Two Horizons NT Commentary in Accordance

The Two Horizons Commentary is on sale right now at Accordance Bible Software. The New Testament bundle ($99) covers 14 books in 9 volumes, and the Old Testament covers ($125) 14 books in 13 volumes. In this post, I want to help you better understand the unique perspective this series offers and demonstrate how it can be used in Accordance.

Two Horizons NT Commentary, 9 vols.
Two Horizons NT Commentary, 9 vols.

The Approach

Joel Green is the New Testament series editor, and in the first few pages of each volume this is the way he states the approach of the series:

Two features distinguish THE TWO HORIZONS NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY series: theological exegesis and theological reflection.

In each volume, the individual authors have the freedom to demonstrate exactly what theological exegesis and reflection means for them. The common thread is each author’s explicit intention to blend the insights of biblical studies and theology.

Format

Each volume follows this basic structure:

  • A concise introduction to the NT book
  • Paragraph by paragraph commentary proper
  • Sections dedicated to theological reflection:
    • The theology of the book
    • How that theology fits within the biblical author’s other scriptural writings or the New Testament in general
    • How the book contributes to broader, constructive theology.

In his 1 Peter volume, Joel Green recognizes that students and scholars frequently identify with biblical studies or theology. Even if they are hesitant to admit it, they pull for one team or the other — it’s biblical theology or systematic theology kind of like it’s Duke or UNC, UK or UofL. He writes,

So the format of the Two Horizons series accounts for the state of play but in varying ways also works to overcome those dichotomies by promoting a stronger sense of partnership and necessary integration. This, after all, is where most of us live — without a moment’s hesitation or second thought, we voice our theological and biblical formation in prayer, for example, as in the rest of life. (p. 190)

NT Contributors

I want to provide at least a snippet from each NT contributor explaining their approach in their own words.

F. Scott Spencer, Luke:

Early on in my work on this commentary, I lit on Luke’s stated purpose for writing his Gospel—“that you may know the truth [assuredly, solidly]” (1:4)—as a guiding star for my trek through the narrative … I make no claim to being a spiritual director (far from it), but I hope this commentary offers some illumination of Luke’s narrative tracking of Jesus’s and his followers’ foundational spiritual pilgrimages. (p. xii)

Stephen Fowl, Philippians:

It appears, then, that one of the tasks of a theological commentary at the beginning of the twenty-first century is to attend to this difference between the pre-modern and the modern. In doing this, the challenge is to keep theological concerns primary rather than subsidiary to other sorts of exegesis … one of the challenges I face in writing this commentary is to discern how and in what ways to present historical concerns in ways that enhance rather than frustrate theological inquiry. In this light, I assume throughout the commentary that what Paul says to the “saints in Christ Jesus in Philippi” (1:1) is also meant for all saints in Christ Jesus today. Therefore, in translating and commenting upon Paul’s words to the Philippians, I intend them to be taken as words for us, Christians, today. (p. 6)

Marianne Meye Thompson, Colossians and Philemon, doesn’t have a section devoted to explicitly discussing her approach, but she follows the pattern of the other volumes, providing a concise introduction, commentary proper, and then discussing the theology of Colossians, how that theology fits into broader Pauline theology, and the contributions the letter makes to constructive theology more broadly.

Andy Johnson, 1 & 2 Thessalonians:

First, I will consciously attempt to offer an interpretation of 1 and 2 Thessalonians that focuses on elements of the text most useful for facilitating the continuing formation of the church into its proper identity as a missional community. Second, throughout the commentary I will assume that Scripture has a roughly discernible shape that bears witness to God’s mission for the cosmos. (p. 2)

Robert W. Wall & Richard B. Steele, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus:

The busy design of this commentary, which integrates a canonical approach to exegesis and a theological reading constrained by Tertullian’s articulation of the apostolic Rule of Faith and is grounded in stories of Christian movements and those who led them, is a testimony to Steve [Fowl] and Joel[ Green]’s insistence that Scripture must be firmly located in ecclesial soil and envisage an equal commitment to its role in forming Christian beliefs and virtue. (p. xi)

Ruth Anne Reese, 2 Peter and Jude:

This commentary is unique because it seeks to bring together exegesis and theology in a partnership that illumines the epistles under consideration and the process of interpretation itself. (p. 1)

John Christopher Thomas and Frank D. Macchia, Revelation — A section of this volume:

The book’s effective history is selectively reviewed by surveying a few examples from the following categories: disastrous interpretations of Revelation, other apocalyptic “Johannine” documents, art, music, poetry, film, and commentaries. (p. 44)

Fowl on the Christ Hymn

Stephen Fowl’s Philippians commentary provides a great example of how the series’ approach can fill out your study of a passage. I want to give you a tour of his discussion of the Christ Hymn in Philippians 2:5–11.

Fowl states that Philippians 2:5–11 is the climax of the argument of the epistle (p. 89), and he devotes about thirty pages to carefully walking through these seven verses. He discusses critical questions that arise in every verse with attention to the issues of biblical studies, dogmatics, and the history of interpretation.

