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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent commentary with lots of NT Greek textual investigation, 27 Jan 2011
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This review is from: Colossians, Philemon: 44 (Word Biblical Commentary) (Hardcover)
`Word Bible Commentary: Colossians, Philemon' by Peter O'Brien is part of the hugely influential and impressive Word Bible Commentary (WBC) series. I got this because I've been studying a correspondence course recommending it, and because it was available cheaply second-hand!

Amazon's usually excellent `Look Inside!' feature here corresponds, at the time of writing, to the WBC on Corinthians, not Colossians/Philemon but I'll post a notification and I'm sure Amazon will sort it soon enough. In the meantime, the standard WBC format can at least be observed - including the massive `Abbreviations' section and even the more enormous `Introduction' which contains some very informative background information of the church at Colossae (and the surrounding area) and on the `Colossian Hersey'.

In the commentary proper, you are first offered an extensive `Bibliography' before the author's translation of each section. A short `Note' section usually follows offering brief translational explanations or reasons for complications and discrepancies, etc.

The `Form/Structure/Setting' section offers, perhaps, a slightly more formal theological exposition of the text where the `Comment' section offers a slightly more devotional style commentary - though there is such an overlap here it isn't necessarily helpful to differentiate so precisely. Each section ends with an `Explanation' where the whole is concluded.

I got O'Brien's WBC commentary because I could no longer avoid doing the NT Greek module for the course I'm studying. The WBC series focuses on often quite technical Greek (for the NT, Hebrew for the OT) interpretation but the commentary still offers great benefit to the non-Greek/Hebrew student as all the ancient language malarkey is explained plenty well enough.

I also bought the `NIGTC: The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon' by James D. G. Dunn - for the same reasons - though it was still much more expensive. In comparing the two I find two criticisms are easy to offer O'Brien's WBC volume:

First, my 1982 edition is not nearly so well presented as the NIGTC volume: specifically, the paper is cheaper (softer & yellower) which makes for less contrast with the text; and the printing itself is a much `thicker', bolder typeface, giving everything an almost smudged appearance. This may sound like nit-picking but I've never studied a foreign language seriously and the NT Greek characters are so alien to me that I need them to be as clear and consistent as possible. The WBC volume does not do so well here.

Second, the WBC series avoids using footnotes by incorporating the extra information within brackets which can often spread over many lines. I imagine this was done to try and aid continuity. However, the reverse results: it's often horribly difficult to find where the sentence continues when it's broken by brackets. I find it much more comfortable reading pages that have footnotes which I can easily ignore if I want to.

That said, I still recommend O'Brien's WBC volume (and the whole series) because they all deal with the Greek as gently as possible - to my layman's understanding. I am finding studying NT Greek horribly difficult, but I take encouragement from fellow reviewer Gontroppo who says that `a couple of years studying the language [the NT] is written in will be enlightening'. I hope so - but right now it's nearly killing me!

Maybe 3 stars because of the presentation?
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