One of the best resources in Logos’ Back to School Sale is the New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT). Until now, you could only get the NICNT as part of the complete New International Commentary series. Now we’re thrilled to offer the NICNT at the incredible price of $679.95 (with code B2SNICNT). So thrilled, in fact, that we asked the NICNT’s editor—Dr. Joel B. Green of Fuller Seminary in Pasadena—if he would be so kind as to answer a few questions about the NICNT’s history and what goes into publishing a volume in this time-honored series.
How long has the NICNT been in existence?
The NICNT was begun in the late 1940s by an international team of scholars within the evangelical Protestant tradition.
What makes the NICNT such a popular New Testament Commentary?
Several reasons come to mind. First, although the commentaries are based on the Greek text, they don’t assume much familiarity with Greek among their readers. This makes for a scholarly yet widely accessible resource. Second, our commentaries are urged to comment on the biblical text itself, rather than provide a running dialogue with secondary literature. Of course, our commentators interact with other New Testament scholarship, but this critical engagement is carried out in the footnotes. Third, these commentaries are concerned with scholarly New Testament study in the service of the church. Our first audience isn’t the biblical studies academy, but pastors, students, and other church leaders. As a result, volumes in the NICNT put critically engaged, evangelical scholarship on display.
Commentary series have different guidelines that authors must abide by when writing a volume—word-count restrictions, confessional constraints, etc. Does the NICNT have any specific guidelines that your authors must work within?
Someone has referred to the current problem of “commentary bloat,” and the evidence is on our shelves, virtual or otherwise, with the presence of ever-larger and multivolume studies. There’s a place for that kind of exposition and scholarly interaction, but it doesn’t represent the aims of the NICNT. Most people don’t have the time to read 50–75 pages on a single pericope as they prepare for Sunday’s sermon or Thursday’s Bible study. As a result, we want single-volume commentaries of a manageable size. How this works out depends on the book in question and the challenges it presents. For example, when I was writing the NICNT on the Gospel of Luke, I needed to keep in mind that I could average no more than about 14 words of commentary for every word Luke wrote. Gordon Fee’s commentary on Philippians—well, he had considerably more space with which to work! Authors chosen for the NICNT have no confessional statements to sign, but are selected from within the larger evangelical family. F. F. Bruce, of course, was associated with the Open Brethren Church, while Gordon Fee is ordained in the Assemblies of God. I myself belong to the Wesleyan tradition and am ordained in The United Methodist Church. The list goes on to include a variety of scholars from a variety of ecclesial backgrounds, all of whom are committed to classical Christian faith.
You are now the fourth person to serve as NICNT editor. The previous two, F. F. Bruce and Gordon Fee, each wrote, like you, at least one volume in the NICNT. How does contributing to the series help you now that you’re the NICNT editor?
Bruce and Fee each wrote multiple volumes in the series and in this way helped to give the series its shape. Interestingly, the guidelines for the series that have been passed from editor to editor don’t do a lot to give the series its focus. The best advice I received from Fred Bruce when he asked me to write the NICNT on Luke was “Do it like this, but don’t do it like that . . .” Having written for the series, then, gives one a keener sense of what is needed and what temptations need to be resisted.
If you had to choose one NICNT volume as your favorite, or one that best represents the series as a whole, which would you choose?
That’s a tough question. On the one hand, I’ve often thought of Gordon Fee’s commentary on 1 Corinthians as the “standard” for evangelical commentary: clearly written, eminently readable, a model of exegesis in the service of the biblical text, biblical interpretation for the church. Among my favorites, though, would be R. T. France’s volume on Matthew, which represents decades of intimacy with Matthew’s Gospel, with his mature reflections on this Gospel evident on every page.
The series has been ongoing for many years. When and how is a decision made to replace an older volume in the NICNT?
A couple of factors guide our thinking. First, of course, a commentary can become dated in terms of the sorts of questions it seeks to answer. Second, our audience—pastors, students, and other Christian leaders—tell us that a replacement is needed as they find other commentaries more helpful. This could lead to a revised edition or to a replacement volume.
What new volumes should we look for over the next couple of years?
The most recent volume is Gareth Cockerill’s work on Hebrews, the appearance of which we continue to celebrate. Looking to the near horizon, we anticipate a revised edition of Gordon Fee’s work on 1 Corinthians, and replacement volumes on the Gospel of Mark (by Rikki Watts) and Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (by David deSilva).