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Welcome to this detailed DDT Product Review of InterVarsity Press’ Bible

Background Commentary by Craig Keener (henceforth in this review to be

referred to as “IVPNT”.) No matter what “version” of this work that you are

interested in, you’ll find out what’s most important about it: the content.


I want to give you enough information to make sure that you are an informed

buyer. I also want you to know right up front my theological perspective so you’ll

be able to understand what I write (I think that’s important, and I’m quite sure

you’ll agree!).


Finally, I know that you’ve already looked at the DDT Rating, so you already know

the conclusion: this is a good resource with relatively broad appeal. Now,

let us commence with the Review!



Introductory Comments


In order to rightly understand the Bible, you not only need to understand grammar, language & vocabulary, but you also need to understand at least the important cultural considerations of any particular Bible passages. Most commentaries that focus on a right understanding of the Bible focus on language/grammar/vocabulary, and (at best) under-utilize the history & culture of any particular passage. It’s been that way since the printing press starting cranking out commentaries.


Now, there are lots of books that focus on the history and cultural backgrounds of the Bible, but those are typically written in a topical format. You can study “Roman History in Palestine,” or “Greek Influence on Pauline Literature” (both of those titles are made up, and simply intended to illustrate my point), ad nauseum. But for the laymen who wants help on a specific paragraph of the Bible, these works are simply far too cumbersome (i.e. “boring”) to use.


Author Craig Keener thought that laymen needed access to a background book of the Bible layed out in a verse by verse format. So, when InterVarsity Press desired to publish a commentary that focused solely on the historical background of the New Testament, Mr. Keener thought their invitation for him to write it was a match made in heaven.


This commentary solely focuses on the background of any particular verse or passage. There are very few grammatical comments. (There are plenty of other books focusing on those, right?) And for the most part, Mr. Keener does a good job of explaining the culturally relevant material on a verse by verse basis.


Expositional & Doctrinal Overview


The hardcover book is 800+ pages covering every book of the New Testament. So, you can imagine that there is ample material here. Just about every verse is treated - at least in a cursory fashion as part of an entire paragraph. It must be remembered, though, that this is not a commentary based on grammar; so it isn’t “phrase by phrase” as some might expect. It is basically a topical commentary laid out in an expository fashion.


As to the doctrinal background to this module: I don’t think Keener (nor IVP) will be confused with being of fundamentalist theology. However, because his comments are comprehensive but relatively brief, he doesn’t delve much into Higher Criticism: he doesn’t have the space to do so.


While Keener (and IVP) lean a little to the left, this work is relatively neutral in it’s practical theological outlook.


Commentary Sample


If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a commentary sample is worth, well, what is it worth? Not sure! But here is a representative entry from the commentary. This one is from Rom 3:24 (please note: the digital text comes from the premium resource formatted for TheWord Bible Software).


“Redemption” (freeing a slave) was a standard Old Testament concept; the Old Testament terms always involve the paying of a price, sometimes to get something back. God “redeemed” Israel, making them his people by grace and by paying a price for their freedom (the Passover lamb and the firstborn of Egypt), before he gave them his commandments (cf. Ex 20:2). In Paul’s day, the Jewish people were looking forward to the messianic redemption, when they would be delivered from earthly rulers; but the malevolent ruler here is sin (3:9).


This section is fairly representative as to how Keener handles the text.




The value of this commentary comes from it’s unique perspective on the New Testament. That alone will probably make this volume worthwhile to those who enjoy studying the Bible. Pastors, Sunday School teachers, and adult students of the Word will probably find this book helpful. It is a good resource that will have broad doctrinal appeal. I recommend it to you on this basis.


Other Reviews offers 31 reviews (as of March, 2012). Average rating: 4.8 stars. Read them here.



Purchase InverVarsity Press Bible Background NT Here


Purchase IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament formatted for theWord Bible Software

Purchase IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament hardcover from



This comprehensive review is by Dr. David S. Thomason. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

REVIEW: IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament

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The strength and appeal of this one volume commentary comes from it’s unique perspective: it attempts to unveil the history and culture behind every verse of the Bible. It does a pretty decent job of doing so, too.

DDT Rating


Good Resource - Broad Appeal

No Greek Necessary

Greek Essential

Language Skills Needed




Entry Length

Leans Left


Leans Right

Theological Bias




Academic Target