Book Review – Christian Faith in the Old Testament: The Bible of the Apostles (Gareth Lee Cockerill)

OT Cockerill

Gareth Lee Cockerill. Christian Faith in the Old Testament: The Bible of the Apostles. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2014. 256 pp. $14.99

I think it’s fairly accurate to say that for a large portion of lay Christians, the majority of their diet in the Word consists of the New Testament sprinkled with some Psalms and Proverbs. The Old Testament is read more rarely and seen as hard to understand and irrelevant.

We have lost the Bible of the Apostles, and in so doing we have lost much. We end up with an anemic view of Christ, a superficial understanding of the atonement, and an individualistic view of the church. Our God shrinks because we no longer see the majesty of his creation, the grandeur of his work in history, or the glory of his salvation in Christ. We have little basis for social ethics. We live in rootless isolation because we no longer see ourselves as children of Abraham and part of the people of God, stretched out across history and on its way to glory. If we do not have the Bible of the Apostles, we will not have the true apostolic faith.”

(p. 13)

In Christian Faith in the Old Testament, Dr. Gareth Lee Cockerill provides an excellent big-picture overview of the Old Testament for lay Christians. Moving through the Old Testament section by section, Cockerill shows the reader how to read each part and helps the reader grasp how each part fits into the entire scope of biblical revelation and how each part applies to believers living after Christ’s first coming. This book shows how the Old Testament points toward fulfillment in Christ of God’s promises of redemption and restoration. The final chapter covers the New Testament and the accomplishment, experience, and consummation of restoration.Appendix 1 covers why the 39 books of our Old Testament belong there, and none others. Appendix 2 collates several pictures scattered throughout the body of the book that together provide a graphic overview of the unified message of the entire Bible.

Written in an accessible style and at an accessible length, this is a great book for any lay Christian looking for a guide to the Old Testament. It would also function well as a text for Old Testament survey courses in churches and OT survey series in any type of small group context.

*A free copy was provided in exchange for an unbiased review.

Purchase: Amazon

Autocorrect Humor – Christian Edition

I see posts all the time on Twitter and Facebook of funny autocorrect mishaps…but I’ve never seen one with Christian content. The below just happened in a Facebook conversation. I literally laughed aloud, and cracked up again as I read it a second time while doing the screencapture.

autocorrect

How Jesus Became God/How God Became Jesus – Part 1 (Divinity in the Ancient World)

Introduction here.

How Jesus Became God (Ehrman)
One of Ehrman’s driving questions in How Jesus Became God is what Christians meant when they said that Jesus is God. In this study, recognizing how people could have been understood as divine is the first step towards understanding how Jesus came to be seen as divine. Accordingly, the first two chapters treat the topic of divinity in the ancient world, with chapter 1 covering the Greco-Roman world and chapter 2 covering Judaism.

In chapter 1 Ehrman summarizes and provides examples of three models of the divine human in the ancient Greco-Roman world: 1) gods who temporarily become human, 2) divine beings born of a god and a mortal, and 3) humans who become divine. We tend to conceive of divinity in black-or-white, all-or-nothing terms. But it was not so in the ancient world, where there were gradations of divinity and where many were perceived as in some sense divine. Both humanity and divinity were seen as being “on a vertical continuum, and these two continuums sometimes meet at the high end of the one and the low end of the other” (39). Alternatively, the ancient conception of divinity can be illustrated by “a pyramid of power, grandeur, and deity” (40). Therefore, when we ask whether the early Christians thought of Jesus as God, the real question we need to ask is in what sense Christians thought of Jesus as God (44).

Anticipating the objection to chapter 1 of “That was the Romans; Jews were monotheistic,” Ehrman devotes chapter 2 to showing that the Jewish conception of divinity was influenced by and paralleled that of the pagans. He makes two preliminary points: first, that the Ten Commandments and the majority of the Hebrew Bible express a henotheistic view (there are other gods, but only one is to be worshipped); and second, that even though most Jews had become monotheistic by the time of Jesus, this didn’t preclude the possibility of other divine beings (i.e. Jews believed in other divine beings such as angels, even though they didn’t call them gods). Then Ehrman moves on to the main point of chapter 2, which is that like the pagans, Jews also believed that divine beings temporarily became human, semi-divine beings were born of unions between divine beings and mortals, and human beings became divine.

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Calling All Biblio/Theo Geeks!

