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I. Howard Marshall described Tom Holland's groundbreaking Contours of Pauline Theology as a "remarkably fresh and creative study which makes one rethink familiar passages in new ways," while Anthony Thiselton remarked that "many of its arguments offer corrections to widespread misunderstandings of Paul." Here in his new study the insights of Holland's former work, with its central "New Exodus" paradigm, impact radically upon earlier readings of Paul's Letter to the Romans, revealing that these readings were ...

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I. Howard Marshall described Tom Holland's groundbreaking Contours of Pauline Theology as a "remarkably fresh and creative study which makes one rethink familiar passages in new ways," while Anthony Thiselton remarked that "many of its arguments offer corrections to widespread misunderstandings of Paul." Here in his new study the insights of Holland's former work, with its central "New Exodus" paradigm, impact radically upon earlier readings of Paul's Letter to the Romans, revealing that these readings were controlled by eclectic methodologies that have in varying measure obscured the message of the biblical text. Those who have already encountered Contours will be eager to discover how a corporate reading of the Apostle Paul's greatest contribution to the New Testament unfolds, and how—to highlight but one issue—a forensic sense of justification is to be maintained in the light of a broader covenantal context. Many readers will be amazed that yet another study of a biblical text that has been subjected to so many fingertip searches in the past can yield such fresh evidence. All in all, Tom Holland's new commentary will not only affect the way one reads Romans, it will change the way that one looks at the Bible as a whole.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608998098
  • Publisher: Pickwick Publications
  • Publication date: 8/8/2011
  • Pages: 558
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Holland is Head of Biblical Research at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology. He leads an international team of theologians who are establishing fresh insights into the biblical writings. He is author of Contours of Pauline Theology (2004), an internationally acclaimed work.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 19, 2012

    "I was a student of Tom Holland at WEST a year ago, just be

    "I was a student of Tom Holland at WEST a year ago, just before this book was published. During the Easter holidays, when I really should have been concentrating on revising for my finals, Tom allowed us to have a draft of his commentary on Romans with the understanding that we provide a review. This I read ferociously, and was so enthused with it that my many early attempts at review fell limply below my intention. This current review takes a more reflective approach, for the sake of saying something of what I would like to say about this important work.

    I believe that no other words could been spoken more truly of Tom’s work than those I stumbled across that were taken from John B. Carroll’s foreword to Whorf’s Language, Thought, and Reality:

    “Once in a Blue Moon a man comes along who grapes the relationship between events which have hitherto seemed quite separate, and gives mankind a new dimension of knowledge.”

    Tom’s reading of the letter to the Romans grasps the relationship between the events in a way that no other commentator can hope to claim. But that Tom is commentating on Romans is accidental. His reading is coherent because it is a product of Tom’s wider Biblical theology, which traces a coherent thread throughout the Biblical narrative and history of redemption, exemplified and vindicated in Paul’s greatest theological letter.

    I understand that Tom’s book is a great contribution to Pauline scholarship. It is my own belief that the formidable weight of argument currently lies more in the broad picture that he sees, and a little less in the detail. That is not to say that I find the more detailed argument altogether unpersuasive, and I have little doubt the details will be found wanting with further research and careful argumentation. Particularly in the pastoral half of the letter (chapter 12-16), Tom’s main argument (now spent with the bulk of the theological section of the text) slows down considerably and the references to the Greek text don’t always feel robust, however helpful his reflections. Nevertheless, to continue to my concern, I feel that those who only read the commentary – or choose not read it – on the basis that it is an academic bulldog will deprive themselves of the pastoral power wreathed both by design of the commentator and by implication of the truth explained.

