Over a half a million copies have been sold. The IVP Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament is a great companion for preachers and laypeople alike. The commentary gives the cultural background of every verse in the New Testament. In Craig S. Keener’s words, “the sole purpose of this commentary…to make available…relevant cultural, social and historical background for reading the New Testament the way its first readers…read it.” It is helpful to know the culture of the time to understand the original intention of the authors.
The second edition of this commentary is a popular, not a scholarly work. The commentary is an aid to understanding the historical-cultural background, but also to temper biblical interpretation from becoming absurd or wrongly interpreted. This is not a sole source in interpreting the Bible, but should be combined with other sources to get a full picture of what God is saying to his church. There is a literal sense, but also a spiritual sense that teaches the morality of God and brings his people closer to him and the kingdom of God.
Again Keener, “…Our culture still has some features in common with the culture of the Bible. But if we do not know anything about the original culture, we may sometimes assume that we do not need any background for a passage when in fact it would dramatically affect the way we read a text.”
This commentary gives orthodox background of the authors of the books of the New Testament, a brief on purpose, date, genre, overall message, and then a line by line commentary. For instance, the birth of Christ: how ancient biographers described the births of famous people which included miracles and mythical imagery. The birth of Christ has no parallel, it is a straightforward narrative.
This is a useful comprehensive commentary. Great for general study if one is so inclined. Great for pastors, biblical study students, great for use in preaching (sermons and homilies). Again, this should be one resource out of many. We must not forget the early church fathers, theological commentaries (such as Brazos Theological Commentaries), the reformers, or the catholics. Together these paint the full picture, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, of Scripture.