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Book Notice – Ephesians (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament)

Benjamin L. Merkle. Ephesians (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament).  Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2016. 272 pp. $24.99.

ephesiansB&H Academic’s Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) series is an essential resource for seminary students, pastors, and biblical scholars alike. Written and edited by some of the finest Evangelical New Testament/Koine Greek scholars of our day, these volumes are crucial supplements to conventional commentaries for those studying the Greek NT. The volumes in this series are designed to do what commentaries do not accomplish (provide robust grammatical/syntactical analysis of the Greek text), not duplicate what can be found in any good commentary. However, reference is frequently made to commentaries and Greek grammars where more information can be found.

The latest volume is Ephesians by Benjamin Merkle  (professor of NT and Greek at SEBTS and editor of the Southeastern Theological Review). As is typical of this series, the introduction is very brief (in contrast to commentaries), providing a concise overview of authorship (Paul), date (AD 60-62 during Roman imprisonment), destination (Ephesus rather than circular), and occasion and purpose (here Merkle summarizes six proposals without noting his preference). Like the other volumes, there is a section of recommended commentaries at the beginning and an exegetical outline in the end. Each section of exegesis of the Greek text begins with a basic sentence diagram and concludes with recommended resources for further study as well as homiletical suggestions, providing valuable aids for both study and preaching. Merkle parses notable/difficult words, provides grammatical/syntactical analysis, and for issues where there is debate, summarizes the main views and places an asterisk by his position. A few examples of Merkle’s analysis will be noted from Ephesians 2:1-22.

  • Verse 1 – τοῖς παραπτώμασιν and ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις  could be datives of sphere or cause or both, but sphere is preferred here primarily because of the parallel text  Col 2:13
  • Verse 2 – τοῦ κόσμου is best labeled descriptive genitive (“the age of this world”) but could also be attributive (“worldly age”) or genitive of apposition (“the age, which is the world”)
  • Verse 3 – The prepositional phrase ἐν οἷς could be a dative of sphere (in which case it is structurally parallel to ἐν αἷς in 2:2 with the same antecedents, τοῖς παραπτώμασιν and ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις) or location (in which case the antecedent is τοῖς υἱοῖς τῆς ἀπειθείας from 2:2). Merkle prefers the latter.
  • Verse 14 – Merkle presents the three main views of what τὴν ἔχθραν and ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ refer to: both to the previous participle, λύσας (in which case τὴν ἔχθραν is in apposition to τὸ μεσότοιχον and ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ modifies λύσας); both to the following participle, καταργήσας (in which case τὴν ἔχθραν is in apposition to νόμον in 2:15 and ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ modifies καταργήσας); or τὴν ἔχθραν relates to the previous clause and ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ relates to the following clause, with the phrase in apposition to τὸ μεσότοιχον and ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ modifying καταργήσας. Merkle prefers the last alternaive and renders this verse “he who tore downthe dividing wall, that is, the partition, by setting aside in his flesh the law.”
  • Verse 20 – In response to those who appeal to the Granville Sharpe rule to argue that the apostles and prophets are identical here, Merkle notes that the rule does not apply here because the substantives are plural. In contrast, he takes the position that the two are distinct and that the apostles are a subset of the prophets, and the single article ties the two together as the foundation of the church.

The Ephesians Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament is an indispensable resource for the intermediate Greek student. Besides using it in studying through Ephesians in Greek, this guide is also a great tool for growing in skills of syntactical and exegetical analysis – choose a passage, work through the syntax, do your own exegetical work, and then check your work with the book.  In addition to those studying Greek, this exegetical guide is, of course, also a valuable resource to preachers and Bible study leaders with at least an intermediate facility with Greek.

Thanks to B&H Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon | Westminster

Book Review – Paul’s New Perspective (Garwood Anderson)

Garwood P. Anderson. Paul’s New Perspective: Charting a Soteriological Journey. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016. 457 pp. $45.00

pauls-new-perspectiveThe newest book on the New Perspective on Paul (hereafter NPP) offers a creative way beyond the NPP/TPP (“Traditional Perspective on Paul”) impasse by way of a theory of development in Paul’s soteriology throughout his letters. In the creatively titled Paul’s New Perspective, Garwood Anderson points to both what each side of the debate has right and how each side errs as well as proposes a novel synthesis that provides a plausible explanation of why elements of both perspectives are seen in the Pauline corpus. The thesis of the book is captured by the title: “the new perspective on Paul is Paul’s oldest perspective and the ‘old perspective’ describes what would become (more or less) Paul’s settled ‘new perspective'” (379).