    I know that I am not alone in the spiritual warmth I received from Tom in his lectures, nor failed to appreciate his fervour. Both these come through in his commentary. I am also not alone in the confidence that I received, as a result of his theories, in the clarity of Scripture as its own interpreter. It is much easier to explain and understand the gospel starting, as the New Testament demonstrates and Tom explains, ‘with Moses and the Prophets’. The fundamental divide between those in Christ and those in Adam also becomes extremely clear – and helpful in both assurance and in evangelism. There are some things that I have found difficult to come to terms with, experientially, from Tom’s perspective – particularly the implications of his views on sacraments, something I hold very dear to my experience as a Christian. Some of these implications cause some painful questions to remain in my heart. Others cause longings because of things I would love to embrace but am yet hindered, such as those things pertaining to corporate worship (the difficulties of experiencing an individual corporate experience are perspicuous). However, these things may still be cherished and enjoyed, and I remain convinced of the truth of his reading - convinced not least because I read it continually throughout the pages of my Bible, even in places I didn’t expect!

    I’m often saddened to discover some half-hearted attempts at getting to grips with the perspective portrayed in the commentary – even uncharacteristically (to my grief) by Don Carson, whose unnecessary and derogatory comment on Holland’s work during his lectures on the New Perspective is unrecognisable, having clearly failed to engage with it at all. On the other hand, it is not without good reason that Holland’s reading is beginning to be recognised by world renowned evangelical scholars. Initially, the argument is not easy to grasp – it is a subtle and difficult paradigm shift, but I really recommend taking the time and effort to get to grips with what results in a simple and clear understanding of the gospel throughout Scripture."

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  • Posted October 8, 2011

    Romans: The Divine Marriage - a must have!

    Tom Holland has once again passionately argued for an alternative reading of the New Testament in his latest contribution to biblical studies, "Romans: The Divine Marriage." Picking up where he left off in his earlier work, "Contours of Pauline Theology," Holland continues his relentless demand that Paul must be read through an Old Testament lens. "Only when we have exhausted the Old Testament's theology," says Holland, "should we look at the possibility that the apostle was writing outside of the thought-patterns of his own upbringing." This bold, fresh approach to New Testament studies is a powerful corrective to the many eclectic readings that have been passed off as sound biblical scholarship for decades. Anyone reading "Romans" will immediately sense and appreciate Holland's clear, straightforward approach to biblical studies. "Romans: The Divine Marriage," should be required reading for anyone interested in developing a rich understanding of the New Testament's message of the grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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  • Posted October 5, 2011

    A radical and stimulating commentary.

    Tom Holland in his Romans commentary interacts with the controversial teaching of the New Perspective theologians - and much more besides.

    But rather than retreat into Reformed formulations, he engages with the latest views, re-evaluates traditional positions, and breathes new life into Reformed teachings without repudiating them. For example (writing as a self-styled biblical, rather than systematic, theologian) he sees that the "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness" of Genesis 15:6 has been pressed too readily into service by the Reformers as a text that teaches imputed righteousness - and yet Holland does not reject that doctrine.

    Furthermore he brings clarity to the complex area of covenantal nomism. He agrees with the New Perspective theologians that Paul, along with his compatriots, rejoiced in the law - indeed Paul considered himself blameless (Philippians 3:6); but this was only before his conversion, not afterwards, when he came to see that the law in fact condemned all men and women before God (Romans 4:15).

    In addition Holland brings insights of his own - he sees that in many passages where Paul speaks of the "body" he means a body of people. He gives detailed linguistic arguments for this perspective, and shows that the "body of sin" is fallen mankind who entered into a covenant with Sin (Satan) via their federal head Adam. This body is the counterpart to the "body of Christ" - the church. Although this perspective is not unique to Holland he applies it more consistently in his exegesis than others. At first, if you are not familiar with this concept, it can seem strange - but if you stay with it there is a reward as light is cast on some verses that have always been considered to be 'difficult'.

    For me the climax of his commentary is his exposition of chapters 6 & 7. Holland sees that Paul is telling us that Christ died in the place of the bride of Satan (the body of Sin) to break the legitimate authority the law gives a husband. This explains Paul's comments at the centre of these two chapters where he reminds us that the death of a spouse ends a marriage. We can now see it is the death of Christ that releases the elect from her former 'husband' for her to become Christ's bride and his body. This, to my mind, is a convincing exegesis - and reveals the cosmic implications of Christ's death and the "Divine Marriage" in a new and exciting way.

    So, if you want a quiet read to reassure yourself that there is nothing new to learn other than what the great Reformers taught - this commentary is not for you.

