This review appeared in the Oct-Dec 2013 vol. 170 no. 4 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Paul’s Letter to the RomansWm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids June 30, 2012
This commentary replaces the volume on Romans by Leon Morris (published by Eerdmans in 1988). The Pillar Commentary series’ goal is to “make clear the text of Scripture as we have it” (p. xiv). Its intended audience is serious Bible teachers and pastors (p. xiv). Like other volumes in this series, Kruse’s contribution accomplishes its goals admirably. Everyone from laypersons to scholars will find something of value here, although its intended audience will benefit most.
In the introduction Kruse discusses the epistle’s background, purpose (which Kruse says is to minister to believers in Rome), rhetorical aspects, authorship, date (AD 54–58), and integrity. Extended sections discuss the influence of the New Perspective on Paul (pp. 14–22) and theological themes (pp. 22–33). The section on the New Perspective, though informative, does not engage the issues in a significant manner. The theological themes section is helpful and includes a section on the center of Paul’s thought. After summarizing a number of positions, Kruse concludes, “The center, heart and organizing principle of Pauline theology is the action of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ to deal with the effects of human sin, individually, communally, and cosmically. In brief, as far as Romans is concerned, the centrum Paulinum is the gospel of God comprehensively conceived” (p. 33).
Kruse often includes additional notes on significant passages of interest for evangelicals such as “Paul’s use of credal material” (pp. 47–49), “righteousness of God” (pp. 79–81), “the wrath of God” (pp. 90–93), “the nature of the homosexual practice condemned by Paul” (pp. 109–15), “justification for the doers” (Rom. 2:1–16; pp. 142–44), “the works of the Law” (pp. 173–76), “justification” (pp. 200–201), “the identity of ‘I’ in 7:7–25” (pp. 314–21), “all Israel will be saved” (pp. 448–51), “faith and conscience” (Rom. 14; p. 514), and many others. The note on the identification of the “I” in Romans 7:7–25 includes a brief introduction, and then Kruse describes ten options (each in its own section) and gives a concluding section on evaluation. This is clearly a helpful feature and allows the reader to access the arguments easily. However, the options are often only briefly summarized and sometimes dismissed without much interaction. The view that Paul is describing his Christian life is dismissed simply by stating that “it seems to run afoul of other telling statements Paul makes about the Christian experience, in particular 6:14 . . . , 6:18 . . . , and 8:8–9” (p. 318). Kruse’s own position is that the “I” denotes the experience of Israel and could also include Paul’s pre-Christian experience (pp. 319–21). However, one could argue against his position by noting that (a) the present indicative usually refers to present time, (b) Israel is not explicitly mentioned in the passage, and (c) the non-Christian does not seem capable of carrying on this struggle.
The treatment of same-sex relations in Romans discusses a number of approaches to the issue (pp. 109–15). This is helpful, but it is not sufficient for dealing with the issue in churches or in social contexts (which admittedly is not its purpose). Even the repeated use of the term “homosexual” to describe the ancient practice is not helpful, as it seems to fail to acknowledge differences between same-sex practices then and now.
When Paul wrote in Romans 3:20, 28 that no one will be justified by “works of the law,” he meant “no one will be justified on account of his/her moral achievements” (p. 176). There is no influence here from the New Perspective on Paul. On “faith of Christ” in 3:22 Kruse affirms the objective genitive (“faith in Christ”) against the subjective (“Christ’s faithfulness”) (p. 181). Kruse says that iJlasthvrion in 3:25 is both propitiation and expiation (p. 191). He says justification is “a legal term for the standing a believer has before God based on Christ’s work and given freely by grace alone to those who believe in Christ” (pp. 200–201).
Kruse includes a helpful summary of past, present, and future aspects of salvation (pp. 415–16). After discussing six options on the meaning of the statement “all Israel will be saved,” he suggests this means “all elect Israel of all time” (pp. 448, 451).
He discusses five views on 13:1–7 (pp. 490–91), but he takes no specific position. However, he rejects the approach of Warren Carter, who argues that the passage is ironic rhetoric and is in reality subverting the Roman government (pp. 491–92).
The “weak in faith” in Romans 14 are not those with deficient faith in Christ; rather, this refers to those who have not fully grasped the gospel and thus are troubled in their conscience about eating certain foods (p. 511).
This is a thoroughly evangelical commentary, and probably most readers will agree with most of the positions Kruse holds. Nevertheless it would have been helpful to have had more substantive interaction with issues raised by the New Perspective on Paul.
Kruse’s work is a helpful and informative commentary with solid conclusions throughout. It will not replace (nor was it intended to replace) the major commentaries on Romans for serious study such as those by Cranfield, Dunn, Jewett, and Moo. However, it is a recent and reliable work on Romans and can supplement these larger works. For those interested in a quick evangelical discussion with substance, this commentary is the answer.
—Joseph D. Fantin