Thursday, July 5, 2012

Survey of Resources on 1 Peter

At the very beginning of summer, we finished a series of sermons from the first letter of the Apostle Peter. Here are my thoughts on the resources I used (some more, some less) in fortifying that study and those sermons. I'll rate them on a scale of 1-10 based on how useful I found them.


  • Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament XI: James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude by Gerald Bray (ed.). I find this series of commentaries novel and intriguing, yet I seldom consult them with any regularity for my sermons or teaching. Likewise here: I think I turned to Bray's collection two or three times, and each time found only the merest help for what I needed. Perhaps this sort of commentary is relatively incompatible with my teaching/preaching study style? (2)
  • The Message of 1 Peter by Edmund Clowney. I generally like this series of commentaries (IVP's "The Bible Speaks Today" series) a lot, and there's usually good material to be found here. These are, in my estimation, very good lay-level commentaries, and I often already have the meat of its content in mind before I turn to them. Still, the 1 Peter volume is rich and full of great insight from Dr. Clowney. I love to pass these along to folks who indicate their desire for some good help with reading along in devotional ways with the sermon series, and I have great confidence in recommending this one in that way. (6, only because of the limited use for this context.
  • The First Epistle of Peter by Peter H. Davids. By far, this was/is my favorite commentary on 1 Peter, and the one I consulted the most. There is rich insight here for the understanding of this letter, and I think this commentary is a useful addition to any library. I first found Davids on 1 Peter in seminary, and would admit that this is not the most homiletically-oriented commentary (though it fits my preparation style very well). Davids is very occasionally on the critical/liberal side of interpretation, but when he is it is mild and he is respectful and accommodating to a more conservative/traditional interpretation. (10)
  • A Commentary on 1 Peter by Leonard Goppelt. This is another one that I picked up (and found quite useful) in seminary, though its highly-academic and technical nature did not transfer as well as Davids into a homiletic setting. I believe I consulted Goppelt twice on more technical matters, and when I did I found him quite helpful. (There are a couple of sections of 1 Peter that need more extensive technical investigation.) Overall, I wasn't hurt by having Goppelt on my shelf, but I'm not sure I would encourage most pastors to buy it for the few times its handy. (6)
  • 1 Peter by Joel B. Green. I was excited to get Green's commentary when I started this series, because I loved his work on Luke when I preached through that book (see my Luke survey here). While I didn't find Green's work noticeably different or lesser in any way, for whatever reason this one didn't become a go-to resource like the Luke volume did. Green hits on the same wavelength as Peter Davids, so perhaps it was because of my familiarity with Davids that I didn't latch onto Green this time. Still, I like Green's work on 1 Peter a lot, and would certainly recommend it. (7)
  • 1 Peter by Karen H. Jobes. Another fine work, along the same lines as Davids and Green in terms of its place and use in the schema of commentaries. I liked Jobes' approach and discussion of the text, and found hers to be a good complement to Davids when I wasn't quite satisfied (or in agreement) with his take. Much like Davids, I consulted Jobes most weeks during my study. (9)
  • 1 Peter by I. Howard Marshall. Perhaps my one regret in this series through 1 Peter was that I seldom had time to consult my second-tier references (like this one) more frequently, and I'm sure I missed out on some keen insights and strong application points because of it. Marshall is a scholar that I respect highly, even though he doesn't come to mind as readily as others, and his work on 1 Peter is very solid. This volume strikes at a level somewhere between the more technical (like Davids, Goppelt, Green, and Jobes) and the more lay-level; it's sort of a "preacher's commentary" in the sense that so much of the content would approximate what you would expect to hear in a good sermon — which also makes this kind of commentary dangerous, in a way, because of the temptation to slack off on the hard work of crafting your own sermon. I probably picked up Marshall six or eight times, but given more prep time I might have doubled that. (8)
  • The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Peter by Scot McKnight. As I've mentioned before, I like this series for what it offers a preacher, and I found the insights here on "bridging contexts" to often be quite valuable. Unlike Darrell Bock on Luke (in the same series), I didn't find McKnight's thoughts on "original meaning" to be as compelling, and like Bock I sometimes felt McKnight's "contemporary significance" reflections missed the mark. Another difficulty I had was that my outline of 1 Peter didn't match McKnight's, so often I was jumping around or poking into half a chapter. All of this combined to make this round from the series less helpful than others have been, but I still got value out of it. This was probably the first go-to commentary of my second-tier references. (8)

Other References

I didn't use a lot of additional resources for 1 Peter, partly because I had done some study on the book in seminary and was familiar with the context and background material more than I might be in a less-familiar book. I did sometimes consult IVP's Dictionary of New Testament Background and their Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments, and as usual I highly recommend these and others in IVP's series of Old and New Testament dictionaries. (Which reminds me that there are a couple of newer ones that I need to add to my library!)

Also, I recommend William W. Harrell's Let's Study 1 Peter from Banner of Truth. I only made use of it once or twice in this particular study, but I've taught 1 Peter in a Sunday School class before where we used this study guide as the basis for the class; it is very solid, and a profitable supplement to any study through the text. Some folks from Dove Mountain Church asked me about doing additional study in 1 Peter through the week, and I pointed them to this book first.

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