of Romans 9-16, and 475 pages of commentary on Romans 9-16. Neither volume contains any indexes.

The commentary has many strong points. For one, it is very thorough. Cottrell gives a full exposition of the text. He usually covers all major viewpoints on any issue of interpretation, listing representative scholars for each view and never failing to defend his own. Other commentators are generally cited in parentheses beside their viewpoints. For each major block of Scripture, the commentary begins with a helpful general introduction that sets forth the main issues. It then proceeds to a verse-by-- verse exposition. Although this creates some redundancy, it also provides great clarity. Clarity is a strong point of Cottrell, who writes on a level that an educated layperson should be able to understand.

Since Cottrell is a theologian and not a Neutestamentler, his emphasis is more on the theology of Romans than the historical context of the epistle. He is aligned more with those who see Romans as Paul's presentation of his personal theology than with those who see the epistle as a primarily "situational" letter. He chooses not to deal with such questions as whether Romans 16 might be a fragment of a letter to Ephesus, and he does not treat the major text-critical problem of the Roman doxologies. His slighting the historical setting of the epistle sometimes leads to questionable conclusions, such as his argument that law in Romans usually means law in general and not specifically the Mosaic law.

Cottrell's basic orientation is Arminian. Given this, much of his argument is predictable. He prefers to speak of "original grace" rather than "original sin. …