    But, if you want a stimulating, thought provoking, mind stretching, Christ-exalting journey through Romans that interacts with recent scholarship and yet respects the Reformers' teaching - I think you will be hard pushed to find a commentary to best this one.

    If there is intellectual integrity in the evangelical world, I am convinced this reading of Romans will eventually win the day.

    Colin Hamer

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  • Posted October 4, 2011

    A stimulating take on Romans

    This commentary pursues Dr Holland's striking development of the 'new exodus' motif as a key background concept to understanding Paul, with illuminating resultes.

    Romans 3:20ff is revisited, where the key term hilasterion is provided with new exodus significance, drawing especially on Ezekiel's use of the term in the eschatological temple's celebration of Passover in Ezekiel 45. Dr Holland also introduces us to the influence of Ezekiel's new exodus themes more widely in Paul.

    The new exodus line of thinking leads to a rigorously corporate interpretation of passages in Romans which have conventionally been interpreted as individualistic. So the corporate emphasis of Romans 5 (full of echoes of return from exile, a key new exodus theme), continues into Romans 6-8, with surprising results. A major challenge to conventional interpretation is the locating of the word flesh within a covenantal, and therefore corporate framework. Dr Holland is careful to explore the various nuances of the meaning of the word within the biblical corpus, but the result is a much more satisfying connection of the word with its OT roots, and a shift from the usual ontological understanding with its myriad complexities and psychological introspectiveness.

    The commentary develops a crucial distinction in the way justification is used in Romans 4, between its applications to Abraham and David. Through this distinction, Dr Holland is able to build on the New Perspective understanding of the term as developed by Tom Wright (in relation to Abraham), and the way the Reformers used the word (in relation to David). Dr Holland develops an argument for reinforcing the view that justification is not merely a declaration of righteousness, as asserted by the New Perspective, but includes within its semantic domain the Reformation ideas of forensic justification and being brought into a covenant relationship with God. He then incorporates the use of justification language in Israel's 'new exodus' restoration from exile, relating this to the key 'justification' section of Romans, chapter 5.The excursuses on righteousness, the flesh and justification are treasure troves in themselves, and the commentary is bristling with insights.

    The book dialogues with contemporary theological discussion, and takes on board the best results of these, whilst staunchly defending the faith of the Reformers, and presenting strong arguments for their position. Along the way, Dr Holland points out what he takes to be some key shortcomings of New Perspective positions.

    All agree that Holland has moved the debate on Paul decisively forwards and that a significant counter-proposal to the proponents of the New Perspective on Paul has been launched.Above all, the commentary brings Romans alive in fresh ways, and as with 'Contours', drives us back to the biblical text armed with fresh insights and equipped with fresh tools for mining the gold from this letter, which proves its worth for the 21st century as for all preceding ages. Dr Holland illustrates well the maxim of the pilgrim fathers in relation to Romans: 'The Lord has more truth yet to break forth out of his holy Word.'

    Peter Wilkinson Guildford Community Church

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  • Posted October 3, 2011

    A Must Have Commentary

    Tom Holland's Divine Marriage is a must-have commentary for anyone seriously interested in understanding Paul's letter to the Romans. Tom offers a truly fresh and invigorating perspective that will task your gray matter and challenge your paradigm. His illumination of the corporate mind set i.e. that Romans was not written to an individual but to a body of believers, is absolutely pivotal if we are to enjoy success in understanding this complex theological masterpiece. Tom recognizes Paul's commitment to his Jewish roots and does not fall prey to a westernized Greek worldview. Therefore, he will challenge your non-Hebraic thinking on the subjects such as sin, flesh and slavery. I highly recommend this seminal verse-by-verse commentary because it is easy to read, yet incredibly eye-opening both academically and devotionally. Your view of Romans will never be the same!

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  • Posted October 3, 2011

    Excellent, both academically and devotionally

    Tom Holland's Divine Marriage continues in the same vein as his previous work Contours of Pauline Theology setting out from the opening page his argument that the book of Romans is ultimately not about each individual's justification, but the Gentiles' inclusion, corporately, into the people of God. He picks up on many of the themes from Contours, such as Paul's understanding of ??????, the concept of the firstborn, and his use of ????.

