Lynn H. Cohick, The Story of God Bible Commentary: Philippians (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013).
The Story of God Bible Commentary Series is being created in order to “explain each passage of the Bible in light of the Bible’s grand story.” The volumes are written by confessional, Evangelical scholars who seek to read Scripture in connection to the regula fidei or “Rule of Faith”. This means reading the Bible with Jesus Christ as the center while emphasizing major themes such as “creation and fall, covenant and redemption, law and prophets, and especially God’s charge to humans as his image-bearers into rule under God.” God as King and God’s Kingdom as made known in Christ is understood to be the theme which connects the canon (p. xiii).
The commentators are asked to keep this in mind as they exegete each book of the Bible and each passage is to “examined from three angles”, namely (1) “Listen to the Story”; (2) “Explain the Story”; and (3) “Live the Story”. In other words, read the text, exegete the text, apply the text. The volume that I received courtesy of Zondervan is Lynn H. Cohick’s treatment of The Epistle to the Philippians.
The Introduction keeps things simple. Cohick begins by asking what we’d lose “…if Philippians was absent from our New Testament”, a good question indeed (p. 1)! She provides some overarching insights (pp. 1-4) prior to discussing topics common to commentaries: why was it written? by whom? from where? to whom? about what? In keeping with the aim of this series Cohick isn’t extensive here, but provides short answers to these questions. Her unique contributions shows on pp. 18-21 where she discusses the Imperial Cult in Philippi and the social and political realities of the city. She is an expert in these areas of research, but even here we are talking about several paragraphs and no more.
The commentary then proceeds as I mentioned: Listen, Explain, Live. The idea is to read the text as Scripture. Cohick weaves what you’d expect from a commentary—historical setting, literary context, grammar and syntax—with things you may not, e.g., after discussing the Kenosis of 2:6-11 she shares the story of Henri Nouwen, who exemplifies what it means to be like Christ in his self-emptying (pp. 130-131). Whereas some commentaries aim to be “historical-grammatical” and others “theological” it seems that Cohick has chosen to be both/and, which fits this series’ agenda. Greek words are placed transliterated, so you don’t need to be able to read the original language to follow the commentary. I find that this volume does a good job of striking a balance between being informative and being readable, which isn’t an easy thing to do.
The book is xiv + 262 pages long. It includes Scripture and Apocrypha, Subject, and Author Indexes in the back. I find that this book will be fitting for the following readers: someone looking for insightful commentary to go along with their personal reading of Scripture who may not want to have to wade through a dense commentary; a pastor looking for help with sermon preparation; a small group leader willing to give a few months to a lay-level in-depth study of the epistle. That said, there is no doubt that seminary students, professors, and other scholarly types can and will benefit from this volume.
This book was received from Zondervan in exchange for a bias-free review.