Posted by: chuckbumgardner | September 11, 2011

C. E. B. Cranfield’s Exegetical Method

If you are into New Testament studies much at all, you are at least passingly familiar with C. E. B. Cranfield’s commentary on Romans in the ICC.  A valuable work, and I enjoyed Stephen Neill’s description of Cranfield’s exegetical method:

Cranfield’s exegetical method is masterly.  At each point in the text, which he follows through phrase by phrase, he sorts out all the various possibilities of meaning, lists them and the scholars who have supported them, and rehearses briefly the arguments for and against each, before coming down in favour of one or another, often adding a nuance of his own as he does so.  This sometimes results in lengthy or even heavy sentences; never in unclarity.  Unusually for a modern commentator, Cranfield has read, and made good use of, commentaries not only from the last hundred years but also from the Patristic, medieval, and Reformation periods.  The reader has a sense of following a detailed, precise line of thought, as though being led through a well-arranged treasure-house by a wise and expert guide.

Although Neill’s opinion might very well change were he still living, he characterized Cranfield’s commentary on Romans thus:

There can be no doubt that this work is the fullest, most painstaking, and most theologically acute commentary on Romans to be written in this century, perhaps ever.


Stephen Neill and Tom Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861-1986 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 421-22.


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