A review of Gareth Lee Cockerill’s The Epistle to the Hebrews
Cockerill’s commentary in the NICNT series is not quite so convincing as Peter O’Brien’s Pillar commentary, overall, despite its huge heft at nearly 750 pages. A less Reformed theological approach is evident throughout, though the author (a Wesleyan Arminian) is conversant with and thoroughly immersed in the latest contemporary research on the book.
He dismisses the evidence for Lucan authorship given by David Allen as less than impressive, and seems to edge towards Apollos as the most likely, though ultimately unconfirmable, candidate. For him the author is above all a pastor, and this is the angle he develops throughout his exposition; an angle, of course, which can be beneficial to the modern preacher looking for homiletical tips.
He has his eye not just on the big picture though, but also on the details. He persuasively argues against the confusion / assimilation of two different compound verbs in Hebrews 2:16 by several recent translations. This is just one of a number of detailed and penetrating investigations in the footnotes which make this commentary a mine of useful insight not easily found elsewhere. I think he misses the Targummic background to Hebrews 4:12 and therefore dismisses a common Patristic view of “the Word of God” in that verse as a reference to Christ, but this is regularly passed over too quickly by modern commentators.
I would always go to O’Brien first before Cockerill, though both have their advantages. Attridge might still be the best first port of call for some, however, and Calvin’s commentary on Hebrews should never be neglected by the preacher.
This review first appeared in Churchman 128/2 (2014).