Reflections on the recent “plagiarism” debacle over at Eerdmans.

As one that has used O’Brien’s Greek Text commentary on Philippians, I am particularly intrigued by the question of plagiarism. James Ernest, a senior editor at Eerdmans, has stated that both outsiders and internal editors have concluded that the initial accusations have merit enough to force books to be pulled. The three commentaries by Peter O’Brien on Hebrews & Ephesians (Pillar), and Philippians (NIGTC), will now go out of print. Evidently, O’Brien has admitted carelessness in research methods that inadvertently led to plagiarism. One will have to examine Hebrews by F. F. Bruce and compare it to O’Brien to see where the actual offense occurred. One can check the statement from Eerdmans here.

I remember well the numerous admonitions about being careful to cite sources wherever we presented work in our doctoral papers at Southern Seminary. This matter is, no doubt, troubling to the Evangelical academic community for O’Brien has been a leading voice that has engaged the more moderate and liberal scholars on their own turf and has come forth in victory. Now, alas, it appears that at least these three commentaries will be off limits for citation in scholarly works. One may wonder if anything else may emerge from within the Peter O’Brien corpus which will likely be scrutinized now more than ever.

As a pastor, I intend to continue using the works of O’Brien. I have found them to be helpful, even when I disagreed with him, as in the case of the Corpus Christi “hymn” in Philippians 2.5ff. For those engaged in serious exegetical work, his books remain serious voices needing to be heard. But, with that said, we may have to avoid citation of O’Brien in anything we aim for publication, particularly those works intended for the scholastic community. I suspect this will be a widely followed policy.

May God’s grace, of which O’Brien, has so eloquently written, encourage him and sustain him and his family in this time of intense scrutiny.