The Message of James: The Commentaries to Buy

One more day on James stuff, but this day doesn’t deal with the text. At least not directly. I want to suggest a few commentaries that preachers, seminarians, or interested laypeople should take note of and, in my opinion, consider buying as an investment in their biblical study.

Here are four.

  • Moo, Douglas. The Letter of James. Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.
  • Hartin, Patrick. James. Sacra Pagina. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2003.
  • Laws, Sophie. Epistle of James. Black‚Äôs New Testament commentaries. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993.
  • Davids, Peter. James. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993.

Let me attempt to shed some light on these commentaries. If you’re buying only one, I recommend Doug Moo’s. It is the most solidly evangelical and faithful to a conservative hermeneutic. Moo references the Greek text but in a way that non-Greek readers could follow with profit. He is a keen exegete and possesses a good idea for thematic composition. Patrick Hartin is a Catholic scholar. His inclusion on my list might surprise you, but he is a very sound interpreter of the Bible. If you can dismiss some of the liberal trappings of his work, then you will benefit from his surprisingly straightforward interpretation of the text. He interacts nicely with the Greek, so if that’s your bag, you’ll benefit. Sophie Laws I know very little about, but I found her commentary insightful. She was one of the few I read who picked up a theme similar to mine. Peter Davids is also basically unknown to me, though his work is critical and helpful. Together, these four commentaries would provide the preacher of James with a very solid base from which to cull insights and weigh ideas.

As I noted above, if you’re buying only one, buy Moo’s; if you’re buying two, get Hartin’s. Ralph Martin also has a solid commentary. There you go–that’s a start toward figuring out this fun and potent little letter.

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One response to “The Message of James: The Commentaries to Buy

  1. Benjamin

    Hey Owen,

    I appreciate the list. Douglas Moo is my favorite commentary writer- his book on Romans was hugely influential for me, and I used both it and his James commentary to teach Sunday School classes (on Romans and James, of course!) before I came to Southern.

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