Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

Favorite Commentaries: Hebrews and James


The unsigned document (may be more of a sermon than epistle) known as Hebrews is one of the most fascinating and controversial in the New Testament.  Readers either seem to love it or hate it with it’s high Christology, connections to Hellenistic Judaism (e.g., Philo), sacrificial and temple imagery–and its depiction of the life of faith as a journey or pilgrimage.  Some, including the famous German liberal church historian, Adolf von Harnack, thought the writer might be a woman while others have argued for the author of Luke-Acts as the author of Hebrews.

  • Thomas G. Long, Hebrews (Interpretation:  A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching) (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1997).  Long is a homiletician who was also trained as a biblical scholar, so he is well qualified to write a commentary for pastors.
  • Marie Isaacs, Reading Hebrews and James:  A Literary and Theological Commentary (Smyth & Helwys, 2002).  Excellent literary critical work.
  • Robert Jewett, Letter to Pilgrims:  A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Pilgrim Press, 1981).
  • Edgar V. McKnight and Christopher Church, Hebrews-James (Smyth & Helwys, 2004). McKnight pioneered the literary critical and reader response approaches to NT interpretation.
  • William L. Lane, Hebrews 1-8 (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 47a) (Thomas Nelson, 1991). William L. Lane, Hebrews 9-13 (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 47b) (Thomas Nelson, 1991).  Lane’s work is a must for the biblical scholar and the series format allows the less technical student to skip to the conclusions.
  • Alan C. Mitchell, Hebrews (Sacra Pagina) (Michael Glazier Books, 2007).  Best volume from a Catholic perspective; also addresses the history of Gentile Christians using the Book of Hebrews in an anti-Jewish fashion.


  • Edgar V. McKnight and Christopher Church, Hebrews-James (Smyth & Helwys, 2004).  Full disclosure: Chris Church and I are good friends, were next-door neighbors in seminary, were on the same church staff together in the 1980s and he was even in my wedding party.  So, I am probably biased(!), but I think his commentary on James is brilliant and even better than McKnight’s on Hebrews.
  • Peter H. David, The Epistle to James: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Text Commentary) (Eerdmans, 1982).
  • C. Freeman Sleeper, James (Abingdon New Testament Commentaries) (Abingdon Press, 1998).  A commentary on James written by a Christian ethicist also trained in New Testament? Why hasn’t someone thought of this sooner?  Great work.
  • Frances Taylor Gench, Hebrews and James (Westminster Bible Companion) (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1996). Gench’s work is good, better on James than on Hebrews.
  • Marie E. Isaacs, Reading Hebrews and James: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Smyth & Helwys Press, 2002).

September 27, 2010 - Posted by | Bible, Biblical interpretation, blog series, book reviews

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