Keener, Craig S.
Acts: An Exegetical Commentary: Introduction and 1:1–14:28, Logos Edition. 2 Vols.
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012–2013.
With thanks to Logos Bible Software for this review copy!
Craig Keener is one of the finest New Testament scholars to have ever graced the page. His prose isn’t always the most eloquent (although he writes clearly), and I admit to having never read his poetry (or even knowing if he’s written any!), but his knowledge of ancient Mediterranean and Graeco-Roman culture, customs, and literature is virtually unmatched by any scholar, dead or alive. It has enriched my understanding of the New Testament in immeasurable ways!
Throughout the course of his career, Keener has brought this knowledge to a wide audience with lengthy commentaries on both Matthew and John’s Gospel as well as a wonderful New Testament Bible Background Commentary that I’ve used with great profit over the years. Add to this his recent Historical Jesus book and a two-volume work on Miracles and it becomes apparent that Keener has a penchant for writing big (meticulously researched) books.
It should come as no surprise then to see that when he’s turned his attention to the Acts of the Apostles, one of the longest books in the New Testament, that he’s produced a multi-volume commentary focused heavily on background material. The volumes under review are the first two of a proposed four-volume opus. Baker Academic and Logos Bible Software have come together to produce an excellent digital resource that students of the New Testament will use with great profit for years to come.
Given the length of the commentary, and the fact that there’s only 24 hours in a day, I’ve barely scratched the surface of all that Keener says in these volumes. Having made that clear, I will be focusing mainly on the advantages of this as a Logos product, and saving most of my thoughts on the commentary proper for another review on another day.
Let’s start with the table of contents, which shows the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of Keener’s set up for the commentary! Take a look at these chapter headings and then tell me that this isn’t a full-length monograph, if not several! You can’t tell from the screen shot but Keener has more than 600 pages of introduction, all of which focuses heavily on primary source material from Greco-Roman writers.
Keener is quick to note that the “exegetical” in the title of these volumes is a bit misleading as “this commentary is social-historical and, in some sections, rhetorical in its focus and does not focus as much attention on lexical or grammatical details” (5), which can be gleaned from a number of other commentaries or reference works. Rather he opts to “focus more often (though not exclusively) on conceptual parallels to provide the reader what she or he would find elsewhere only with greater difficulty” (6).
As far as genre goes, Keener says that Acts is a “historical monograph” (92). He dates the book to the early 70s, arguing that Luke shows a dependence on Mark, which is a strong indicator that he wrote after the deaths of Peter and Paul (389). He sees the author as a companion of Paul’s, basing this heavily on the “we” narratives (407), and thinks the physician Luke a likely candidate based on both internal and external evidence. The audience, it is suggested, was educated and possessed a “higher-than-average status” (425).
Keener has been preparing the soil for some of this material for a while now. Much of what he has to say about historiography in chapters 3-5 has been said similarly in his The Historical Jesus of the Gospels. With copious references to the works of ancient historians like Thucydides, Herodotus, Tacitus, Josephus, et alia, Keener makes a compelling case for ancient historians’ concern for facticity and truth telling. “History was supposed to be truthful, and historians harshly criticized other historians whom they accused of promoting falsehood, especially when they exhibited self-serving agendas” (118), Keener tells us. It thus becomes important to identify Luke as keeping with these intentions even if he was not as sophisticated as some of these Greco-Roman historians.
As noted above, I’ve barely scratched the surface of this massive set, which is why I’ve reserved my comments for the introductory material (that again, spans 600+ pages!). But I have had plenty of occasion to explore the functionality of Keener’s work in Logos 5. I’ve been moving back and forth between my PC, which is a Toshiba Satellite Pro hooked up to a 23″ Acer monitor, and my 7″ Kindle Fire HD (hereafter KFHD), which is loaded with the free Logos app. I’ve also used my Samsung Galaxy SII a little bit but the bulk of my study and reading has been on those two devices.
To start, it’s a genuine pleasure to have Logos resources available across multiple platforms! I can be working from home on my PC and pick up right where I left off when I get to work by using my KFHD. All of my markups are available for reference, although I do with that the Logos app provided the option to access documents created in Logos 5 for my PC. That would make creating lesson plans for Bible study or preparing sermons for Sunday worship a dream. Sadly, the app isn’t there yet; at least so far as I know.
Nevertheless, let’s give a few examples of how I’ve made use of Keener’s commentary on my PC. When reading the commentary I like to have a Greek NT (in this case the NA27) and an English translation (here the NIV) open so that I can read the hyperlinked references in context. In addition to having them all open at the same time, I like to have them synced so that I’m always looking at the same material across the resources. Logos makes this incredibly easy and it’s useful beyond words.
Supposing Keener uses a Greek word that jumps out at me—in this case ασφαλως—I simply have to highlight it and right click and several options for word studies are presented. I’d note that Keener’s use of Greek terms is judicious given his social-historical emphasis, so when he does refer to them, it’s generally worth looking into.
Regular Logos users well know the benefit of marked up cross references. I’ve not seen the print version of Keener’s Acts commentary so I’m not sure if it uses footnotes (like his John commentary) or endnotes (like his Historical Jesus book), but in the end, it doesn’t matter. I simply have to hover my cursor over the superscript number and the content of the reference appears. If I click the footnote then the reference stays open until I close it. Pictured below you’ll see that some of the references in the footnote are hyperlinked. Hovering the cursor over these will open up more reference, which can be immediately accessed in context if you have the work in question as part of your Logos library.
So, for example, if Keener references Seneca’s Suasoriae, then I simply have to click the reference and it will open in another window thanks to Logos’ Perseus collection. Below you’ll see the text in Latin but if the English translation was available it would be quite simple to open it up as a parallel resource. In truth, I’d be lost working through this commentary had it not been for the Perseus collection, which is tailor made for a scholar of the ancient world like Keener!
But the older I get, the less I want to sit in front of my computer for extended periods of time. My back isn’t what it used to be! That’s where the KFHD comes in, which has just about all of the functionality of the full program with a couple of added features! I ca easily access the table of contents; jump to exactly the section I want to read; and open up footnotes with ease.
Again, the Perseus collection makes viewing Keener’s references in the original Latin or Greek, or in English translation a breeze. You’ll also notice how attractive the Greek displays on the Logos app for the KFHD.
And while previewing the ancient texts is nice it’s always good to take a moment to read them in context. If the mood strikes I can even compose a note.
In addition to the easy-to-access-and-use notepad, I can mark up the text with ease. Simply select the desired text and follow the popup options from there. In the case of highlighting I select “highlight,” choose the look I want (in this case regular yellow background), and voila, my text is marked up just the way I want it. And this will transfer across platforms so that whatever I do on my KFHD will be seen on my phone or PC.
I even have the option to share what I’m reading via several social media outlets or email, or upload to Dropbox or Evernote. If I had an Adobe subscription then converting selected material to PDF would be an option (but I don’t, and if I did, I’m not sure that I would).
The bottom line is this: Keener’s work will serve the student well. Access to it in Logos 5 makes all the more helpful (what, with the fast search functionality, and navigating between resources and platforms, and all). And I say this as an advocate of the printed page. I’d love to have these volumes in multiple mediums, but surprisingly, I don’t feel the least bit slighted to have it in Logos alone.