    The overarching theme, that Paul did not abandon his Jewish roots with a Greek way of thinking, sheds new light on a number of passages that can be difficult to understand, as well as helping the reader to view chapters 9 to 11 not as an anomaly to Paul's argument, but integral to his understanding of the new people of God created by Jesus' death and resurrection.

    The corporate mindset that comes from seeing Paul's writings as Jewish (as opposed to the individualism that began with Hellenism and has exploded since the time of the Enlightenment) is a welcome refresher to an individualistic church where people are so often told what Jesus can do for them individually, but not where Jesus puts them corporately. I have found that since reading what Holland has to say, that my perspective on the New Testament has been much more healthy in that respect!

    But this commentary is not only useful academically or in our desire to better understand the context of Paul's writings - it is wonderfully uplifting to read for the soul! The chapter on Romans 8 is particularly enjoyable to read, and you get the impression that his pen flowed effortlessly as he joined with Paul in celebrating some of the great truths of the Gospel and our redemption. When we read glorious passages of the Bible such as this, familiarity can sometimes dull the effect of these passages on our souls - Holland's enthusiasm for what Paul is saying is catching and glorifies God!!

    All-in-all, this is a good and helpful commentary for those planning to read through the book of Romans. To read it involves changing your mindset from the prevailing evangelical culture, and seeing Paul's writing through an unfamiliar lens. As such it should be read slowly, allowing sometimes unfamiliar ideas and concepts to sink in. Most importantly, however, whether slowly or quickly, it must be read by anyone who wishes to get to grips with the message of Romans and who wishes to grow in their love for Jesus Christ the Saviour!!

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  • Posted September 29, 2011

    Fresh, Engaging and Influential!

    'The Divine Marriage' is a modern commentary which has the grace of sheer readability. This sets it apart from a lot of scholarship. Holland refrains from using terms that are likely to be misunderstood and uses simple language, which is clear and straight-forward. This is certainly a breath of fresh air! His sentences are short and to the point. He also tends to repeat himself, which I consider to be very positive. Many scholars (who frankly want to obey all the unwritten 'rules of scholarship') will despise some of this. But the reason Holland does it is because his mindset is really quite different and he doesn't think like many other pastors or commentators. His repetition helps us to properly grasp and appreciate what he is saying and to see that his concepts actually are derived from the Bible. Even the structure is carefully geared towards helping readers understand. Chapters are presented with clear, gripping introductions. Conclusions are offered at the end of each chapter, which sum up the main points and draw the reader into the next section. And the commentary is verse by verse exposition, which happens to be very substantial. Not only this, but Holland also tends to apply what he believes Paul is saying. Readers will get the impression that Holland is very much desiring to interest and continue to engage them. Many find most commentaries to be useful for little more than checking out every once in a while, but certainly not to read through from beginning to end. But Holland's commentary is more suitable than most for reading through and I am quite sure that great gain will be derived from anyone who does this. In addition, something needs to be said about the way Holland interprets Romans. Holland seeks to enforce the OT background of Paul's letter. This really enriches the study of the letter. 'Explain the Scripture with the Scripture' is a method which has been honestly sought by Holland - except he uses much more of the OT than usual in order to do this. OT concepts are clearly a primary authority for Holland in dealing with Paul's letter. (Of course, Holland certainly does not neglect what the NT has to say either.) As a result, the work contains a healthy and wonderful balance of substance drawn from both testaments of Scripture. I believe this is an excellent model for biblical exposition and will definitely serve pastors, preachers and teachers well if they take the time to see how Holland interprets the NT. If you spend much time with Tom Holland, you're very likely to develop a far greater hunger for understanding the OT Scriptures! In this day, when the OT is so neglected in preaching and teaching, there is little doubt that Holland's work is potentially one of the instruments for change. Overall, I believe that this commentary should prove accessible and wonderfully impacting upon the thinking of those who choose to read it. May the Lord use this ground-breaking work as an instrument for good!

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