Commentaries, New Testament, Reviews

Book Review: Philippians and Philemon: A Commentary (New Testament Library)

Philippians and Philemon: A Commentary

ISBN-10: 066422122X

ISBN-13: 978-0664221225

Thanks  to the kind folks at Westminster John Knox for this review copy!

Cousar’s commentary is my first read in the New Testament Library series and it was a good commentary. The old adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is pertinent here. This book is a mere 112 pages long, including index. Because I was unfamiliar with the NTL series I wasn’t sure what to expect from such a thin commentary. Most commentaries this lean are usually quite slim on the scholarly engagement and substantial offering of exegetical insight, but I was surprised to find this was not so with Cousar’s work. To be sure, it is not on par with my favorite commentaries on Philippians (Fee in NICNT and O’Brien in NIGTC), but Cousar does provide a solid treatement of these letters. His interpretation of the letters is conservative and reaches said interpretation based upon an honest dealing with the text and the literature. I will say here that this is one of the drawbacks of shorter commentaries such as this–the authors must be very selective in choosing which works with which they will interact, and unfortunately, that holds true here. However, for those who are looking for a shorter treatment of these books (perhaps for personal study, small group, or Sunday School Bible study), this commentary will be well-suited for them.

I would definitely recommend this volume to someone looking for a fair treatment of Philippians and Philemon, especially to those who are looking for something a little easier work through. Advanced students would not likely glean much from Cousar as from more substantial volumes, though they would possibly find occasional bits worthy of their consideration. In summary, Cousar’s contribution to the Philippians and Philemon conversations is not memorable, but neither is it forgettable. It is another voice in the room, though it will not command the attention that other commentaries will.

Αυτω η δοξα,



4 thoughts on “Book Review: Philippians and Philemon: A Commentary (New Testament Library)”

  1. Thanks for the review Jason. I am preparing for a series on Phlilippians. The two books seem like an odd couple. I might suggest this one (along with Wright and Fee’s smaller comm) to the congregation.

  2. Matt: Definitely the treatment of Philippians given that the section on Philemon was considerably shorter.

    Mark: Yes, it does seem odd, though F. F. Bruce couples Philemon with Ephesians and Colossians in his volume in the NICNT. Like I said in the review, I think this volume would be good for small group study or private study. Light reading but good overall. I haven’t read Wright’s or the lesser Fee volume. When I preached through Philippians a couple of years ago, I primarily consulted Fee (NICNT), O’Brien (NIGTC), Hawthorne (WBC), and Melick (NAC).

  3. Philippians with Philemon is a good match, I think. Philemon is usually coupled with Colossians because of their similar destination, but many (most?) scholars don’t recognize Colossians as a genuine Pauline letter and it shares much more in common with Ephesians than Philemon. On the other hand, both Philemon and Philippians are short, personal letters, so I’m glad to see them discussed together.

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