Reflections on the long journey of becoming a biblical scholar

Some excellent and convicting reflections from Dr. Siu Fung Wu with a charge for academics to be involved in the lived realities of people. His published doctoral dissertation is entitled Suffering in Romans.

Imagine with Scripture

Truth be told, I am an academic by nature (although I am not very smart). I am not a practical person. In high school, I liked Pure Maths, but didn’t enjoy Applied Maths. At University I liked browsing the academic journals in the library. When I finished my BSc (Hons) and MSc degrees, my professors suggested that I should do a PhD. But I didn’t take up their offers because I thought I wasn’t smart enough.

Edward Boyle Library

Then I migrated to Australia and worked in IT. When I turned thirty, I enrolled at a Bible college. I thought God wanted me to serve him, and theological training was a steppingstone to full-time ministry. I started working in my church as a pastor while I was still at college. But meanwhile I discovered (once again!) that I loved academic studies.

Pastoral ministry taught me a lot. I had many opportunities to hear…

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Biblical Studies Carnival – December 2015

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Welcome to the December 2015 Biblical Studies Carnival! I hope everyone’s had a great holiday season. If you’re reading this on January 1, then your new year is off to a great start! As is typical of December, the biblioblogdom was pretty quite last month. However, surprisingly, there was a mountain of book reviews and interactions. Looks like we all decided to catch up on reading!

Before we get to some of the best and nerdiest of the past month in the biblioblogosphere, here’s what’s coming up in the next few months: January (Due Feb 1) will be hosted by Tim Bulkeley, and February (Due March 1) will be hosted by Jacob Prahlow (@prahlowjcacob). The rest of the year is wide open, so if you’re interested in a carnival, especially for March or April, please get in touch with Phil Long (@Plong42). Hosting a biblical studies carnival is a fun way to highlight some of the best of biblioblogging as well as connect with the vibrant community.

Alright, let’s get the party started! But…we must start off on a sad note.

In Memoriam – I. Howard Marshall

On December 12, 2015 we lost one of the NT greats of our time. Many bibliobloggers wrote tributes to I. Howard Marshall, including Mike Bird, Stanley Porter, Steve Walton, Nijay Gupta, Darrell Bock, Ray Van Neste, and Mark Goodacre. Beeson Divinity School posted words from several of their faculty (Timothy George, Osvaldo Padilla, Frank Thielman, Paul House, and Gerald Bray). I have never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Marshall, but from what everyone says it’s obvious that he wasn’t just a prodigious scholar but also a devoted churchman and all around great person. May he rest in peace and rise in glory!

As I was finalizing this post I got word that Robert Mulholland passed away on December 20 and Heikki Räisänen passed away on December 30. I haven’t caught wind of any details or tribute post yet, but maybe some will appear next month. May these two scholars also rest in peace and rise in glory!

 

ANE/Hebrew Bible

At the Biblical Studies Blog, Rob Bradshaw posted a PDF of Rick Wadholm’s master’s thesis, “The Theological Meaning and Significance of Yom in Genesis 1″. Rob’s website is truly a remarkable resource; here are his reflections on where the site has been and where it’s going.

Michael Heiser linked to a PDF of what he says is the best article he has seen on the topic of the genealogies of Genesis 5, mathematical approaches, and theological messaging – Biblical Math as Heilgeschichte?

Christian Brady at Targuman posted a paper originally presented at the 2010 Mid-Atlantic SBL meeting entitled “Boaz: Centrally Marginalized.” Interestingly, Brady argues against both against traditional commentators that the book of Ruth presents Boaz as a marginal figure, and against those who seek to  further marginalize Boaz. What Brady argues for is a kind of p’shat, a simple reading of the text.

Over at The Bible and Interpretation, Brian R. Doak has an article entitled “The Embarrassing and Alluring Biblical Giant” that looks at five ways of thinking about giants in the Hebrew Bible.

Bob MacDonald at Dust is quite the prolific blogger and posted more on HB passages than everyone else on the blogosphere combined; if it piques your interest, check out his thoughts on Genesis 10, Exodus 25, Exodus 37Joshua 1, Judges 17, Ruth 1-4, 2 Chronicles 27Nehemiah 2, Job 38, Isaiah 17Daniel 12, Hosea  3Amos 1, Micah 4 and the “ban”, and Zechariah 13. These appear to be reflections as he is putting parts of the HB to music.

Bible Studies Online posted the videos for the papers delivered at the 2015 Seminar in Thomas Römer’s series The Hebrew Bible and Its Contexts at The Collège de France entitled “Representing gods and men in the ancient Near East and in the Bible (Représenter dieux et hommes dans le Proche-Orient ancien et dans la Bible)”

Ancient Jew Review has a fantastic piece by Timothy Lim entitled “Understanding the Emergence of the Jewish Canon” in which he discusses his theory of the “majority canon.”