In Chapter 1 Anderson begins by noting four gains of the NPP (reconsidering Paul’s conversion, reappraising the “soteriology of Judaism, reframing Torah observance, and renewing the covenant) before showing how each falls short and needs nuance. Chapter 2  examines a representative sample of texts (Phil 3:1-11,  Rom 3:21-4:8, and Eph 2:1-22) that illustrate the insufficiency of both the NPP and the TPP. Anderson demonstrates that “texts that both paradigms have claimed for themselves actually need to be shared, and once shared, call into question the exclusive rights of both paradigms” (58). With both Philippians 3:1-11 and Ephesians 2:1-11, he shows how half the passage essentially supports the NPP while the other half essentially supports the TPP. In his discussion on Romans 3:21-4:8 Anderson introduces a point that he will repeat throughout the heart of his book (chapters 6-8) and which is a pillar of his thesis: Romans marks a transition in Paul’s developing soteriology. As will be noted and developed in Chapters 6-8, Anderson argues that Paul’s soteriology in his earlier letters is essentially NPP and later “settles” into basically the TPP view. Romans is the transition point where characteristic elements of both overlap. “To put it oversimplstically, the besetting fault of the NPP is to read Romans too closely to (its reading of) Galatians, and the prevailing fault of the TPP is to read it too closely to, say, (its reading of) Ephesians, when the letter is not quite the same as either but marks a theological transition between the two, sharing and combining elements of both” (84).

In Chapter 3 Anderson surveys the NPP and post-NPP landscape. He begins with two primary figures associated with the NPP, James Dunn and N.T. Wright, and shows how their own views have become more nuanced (in the case of the former) and even transcended the NPP (in the case of the latter). Then he examines the views of several prominent post-NPP scholars (Francis Watson, Douglas Campbell, Michael Gorman, Michael Bird, and John Barclay), illustrating the trend toward rapprochement (with the exception of Campbell) and eschewal of false dichotomies. The second part of the chapter examines several common polarizations in Pauline scholarship: whether Paul reasoned prospectively (from plight to solution) or retrospectively (from solution to plight), whether his theology was coherent or contingent, whether justification for Paul is constitutive or incidental, forensic or participatory, and whether πίστις χριστοῦ is subjective or objective. The next two chapters establish the foundations upon with Anderson’s thesis is built. Chapter 4 explains what his developmental hypothesis is and isn’t as well as establishes a working Pauline chronology upon which it is grounded.  Centrally, he argues for the South Galatian hypothesis and Galatians as Paul’s earliest extant letter. In Chapter 5 Anderson argues for the plausibility of Pauline authorship of each of the disputed letters.

The next three chapters develop Anderson’s thesis and are the heart of this book. Contra norms of Pauline scholarship that analyze the seven undisputed Paulines synchronically, Anderson investigates the whole canonical corpus diachronically according to his proposed chronology. Against the prevailing tendency to read the entire corpus through the lens of a letter or part of a letter, Anderson lets each letter speak for itself. His chronological survey of usage reveals fresh and interesting insights. Chapter 6 traces the development of “works of the law” and “grace. In Galatians Paul speaks only of “works of the law” and never “works”; after Romans he speaks only of “works”; and both are found in Romans, the “transition” letter. Anderson proposes that this pattern reflects a “development in Paul’s conception of the matters at hand, from a soteriology originally grounded in the dilemma of Gentile inclusion to a more formal rejection of human attainment as the antithesis of grace” (228). He detects a similar pattern of development for χάρις. In chapter 7 Anderson traces Paul’s use of salvation language and finds a corroborating development, that of the language of “justification” transitioning to that of “salvation.” This marks a transition from a past-forensic to an eschatological-transformational conception. Anderson also  examines the emergence of reconciliation as a metaphor. “Together these linguistic and metaphorical transitions mark a reenvisioning of salvation that transcends, while never forgetting, the inclusion of Gentiles into the covenant, increasingly to stress the reconciliation of all to each other by means of their prior reconciliation to God” (282-283). Finally, in Chapter 9 Anderson offers a series of observations that confirm the largely lexical evidence proffered by the preceding two chapters. The book draws to a close with a chapter of summary and conclusion.

Paul’s New Perspective offers a new perspective on Pauline soteriology that is interesting and nuanced. At the very least, readers will come away from this book with greater appreciation for the strengths of the other side (whether NPP or NPP) and a greater awareness of the weaknesses of their own. Anderson’s study provides a fascinating new account of how elements of both the NPP and the TPP hold together and a convincing explanation for why we find characteristics of both patterns of soteriology in the Pauline corpus. The connections he draws by showing how “works of the law,” “grace,” and salvation language develop in parallel ways from Paul’s earliest to latest letters are intriguing.

