Marvin Pate Teaching the Text of Romans (Brief Review)

Marvin Pate Teaching the Text of Romans (Brief Review) December 11, 2013

Romans_PateRecently I reviewed the late R.T. France’s outstanding commentary on Luke in the new Teach the Text (TT) series from Baker. While the format and purpose of the series is well-conceived, I said that the quality of each book will ultimately be determined by the strengths of the author. In the case of Luke, France was the perfect choice.

The first TT volume in New Testament is the one on Romans by C. Marvin Pate. I will not give his commentary detailed treatment (esp since it follows the format of France’s and you can read my thoughts already on that), but I think it represents the aims of the series adequately and offers much help especially in the teaching and preaching advice.

Here are a few points of interest, praise, and concern.

Eschatology. Pate draws out the eschatological dimensions of the Christ event and reads Romans in light of salvation history. What he does, he does exceptionally well.

Covenantal/Deuteronomic reading. Pate tries to argue that Romans follows a covenantal-treaty outline that mimics the outline of Deuteronomy. He does not overplay this annoyingly, but I was not convinced by it. Obviously people like Wright use “covenantal” language for Paul’s theology more broadly, but Pate (I think) takes it too far into specifics.

Women. Pate does a good job reflecting on the significance of women in Paul’s final greetings.

C.S. Lewis. Lots of Lewis quotes and illustrations in his commentary.

Old Perspective/Lutheran. Overall, Pate does not make Old/New Perspective issues a big deal in the text itself, but if you follow the end-notes you will quickly see his preference for Doug Moo’s approach to Romans (and Paul) and his overall disagreement with Dunn. This is fine (he has a right to his own opinion), but I don’t think he makes clear the varieties of New Perspective approaches (Dunn vs. Sanders vs. Wright, etc…) and he tends to interact with Dunn’s older works rather than his newer ones (esp The New Perspective on Paul where Dunn clarifies a number of important matters).

Calminians? Pate tries to find a via media between Calvinistic readings and Arminian readings of election language in Rom 9-11. Thus, “God sovereignly chooses individuals’ destinies, but paradoxically humans have the power and responsibility to choose Christ for themselves” (194). As much as I normally like a good compromise, I just can’t accept this both-and approach. It just doesn’t seem to work.

Illustrations and Theological Pointers. These, much like we found with France, are outstanding. Once in a while I didn’t think the illustration was relevant, but the vast majority of his tips are golden. I would not hesitate to direct students to this section when preaching on Romans.

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