The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Jul 29, 2023

The New ICC on 1 Peter by Williams and Horrell: Positive Initial Impressions

First Peter is no longer the "Exegetical Stepchild" that John H. Elliott once labeled it. The last decade has produced a plethora of monographs and commentaries dealing with this epistle, including but not limited to the Ruth Anne Reese's New Cambridge Bible Commentary, Craig Keener's stand-alone commentary for Baker Academic, Dennis Edwards' Story of God Bible Commentary, my own Lexham Research Commentary, and Catherine Gunsalus González's Belief theological commentary. In addition, Baker just put out Karen Jobes' 2nd edition of her Baker Exegetical Commentary, which remains (in my humble-but-opinionated-opinion) the commentary of choice for any minister's library.

This past year also saw the publication of the new, massive, 2-volume International Critical Commentary Travis B. Williams and David G. Horrell (T&T Clark). This replaces the previous ICC on 1 Peter by Charles Biggs, a volume which also contained 2 Peter and Jude (in my opinion, Biggs' commentaries on 2 Peter and Jude were better than his commentary on 1 Peter).

I intend here to give a few positive initial impressions of Williams and Horrell's epic tome ("epic" in the sense of "It's got 800+ pages per volume!!"). First, a couple caveats:

1. Notwithstanding the immense value to be had from this ICC (despite its hefty price tag), Jobes' commentary still remains the best for pastoral work, and should be the first one to be purchased by any seminarian or minister seeking to preach on or develop a Bible study on the topic (for second place, I would suggest Wayne Grudem [Tyndale], Reese, or perhaps Keener for the wealth of his background material). For my reflections here, I am dealing with the value of this ICC for academic study.

2. I am a bit biased towards this commentary, because I have enjoyed a cordial correspondence with Dr. Williams regarding 1 and 2 Peter and NT scholarship in general, and also because their commentary cites my work a number of times (not always in agreement, but always fairly). It is worth noting that Williams studied under Horrell at the University of Exeter, and in fact it seems to me that Horrell has been mentoring a relatively high number of Petrine scholars in the past couple decades compared to other professors at top-tier universities. In other words, a lot of interesting work on 1 Peter has been coming out of Exeter. 

With that in mind, here are a number of positive observations regarding this commentary:

1. First, this ICC can probably claim to be the most well-researched commentary ever written on 1 Peter (though Keener's commentary has an immense number of primary/ancient sources). Williams and Horrell have put together a bibliography with over 2,500 sources (the bibliography runs from pages 657–816, and I am "guesstimating" about 16 sources per page).

2. Second, you can rest assured that the authors represent some of the best in the field of Petrine scholarship. I confess that one of my pet peeves is when a scholar who has written virtually no peer-reviewed material on a particular book of the Bible ends up writing a commentary on it in a major series. Such authors are usually (though not always) at a disadvantage in regards to understanding the secondary literature, and thus their commentary is usually (though not always) subpar, in my humble-but-opinionated opinion (and yes, I have a specific example in mind, albeit on a different book than 1 Peter). No worries here, as both Williams and Horrell are already easily in the top-10 of Petrine scholarship, at least where English is a primary language. Williams, the junior member of the team, by himself has published two full monographs on 1 Peter, each in a different prestigious European series, not to mention eight peer-reviewed articles specifically on 1 Peter, four of which are in tier-1 journals (and Williams' article in ZNTW significantly influenced my own thinking on 1 Peter).

3. Third, even a cursory glance indicates that Williams and Horrell interact with the Greek text in a very detailed manner. (This is not a a commentary for casual perusal!) For the record, the commentary flows verse-by-verse and clause-by-clause, making it much easier to find a discussion on a particular point of the text.

4. Fourth, the authors do an excellent job of discussing competing viewpoints. And yes, for those of you who were wondering, there is an entire excursus of 7 pages (2:215–221) devoted to the "history of interpretation" of the phrase "preached to the spirits in prison," with 18 pages (2:221–238) that actual exegete the text and discuss the various viewpoints. Interestingly, the commentary takes the minority view that the phrase refers to "disembodied human souls" rather than fallen angels.

So there you have it, the next big thing in Petrine scholarship. These positive comments should not be taken as an endorsement of all the views held to by the authors, of course (and my own position is that Peter himself wrote the book, while allowing for the possibility of an amanuensis), but this is a commentary that libraries and serious Petrine academics need to purchase.