Yet fundamentally/methodologically, much of the broader guild will likely not accept Anderson’s thesis because it’s grounded on a handful of minority positions (e.g. Pauline authorship of all 13 letters, Galatians as Paul’s first letter, etc.), some of which will be regarded as unacceptable/untenable by critical scholarship. As interesting as Anderson’s thesis is, the degree of its explanatory power depends on highly debatable matters of authorship and chronology. Nevertheless, this is a highly commendable read for all who are interested in Pauline soteriology, but especially those of a more traditional/conservative bent. Those who align strongly with a more traditional, so-called “Lutheran” view will likely find themselves uncomfortable and in disagreement at times, especially those more of a “theology” (in the North American sense) than “biblical studies” bent, as they find their systematizations criticized and challenged. But the challenge is good and necessary.

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon |

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biblical Studies Carnival – December 2016

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For most of us 2017 probably could not come soon enough. From Trump to Aleppo, to the stream of beloved celebrities passing, a constant refrain in the latter half of 2016 was “I’m done with 2016.” Hosting the December Biblical Studies Carnival has a bit of an “inaugurated eschatology” feel – by the time you read this it will already be 2017, the new year we’ve all been eagerly waiting for; but the period of time this post covers is in the “not yet,” under the shadow of a difficult and tense year.

In Memoriam

It seems like many celebrities passed away in 2016; at one point I noticed that when a new passing was announced, many people posted the news with the note “2016 took another.” Death is always sad, but I wasn’t familiar with any of the celebrities who passed away. However, December “took” someone from “my” world, someone probably deeply respected by all who are reading this – Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J. I expect that more tributes will surface in the coming months, but for now, here are a few brief tributes to a giant in biblical scholarship. May he rest in peace and rise in glory!

Archeology

Over at the Biblical Archeology Review is a post on a recently discovered stone block that reveals who the Roman governor of Judea was during the time leading up to the Bar Kokhba. There’s also a post noting the top ten biblical archeology discoveries of the year. At HAARETZ there’s a list of the best archeological finds in Israel of 2016, including new Dead Sea Scroll fragments.Breaking Israel News posted about the discovery of a coin from the Hasmonean Era that depicts the face of Antiochus Epiphanes IV.

Peter Head mentioned the SBL panel review of Peter Lampe’s From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries and shows images of the gemstone mentioned by Jutta Dresken-Weilend as an example of early evidence for Christian presence in Rome not known to Lampe.

Hebrew Bible

Marg Mowczko wrote about who crushes the Serpent’s head in Genesis 3:15.

Craig Keener continued blogging on Genesis, tackling whether Joseph’s brothers changed in Gen 44, the testing of Joseph’s brothers in Gen 44, Judah in Gen 44, and Joseph revealing himself to his brothers in Gen 45.

At the Bible and Interpretation blog is an excerpt from Helen Paynter’s Reduced Laughter: Seriocomic Features and their Functions in the Book of Kings (Brill 2016) on Elijah and Elisha.

Bob MacDonald wrote a post on Proverbs 31. He posted translations and diagrams of various chapters in Deuteronomy, 2 Kings, and Jeremiah, so browse his blog Dust and check them out! Finally, he posted about his new book Song in the Night.

Over at OnScript Matt Lynch interviewed Mary Hom about the Assyrians and the OT (though it’s a podcast and not a blog post, I think I should be allowed an exception since the biblioblogosphere is not very active in December!)

Daniel O. McClellan posted the abstract of a proposal he submitted to SBL 2017 for a paper entitled “‘Now You See Me, Now You Don’t’: The Vanishing of YHWH.”

Second Temple

Torrey Seland posted about the papers from a session on Wisdom and Apocalypticism at SBL. He also posted about the retirement of David Runia and the festschrift that was presented to him at SBL, The Studia Philonica Annual XXVIII.

New Testament/Early Christianity

In response to a flurry of posts about where Jesus was born, Wayne Coppins at German for Neutestamentler took a look at what Michael Wolter had to say on the matter in “Michael Wolter and the Meaning of κατάλυμα in Luke 2:7.” Brice Jones blogged about Stephen Carlson’s 2010 NTS article on κατάλυμα in Luke 2:7

Chris Keith at The Jesus Blog posted about a session at SBL in which Jennifer Knust presented some of the research she and Tommy Wasserman have completed on the transmission history of the Pericope Adulterae.

Phil Long continued to blog through Romans, with “Who are the Weak and Strong in Romans 14?” and “The Problem of Sacred Days and Clean Foods – Romans 14:5-9.”

Mike Bird posted a quote from Helmut Koester on the provenance of 2 Timothy.

Leading up to Christmas, the Center for the Study of Christian Origins blog posted a series of videos on the birth narratives through the centuries. You can easily find the whole series on their website, but two particularly noteworthy ones are Helen Bond on the discrepancies between Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts and Matt Novenson on what, if anything, Paul had to say about Jesus’s birth.