In case it’s not obvious, I’m kind of a biblical/theological studies nerd. But I’ve never formally studied it, nor am I currently a student of any sort. Thanks to social media and the rise of “biblioblogs,” I’m able to keep up with some of the things going on in the academic world. But one thing that’s always brought me to the verge of tears is the fact that I can’t access the papers students and scholars tweet and blog about. Or so I thought.

I just realized that I can access UA’s research databases! I’m surprised that my login information has not expired since I graduated 3 years ago, but I’m ecstatic. I am so excited right now that I can hardly focus on doing my work. I can’t wait to download/read papers. So, here’s where you all come in. Please comment with some “must-read” papers in anything related to biblical and theological studies; my interests are pretty broad (although I’m partial to NT studies in general and, to Jim West’s horror, Pauline studies). Yes, I will be downloading every paper ever published in the JSNT :D

How Jesus Became God/How God Became Jesus – Introduction

As I have been contemplating how to interact with these books, a host of reviews, debates, videos, etc. have already surfaced. For those who haven’t seen the links, I collate some highlights below:

  • Emily Varner’s interview with Michael Bird
  • Interview with Craig Evans at 100 Huntley
  • Craig Evans talks about Ehrman’s book
  • Michael Bird’s video promo
  • Ehrman/Gathercole debate – Part 1
  • Ehrman/Gathercole debate – Part 2
  • Deeper Waters interview with Tilling, Hill, & Bird

Several conventional reviews have already been posted, and bloggers are also beginning to write detailed series covering these books (e.g Lindsay Kennedy and Brian Leport are both taking a chapter-by-chapter approach through parallel chunks of the two books). Because there is so much interaction already, I had thought that maybe I would just write one review of each book instead of doing a series. After going back and forth, I have decided to still do my own little series, partially because it would benefit me personally, and partially because I have readers that don’t follow the biblioblogging world. Furthermore, I think I might find a niche by being more detailed than a conventional review but less detailed/lengthy than what some other bloggers are doing.

I envision doing one post for each major topic, highlighting arguments from both books as well as providing my own thoughts. Below is what I anticipate the series will be. As each post goes live, the points below will become links to the respective posts. Today I provide an introduction.

  1. Divine Humans in the Ancient Greco-Roman World and in Ancient Judaism
  2. Did Jesus Think He Was God?
  3. The Burial and Resurrection of Jesus
  4. Christology of the First Believers
  5. Second and Third Century Christologies
  6. Ortho-paradoxes on the Road to Nicea
  7. Problems with Ehrman’s Interpretive Categories and Exegesis
  8. Concluding Thoughts

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Saturday Sillies

“Go Wayne Grudem” – A parody of “Grease Lightening”

Book(let) Review: Did Adam Exist? (Vern Poythress)

Vern S. Poythress. Did Adam Exist? (Christian Answers to Hard Questions). Philllipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2014. 32 pp. $4.99.

Did Adam ExistThere are several issues that are perennial sources of objection from non-Christians as well as constant sources of difficulty for Christians. Theodicy immediately comes to mind. Cosmology and the historical Adam is another. Last year P&R launched a booklet series in conjunction with Westminster Theological Seminary entitled “Christian Answers to Hard Questions.” Ranging from 32-48 pages, these booklets are designed to equip lay Christians to defend the most common objections to the Christian faith. They are obviously not meant to be exhaustive since they are small and short; but these books are great introductions to the issues at hand with concise answers that provide a good launching point for further study. I have previously read and reviewed Beale’s booklet, The Morality of God in the Old Testament.

The latest addition to the series addresses the historical Adam, a topic that has been the focus of several recent books. This booklet doesn’t introduce the topic in a general way, but rather focuses on the claims that genetic analyses demonstrate our ape ancestry (and, by extension, that a historical Adam could not have existed). Much of the booklet evaluates the commonly cited statistic of 99% identity between human DNA and chimp DNA. Dr. Poythress points out the challenges of this claim and how the figure of 99% comes about, showing that overall our genetic makeup is not as similar to chimp genetic makeup as naturalistic scientists would have us believe. However, Poythress points out that regardless of the degree of similarity, what really matters is the significance of the similarities. The genetic data needs to be interpreted, whether from the Darwinist framework or the Christian one.