AWOL announced the digitization of Hebrew manuscripts at the Library of Congress.

 

Archaeology

George Athas wrote an extensive post on the discovery of an ancient ‘bulla’ bearing the name of Hezekiah, found in situ. He also commented on the recent article in Forbes about the only piece of skeletal evidence for crucifixion. To thank you for making the arch section possible, I’ll make sure someone buys you a venti Starbucks at the next SBL :P #warongeorge2016

 

NT/Early Christianity

Biblical Studies Online posted a lot of great video resources this month:

At The Bible and Interpretation, Paul Anderson and Jaime Clarke-Soles posted a PDF essay introducing volume 3 of John, Jesus, and History coming out soon from SBL Press.

James McGrath gave pithy point-by-point responses to 5 bad reasons to be a mythicist.

At the Jesus Blog, James Crossley announced that he and Anthony Le Donne have taken over as editors for JSHJ. Congratulations!

Bill Heroman shared some thoughts on Jesus research in conversation with Syndicate Symposium entitled Jesus and the Chaos of History.

Larry Hurtado mentioned a new essay of his on P.Oxyrhynchus 1228 and linked to a pre-pub version.

Nijay Gupta at Crux Sola linked to a video in which John Barclay talks about Paul and empire.

Phil Long wrote two posts on Paul and Apocalyptic (post 1, post 2). And while we’re on the topic of apocalyptic, Scott McKnight had a few words to say on Wright vs. apocalyptic.

Christ Illing wrote a short post on reading Paul in response to frustrating results of a Twitter poll.

 

Languages

Bob MacDonald at Dust wrote about doubling in Hebrew and asks whether it’s just idiomatic usage.

Exgetical Tools posted an advanced Greek grammar video with William Varner talking about Acts 1:1.

Larry Hurtado shared a few snippets from Walter Ameling’s forthcoming essay “Epigraphy and the Greek Language in Hellenistic Palestine.

Thomas Hudgins posted some thoughts and questions on Greek pedagogy.

Jacob Cerone shared some thoughts about the New English Translation of the Septuagint in dialogue with Muraoka’s essay in the Festschrift in honor of John A. Lee. He also posted some insights on using Duolingo to learn German.

 

Miscellaneous

Jacob Cerone noticed a play on words in LXX Num 22:27-29.

At The Bible and Interpretation is an article addressing the Samaritans in recent research.

Will Hart Brown shared some thoughts on the Testament of Levi.

Marg Mowczko wrote on didaktikos in 1 and 2 Timothy and Theonoe and Myrte from the apocryphal Corinthian correspondence.

Shawn Wilhite posted his study schedule for academic languages and early Christian literature that’s inspiring and could be very helpful for students trying to create a study plan.

James Bradford Pate commented on transubstantiation and Sabbath in  “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan.”

 

Bibliophilic Bibioblogging: Blurbs, Reviews, & Interviews

Will Hart Brown reviewed Ritual Violence in the Hebrew Bible (Saul M. Olyan ed.) and Priestly Rule: Polemic and Biblical Interpretation in Ezekiel 44 (Nathan MacDonald)

Eerdword posted a Q&A with Mark Boda on his new commentary on Zechariah in the NICOT series.

William Ross posted an interview on the LXX with his Doktorvater James Aitken.

Phil Long reviewed “What Does the Scripture Say?”: Studies in the Function of Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity” edited by Craig Evans and Danny Zacharias (Part 1.1, Part 1.2, Part 2.1, Part 2.2. Volume 3 reviews appear to be forthcoming). Phil also posted on his top reviews of the year.

James Bradford Pate wrote a summary of Searching for Jesus: New Discoveries in the Quest for Jesus of Nazareth—-And How They Confirm the Gospel Accounts by Robert Hutchinson.

Matthew Ferguson has been critically interacting with Craig Keener’s two-volume Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (part 1, 2, 3)

I reviewed Matthew Novenson’s Christ Among the Messiahs: Christ Language in Paul and Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism. I also highlighted a few notable new books published by my professors at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Rafael Rodriguez raved about Francis Watson’s Gospel Writing at The Jesus Blog. 

Larry Hurtado shared a few thoughts on Christian Oxyrhynchus:  Texts, Documents, and Sources

Nijay Gupta mentioned Bruce Winter’s Divine Honours for the Caesars and Christoph Heilig’s Hidden Criticism?

