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The Acts of the Apostles (A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary) Published in 1997, Ben Witherington s The Acts of the Apostles A Socio Rhetorical Commentary is a comprehensive and erudite analysis of the Book of Acts For those unfamiliar with the author, Witherington is a leading Contemporary New Testament scholar The following comments are offered for readers who are considering a purchase of this text.While I have mixed thoughts on this text, I am a fan of Witherington and have enjoyed other works of his such as the Jesus Quest While Witherington is often described as an evangelical scholar, I would place his work with well within the mainstream of New Testament scholarship In general, I have few qualms with Witherington s exegesis, and, the points of disagreement I do have are relatively modest For instance, I think he understates the arguments for an earlier dating of Acts, and, I think his interpretation of scripture, is on occasion, overly influenced by the contemporary culture On this latter point, in my opinion, Witherington, like other commentators, is sometimes guilty of overly interpreting scripture through the lens of contemporary Western socio political views e.g individualism and private property , as in the case of the Ananias and Sapphria incident These comments aside, Witherington has rightfully come to be recognized as a leading New Testament scholar.My primary criticisms are in the areas of structure and presentation that is, the author publisher attempts to put too much material into the text First, physical size, the field of New Testament studies has seen a proliferation of massive tomes, 600, 700, 800 and pages in length see some works by Wright and Brown At almost 900 pages the current work is difficult to use, heavy and thick it is awkward to hold while sitting, and, in soft cover form it does not lend itself to easy use at a desk Second, and related to the previous point, the commentary includes numerous multi page capsules asides from the primary discussion And, while these digressions are interesting they make a long commentary too long Third, the text of Acts is not included, which can cause the reader to needlessly go back and forth between texts In my opinion the present material would be much manageable as a 2 volume set, and, as such would likely find a larger readership.Overall, Witherington is a first rate scholar and his work deserves a broad audience In its current form, however, this text is likely to be of interest to only a select group of readers As a side note, both Reformed Theological Seminary and Covenant Theological Seminary have free audio lectures on the Book of Acts from a similar evangelical perspective available through itunes u. Without a doubt, the finest work on Acts to date I am just winding up a series in Acts, it ll be 30 some parts, and in the process of preparing these sermons over the last 2 3 of the year I have read and discarded commentaries on Acts than one could imagine, and by some fine authors But no one does what Witherington does, in bringing together the best of existing research and commentary work on Acts, weeding through and synthesizing the narrative material and earlier commentaries thereon into a beautiful and cohesive whole DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY OR TIME ON ANYTHING LESS THAN THIS BOOK Witherington succeeds in really getting to the core of Luke as a believer, as a chronicler of the early Church movement Witherington digs deep into historical background and the issues that Paul, Peter, Barnabas, early church et al., are dealing with, in a way that makes passages and texts long cloudy and mysterious, finally clear and lucid e.g., stuff on the holy spirit, and 2nd baptisms underlying rationale for the direction and motivation of Paul s 3 4 missionary journeys, etc The end result being that if you stick with this as a preacher of the Gospel you will do a tremendous service to your congregation, bringing first rate, deeply abiding, Gospel rich encouragement, knowledge, and challenge to your people.Now as to the criticisms I ve seen listed in the reviews section not to be too disparaging, but they are weak criticisms, wielded I think by the intellectually tired or just lazy The text is certainly thick 840pgs , and for that reason perhaps intimidating But it is highly readable, and if you find the Gospel and the Church and Jesus at all interesting, then it is nothing short of riveting stuff like your wife is calling you 3 times to dinner for your inability to put it down goodness I would also add that the crossover material, his dealing with issues that crop up in Corinthians and Romans, is a beautiful bonus for understanding and preaching many of the other epistles By the end of this book you ll find yourself not only grateful to God for the work Witherington has done, but a little disappointed frankly in most of the rest of your library i.e., Witherington raises the bar in every way, not just on Acts but on every book If every great Church scholar we had were simply tasked with committing themselves thoroughly to one book of the Bible and doing it the way Witherington has, our libraries would all be far smaller and, paradoxically, complete Well done Witherington P.S., oh, and if you re a Reformed guy, worried that Witherington being not Reformed affects the handling of this book, fear not Witherington is so faithful to the exposition of the narrative scope of Acts that systematics never enters into the game I love that Witherington exercised such professional restraint and grace. This Groundbreaking Commentary Is The First To Provide A Detailed Social And Rhetorical Analysis Of The Book Of Acts At The Same Time It Gives Detailed Attention To Major Theological And Historical Issues Arrived on time and as described. The Acts of the Apostles, A Socio Rhetorical Commentary by the distinguished and prolific professor, Ben Witherington III may be one of the most readable Bible commentaries I have found For that and several other reasons, it may be the very best commentary for any reader who approaches the Christian scriptures as literature rather than as Gospel.The author s subtitle emphasizes the fact that unlike so many other commentaries, such as the superior volumes from Luke Timothy Johnson Sacra Pagina series and Joseph Fitzmyer Anchor Bible series as well as Pastoral aids such as the Robert W Wall contribution on Acts in The New Interpreter s Bible , this volume is far less dedicated to linguistic studies or theological interpretation One symptom of this emphasis is that the book does NOT include either the author s own translation