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Osborne’s 19-volume New Testament commentary project ‘a culmination of my life’

Grant Osborne's Ambitious Retirement Project

Trinity CommunicationsJuly 22, 2016

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In his time at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, many would argue that Grant Osborne already has offered teaching and scholarship to both his students and the larger evangelical community in ways that are virtually unmatched.

But at age 74, Osborne is far from satisfied.

He recently retired as professor of New Testament on the TEDS campus in Deerfield, Ill. after nearly 50 years as a student and faculty member. Retirement will not feature golf, beachcombing, or Caribbean cruises.

Osborne has signed a contract to produce a 19-volume set of New Testament commentaries for Lexham Press, which is based in Bellingham, Wash.

He’s already completed work on several volumes, including Revelation, Colossians-Philemon, Ephesians and Philippians. He reports solid progress on Galatians.

“There’s nothing in the New Testament I haven’t already taught several times,” Osborne said, “so I’m building on that.”

His TEDS colleagues see the project as an opportunity for Osborne to use his unique gifts as a theologian and professor.

“Grant is one of those scholars who, dare I put it this way, specializes in being a generalist,” TEDS Research Professor of New Testament Don Carson said. “He reads very widely and has commented on many books in the New Testament.”

“Grant Osborne has mastered the art of writing helpful, readable, and informative commentaries, helpful to scholars, pastors, and students alike,” Trinity President David S. Dockery said. “This timely project will be a blessing to many for years to come.”

The audience for Osborne’s project extends beyond theologians to pastors and lay people who teach the New Testament. The idea is to provide commentaries that are easy to use.

“I didn’t think of doing this until last summer, when I started to rework my Revelation commentary,” Osborne said. “It was too academic in 850 pages. I wanted to make it for lay people. As I started working on it, I thought, ‘this is exactly what I’ve always wanted to see for the entire New Testament.’”

The timing of Osborne’s project is important. As he enters his sixth decade of ministry, he compares the amount of biblical knowledge today with when he embarked on his career.

“The knowledge level of biblical material has literally quadrupled in those 50 years,” Osborne said. “We really know four times as much as we did about the meaning of the text, what’s behind the text, and all the background.”

The sheer volume of new knowledge actually can become a problem for pastors and lay teachers. The demands of ministry occupy so much time that digging into new biblical commentaries is not possible. Osborne says there are commentaries today that are 800,000-words long and written primarily for scholars. But those volumes contain information that Bible teachers need for their classes and congregations.

“Pastors are kind of blown away and almost get intimidated by all the material,” Osborne said. “What I’m going to do is take all that material and make it useful for pastors, too.”

Osborne says many people want to minister and share the Gospel, but they don’t fully appreciate the riches that can be found in Scripture.

“What I really want to do is help people to learn to love His Word, learn to get God’s heart about His Word,” Osborne said. “We call it the Word of God but we don’t treat it like the Word of God.”

Without his teaching load, Osborne thinks he can have all 19 volumes done in 10-12 years. By that time, he will be into his mid-80s.

“We hope and pray that in retirement, the Lord will give him many years to be productive,” Carson said.

Rather than years of work, Osborne sees opportunities and promise.

“It’s a joy. It really is a culmination of my life,” Osborne said. “I feel my entire life has been preparing me for this moment.”

Editor’s note: An extended interview with Osborne about this project is available for viewing from Lexham Press.

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