Ben Witherington posted an eight-part interview with Chad Thornhill on the latter’s new book The Chosen People: Election, Paul, and Second Temple Judaism (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

James Bradford Pate did a write-up of a new book entitled The Reality of God and Historical Method: Apocalyptic Theology in Conversation with N.T. Wright, the inaugural volume of a new series entitled “New Explorations in Theology. Scott McKnight wrote a post about the same book, focusing on how Adams gets Wright wrong (yes, I still think that’s fun to say!)

Exegetical Tools reviewed Barclay’s Paul and the Gift.

Joel Willitts and Joshua Jipp have been dialoguing about the latter’s newest book, Christ is King: Paul’s Royal Ideology at the Euangelion blog (Willitts 1, Jipp 1, Willitts 2, Jipp 2, Willitts 3, Jipp 3). Unless they’ve changed their minds, I believe they’re planning to interact through the whole book so keep your eyes open for more! I’m assuming they’re just taking a winter hiatus or maybe Jipp got distracted by a sports game.

Jonathan Homrighausen mentioned Has Anti-Semitism Roots in Christianity? by Jules Isaac.

Also at the Euangelion blog is a guest post by Con Campbell responding to Michael Aubrey and Nicholas Ellis’s Themelios review of his new Advances in the Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading the New Testament.

Rubén de Rus reviewed Integrating Exegesis and Exposition: Biblical Communication for Transformative Learning.

 

Best Books Lists:

Nijay Gupta

Lindsay Kennedy (Lindsay also posted a list of every book he read last year with links to his reviews where applicable)

Andreas Köstenberger

Brian LePort

 

 

Book Review – Christ Among the Messiahs (Matthew Novenson)

Matthew W. Novenson. Christ Among the Messiahs: Christ Language in Paul and Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2012 (paperback 2015). 256 pp. $35.00.

MessiahsChrist Among the Messiahs is a revision of Novenson’s dissertation at Princeton Theological Seminary under Beverly Gaventa. Originally published in hardcover three years ago as a typical monograph costing a kidney, it was reprinted a few months ago as an affordable paperback and there was great rejoicing in the biblical studies land. Against the majority view among scholars that “Messiah” did not mean anything determinative in ancient Judaism and the somewhat bewildering corollary that when Paul used χριστός he did not mean it in any of the its (nonexistent) conventional senses, Novenson argues that χριστός in Paul means “messiah” and that “Christ language in Paul is actually an invaluable example of messiah language in ancient Judaism” (3).

Read the full post »

Reading the Greek New Testament in 2016

I’ve been pondering for the past few days about how I might incorporate the Greek New Testament into my Bible reading next year. Part of me thought that next year’s probably too soon, given that I’ve only had one semester of Greek (albeit, it was an exegesis course since I taught myself beginning Greek and tested out of it). The reason why I wanted to systematically read through the GNT next year and not wait until my Greek is better is because the overwhelming constant piece of advice I’ve gotten from my Greek Geek friends (as early as when I was soliciting final studying advice a few weeks before I took the Greek placement exam to try to test into exegesis) is to read the GNT. The rationale seems to be that even if you don’t understand it and even if it’s beyond your current abilities, keep reading the GNT because it over time it will give you an innate sense for how Koine Greek works, in a way that complements your atomistic translation/exegetical work.

So, how am I going to go about it, as a Koine Greek baby? Well, while there are many appealing elements to Wallace’s suggestion, at this point translating three chapters of the GNT a day (albeit with only one new chapter a day) seems a bit unrealistic – I feel like it would take me hours. But for those of you who’ve been at this for a few years, I highly recommend taking a look at Wallace’s plan (although, interestingly to me,  he suggests the plan primarily for those coming out of first year Greek and says that it may also be helpful for more advanced students). I’ve clipped it for the future (maybe I’ll do it in 2017!) because translating each chapter three days in a row seems like a fantastic way to really get to know the Greek text.

So, while I’m not going to use Wallace’s plan this year, I am going to use his ordering (roughly from easiest to hardest). Then I had to decide whether to try to read the GNT in one year or two, and I ended up deciding to read it in one because the whole point is to read larger chunks of text. That means 22 verses a day. So the way I’m going to read the Bible in 2016 is to read 3 OT  chapters (in English) and roughly 22 GNT verses per day (I say roughly because I don’t like stopping in the middle of main ideas, so I will probably follow the paragraph breaks). For the Greek part I anticipate reading each text a few times, the first time straight through, the second time roughly translating in my mind, and if time permits, one more time looking up words as necessary and analyzing what’s going on syntactically. But the main point is to just read the text. I also plan to finish my time by reading the text in English.