Jonathan Bernier blogged more in December than everyone else put together. He continued working through John A.T. Robinson’s Redating the New Testament, with posts on the Petrine Epistles and Jude (Part 1| Part 2), 1 Timothy 5:18, Hebrews, Revelation, the Gospel and Epistles of John (Part 1 |Part 2), Epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, Didache, and 1 Clement. He also wrote on why Robinson is still important.

Larry Hurtado posted on the early Christians as atheists the early Christian roots of religious freedom.

Mike Bird posted a quote from an essay by Armin Baum on pseudepigraphy as non-deceptive fiction.

Miscellaneous

Anthony Le Donne at The Jesus Blog got in the Christmas spirit and wrote about why Christmas is on December 25.

William Ross posted an interview with LXX scholar José Manuel Cañas Reíllo as well as a video of Peter Williams’s lecture at the ETS Septuagint Studies session, “On the Invention and Problem of the Term ‘Septuagint.’

Linguistics Jedi Kris Lyle wrote a detailed post defining and summarizing the benefits of corpus-driven cognitive semantics.

Simon Joseph posted on his paper in NTS entitled “‘I Have Come to Abolish Sacrifices’ (Epiphanius Pan 30.16.5): Re-examining a Jewish Christian Text and Tradition

Max Lee posted about the panel review of Exploring Intertextuality from SBL and shared about where the “Intertextuality in the New Testament” section is going in the next two years.

Paul Foster and Matt Novenson both shared some brief reflections on SBL.

Jim Davila mentioned a new journal from Brill: Brill Research Perspectives in Biblical Interpretation.

At the Bible and Interpretation blog there is a great post by Jeffrey Morrow on biblical scholarship and bias.

Reviews, Interviews, and More

Lindsay Kennedy reviewed The Destiny of the Righteous in the Psalms by Jerome Creach

Phil Long reviewed The Book of Isaiah and God’s Kingdom by Andrew Abernethy

Phil Long also reviewed Acts (NTL) by Carl Holladay

Todd Scacewater reviewed Pauline Churches and Diaspora Jews by John Barclay. Phil Long reviewed The Apostle Paul by Stanley Porter.

Chris Keith noted the RBL review of fellow Jesus Blogger Christine Jacobi’s Jesusueberlieferung bei Paulus?

Scott McKnight interviewed Beverly Gaventa on her new book “When in Romansand mentioned Cindy Westfall’s new book Paul and Gender as well as the recently completed four-volume Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical & Post-Biblical Antiquity.

Nijay Gupta blogged about Larry Hurtado’s latest book, Destroyer of the Gods. He also mentioned Paul in the Greco-Roman World.

Paul Robertson reviewed Paul’s Letters and Contemporary Greco-Roman Literature at Reviews of Biblical and Early Christian Studies.

Over at Ancient Jew Review Beth Berkowitz Jonathan Klawans, and Paula Fredriksen interacted with Christine Hayes’s What’s Divine about Divine Law? as part of a panel review for the SBL History of Rabbinic Literature section. Christine Hayes responded.

I reviewed Charles Lee Irons’s A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament.

The Center for the Study of Christian Origins posted and interview with Timothy Lim about his research as well as an interview with Meredith Warren on her book My Flesh is Meat Indeed: A Nonsacramental Reading of John 6:51-58.

Over at the Zurich New Testament blog, Christoph Heilig posted an annotated list of books they published in 2016.

This month the Syndicate Theology symposium was on Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love.

Anthony Le Donne posted an excerpt from his new book Near Christianity: How Journeys Along the Jewish-Christian Border Saved My Faith in God.

I read just about everything Mike Bird publishes, and I am particularly excited about the next two books he has  coming down the pipes (how in the world does he write so much, especially without coffee??). Mike also announced that the Fortress Press reprint of God and the Faithfulness of Paul is now available for preorder.

Favorite Books of 2016 Lists

Nijay Gupta

Lindsay Kennedy

Andreas Kostenberger

Scot McKnight

Patrick Schreiner

Future Carnivals

The January 2017 Carnival (posting February 1) will be hosted by Cassandra Farrin at Ethics and Early Christianity. February will be hosted by Jacob Prahlow at Pursuing Veritas, and July will be hosted by Ruben de Rus at Ayuda Ministerial/Resources for Ministry. If you’re interested in hosting March-June carnivals, please contact Phil Long (@plong42).

Apologies for a belated and slim (did the bibliobloggers have something better to do in December?) carnival, especially in Hebrew Bible and related fields! If you have favorite bloggers in those areas please link them in the comments!

2017 Reading Goals – GNT & OTP

Next year I aim to read through three sets of literature: the Greek New Testament, Charlesworth’s two-volume Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, and the Old Testament in English.

