Book Details : Romans the Divine Marriage vol 2 Language : English Paperback : 384 pages ISBN-13 : 978-1912445226 Dimensions : 15.24 x 2.21 x 22.86 cm
Blanchard Professor of New Testament, Wheaton College
As the subtitle indicates, Tom Holland’s Romans is truly both biblical and theological, as the letter is set firmly in its unfolding canonical context. Holland shows how Romans contributes to our understanding of God’s covenant arrangement with humankind. The commentary digs deeply into current scholarship on the Old Testament roots of Paul’s teaching, yet presents its conclusions in accessible language.
Robert W. Yarbrough
Associate Professor of New Testament, New Testament Department Chair, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
This vigorously argued commentary seeks to allow Old Testament themes and thought patterns, not misguided scholarly conventions, to control Romans’ message. Paul’s ministry is seen rigorously in New Exodus terms; the church is the New Israel, Yahweh’s people and (along with true Israel of old) figurative bride. Verses from the prophet Isaiah are particularly foundational. Organizationally Holland’s treatment is strongly messianic in focus—every section of Romans is subordinated to “the Messiah King.” Scholars of Romans will be stimulated by interaction with this canonically alert, creative, and frequently contrarian exposition and synthesis of a Pauline classic.
Reading Romans like a Jew
I reviewed Contours of Pauline Theology by Tom Holland and it changed the way I read the New Testament. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of his second book about Romans.
The same themes developed in Contours of Pauline Theology have been unpacked in Romans: The Divine Marriage. He argues against those who have said the Christian message was Hellenized and argues instead that Paul’s message was distinctively Jewish (pp. 2-3). He demonstrates this Jewishness by examining the theme of the New Exodus and the corporate nature of much of the New Testament (pp. 18-22).
When I was struggling with my salvation and the weight of my sin was bearing down on me Romans was a balm to my soul. It’s the book I’ve read the most and am most familiar. But after reading Holland’s commentary I’ve experienced the gospel in Romans anew.
Whether you agree or disagree with his conclusions you will appreciate Holland’s respect for the Word of God and his desire to be faithful to the text. If you want to wrestle with a view different from yours which highly values the Word of God you shouldn’t ignore Holland. As a matter of fact, I would argue that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you have been. We all have cultural glasses which impact our reading of Scripture. Holland provides a necessary splash of water to the face of the slumbering evangelicalism–especially our infectious individualism. Bottom line: if you buy one commentary on Romans it should be this one.
Dr. Colin Hamer
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 afterward, when he came to see that the law in fact condemned all men and women before God (Romans 4:15).
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 center 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.
More than worth the effort
“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 grasps 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. 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.
The Old Testament records two great acts of God’s salvation: the first Exodus – from Egypt and the second – from Babylon. The New Testament writers, including Paul in Romans, use the language of these two salvation events to describe the New Exodus of God’s deliverance of a people from the dominion of Satan and sin through the death of the Firstborn of all Creation, the Lord Jesus Christ. What then of the “Divine Marriage” of the book’s title? Covenant is a key concept throughout the Bible. Dr Holland argues that it describes Adam’s relationship with his Creator. The Fall was a divorce. Humankind “in Adam” has become married to another, Satan. As a result of the New Exodus the redeemed community (the Christian church) have become married to Christ.
I hope this has whetted your appetite. I believe this is a highly significant book. It interacts with scholars across the board (eg Wright, Dunn, Piper, etc) but is written in such a way that the ordinary serious-minded Christian can understand. This is definitely worth the price.
So unfamiliar is Holland’s corporate spin that it took me forever to get through the book … not just because it’s a comprehensive work, but because I wound up reading several passages twice to pull myself away from the more common individualistic interpretation. You’ll learn to recognize two distinct, corporate communities at odds with one another: one in Adam with sin as its head, the other in Christ with Jesus as its head.
This is a verse-by-verse study of the book of Romans and would make a good university text. Remember: Romans is Paul’s magnum opus, with every verse saturated with meaning. I try to write reviews appropriate for casual readers, but this book belongs in academics as well. Not only is every verse explored, but Holland delves into several topics in detail. I think there are nine such “excursions” peppered throughout the text.
This book could sit on your shelf for reference, but that would be a misuse. Holland’s particular interpretation really requires analyzing the letter as a whole. Themes of corporate justification, Passover, the second exodus, and the pilgrimage of God’s chosen resonate throughout, and these underlying themes set the tone for Paul’s more confusing passages. Baptism (dying and rising with Christ) carries a different meaning in this light. Even the word “sin” gets a remake with a corporate meaning: Paul sees sin as a predator, waiting to attack and kill. Try replacing the word “sin” with Satan throughout to get a better grasp of Paul’s meaning. Remember the Adamic community? That’s Satan, not sin, at its head. Also, as you read, I suggest you keep the book’s title uppermost in your mind: The Divine Marriage. We’re talking about the eschatological marriage with its great cosmic banquet. Paul’s theology is so deep that it’s easy to lose track of the fact that he really is going somewhere in this letter.
My favorite discussion in the book was Holland’s exposition of the following passage: 10:6-7 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or `Who will descent into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.) After a ten-page explanation, these two verses finally makes sense.
Biblical – Devotional – Pastoral
Tom Holland’s Romans is biblical and devotional in the best sense of those terms. His striking emphasis on the theological themes of the Old Testament is uncommon among New Testament specialists. Although New Testament scholars emphasize the history and world(s) of the first century, Holland focuses on theology within the context of Scripture. Leaving room for preachers and teachers to apply Paul’s insight to their community today, Holland’s Romans helps Christians enter into deeper communion with God and one another. This work is commendable not only for preachers wanting to offer insights into Paul’s theology, it nicely disrupts current fads in Pauline scholarship. Romans: The Divine Marriage is a ‘true’ biblical theology influenced primarily by the witness of the Old Testament narrative, thankfully, without all the ‘scholarly historic fiction’ often produced by modern biblical scholars. All should ‘take and read’ in order to better understand the Bible’s narrative.
Guildford Community Church.
This commentary follows Dr Holland’s striking development of the `new exodus’ motif as a key background concept to understanding Paul in `Contours of Pauline Theology’. The first book provided some astonishing new ways of reading Paul, and brought out the significance of the `new exodus’ as a paradigm for understanding the New Testament. The Romans commentary pursues the new exodus motif in further detail.
The new exodus exploration opens up Romans in some fresh ways, not least the revisiting of Romans 3:20ff, where the key term hilasterionis 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.’
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!!
Mathew Maxwell Carr
Fresh, Engaging and Influential!
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!
What is so brilliant about Holland’s work is it seems he has no desire to insert his opinion on certain subjects? This is hard to grasp in our highly individualistic western culture. It seems Holland lines his beliefs to which he thinks Paul and other authors of the scriptures taught. Thanks to his adhering to scholarly integrity I can recommend “Romans: the Divine Marriage” to leaders and teachers searching for solidarity in their own churches. Due to his uncanny ability to relate to the layman I recommend it to all. Holland combines scholarship with heart!
David B. Curtison
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!