Of course, the main difficulty with doing a mishmash plan like this is keeping track of progress, especially if you miss a day. At this point I don’t think it would be worth the time to create an actual one-year Bible reading record, but I might do it if I feel like this is a plan I would follow many years over. If I do end up making one I will share it here for others who might want to try it. For now I will probably just find a one-year Bible reading plan that only has you reading from one place in the OT and one place in the NT daily; I’ll have to hop around to keep track for the NT because I want to go in order of increasing difficulty, but it shouldn’t be too annoying.

For those who are reading through the GNT next year or have done it in the past, I would love to know how you’re doing it or what you’ve done in the past that’s worked well. Since I’m a newbie I’m eager to learn from those more seasoned!

 

23 Biblical Studies Twitter Accounts NOT To Follow

It’s not every day that biblical scholars are hilarious…this needs wide dissemination!

Reading Acts

grumpy-cat-meme-twitterI got this idea from John Scalzi, a SF writer who has been writing a blog since before there was such a thing. I read his collection of essays/blogs on a plane this summer (The Mallet of Loving Correction) in which he had a list of “25 Geeks NOT to Follow on Twitter” (@BathingInMayo, for example).

Scalzi’s idea was really a modern version “The Mad Library of Extremely Thin Books” from Mad Magazine. These were books which would be more or less blank inside, something like “Defusing Racial Tension by Donald Trump” or “Essentials of Calvinism by Joel Osteen.”

These are all fake twitter accounts (I hope) in the same tradition as Mad or Scalzi. I worked on this list over the last few months, but finished most of it up at AAR/SBL and thought it would make a reasonable “end of the year” list for Jim West…

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Two New IVP Books on Paul

Last month IVP Academic released two new books on Pauline soteriology, and since this is one of my perennial favorite topics, I couldn’t wait to dig into both. I’ve just started them, but I wanted to highlight them now especially for those looking for winter break reading and/or last-minute Christmas gifts. This description is overly simplistic and not entirely true, but these two books are in some ways foils of each other, and I wonder if they were intentionally released in close proximity for this reason. No matter where you stand on Paul, it’s good to periodically read and engage with arguments and insights from the other camp. As such, both of the following books are good reading regardless of your perspective on Paul (pun intended).

Michael Allen and Jonathan A. Linebaugh, ed. Reformation Readings of Paul: Explorations in History and Exegesis. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. 280 pp. $28.00

RefPaulFrom the title and editor names alone, the Reformed/Lutheran persuasion of the book jumps out immediately. But while many of the contributing authors belong to these theological camps and several teach at their flagship seminaries, there are also surprises (such as the presence of John Barclay) that indicate at once that Reformation Readings of Paul is not a polemic for the “old perspective.” Instead, it’s an attempt to invite the Reformers into the discussion on their exegesis and theology of Paul. While the enduring question of the past 40 or so years in Pauline studies has been whether the Reformers read Paul correctly (although the question seems settled in the academy with the prevailing view a resounding “no”), this book challenges us to see whether we’ve read the Reformers correctly. As editor Linenbaugh writes in the introduction,

While contemporary writing on Paul is littered with references to the “Lutheran Paul” or the Paul of the Reformation,” what is equally conspicuous is the absence of detailed engagement with the exegesis and theology of the Reformers.

(p. 13)

Reformation Readings of Paul pairs together historical theologians and Pauline scholars to examine how certain Reformers treated certain parts of the Pauline corpus: David Fink and John Barclay on Luther/Galatians, Robert Kolb and Mark Seifrid on Melanchthon/Romans, Brian Lugioyo and Wesley Hill on Bucer/Ephesians, Michael Allen and Dane Ortland on Calvin/Corinthians, and Ashley Null and Jonathan Linebaugh on Cranmer and the corpus Paulinum. The first essay in each pair is descriptive and tends to set up the historical context and provide background to the Reformer as an exegete. It also gives a glimpse of how the Reformer exegeted the text – his tools and interlocutors, his structuring of the epistle and its argument, as well as his broad theological conclusions.  The second essay is evaluative and builds on the first. The Pauline scholar curates a conversation between the Pauline text(s) and their interpretation, interacting with the reading of the Reformers. Problems and questions are noted and recent challenges to the Reformer’s reading are addressed, both what he got right and what he got wrong.

Gerald Bray’s concluding essay paints a picture of the factors that shaped the Reformers, from the Patristic tradition to the Renaissance to the medieval university to the theological crisis of the Reformation. Bray draws many connections between the developed medieval system and Second Temple Judaism, noting that while premodern Christians knew nothing about it, the medieval church came remarkably close to replicating it. “Advocates of the ‘new perspective’ on Paul who criticize Luther for failing to understand the spiritual nature of Second Temple Judaism do not show that they realize this, and so they fail to grasp just how much Luther’s background resembled that of Saul the Pharisee” (272).