For example, what does it means for Jesus to be in the form (μορφή) of God in light of Old Testament statements that no one can see God and live? He cites and discusses the following:

  • Josephus
  • Philo
  • a host of Septuagint references to glory (δόξα)
  • other New Testaments passages regarding glory and the revelation of God
  • Bernard of Clairvaux’s homilies on the Song of Songs
  • Marcus Bockmuehl’s position

Fowl’s discussion of μορφή in Philippians 2:6 covers a lot of ground and he does it in only four pages. Fowl concludes,

Thus the claim that Christ was in the “form” of God can be taken as a reference to Christ’s sharing in the eternal glory of God and making that glory visible. It may also indicate that the best way to think of Christ’s manifestation of the glory of God is in terms of Christ’s beautiful body, a beauty that is not diminished but enhanced by taking on the “form” of a slave. (p. 94)

What does it mean for Christ to take the form of a slave?

[His] systematic obedience to God is the way in which Christ manifests the appearance of a slave. (p. 98)

Fowl allows the text of scripture to raise the questions, but at the same time he doesn’t force “answers” from scripture that are not actually there. Listen to this from his discussion of Christ taking on human form:

Therefore, it is important to recognize that, on grounds of grammar, syntax, and semantics alone these two clauses support neither a docetic nor an orthodox account of Christ’s humanity. The inner logic of Christian accounts of salvation demands a fully human Christ … Straightforward exegetical explication cannot substitute for the reflective theological logic required here. This is a good example of letting Christian theological convictions rather than sociological or historical-critical concerns govern a theological reading of Scripture. (pp. 98–99)

I especially appreciate the way he handles the shift from 2:8 to 2:9. Here’s the passage:

2:8 ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ. 2:9 διὸ καὶ ὁ θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσεν καὶ ἐχαρίσατο αὐτῷ τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα …

2:8 He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 2:9 That is why God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name …

Does the causal link here at the beginning of verse 9 (“that is why,” or “and therefore,” διὸ καί) mean there is a “crude transaction” between Christ and God? Is obedience offered in exchange for exaltation? Fowl explains,

To read vv. 6–11 in this way would be to portray the inner life of the Trinity on the basis of a straightforward exchange of gifts in which one person’s gift effectively coerces a reciprocal gift. Such a structure inscribes both a hierarchy and a struggle within an economy of lack into the life of the Trinity. Alternatively, Christians understand that within the life of God there is no lack. To the extent that we want to think of the relations between the three persons in terms of gift-giving, it would have to be in terms of an uncoerced circulation of gifts flowing from a super-abundance of love rather than lack. In short, then, although vv. 9–11 are causally linked to vv. 6–8, it is not the case that Christ’s activity in vv. 6–8 coerces or provokes God’s activity in vv. 9–11. Rather, it is fitting that God’s activity in vv. 9–11 follows Christ’s obedient self-emptying because that is the nature of the triune God. (p. 101)

I hope you can see from these short snippets how confessional, orthodox Christology constrains and informs the reading and commentary. When questions arise, Fowl masterfully explains the issues and gives the mic to the testimony of the creeds and the most fundamental Christian consensus of millenia. The logic of orthodox Christology fills in the gaps instead of relying merely on tentative historical reconstructions.

Two Horizons in Accordance

In Accordance, the Two Horizons New Testament Commentary is one module. For extensive reading and focused research on one passage, I like to open the commentary module, turn up the font size, and extend the line spacing a little.

A workspace for more extensive commentary reading
A workspace for more extensive commentary reading

I appreciate how I can easily enlarge the font and space out the text and not worry about “messing up” my default settings. Next time I open the text, perhaps in a workspace more crowded with other tabs and zones, it will display in the normal way with smaller font and line spacing.

Notice the text browser on the right, as well. I have the Accordance preferences set so that when I click a verse reference, I can see the text in Greek, Latin, and Syriac for the New Testament.

A host of other versions would open for Old Testament references. You can read more about the text browser tab here, and check out this site for more about how to determine which texts appear in the text browser.

It is also nice at times to hit command+space+0 and hide the toolbar at the top to have an even more focused reading workspace.

Hiding the toolbar for a cleaner reading workspace
Hiding the toolbar for a cleaner reading workspace

For quickly jumping to a commentary, the info pane is fantastic. You can see it here at the bottom of this workspace.

Clicking to open a commentary from the info pane
Clicking to open a commentary from the info pane

Clicking the Two Horizons picture opens the commentary to the correct place. Clicking while holding down the command key, however, opens the commentary in a separate tab. This is a good option for reading a little more extensively but not necessarily settling in for twenty or thirty pages.

Command clicking to open a commentary from the info pane
Command clicking to open a commentary from the info pane

Conclusion

The Two Horizons Commentary as a series approaches the text from a unique perspective. It’s both modern and pre-modern, integrating insights from biblical studies, biblical theology, the history of interpretation, and constructive theology. For this reason it can fill a unique gap in your commentary line-up.

Accordance provides an ideal way to access the commentary alongside your morphologically tagged versions of scripture and other commentaries and dictionaries. For the next week or so you can pick up the 9 volume New Testament set for $99 and the 13 volume Old Testament set for $125. For someone who regularly ponders scripture and prepares lessons or sermons, I think that price is a great deal and a solid investment.

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