Hebrew/OT

I know I’m going to get yelled at for not having any Hebrew in my one-year reading plan, but I’m still an infant when it comes to Hebrew and can’t imagine reading large chunks of text in one sitting yet. Since I will be taking OT canon courses next year which require around six exegetical papers each, I will be in Hebrew texts on a somewhat regular basis. I plan to devote some time to reviewing Hebrew next summer and will definitely be aiming to read from the Hebrew Bible daily starting the subsequent year. For 2017 I will just read through the OT in English.

Greek New Testament

I will be using Charles Lee Irons’s one-year GNT plan (he also has a two-year plan) as well as his new Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament. I will probably hop around in terms of order (based on, for example, what NT classes I’m taking), but Irons’s PDFs are great for keeping track of progress. Dan Wallace has a great list for those who want to read roughly in order of increasing difficulty.

Old Testament Pseudepigrapha

Joseph Ryan Kelly has made an awesome one-year reading plan that actually only lasts ten months. This is quite perfect for me because it would allow me to take two weeks off for each round of midterms and finals.

Putting it all Together

I’m basically putting together three one-year reading plans into my mish-mashed plan, so I hope it won’t be too tedious to maintain. I also hope that all of this is doable in one hour per day, which is what I’m allotting to original language and primary source intake. I imagine I will spend 10 minutes on OT, 30 on the GNT, and 20 on OTP per day. I suppose this time breakdown is the real goal; if I don’t get through all of the texts it won’t be the end of the world to carry it into next year.

Biblical studies nerds, what is your plan for HB/GNT/primary source reading for 2017? If you’re looking for motivation/ideas for building a plan to tackle ancient primary sources, see this great post by Shawn Wilhite.

A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament (Charles Lee Irons)

Charles Lee Irons. A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2016. 608 pp. $39.99.

syntax-guideEarlier this year I read the published form of Irons’s doctoral dissertation, The Righteousness of God: A Lexical Examination of the Covenant-Faithfulness Interpretation (review forthcoming) and have been excited about his second book, A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament (hereafter “A Syntax Guide“), ever since I heard that it was in the works. This is an utterly unique resource; while there are several different reader’s GNTs that present difficult/rare vocabulary with the biblical text, prior to A Syntax Guide there was no one-volume tool that helps intermediate Greek students navigate the intermediate and advanced syntactical features of the entire GNT (although, of course, there are two excellent serial guides to the GNT: the Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament and B&H Academic’s Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament).  As Irons writes in the introduction, this syntax guide picks up where other tools leave off and s designed to “provide concise notes enabling the reader to make sense of the Greek text at a level of linguistic communication one step higher than the word to the syntactical level of the phrase, clause, or sentence” (7).

While A Syntax Guide sometimes provides lexical information, parsing, text-critical information (for significant variants), and limited exegesis, the focus is syntactical, clause-level features. Categories of usage are mainly those in BDF and Wallace. While some might criticize Irons for using traditional categories enumerated by outdated grammars, he defends his choice in light of the fact that reference grammars based on insights of modern linguistics have yet to be published. One aspect that I find a bit odd is that often a common English translation (e.g. NASB, ESV, NIV) is provided with no additional notes. For a beginning exegesis student even notes of categories of usage would be more helpful than a translation. Below are two examples of notes from 1 Peter, the first  representative of the shortest type of note and the second representative of the most in-depth:

1:9| σωτηρίαν is in apposition to τὸ τέλος

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One could quibble about the conciseness of some of the notes or disagree with some of the exegetical decisions; I even read one review that criticized A Syntax Guide saying that most of this information can be found elsewhere. But this criticism is missing the point of what this volume is intended to be. Sure, if one is doing an in-depth study of a passage or book and consulting reference grammars, Greek handbooks, technical commentaries, etc., then one probably wouldn’t find additional information in A Syntax Guide. But this guide is designed to facilitate reading, for one of the most important ways for beginning/intermediate students to improve their Greek is by consistently reading through large chunks of text. And it’s easy to lose steam in reading if one has to constantly flip through a number of reference books to understand the text.

So while there are elements that can be criticized about A Syntax Guide, at the end of the day there is simply nothing like it. In a volume roughly the same dimensions as the GNT, A Syntax Guide goes verse-by-verse through the GNT providing concise notes on the most important syntactical features. This is a valuable tool for all who are at the intermediate level in NT Greek and want to keep/improve their Greek, from Bible college and seminary students to pastors and laypeople. I will be using A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament as I read through the GNT in 2017.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

NIV Application Commentary Winner

nivacCongratulations to Sam Van Eerden for winning the Psalms NIVAC! Please DM me your mailing address on Twitter or fill out the comment form below.

The sale ends tonight at 11:59PM EST, so there are a few hours left to stock up on some commentaries at a great price!