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon


A. Chadwick Thornhill. The Chosen People: Election, Paul and Second Temple Judaism. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. 288 pp. $35.00

chosenIt’s immediately apparent that this book is from an alternate viewpoint than the first, and this is confirmed just a few pages into the book in the first chapter. Thornhill notes that while he has some critiques of Sanders’s view, he is largely in agreement with Sanders’s covenantal nomism as a correction of the traditional view of how one “got saved” in early Judaism. The lack of attention paid to election in the NPP is part of what prompted Thornhill’s study in The Chosen People, which explores “how Jewish authors spoke of election and how this background knowledge relates to Paul” (16).

The Chosen People had its genesis in Dr. Thornhill’s PhD dissertation at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary under Dr. Leo Percer, with Dr. Gary Yates and Dr. Michael Heiser as readers. With social, historical, and literary sensitivity, Thornhill examines relevant Qumran, apocryphal, and pseudepigraphal texts to elucidate the thought world of late Second Temple Judaism in relation to election. Thornhill finds that election in both late Second Temple literature and Paul was largely a collective reality; in the rare instances in which individuals were in view, soteriological standing was not in view, but rather, their character or representation of the group. Election in both groups of texts was also corporate, conditional, and remnant-oriented. Furthermore, both simultaneously emphasize divine initiative and human responsibility. Probably most controversial will be Thornhill’s re-reading of Romans 8:26-11:36, a pillar text for the traditional Reformed understanding of election. Rather than predestination of the individual believer to salvation, for him Romans 9 is about Gentile inclusion in the people of Israel.

Among Jews of the period, the concept of election came to signify the “true Israel” or “remnant,” meaning those Israelites who remained faithful to the covenant. For Paul the terminology takes on quite the same meaning. In referring to those who have trusted in Jesus as “elect” or “chosen” or “called,” Paul claims that it is those who have been united with God’s Messiah who are actually in right standing with God. Torah-faithfulness apart from obedience to the good news of God expressed through Jesus has become useless. For Paul, obedience to God comes only through identification with Jesus. Thus Jesus’ own faithfulness both grounds the faithfulness of the believer and brings God’s declaration of “rightness” to them.

(p. 257)

 

For more detail on this book, check out Ben Witherington’s interview with the author (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

New & Noteworthy Books – TEDS Edition

I just finished my first semester at TEDS yesterday, and the final stretch was brutal. If you’re friends with me on Facebook then you probably saw my pleas for prayer and play-by-play; if you follow me on Twitter, you probably caught a few updates as well. I took 16 credit hours this semester, which wouldn’t have been too bad except for the fact that it included both Greek Exegesis I and Hebrew I. As some of my nerdy friends say, “dead languages are jealous lovers.” I had a final in every class and slept a total of 9 hours from Sunday to Thursday. Anyway, to celebrate finishing my first semester, I’d like to highlight a few books published by TEDS professors this year (2 in NT and 2 in ST). I’ve been looking forward to winter break reading for months :D

Constantine R. Campbell. Advances in the Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 256 pp. $34.99.

AdvancesJust yesterday during a conversation with two friends at the seminary library, one of them mentioned two people I highly respect making a theological point based on the erroneous conception of the Greek aorist being automatically punctiliar. One is a doctoral student and another a professor, and neither is in the field of New Testament; but I was still surprised. My first thought was that they need to read Advances in the Study of Greek.

Birthed out of a course in advanced Greek that Constantine Campbell taught at Moore Theological College before he came up over, Advances in the Study of Greek provides introductions the major topics at the cutting edge of NT Greek scholarship such as verbal aspect, deponency, discourse analysis, and pronunciation. Koine Greek might be a dead language, but scholarship surrounding it has been full of life in the past few decades. Outside of specialists most are unaware of these recent significant advances, and prior to this book there wasn’t an accessible way to learn about them. Advances in the Study of Greek is essential reading for anyone who deals with the Greek New Testament, from academically oriented laypeople and pastors to seminary students and professors, because the issues addressed here have a direct bearing on how we interpret the NT. Below is a a short interview with Zondervan and an extended interview with Shaun Tabatt.

Shaun Tabatt Interview

Thanks to Zondervan Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon


 

Joshua W. Jipp. Christ is King: Paul’s Royal Ideology. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2015. 208 pp. $44.00.

