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Mark Through Old Testament Eyes

mark through ot eyesMark Through Old Testament Eyes by Andrew T. Le Peau is the inaugural volume of the new “Through Old Testament Eyes” New Testament commentary series. While grounded in solid scholarship, this series is not written for the academic; rather, it aims to help serious lay readers as well as teachers and preachers experience fuller and richer dimensions of books of the NT by illuminating the OT backgrounds. Although it seems that the average person in the pew has always struggled to understand and appreciate the OT, Andy Stanley‘s recent statement about how Christians need to “unhitch” the OT from their faith makes it all the more urgent for us to help Christians understand and cherish the OT, and to see it as relevant for their lives and ministries. One way to accomplish this is to open up OT backgrounds to NT passages, which is what this commentary series does. However, I appreciate that Le Peau (who is also the series editor) notes that “the Old Testament is not merely a tool for understanding the New. The Old Testament is important and valuable in its own right. It was the Bible of Jesus and the first Christians. They guided their lives by it. The Old Testament needs to be and deserves to be understood on its own terms, apart from the lens it provides for seeing the New Testament clearly” (11). The hope is that these commentaries, in providing a window to the OT through the NT, will motivate readers to look more deeply into the OT itself.

The commentaries in this series will all have four repeating features. The main element is a running commentary which provides OT background and other key information. Second, “Through Old Testament Eyes” sections give a big picture of how OT themes and motifs influence large sections of the NT text. For example, “Mark 11-16 Through Old Testament Eyes: Jesus the New Temple” (pp 301-303) summarizes key dimensions of the temple motif in Mark 11-16 and concludes that in Mark, Jesus is the new temple not made with human hands (Mark 14:57-59), which the OT had anticipated when speaking of a time when there would be no need for a temple because God’s presence would dwell with his people (e.g. Isa 40:5; Jer 3:16-17; Hab 3:14; Zec 1:16-2:13). Third, “What the Structure Means” keeps track of the overall flow of the NT book, explaining how the author gets his point across using structural techniques (e.g. repetition, sandwiches, etc.). Structurally, Le Peau sees three major sections in Mark, divided in accordance with the New Exodus Motif (p. 18): 1) the liberator arrives (Mark 1:1-8:27); 2) the way to Jerusalem (Mark 8:22-10:52); and 3) conquest in Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-16:8). This parallels the Exodus in the OT as follows: 1) Moses arrives to liberate Israel (Exodus 1-15); 2) The journey to the Promised Land (Exodus 16-40, Numbers, Deuteronomy); and 3) the conquest of Canaan (Joshua). Le Peau traces the New Exodus motif throughout his commentary. Finally, “Going Deeper” addresses practical implications of the NT texts. The Gospel of Mark was written not only to convey information, but also to teach the early church how they were to live out the kingdom that Jesus preached in their contexts.

No existing NT commentary series that I’m aware of focuses exclusively on how the NT books were influenced by the OT (the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament does something similar in one volume, although it’s a bit more academic). I think this book will accomplish what the publisher hoped for the series – the reader’s understanding of Mark will be enriched by the illumination of OT echoes and allusions, and the reader will be motivated to dig deeper into the OT for itself. Mark Through Old Testament Eyes is a must-read for any serious student of the Bible wanting to study the Gospel of Mark, as well as for those preaching and teaching on this book in ecclesial settings.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon


Book Review – The Righteousness of God: A Lexical Examination of the Covenant-Faithfulness Interpretation (Charles Lee Irons)

Charles Lee Irons. The Righteousness of God: A Lexical Examination of the Covenant-Faithfulness Interpretation. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015. 540 pp. $135.00.

righteousness-of-godThe Righteousness of God is the published form of Irons’s 2011 dissertation at Fuller Theological Seminary under Donald Hagner, with Seyoon Kim as second reader and Mark Seifrid as external reader. It’s an exhaustive lexical analysis of righteousness language in the Old and New Testaments that also takes into consideration Second Temple Jewish and contemporaneous extra-biblical Greek usage. More specifically, this monograph focuses on δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ and subjects Cremer’s Hebraic/relational theory to robust lexical scrutiny, strengthening the philological case for a traditional Lutheran understanding of justification by undermining the NPP (New Perspective on Paul) claim that Paul’s δικ-language is sociological rather than soteriological.