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Book Log: March 2014

 

  1. Captivated: Beholding the Mystery of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection – Thabiti Anyabwile. Comprised of five short chapters adapted from five sermons preached leading up to Easter, this book was written out of a conviction that the Scriptures exhort us to take long looks at God and to contemplate His ways, especially in connection to the cross and resurrection of Christ – to “look beneath the surface to find more of the never-ending treasures of Christ,” to “stare at Jesus and be captivated by Him.” This book is saturated with Scripture and Anyabwile is a faithful and skilled expositor of the Word; I can recommend the it without reservation in terms of biblical faithfulness and orthodoxy. However, it’s just not extremely meaty and the one who has read a lot on the cross will not likely learn anything new. Full review here.
  2.  From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible – Norman Geisler and William Nix. Full review here. I think this is a book every Christian should own, especially if you’re passionate about apologetics and/or you want to know more about the Bible’s origin, history, and development. This one book covers several topics that are usually only addressed in separate books – doctrine of Scripture, apologetics issues, textual criticism, history of translation, etc. Full review here.
  3. From Bondage to Liberty: The Gospel According to Moses – Anthony Selvaggio. Part of the “Gospel According to the Old Testament” series from P&R, this volume takes us on a whirlwind guided tour through the book of Exodus to show us how God worked in Moses to change him, how God used him to deliver His people and reveal His glory, and how Moses and the events surrounding the exodus foreshadow Christ and the way He would ultimately deliver His people from spiritual bondage to liberty. Full review here.
  4. From Jesus to the Church: The First Christian Generation – Craig Evans. This book is a fascinating treatment of an important aspect of church history (specifically, the history of the first Christian generation) that has not really been investigated: ““the clash between the family of high priest Annas and the family of Jesus of Nazareth, a clash inaugurated by a Jeremiah-related prophecy of the temple’s doom, uttered by another man named Jesus. ” Through masterful investigation of both canonical and noncanonical texts, Evans helps us see the importance of this prophecy, what motivated it, and the effects it had on both the followers of Jesus and on the followers of Annas. Full review here.
  5. Old Testament Today: A Journey From Ancient Context to Contemporary Relevance, 2nd Edition – John Walton and Andrew Hill. This second edition adds an introduction to each book of the Bible, making it an even more valuable resource both for Old Testament introduction/survey courses, as well as laypeople looking for a guide to studying, understanding, and applying the Old Testament. Full review here.
  6. Did Adam Exist? – Vern Poythress. This latest booklet in the Christian Answers to Hard Questions series offers a theologically informed evaluation of claims that genetic analysis proves that an historical Adam did not exist. Much of the booklet is devoted to showing the flaws behind the argument of 99% genetic identity between human and chimpanzee DNA as well as interpreting the significance of the genetic similarity. Ultimately, Poythress asserts that “the essential character of human nature is not to be found in quantitative comparisons in the chemistry of DNA,” that “if persons are significant, because God made them, it matters little what is their exact chemical make-up. What matters is that they are persons who can relate to God who is personal.”

In the Mail

Up until a few months ago, I never entered contests. I figured I’d never win anyway, so I didn’t bother. That all changed when I started using Twitter regularly a few months ago and discovered that there are regular book giveaways in the Twitterverse. I could not resist. So I entered my first giveaway, and I won. I was shocked. And happy. And thankful. A few months later, I am still shocked and happy and thankful, but I’m also confused and amused. Because I just. keep. winning. I really don’t understand why I keep winning; I’m confused because I don’t believe in coincidence; because I believe that God “doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence” (WCF 5.1). Why would God in His sovereignty give me all these book victories? I’m not complaining. I just don’t get it.

Anyway, every victory has made me full of nerdy glee. I’ve won a lot of great books. But last week, I won the motherload. A few weeks ago Brazos Press hosted a blog tour for Craig Blomberg’s new book Can We Still Believe the Bible. Publishers often hold blog tours of new books by recruiting average joe bloggers like yours truly. But this blog tour was unique because all the participants are in the academic world of biblical and theological studies. Participants included luminaries in New Testament studies such as Daniel Wallace, Darrell Bock, Michael Bird, and Craig Keener. Do check out the tour. The giveaway included several copies of Can We Still Believe the Bible as well as a grand prize of 5 books. I won the grand prize!!!! See the picture below, and it will be obvious why I was/am so ecstatic. I’ve probably purchased more books from Baker Academic than any other publisher; and most of their books end up on my to-read list. And I own none of the books below. Words can’t express my delight. Now….I am seriously thinking about whether I can take a week off, get a cabin by a lake and just read/write.

Baker Giveaway

  1. Can We Still Believe the Bible?: An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions (Craig Blomberg)

    Challenges to the reliability of Scripture are perennial and have frequently been addressed. However, some of these challenges are noticeably more common today, and the topic is currently of particular interest among evangelicals. In this volume, highly regarded biblical scholar Craig Blomberg offers an accessible and nuanced argument for the Bible’s reliability in response to the extreme views about Scripture and its authority articulated by both sides of the debate. He believes that a careful analysis of the relevant evidence shows we have reason to be more confident in the Bible than ever before. As he traces his own academic and spiritual journey, Blomberg sketches out the case for confidence in the Bible in spite of various challenges to the trustworthiness of Scripture, offering a positive, informed, and defensible approach.