Christ is KingBuilding off of and extending Matthew Novenson’s argument in Christ among the Messiahs: Christ Language in Paul and Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism that Paul’s use of Χριστός conformed to ancient Greco-Roman honorifics, Joshua Jipp’s Christ is King: Paul’s Royal Ideology argues that “Paul used, reworked, and applied ancient conceptions of the good king – both Greco-Roman and Jewish – to Christ in order to structure reality or the symbolic universe of his congregations” (9). Jipp begins in chapter 1 with a survey of ancient kingship discourse (Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, and Jewish), essential to understanding Paul’s kingship discourse, to provide the necessary backdrop for his study.

Then a chapter each is devoted to the law, the Christ-hymns of Colossians and Philippians, participatory soteriology, and justice language in Romans, showing how kingship discourse as a source for Paul’s christological language provides the most helpful framework for understanding these passages. In the conclusion Jipp suggests that further studies examine Paul’s use of priestly metaphors and depiction of the church as temple in in light of the understanding of the king as priest and temple builder. He also relates his study to the topics of early Christology and participation. Over at the Euangelion blog Joel Wilitts has been interacting with this book and Dr. Jipp has been responding. Here is the first post and response.

Purchase: Amazon


 

Daniel J. Treier and Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Theology and the Mirror of Scripture: A Mere Evangelical Account. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. 280 pp. $26.00.

mirrorTheology and the Mirror of Scripture is the inaugural volume of a new IVP series entitled Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture. Edited by Vanhoozer and Treier, this series in evangelical systematic theology seeks “fresh understanding of Christian doctrine through creatively faithful engagement with Scripture in dialogue with catholic tradition(s).” The first volume was penned by Vanhoozer and Treier “with the hope and prayer of commending anew the evangel, and evangelical theology, to evangelicals. At their best, evangelicals have sought to hold Christ first. The present book proposes how we might do that again” (p. 10).

In contrast to the centered and bounded sets of the of the reformist and traditionalist camps, respectively, Vanhoozer and Treier propose in Theology and the Mirror of Scripture an anchored set “encompassing a Protestant ecumenical range of motion while anchored to the biblical, Trinitarian and crucicentric gospel” (21). This third way depends upon two fundamental metaphors: household (reflecting the ecclesiology of the book’s subtitle) and mirror (reflecting the aspiration of the book’s title). Vanhoozer and Treier begin in the introduction with a look at the main rooms in the evangelical household, examining their contemporary fragmentation and theological history. Then, Part One presents mere evangelical theology as an anchored set, addressing theological ontology and epistemology. Next, Part Two expounds upon the practical outworking of the agenda set out in Part One, relating prolegomena to ecclesiology. A concluding chapter expresses what the authors hope this manifesto for mere evangelical theology will accomplish in the church. Here, the authors bring out a final symbol for mere evangelical theology – the Lord’s Supper.

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon


 

Thomas H. McCall. An Invitation to Analytic Christian Theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. 192 pp. $22.00.

analytic theoThis book provides a brief and accessible introduction to the nature of analytic theology for the nonspecialist. Although “analytic theology” as a label is used in a variety of ways, a common, overarching description of the discipline is that it uses the constructive tools of analytic philosophy in the work of constructive Christian theology. In chapter 1 McCall provides a helpful overview of what analytic theology is, looking at both what makes it analytic and what makes it theology. He also addresses what analytic theology isn’t by responding to some common misunderstandings and objections, such as reliance on natural theology and substance metaphysics and lack of spiritual edification.

Next, McCall looks at the relationship between analytic theology and the Bible as Christian Scripture, using the case for compatibilism as a case study for how analytic theologians can bring logical coherence to a biblical theologian’s narrative coherence. Then he provides an overview of the relationship between analytic theology and historical theology and provides two case studies related to Christology to show how analytic theology informed by historical theology can help defend classical orthodoxy and correct new constructive proposals. In chapter 4 McCall addresses the need for the boundaries of analytic theology to be expanded in order to serve the church and impact the world. And finally, McCall concludes with a reminder of the proper telos of analytic theology: as theology, the proper end of analytic theology is the glorifying of God.

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

Review – ESV Men’s Devotional Bible (Guest Review)

Today’s review is a guest post by my friend and fellow TEDS student Taylor Sexton

For centuries, there have been commentaries, cross references, study notes, and doctrinal articles written in the margins of published Bibles. It seems today that this has become the norm. Every major Bible translation has its own study Bible. Beyond that, the modern world has seen the advent of many more interesting specialty Bibles: journaling Bibles, note-taking Bibles, waterproof fishermen’s Bibles and much more. All of these things are great resources, as they put seemingly limitless amounts of knowledge and insight into the hands of lay people everywhere. This, I believe, is one of the most important things happening right now in terms of Biblical education. If it had not been for my first study Bible, I might never have come to know the the gospel of God’s grace.

