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on 21 March 2012
If you are only going to buy one commentary on the letter to the Hebrews, William L Lane's two-volume commentary is probably the one to buy. It is at the time of writing this review the most recent major commentary (vol 1 published in 1991, vol 2 in 2000). It is the most comprehensive, and it contains the highest number of insights into the text.

To have the full commentary on the whole of Hebrews, it is necessary to buy both volume 47A and 47B. Only volume 47A contains the introduction, which is over 150 pages long.

Then why only four stars? For a series of reasons.

Print quality is sometimes poor, with portions of letters missing and/or black marks on some pages. This does not make anything illegible, and in my opinion was not bad enough to merit returning the book to obtain a replacement. But it is not up to the standard of print quality that people have come to expect over the past few hundred years!

Layout is extremely poor. In fact, it would appear that the publishers gave no thought at all to layout. Solid text for page after page makes this book very uninviting to pick up and dip into. Verse references are printed in bold at the beginning of the line, but these are not particularly prominent and there is no gap between the commentary on one verse and that on the next one.

Turning to the content itself, Lane clearly dedicated many years to the preparation of his commentary, and seems to have read virtually everything of significance that has been published on the letter to the Hebrews in a wide range of languages. The bibliographies he includes are also very comprehensive. However, his very closeness to all this literature clearly made it hard for him to summarise, and there is thus a tremendous amount of repetition in this book. Three pages on one author's opinions may be followed by another three pages on another author's opinions, even when most of the opinions are the same. It would have been possible to present this in a different way. Quite simply, it would be possible to write, "Both author X and author Y state that ..." The book could be edited down to 60-70% of the current length without losing any information, although I appreciate that both Lane and his publisher will have been so pleased when he finally finished the manuscript that they had no appetite to edit the text, a massive task which would no doubt have added further years of delay before this work was published.

So one needs to develop one's skill at skimming and scanning. It is worth the effort, as in this book there are many treasures that can be found together in one place nowhere else.

I studied in detail the Greek text of the letter to the Hebrews, using three commentaries: this one and those by H W Attridge and by F F Bruce. Lane's is the most thorough of the three, although the other two commentaries also have much to commend them.
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