NIV Application Commentary: Hardcover Giveaway and ebook Sale

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From now until the coming Sunday, every NIV Application Commentary eBook is on sale for just $4.99, with even bigger discounts when you buy bundles (I highly recommend the Pentateuch one! I bought each of those volumes individually the last time the series is on sale). Click here to see all the volumes and deals.

The NIVAC series helps you understand the Bible’s ancient message and see how it speaks powerfully today. When I am preparing a Bible study or sermon, I always turn to this series for help in crafting applications. I’m pretty good at the nerdy stuff like exegesis, but I need help connecting what the text meant to what it means.

Notable volumes in this series include:

Check out all the deals here! Sale ends on Sunday, Nov. 13 at 11:59pm EST (11/13/16).

GIVEAWAY:

Enter to win the NIVAC on Psalms by Gerald Wilson! Entries can be gained the following ways (just comment saying you did it. Comment separately for each option  to receive separate entries. I’ll be drawing a winner from the comments):

  1. Visit the sale website.
  2. Follow me on Twitter
  3. Tweet the giveaway.
    • sharing on any social media platform will gain additional entries, just comment separately
    • additional entries can be gained each day by mentioning the giveaway on social media
  4. Follow my blog

Giveaway ends at noon EST on November 13, at which time a winner will be announced. That way those interested in the Psalms volume who do not win still have an opportunity to purchase it at the sale price.

*Open to residents of the contiguous U.S.*

Thanks to my friends at Zondervan for the giveaway copy!

Book Review – New Testament Theology: Exploring Diversity and Unity (Frank Matera)

Frank J. Matera. New Testament Theology: Exploring Diversity and Unity. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007. 520 pp. $55.00.

matera-nttFrank Matera is a prolific Roman Catholic New Testament scholar who had published books on NT ethics and Christology prior to this New Testament theology (hereafter “NTT”). He conceives of NTT as a specifically theological task and feels that history of Christian religion should be a separate discipline. Matera further contends that for those who see the NT as inspired Scripture, the presupposed internal coherence should be seen in how we carry out the task of NTT – that is, NTT should display the unity of the writings while doing justice to the diversity. This is a primary aim of Matera’s NTT, as made plain by the book’s subtitle and throughout the introduction. His method of achieving this aim is by taking into account the implied narrative of Scripture.

Matera’s NTT takes an author-by-author approach, with the book broken into the three great voices (Synoptic tradition, Pauline tradition, Johannine tradition) plus “other voices.” He sees the distinctive starting points of the three great traditions as the key to their diverse theologies – the Synoptics in Jesus’s proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the Pauline in the gospel of what God has accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the Johannine in the incarnation. He puts the Acts of the Apostles in the Synoptic tradition and presents the books in the order of Mark, Matthew, Luke-Acts in order to show the development in the Synoptic Gospels as well as “how Luke envisions the transition from the preaching of Jesus about the kingdom of God to the proclamation of the early church about its risen Lord” (1).

For the Pauline tradition, Matera deals with all 13 letters together; although he believes some to be deuteropauline, he sees the canonical letters as together forming a Pauline tradition that originated with the Apostle Paul. Because Matera’s goal is not to construct a historical account of Paul’s theology but to construct a theology of the canonical Pauline corpus, methodologically he doesn’t need to distinguish between the undisputed and disputed Paulines. However, I think bringing up the authorship issue but not saying more about it will incite questions from both the conservative and critical. Matera organizes the Pauline tradition into five groups, each with its own focus: (1) the Thessalonian correspondence in light of its election theology; (2) the Corinthian correspondence in light of its theology of the cross and the resurrection of the dead; (3) Galatians and Romans in light of their theology of justification by faith apart from during the works of the Mosaic law; (4) Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, and Ephesians in light of the imprisoned apostle’s theology; and (5) the Pastoral Epistles in light of the theology of handing on the Pauline Tradition to a new generation” (102-103).

Matera excludes Revelation from the Johannine tradition because of its differing starting point – God’s victory in the slaughtered lamb. I think that even on the basis of starting point Revelation could be placed with the Johannine Gospel and Epistles, and that separating it needs more justification. For example, I think you could make a case for the starting point of Revelation also being the incarnation – in Revelation Jesus is the lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). What Matera notes as the distinct starting point of Revelation as God’s victory in the slaughtered lamb could be tweaked – God’s victory in the incarnate lamb who was slain.Nevertheless, Matera notes that the Gospel and Epistles of John share the common starting point of incarnation, as well as themes such as faith, love, light, and life. He also mentions diffs within this tradition such as genre, theological implications of the incarnation (revelation of Son from the Father in Gospel, communion of believers with God and each other in letters).