While objective knowledge and expertise are fantastic pursuits, we too often forget that our faith is a personal, experiential faith—experience that relies totally on knowledge which is found in the Scriptures. The ESV Men’s Devotional Bible, I believe, captures that very crucial balance that we need in our Christian lives as men, especially men who, like myself, tend to pursue knowledge at the expense of experience and devotion. Edited by Sam Storms, the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible seeks not only to “inform the mind,” but “to equip and encourage men who long to experience spiritual and moral transformation in the depths of their heart.”1 In this review, I will highlight the things I like about this Bible, and touch on some things that I think are lacking.

First, the physical form. I am a sucker for high-quality Bibles: genuine leather, sewn binding, strong and opaque paper, good print. Of course, this is not meant to be a high quality Bible, but it does have nice form. It is hardcover, lays open flat because of its sewn binding, has clear print, and fits well in one hand. It is easy to sit in my bed and read out of this book, and it seems well-constructed enough to continue this practice for a while.

In regards to the actual features of this Bible, it must first be understood that this is not a study Bible. There are no notes at the bottom of every page or in the side margins. Instead, every few pages or so, there is a one-page article written by one of the contributors that offers short devotional reflection on a topic either explicitly or implicitly addressed in the immediately-preceding text. For example, in the narrative of Hannah and her barrenness in 1 Samuel 1, there is an article on the next page entitled “Waiting on the Lord.” That way, the devotionals really seem to flow seamlessly with the text you happen to be reading at the time. This is an improvement over many devotional Bibles I have seen, where the articles seem general, random, or irrelevant to the passage. As someone who is crazy about grounding everything in the text, this Bible is a breath of fresh air. Not only does this offer relevant and helpful devotionals, but it models good exposition.

Looking at the devotional articles themselves, I find them, as I noted before, to be both practically sound and doctrinally grounded. For example, on one page you have “Waiting on the Lord,” and on another page you see “Election and Predestination.” This devotional Bible is not interested in nurturing feelings, good attitudes, positive outlooks, or the like, but is clearly devoted (pun intended!) to cultivating a proper view of God and the change of life that flows from that knowledge. One thing I like in particular about this Bible that, to me, makes it stand out among targeted-audience Bibles, is that many of the articles can be easily applied to women, as well. Many Bibles (e.g., “teen” Bibles, “sportsmen” Bibles, “football players’” Bibles) can seem so focused on their target audience that the devotions and applications contained in them can feel contrived. I do not find this to be so with this Bible. In fact, I found myself at one point thinking, “Is this a Men’s Devotional Bible?” I do not mean this in a negative way, but in a very, very positive way. This means that, as I said before, the applications are drawn from the text, and not from preconceived topics. There are, of course, articles written specifically to men’s issues such as pornography, fatherhood, singleness, and leadership. The contributions to this Bible simply work.

The contributors to this Bible will look especially appealing to many readers of the ESV: Philip Ryken, Alistair Begg, Sam Storms (general editor), Graeme Goldsworthy, Bryan Chapell, Thabiti Anyabwile, and many, many others, most of them being pastors. There is no shortage of life experience, godliness, and pastoral care in this volume.

This Bible has several great features beyond these. Each book has an introductory page that includes a basic overview of the book, key themes, and a special section about how each particular book can benefit us as men. The only thing I wish the Bible would have had were cross references, but this is purely a preference, and not a problem with the Bible itself. It has to be understood that each individual Bible is designed and published for a certain purpose, and it is not this Bible’s purpose to offer extensive cross references. In sum, I have benefitted from this Bible, and would recommend it readily to anyone seeking devotional material to use. It is a great translation and it crafted by great, God-honoring men. In a day where shallow material is being churned out faster than Happy Meals, this volume is refreshing and well-received.

1 Taken from the “Introduction to the ESV Men’s Devotional Study Bible”

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

Check out more of Taylor’s writing at his blog!

NIV Zondervan Study Bible – On Translation Fidelity

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At sundry times and in divers manners in the past few months I’ve alluded to my long-time preference for the ESV (including here on my blog) in relation to the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible. When I received a copy of this study Bible in July it was the first time I had picked up an NIV in about 8 years (of a total of “only” 10 as a Christian!). I’ve chosen not to write a review noting all the various features because 1) a lot of reviews are doing that and you can find one with a simple Google search and 2) the NIVZSB has a stunning website where you can explore it in detail. Futhermore, I wrote a bit about it on the Logos Academic blog a few weeks ago, highlighting its most unique feature (focus on biblical theology). Therefore, I would instead like to discuss the controversial issue surrounding the NIV 2011.

