A review of The Letters to the Thessalonians. By Gene Green.
While there have been a number of good commentaries produced on Thessalonians over the years, there have been no quite recent works of substance. Somewhat older evangelical standards include Morris (NIC, 1959), Bruce (WBC, 1982), and Wanamaker (NIGTC, 1990). Thus this new volume is a welcome, and long-overdue, addition.
It is quite new (2002) and part of the Pillar New Testament Commentary series; a series that did not originally start out as a series. The series now contains eight volumes, of which this is the most recent. New Testament scholar D.A. Carson is editor of the series, so readers can expect these volumes to be of consistently high quality. Indeed, there are no “duds” to be found in the first seven volumes.
The author, Gene Green, teaches New Testament at Wheaton College in Chicago. He has produced a very readable and reliable commentary on the two Thessalonian letters.
Green is well abreast of all the latest concerns: theological, historical and textual. Yet in keeping with the aim of the series, the volume is not overly technical. Theological disputes, textual considerations, and social/historical background discussions are all given due attention, but none in overbearing detail. This means all the volumes of this series are quite helpful to pastors and lay people, but will also well serve the academic and scholarly community.
This newest edition looks to be of equal value to previous volumes. The extensive bibliography is followed by a thorough introduction. The book is especially helpful in setting forth the letters in their historical and cultural backgrounds. And theologically disputed passages are given fair treatment, with various options presented.
And the author is not afraid to take sides on some of these contentious issues. As an example, those who see a pre-trib rapture in 1 Th 4:16-17 will not find their views confirmed here. Green argues that this passage is not “the stuff of speculative prophecy or best-sellers on the end-times”. The context of this passage makes clear that Paul (whom Green takes to be the author) is seeking to comfort and give hope to believers, especially in relation to those who have already died.
Similarly, favorite texts found in 2 Thessalonians by those with sharply held eschatological viewpoints will be treated in differing ways by Green. While not all will agree with each of his interpretations, he backs them all up with thorough research and exegesis, and with even-handedness and a charitable spirit.
All in all this is one of the best works now available on the epistles from an evangelical perspective. One eagerly awaits more works by Green, and more volumes in the Pillar series.