The “other voices” are Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation. Matera expounds upon the rich Christology of Jesus as high priest in the order of Melchizedek in Hebrews, the counterbalance to Paul provided by the General Epistles, and the Christology of Jesus as the lamb who was slain and will be victorious in Revelation. These “other voices” share several theological motifs: “(1) the need for conduct that coheres with the gospel, (2) the assurance that there will be a final judgment at which the wicked will be punished and the just rewarded, (3) a conviction that suffering and affliction are part of the Christian life in the time before God’s final victory, (4) warnings that false teachers will appear in the last days, and (5) exhortations for the faithful to persevere and maintain the apostolic teaching they have received” (334).

In the introduction Matera notes that the unity of the NT, while touched upon here and there throughout the book, will be explicitly presented in the conclusion. The conclusion first summarizes the implied narrative mentioned in the introduction:

The unity of New Testament theology is grounded in the implied master story to which these writings witness. This story can be summarized in this way: Humanity finds itself in a predicament of its own making from which it cannot extricate itself. This predicament, which is experienced as a profound alienation from God, is the result of humanity’s rebellion against God. It affects Jew and Gentile alike. Because humanity cannot reconcile itself to God or free itself from this predicament, God has graciously sent his own Son into the world to redeem the world. Those who believe and accept this gracious offer of salvation, Jew and Gentile alike, are incorporated into a community of believers that God has redeemed and sanctified through Christ. Redeemed and sanctified, this new community lives by the power of God’s Spirit as it waits for the consummation of all things. Although this consummation is expressed in different ways (the parousia, the general resurrection of the dead, the final judgment), the New Testament writings agree that God will be victorious and Christ will be the agent of God’s victory (427-428).

Then the New Testament witness to this narrative is summarized under the headings 1) humanity in need of salvation; 2) the bringer of salvation; 3) the community of the sanctified; 4) the moral life of the sanctified; and 5) the hope of the sanctified. These are basically what we traditionally call anthropology, Christology, ecclesiology, ethics, and eschatology.

The conclusion was a bit of a letdown for me. From the introduction I was expecting it to be a synthesis, but it was instead mainly summarizing author-by-author under the aforementioned headings; I did not perceive a satisfactory synthesis of the unity of the NT and NTT. The body of the book also felt most of the time like an NT introduction, with a lot of summarization. However, Matera’s NTT is a good book by a great scholar. It’s provides a solid theological overview to the New Testament that intellectually-minded Christians would benefit greatly from as a robust introduction to the New Testament. It would be a great book in NT intro/theology courses in Bible college courses and perhaps lower-level seminary courses. In preparing to teach/preach through a book of the New Testament, reading the pertinent section from Matera’s NTT would be fruitful. That being said though, it’s not a particularly exciting book, especially if you’ve read other NTTs that pursue a specifically theological task and aim to do justice to the unity of the NT (e.g. Thielman, and especially Marshall). However, for those who have not read an NTT of that type, Matera’s is an excellent representative/choice.

Thanks to Westminster John Knox for the review copy!

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A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles (Kregel Exegetical Library) – Eugene H. Merrill

Eugene H. Merrill. A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles (Kregel Exegetical Library). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015. 640 pp. $39.99.

chronOne-year Bible reading plans that don’t die in Leviticus most likely meet their demise in 1 Chronicles, with its nine opening chapters of genealogies. Preachers don’t often tackle 1 and  2 Chronicles, either. For these very neglected books, Eugene Merrill’s commentary in the Kregel Exegetical Library is a great historical, theological, and exegetical guide  for the academically oriented lay-person, preacher. Seminary students, scholars, and higher-level laypeople will probably want a more technical commentary.

The 50-page introduction is robust and goes beyond typical introductory issues such as authorship, genre, and historical/cultural context. Merrill comments on the canonical placement of these books, noting that it “is in keeping with the notion propounded in this work that the major objective of the Chronicler was to provide a theological interpretation of Israel’s past interlaced with great hope for an eschatological renewal of the Davidic house, one bound to Yahweh its God by an indissoluble new covenant” (46). He dedicates several pages to the historiographical issues in Chronicles and addresses, among others, the problem of differences between Chronicles and the “Deuteronomic History.” Merrill also provides an introduction to text-critical issues of Chronicles, and these are noted throughout the commentary proper. Another notable section of the introduction is the one on the theology of the book; here, Merrill provides overviews of the house of David, the renewed covenant, and the restored temple.

Each section of the commentary proper begins with the text in the NIV, a few key text-critical notes (from the ones I looked at, they are what you can get from the BHS critical apparatus), and then a brief exposition. Most of the notes I read were exposition rather than exegesis; there is a lot of summarization and provision of context and less exegetical work. Most of the treatments are rather brief, with commentary taking up about the same amount of space as the translation (if the English text had not been included I would guess that this volume would only be about 1/3 the length!). Scattered throughout the commentary are twelve brief excurses addressing topics such as the Angel of YHWH, Holy War, and OT historiography, as well as nine theological discourses addressing the theology of the genealogies, the rise of David, the exploits of David, the royal succession, Solomon’s temple, as well as the divided kingdom.