of the text, or anyone else s translation You need a copy of the Bible open to Acts as you read Witheringtons book This is especially true since much of Witheringtons text is a verse by verse commentary on the text But, unlike Johnson, Fitzmyer, and others, the text flows in one continuous narrative rather than being broken up into different sections on interpretation , exegesis , and commentary The other side of the coin is that unlike Robert Tannehill s widely quoted The Narrative Unity of Luke Acts , Witherington deals with the text from beginning to end, rather than dealing with topics, with common material taken from different parts of the text, making it a difficult resource when one is studying the text chapter by chapter.In addition to these organizational aspects, Witherington s text is simply better written than many commentaries, and therefore, it yields its insights far readily than those texts weighed down with references to every scholarly work on Acts since Eusebius That is not to say there are no scholarly references It s just that Witherington integrates them into his writing in a far smoother manner.It also helps in that Witherington is dealing with his subject s Luke writing style and social and historical context This adds to the interest to a lay reader To highlight this emphasis, Witherington often digresses into historical asides to aid in understanding the context Witherington also discusses certain aspects in depth that other commentators may ignore or pass over with the briefest comment One example is the occurrence of the we passages which pop up in parts of the narration of Paul s missionary journeys These have no theological or linguistic significance, but they are fascinating evidence for the fact that either author Luke accompanied Paul on some of his trips or Luke was copying material verbatim from another travel companion s journals.Overall, Witherington s works are a real breath of fresh air when compared to many other Biblical commentary writers I have seen other commentaries on Acts and some Hebrew scriptures which are simply one scholarly reference piled upon the next, making them unreadable except to someone doing a dissertation on the subject.Witherington does not ignore comments on Luke s Greek, but his reflections seem to have substance than most The problem is that one needs a second volume to see the Greek in context One is best served by having an interlinear text open as you read Witherington s linguistic comments.If you are doing a Lay Bible study of Acts , Witherington s book should really be one of your sources, but you should supplement it with Johnson, Fitzmyer, or F F Bruce s The Book of the Acts. This is THE commentary for the Acts of the Apostles for the serious Bible student and teacher Witherington does an excellent job in his 100 page introduction in establishing the historicity of the book and comparing Luke to other Greek historians such as Polybius in their desire to report facts accurately I was especially impressed with Witherington s analysis on Luke s speech material and the likelihood of paraphrasing, which was not uncommon in this genre of literature As a student and future scholar, this was the first time I was introduced to this idea, so it was not so easy to accept outright at first coming from a conservative evangelical perspective , but after prayerful meditation I found Luke s methodology as likely and acceptable.Witherington also persuaded me by the internal evidence that Acts was probably penned after the death of Paul in the early 70 s, whereas before I just assumed that it was written before because of the silence regarding the end of Paul s life and the abrupt finish of the book The fact that most scrolls could not contain much than what Luke wrote in his gospel and in Acts also adds to this probability Overall, reading this commentary was especially enlightening Witherington has an excellent writing style which makes his scholarly works readable than most, which makes inductive Bible study exciting, inspiring, and life changing without drying my eyeballs out from reading boring, rigid, and dry scholarly works I highly recommend his books. If you are looking for the most comprehensive scholarly commentary on the book of Acts then look no further Ben Witherington does a magnificent job discussing the issues and text so that anyone with a high school education can understand and a graduate educated person will thrive in.I received Darell Bock s commentary from my local library and was relieved that I did not purchase it Mr Bock spends time telling you what other scholars have said and occasionally chimes in with an original thought There are very few original insights Ironically Witherington seems to be the scholar he cites the most The commentary just seems like information that is cut and pasted together.A scholarly work does not mean that it is hard to comprehend it just means they did their homework And now you benefit from their countless hours. As a pastor, I am privy to many commentaries and sources of information I have found Withterington s commentary on Acts to be the best.Witherington does the job every good interpreter should do he asks, How would the original audience have understood what was written His strength is his extensive understanding of the culture and era in which Acts was penned.Witherington takes an evangelical perspective and interacts in the footnotes where interaction belongs with liberal or alternative viewpoints.Straightforward, thorough, scholarly, addresses the questions that arise a great job indeed His closer look articles for example, Multiple Pentecosts address topics or controversies that arise from Acts and are often interesting and relevant.Few of us would probably agree with Witherington on every point, but it doesn t get much better than this. ok Ben Witherington III has the rare ability to write in an easy to read style about complex issues.He manages to defend the reliability of Luke s account against all critics, and provides wonderfully clear historical background to the account.His forte is combining the historical and social setting with the rhetorical style of the work, with many helpful insights.What a delightful read this book would be, if all the interaction with critics could be omitted and just the positive historical theological material was left It would also be about half the length Some knowledge of Greek would be helpful, but certainly isn t essential.4 may seem miserly for such a fine commentary, but I withheld the full score as the commentary makes no attempt to cover application.

About the Author: Ben Witherington III

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