Logos Bible software has done something innovative, in that, they have published the first-ever electronic Bible commentary series: the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. In the wake of this launch, the first in-print volume was released. Weighing in at a hefty 650+ pages, William Varner’s volume on James is nothing short of masterful. While the book was written for scholars (heavy interaction with the Greek text, as well as extensive discussion of grammar and syntax), it provides a wealth of knowledge for the pastor and serious Bible student. While the 68-page introduction alone is worth the price of the book, the student is blessed by Varner’s careful interaction with the text of James.
While this work is being hailed by top biblical scholars, it’s Varner’s unique style that sets him apart. He engages the text and the reader as a teacher, explaining his process of analysis, rather than assuming too much of his audience. He even includes a list of foreign and technical words as an appendix in order to aid the reader in understanding the work better.
While the volume may feel too technical for some, Varner’s sage-like insight into the text is where he is at his best. He does not shy away from engaging troubling verses, nor does he carelessly accept the interpretation of the scholarly consensus. Rather, Varner carefully evaluates each position and offers his best assessment based on his robust research. It is astonishing to see how often Varner is able to settle long-standing debates by presenting the answer found in Scripture. He proves that assiduous study and meditation on the biblical text is best.
There is no doubt that Will Varner has an agenda; it is to provide a “new perspective” on James, one that is more likely accurate to history. He argues that while Peter is deemed the Catholic pope, and Paul is deemed the proverbial Protestant “pope”, James is shown to be the true leader of the early church1. Further, the epistle of James often suffers from being seen as a scant collection of disjointed sayings. To the reader’s benefit, Varner makes a cogent case for the unity and cohesion of the letter.
In the end, William Varner’s James is a titanic contribution to Jacobian scholarship and future commentators will have no choice but to engage with his work, or be left in the dust.
Title: James: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary
Author: William Varner
Publisher: Lexham Press (April 9, 2014).