This is a good conservative commentary for your typical person-in-the-pew as well as for preachers. I think one of its unique strengths is its attention to theology; this comes out in the introduction, commentary proper, as well as theological discourses. Unlike other volumes in the series that have homiletical helps, Merrill’s is less attuned to application. A major weakness for me is that this commentary is not as exegetical as I would have expected based on the fact that it’s in an exegetical series. The commentary sections are also often quite brief. Seminarians will definitely (and perhaps preachers as well!) need more technical and robust commentaries on 1 and 2 Chronicles.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the review copy!

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Book Notice – The Acts of the Apostles: Interpretation, History and Theology (Osvaldo Padilla)

Osvaldo Padilla. The Acts of the Apostles: Interpretation, History, and Theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016. 264 pp. $26.00

Acts PadillaThe Acts of the Apostles: Interpretation, History, and Theology is an advanced introduction to Acts that deals with some of the typical topics of prolegomena (e.g. authorship, genre) as well as subjects not typically addressed in an introduction to Acts that are more unique to Padilla’s project (e.g. the theology of the speeches and interaction with philosophical hermeneutics and postliberalism). Chapter 1 addresses authorship, and here Padilla affirms Lukan authorship and argues that Irenaeus’s conclusion on the matter was derived from prior tradition. Going beyond typical introductory debates on authorship (hence advanced!), he engages with philosophical hermeneutics and narrative criticism to show why authorship matters for interpretation: “if it matters for our Christian faith whether the events described in Acts happened or not – then the identity of the author is indeed important. The reason for this is the crucial category of eyewitness” (35-36, emphasis original).

In the next chapter Padilla covers genre, first providing a brief history of genre theory and then summarizing and evaluating the major proposals for the genre of Acts. His own conclusion is that Acts is a “Hellenistic historical monograph in the Jewish tradition” (62), and Padilla justifies this suggestion robustly by looking at predecessors (e.g. OT historical books, 1-2 Macc., etc.) as well as analyzing the form, subject, features, and preface of Acts. This chapter concludes with a reflection on how seeing Acts as a historical monograph aids our interpretation of this text. In Chapter 3 Padilla examines how Luke wrote history. He begins by looking at the preface to the Gospel According to Luke; in showing how it’s filled with both historiographical and theological terminology, Padilla demonstrates that Luke was a theological historian. Next, he looks at Luke as storyteller and shows how Luke compresses stories for theological effect and how he presents a cohesive narrative for theological purposes. This chapter concludes with a look at the professionalization of history and postmodern historiography. One of the key things Padilla aims to demonstrate in this chapter is that the theological and storied characteristics of Acts do not prevent it from being reliable history.

The next two chapters deal with the speeches of Acts, with the first looking at speech-writing in ancient history. There seems to be a spectrum, but Padilla argues that Luke was on the end that was concerned about providing an accurate summary of what was said. At the end of this chapter Padilla’s evangelical convictions come out, which will delight evangelical readers and frustrate others. He affirms the importance of historical work and being open to the conclusions wherever they may lead, but also notes that we trust the veracity of the speeches because they are part of Scripture. The second chapter on speeches expounds upon the theology of five key speeches in Acts: Peter at Pentecost (2:1-41), Stephen (7:1-53), Peter at the home of Cornelius (10:24-48), Paul’s speech in Athens (17:16-31), and Paul’s speech before Agrippa (26:1-32). This is obviously the most theologically rich chapter of the book and one that every Christian would enjoy and benefit greatly from, even those who do not have interest in introductory matters. The final chapter provides an overview of postliberalism and then looks at how its main proposals can help us answer the question of how Acts justifies its truth claims.

The Acts of the Apostles: Interpretation, History, and Theology is a must-read on Acts for advanced Bible college and seminary students as well as advanced lay students of the Bible. I used the word advanced not just because Padilla himself refers to this book as an advanced introduction (hence it might be too difficult without some prior exposure to these subject matters), but also because there’s a good bit of Greek (more than I’ve ever seen in an IVP book), none of which is transliterated. While there is some overlap with traditional matters of prolegomena on Acts that you’d get in the introduction of a solid commentary, what’s presented here is conversant with the latest scholarship on Acts; even discussions of “typical” topics are informed by new proposals. But what is unique about this book (new questions, new perspectives) is certainly worth the price of the book. I appreciated the robust chapters on speeches (which I assume was influenced by Padilla’s Cambridge dissertation on speeches in Acts), as well as the interactions with philosophical hermeneutics and postliberalism (pretty rare in biblical studies books!).

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

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