David Peterson on Acts

DP on ActsA review of David Peterson’s commentary on Acts

The monumental new commentary on Acts, in the Pillar series, lands on the desk with a satisfying thud. David Peterson, former Principal of Oak Hill gives us nearly 800 pages, so this is not a “quick reference guide” for the preacher, by any means. It does, however, repay patient reading, and is insightful, balanced, careful, and scholarly without neglecting the purpose of a commentary like this which is to unpack the meaning of Scripture for the sake of proclamation.

The first 100 pages is a masterclass in introductory matters, with an excellent section of the theological themes of Acts. There is solid interaction with the Greek text (transliterated) throughout, and proper attention to secondary literature — but without simply being a summary of what other people have said, which is such an annoyance with many big commentaries today.

Peterson is considerably influenced by Tannehill’s groundbreaking work on literary approaches to Acts, and he sees “the progress of the word” as being a key structural marker throughout, as well as considering Luke-Acts as “one project with a common aim.” He keeps his eye on the big picture when looking at specific sections of the book, e.g. interpreting Acts 5 in the context of the programmatic Acts 2:42-47.

There are powerful asides for the pastors Peterson has himself trained, in his exposition of Acts 20. Theologically, he is well-aware of the uses to which various texts in Acts have been put. For example, he argues on the household baptisms that, “it would be remarkable if no babies were included” in any of them, though judiciously stops short of saying that they “prove” infant baptism. He also concludes with Barrett that Acts 13:48 is both an unqualified statement of absolute predestination and also affirms that those who do not believe are “appointed to death”, the negative being implied by the positive.

So, a reliable and weighty guide for any serious student or patient preacher of this book.

This review was first published in Churchman 128/2 (2014).

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