Irons begins in Chapter 1 by providing a history of interpretation of δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ in Paul that demonstrates that despite variations in some details, Patristic, medieval, and Reformation interpreters all understood it soteriologically. He also provides a detailed sketch of the interpreters and ideas that led to the NPP understanding of δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ as God’s saving activity in keeping with his covenant faithfulness. Then, in Chapter 2, he lays out the methodological assumptions and considerations of the study, dealing with lexical semantics, Septuagint studies, and Jewish literature composed in Greek. As pertaining to lexical semantics, Irons argues that NPP scholars and their predecessors have been guilty of a subtle form of illegitimate totality transfer in which concepts derived from some contexts are read into the lexical sense of the word as well as reading hyponyms as synonyms where “faithfulness” and “righteousness” are in parallel. In regards to Septuagint studies, Irons shows the Achilles’ heel of the Cremer theory to be the fact that not all stereotyped equivalents (a word consistently employed in the target language as the translational equivalent for a word in the source language) are calques (a stereotyped equivalent that has become fixed in the target language).

The next four chapters are the heart of the study, as Irons investigates righteousness in different corpora of relevant literature. He sets the baseline in Chapter 3 by examining righteousness in extra-biblical Greek, surveying a representative sample from the first occurrence of δικαιοσύνη in the 6th century BCE to the 2nd century CE. Irons’s contention in this chapter is that “the Hebraic/relational theory of righteousness operates with a false contrast between Greek and Hebrew thought. Even extra-biblical Greek recognizes that keeping one’s promise is a subset of ‘righteousness.’ Coversely, Hebrew usage is just as judicialy stamped by the concept of iustitia distributiva as extra-biblical Greek, if not more so” (84).

In Chapter 4 Irons surveys the semantic range of צֶ֫דֶק/צְדָקָה in the Hebrew Bible and δικαιοσύνη in the LXX excluding the apocrypha to test the validity of Cremer’s relational theory with respect to the OT. He then weighs what he sees as the seven primary arguments for Cremer’s relational interpretation: righteousness as “thoroughly positive” (never negative); appeal to Hebrew parallelism to negate the judicial element of righteousness; arguing from the LXX’s use of dικαιοσύνη to render חֶסֶד that righteousness is exclusively positive and that dικαιοσύνη has taken on the covenantal overtones of חֶסֶד; that righteousness involves conformity to a norm; the antithesis between “the righteous” and “the wicked”; Psalm 69:27; and Genesis 38:26. Against Cremer’s argument that the Hebrew usage of “my/his/your righteousness” in reference to God’s judicial activity should be classified as iustitia salutifera rather than the Greek/Latin iustitia distributiva, Irons demonstrates that the righteousness of God in both the Hebrew Bible and the LXX (excluding apocrypha) is precisely iustitia distributiva. Finally, Irons briefly examines a representative sample of OT texts that refer to God’s righteousness and shows that fundamentally, this phrase in the OT “refers to God’s justice in executing judgment on the enemies of his people and thereby vindicating his people in the face of their oppressors” (178).

Next, Chapter 5 provides an overview of the righteousness of God in Second Temple literature to see whether the relational theory of righteousness is a semantic possibility for Paul, surveying the DSS, Apocrypha and OT Pseudepigrapha composed in Hebrew, Apocrypha, OT Pseudepigrapha, and other Hellenistic Jewish literature composed in Greek, and NT literature outside of Paul. Irons finds the Qumran writings to demonstrate the highest degree of continuity with OT usage while demonstrating a development and spiritualization of salvific/delivering usage. This spiritualization is not found in Jewish literature composed in Hebrew, Jewish literature composed in Greek, or the NT outside of Paul. Additionally, “righteousness” in the sense of doing something correctly is seen in a very limited fashion in these texts, dealing a decisive blow to the NPP view that δικαιοσύνη has a Hebraic, relational, and covenantal meaning in Paul. Lastly, iustitia salutifera language is found to be quite limited in the Jewish literature composed in Greek and seems to only occur in messianic contexts.

Finally, having thoroughly examined Paul’s linguistic context for δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ, Irons turns to Paul himself. He critiquing the view that δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ in Paul is a cipher for God’s covenant faithfulness, critically examines the arguments for the claim that δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ in Paul means God’s saving activity or power, and then positively argues for the traditional Reformation sense of “the gift of righteousness from God.”