Last week our President Dr. David Dockery hosted a Q&A with Dr. D. A. Carson on the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible, and I decided to pose the question to Dr. Carson when the floor was open for questions. Specifically, I asked him how he would respond to complementarians who won’t give this new study Bible a chance because of the fact that it uses the NIV. Both in person and online I’ve seen fellow complementarians decry this new study Bible for its use of the gender neutral NIV, and there was a time when I would have done the same.

Carson noted the need to distinguish between changes in language that are culture-wide and don’t necessarily bring with it huge theological/cultural biases, and those changes driven by ideology (e.g. those on the far left who want to address God as “Our Father and Mother.” While there are feminine analogies for God in Scripture, He is never addressed as mother or described with feminine pronouns). In other words, complementarians need not worry over gender neutral pronouns as long as the pronouns for God are right. And this is because language is ever-changing and shaped by use. Whereas decades ago masculine pronouns were understood to be generic, they are now largely used/understood to refer to males. Carson drove home the point by saying that because today “men” connotes men only, it’s actually a better, more faithful translation in certain contexts (e.g. Acts 17:22) to say “men and women” as opposed to “men.” In other words, because of how English has changed, it’s better to use gender inclusive language when the original languages clearly refer to all people, male and female. Carson also mentioned that he and Doug Moo had stepped off the board of CBMW when they connected complementarianism to linguistic commitments, and that the council has since dropped that connection. I was not aware of either of these facts and found them both particularly enlightening.

The NIV 50th anniversary website has a very helpful piece chronicling the history of revisions of the translation, noting especially the research and data concerning the use of generic pronouns and identifiers in contemporary English. The issue is also noted in this brief video where a few members of the translation committee such as Doug Moo, Karen Jobe, and Mark Strauss discuss translation and linguistics. Carson himself wrote a very helpful book on this matter (The Inclusive-Language Debate: A Plea for Realism) nearly two decades ago, and it’s a great place to go for more in-depth treatment of this topic.

All that to say, I hope the fact that it uses the NIV does not deter complementarians from making use of this unique new study Bible. From the mature high school student all the way to the adult Bible study leader, all will find the NIV Zondervan Study Bible helpful for grasping the unfolding narrative of Scripture. Whereas many lay Christians see the Bible as a random collection of unconnected stories and moral prescriptions, this study Bible has a huge potential of making the average person in the pew a better reader and interpreter of Scripture, able to see the interconnectedness and development of the biblical storyline and able to trace the glorious themes that run from Genesis to Revelation. Check out the NIV Zondervan Study Bible website to explore the features!

Purchase: Amazon

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!

A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament (Philip Comfort)

Philip Wesley Comfort. A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015. 416 pp. $29.99

comfort manuscriptsWell-known NT text critic Philip Comfort’s latest offering, A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament, is an essential resource for those interested in NT textual criticism. It’s likely designed to appeal especially to those who primarily read and study the NT in Greek because it has the same dimension as the UBS and NA. However, it’s also accessible to those with little or no Greek skills because the Scriptures are presented in English and Greek, when used, is transliterated. If you find yourself wanting more detail when consulting the critical apparatus of your GNT, this book is for you. If you find yourself wanting to know more when the footnote of your English Bible discusses other manuscripts, this book might be for you.

Comfort begins with a brief introduction in which he notes the main unique features of this commentary. One is that the commentary is on actual manuscripts. Another feature found in no other commentary is the attention paid to nomina sacra.Words almost always written as nomina sacra  are noted in the rare instances when they are not written as such; nomina sacra written in full to indicate human rather than divine are noted throughout; titles such as “Son of God”, “Son of Man”, and “Son of David” when written as nomina sacra are noted. After the introduction, Comfort presents a list of the earliest manuscript(s) for each chapter of the NT. Chapter One provides a helpful introduction to NT textual criticism covering topics such as papyri, nomina sacra, and establishing the text of the NT. Chapter 2 provides an annotated list of NT manuscripts, and the rest of the book goes through the NT books chapter by chapter, noting and commenting on the major textual variants. The book concludes with an appendix that provides more in-depth information about nomina sacra, noting each one used in the NT and its significance.

A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament is an excellent supplementary reference resource for those interested in NT textual criticism. It’s certainly helpful, but I wouldn’t consider it essential. While there are points where it addresses variants not covered in the NA28 critical apparatus and/or Metzger’s textual commentary, and while the emphasis on nomina sacra is unique and extremely beneficial, often the comment on a particular verse really doesn’t provide  more information than the critical apparatus in your GNT. Since I’m studying Colossians this semester in my Greek exegesis course, I’ll illustrate by way of an example from this epistle: the textual variants for the end of 2:2. The top image is from my NA28, and the bottom image is from Comfort’s new commentary.

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Thanks to Kregel Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

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