  2. Are You the One Who is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question (Michael Bird)

    Did Jesus claim to be the longawaited “messiah”? Going against much contemporary scholarship, Australian scholar Michael Bird argues that he did. He begins by exploring the messianic expectations in the Old Testament and Second Temple Jewish literature. Next, Bird points out weaknesses in current arguments that “Messiah,” or “Christ,” was a title given to Jesus by the early church but not used by Jesus himself. Bird then examines the Gospels and related literature, finding in Jesus’s words and actions evidence that he saw himself as the messiah described in the Scriptures of Israel and believed that Israel’s restoration hinged on the outcome of his ministry.

  3. Jesus According to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels (Darrell Bock)

    In recent years, historians and biblical scholars have been in active pursuit of the Jesus of history. These efforts have relied heavily on extra biblical documents, since many historians consider the Bible to be propagandistic and biased. Darrell Bock, however, argues that when read together, the Gospels provide a clear picture of Jesus and his unique claims to authority. Jesus according to Scripture seeks to show the coherent portrait of Jesus that emerges from the Gospels, a portrait that is rooted in history and yet has produced its own historical and cultural impact. Now available in paper, Jesus according to Scripture is an excellent textbook for courses on the life of Jesus at both the advanced college and seminary levels. Pastors, teachers, and all those interested in Jesus and the Gospels will also enjoy this scholarly yet accessible book.

  4. The Story of Jesus in History and Faith: An Introduction (Lee Martin McDonald)

    Many books are available on the historical Jesus, but few address issues that are critically central to Christian faith–namely, Jesus as resurrected Lord, Christ, and Son of God. This comprehensive introduction to the study of the historical Jesus takes both scholarship and Christian faith seriously.Leading New Testament scholar Lee Martin McDonald brings together two critically important dimensions of the story of Jesus: what we can know about him in his historical context and what we can responsibly claim about his significance for faith today. McDonald examines the most important aspects of the story of Jesus from his birth to his resurrection and introduces key issues and approaches in the study of the historical Jesus. He also considers faith issues, taking account of theological perspectives that secular historiography cannot address. The book incorporates excerpts from primary sources and includes a map and tables.

  5. Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Craig Keener)

    Most modern prejudice against biblical miracle reports depends on David Hume’s argument that uniform human experience precluded miracles. Yet current research shows that human experience is far from uniform. In fact, hundreds of millions of people today claim to have experienced miracles. New Testament scholar Craig Keener argues that it is time to rethink Hume’s argument in light of the contemporary evidence available to us. This wide-ranging and meticulously researched two-volume study presents the most thorough current defense of the credibility of the miracle reports in the Gospels and Acts. Drawing on claims from a range of global cultures and taking a multidisciplinary approach to the topic, Keener suggests that many miracle accounts throughout history and from contemporary times are best explained as genuine divine acts, lending credence to the biblical miracle reports.

To Brazos Press and Baker Academic, thanks for hosting such a great blog tour and for giving away such an amazing prize package!

 

Book Review: Old Testament Today (Walton & Hill)

John H. Walton and Andrew E. Hill. Old Testament Today: A Journey From Ancient Context to Contemporary Relevance, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 480 pp. $44.99.

OT TodayThe church is a bit anemic when it comes to the Old Testament; it seems that many Christians mainly read and study the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. And many who do devote their attention to the Old Testament find themselves lost in genealogies, laws, and obscure prophecies, unable to draw much more than narrative facts and moralistic lessons. John Walton and Andrew Hill, both Old Testament professors at Wheaton College, wrote Old Testament Today: A Journey from Ancient Context to Contemporary Relevance to provide students with an orientation to the Old Testament.

First, we will introduce students to the content of the Old Testament, always showing how to move beyond the details of names, places, events, and dates. Second, we will provide an orientation to the world of the Old Testament through pictures, maps, and other visuals. These will often take students beyond the focus of the textbook and into the world behind the Old Testament text. Third, we will provide an orientation to the study of the Old Testament through principles and methods that will help students read the Bible with confidence. Finally, we will offer an orientation to the theology of the Old Testament in its own right but also as a prelude to the New Testament and as a section of the church’s canon (xv).

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