Today’s guest post is from Willam Varner, author of the volume on James in the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. For the last 18 years, Varner has been a professor at The Master’s College and a pastor at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA.
The origins of the volume
In 2008, I was invited by Stanley Porter to write a commentary on James from the perspective of discourse analysis. The project fell through, but when I finished writing, a small publisher named Kress Publications picked it up. It was a 200-page linguistic commentary that identified the peak of the book (3:13–18) and used the bipolar description of wisdom (as either from above or from below) as the book’s metatheme, conveyed by each individual paragraph.
Building on my work in that smaller commentary, I wrote the much larger EEC commentary along traditional exegetical lines.
James: passage by passage
What’s unique about the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary is how each commentary is structured. In my own commentary, the analysis of each pericope follows the same steps. First I present the Greek text from the NA28, taking careful note of every textual variant. Next, I offer a translation and observe how 12 different English versions, from Tyndale through the NIV11, handle the translations. Then I interpret each verse phrase by phrase, trying to interact with what other commentators have said. After that, I offer a sentence-flow analysis of the pericope, something that many commentators omit in their effort to only discuss individual words.
Having analyzed the passage from the inside out, I look at the larger biblical-theological issues in the passage and, in a separate section, draw out the practical life issues and suggest one or two homiletical outlines as sermon ideas. The final section is a bibliography of journal articles for interested readers—they go deeper into some of the passage’s most interesting issues.
As you can see, I try to leave no leaf unturned—that’s probably why the commentary is nearly 650 pages long! I think the greatest compliment I’ve received on the book was when Scot McKnight wrote that “if you have Varner’s commentary you probably won’t need another one.” Even recognizing his overstatement, I think he was saying that I have tried to offer all that can be said about each pericope of James.
I would be profoundly grateful if the commentary could be useful to scholars, students, and pastors.
* * *