I am not a mechanic. Thankfully, I am not often called upon to build, fix, or repair many things. But I do have a box in the garage with a complete set of tools. When I need them, I know where to find them, but that is about the extent of our interaction.
When it comes to Bible commentaries, I have viewed them very much the same as my tools out in the garage. They are handy when you need them for a job, hopefully, a small job, but it out in the garage, or in this case, upon a bookshelf where they belong. Commentaries are not so much to be read, as they are to be used on a case by case basis.
That was what I thought at least until I stumbled upon Michael F. Bird‘s Romans commentary given to me as a gift from a friend. His contribution is part of newer commentary series from Zondervan called The Story of God Bible Commentary of which Tremper Longman III and Scot McKnight are the General Editors. And I must say I love it.
I have used commentaries but have never sat and read a commentary as I would with any other book. That changed with this book.
The Story of God Bible Commentary series focuses on connecting the passages to the larger and greater story of the Bible. Each chapter examines a selection of verses and follows a well-designed flow. The “Listen to the Story” section connects the selected passages with references in other texts in the Bible. The design and flow helps enlarge our understanding of how the passages connect across the entire Bible.
The “Explain the Story” sections place the passages in their canonical and historical settings. Michael Bird is an absolute treat to read. He explores the issues faithfully and clearly but does not get the reader bogged down so deep into the weeds that they lose sight of the bigger picture, the bigger story. It for this reason that I found the book so eminently readable and, dare I say, enjoyable.
The “Live the Story” section reflects on how each text can be lived out in our daily lives. Bird is not afraid to be contemporary in his writing, referencing recent events and current people as part of his explanations. There are times when I laughed out loud as Bird connected the theology to life in our modern times. How many commentaries have a sense of humor?
I love what Zondervan is doing with this series, and I have already picked up the commentary on Genesis written by Tremper Longman III and Sermon on the Mount by Scot McKnight. I for one will no longer fall for the old line that excellent commentaries are impossible to read, obscure, esoteric, and dull. Zondervan and Bird have erased that false narrative. I am sure to add the rest of the series. Well done Zondervan.
As for Michael Bird, my desk now includes his Evangelical Theology and I am already well into What Christians Ought to Believe: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine Through the Apostles’ Creed both from Zondervan.