The Righteousness of God is a must-read for anyone interested in Pauline soteriology, and especially NPP and specifically δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ. Irons’s exhaustive lexical analysis of all the literature that formed Paul’s context not only strengthens the traditional view of this phrase but is a formidable force that must be dealt with by all future studies arguing for Cremer’s relational view. Regardless of where one stands on the NPP/OPP debate, The Righteousness of God is a significant contribution to Pauline soteriology with which all future conversation must engage.

Many thanks to Mohr Siebeck for the review copy! 

Purchase: Amazon

The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown (Second Edition)

Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (2nd Ed.). Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2016. 1168 pp. $59.99.

For years The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown (hereafter CCC) has been my favorite evangelical NT introduction and one of my favorites overall. I’ve loved it for its comprehensiveness – the first volume was 161 pages longer than the volume with which it is probably most often compared, Carson & Moo’s An Introduction to the New Testament (what can I say, I love big books!). One unique feature of CCC is that it is unabashedly Christian, as can be seen in the opening lines of the preface to the both editions: “For believers who look to Scripture as the authority for their faith and practice, the NT, with its 27 books, presents both a wonderful, God-given treasure trove of spiritual insights and a formidable challenge for faithful, accurate interpretation.” Academic material is presented not in a dry, disinterested way but in a way that is connected to our faith, encouraging devotion and application. CCC presents top-of-the-line scholarship in a spiritually nurturing way for the Christian (one example of the spiritual nourishment provided by this volume is that there is at least one devotional on each NT book).

CCC is also distinctive because it begins with two chapters on foundational issues to which chapters are not typically dedicated in NT introductions. The first chapter addresses the nature and scope of Scripture, covering  the history of canonization, textual translation/transmission and the reliability of the Bible, and the doctrine of Scripture (covering topics such as inspiration and inerrancy). The second chapter surveys the political and religious background of the NT, providing an overview of the Second Temple Period. Usually the serious student of the New Testament, once armed with an NT introduction, must seek out additional books in order to be introduced to the nature of Scripture and the background of the NT. CCC provides a one-stop-shop, and the content of the first two chapters are a unique strength of this volume.

After the two introductory chapters, the remainder of CCC provides a robust overview of each book of the NT using the same pattern – the “hermeneutical triad” of history, literature, and theology (explicated in Kostenberger and Patterson’s fantastic book on hermeneutics, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation). The discussion on theological themes for each NT book is also a distinctive, as many NT introductions do not address the theology of the NT writings. Each chapter begins with a breakdown of what one should know from the chapter if aiming for 1) basic knowledge; 2) intermediate knowledge; or 3) advanced knowledge. This is especially helpful for self-studiers but can also be a valuable aid in the classroom (e.g. professors can communicate which level of mastery is desired of their students and create quizzes and exams accordingly). Other helpful features for the student include the study questions and bibliography at the end of each chapter.

None of what is described above has changed in the second edition. What has changed is that the content (including bibliography and footnotes) has been brought up to date with the latest in NT scholarship. Entirely new content include sections on how to interpret different genres of scripture as well as an epilogue that traces the storyline of Scripture from creation to consummation. All-in-all, the second edition is 223 pages longer than the first. The length and comprehensiveness of CCC is a blessing and in combination with the user-friendly features should be an attractant rather than a repellent. CCC is designed in a way that makes it very easy to cull for precisely the information you need (whether you just want to study a particular book of the NT, or whether you just want information about the history or literature or theology of a book), so the length need not be daunting. This book is both a valuable reference resource for the layperson and preacher alike as well as a fantastic textbook for seminary courses that introduce the NT.

Many thanks to B&H Academic for sending me a review copy of the second edition of The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown!

Purchase: Amazon | Westminster





Questions and Rhetoric in the Greek New Testament: An Essential Reference Resource for Exegesis

Douglas Estes. Questions and Rhetoric in the Greek New Testament: An Essential Reference Resource for Exegesis . Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2017. 400 pp. $49.99.

While there are almost 1,000 questions in the GNT (making up about 15% of the sentences), most students of the NT have never really thought about the questions, focusing instead on the statements. Questions are similarly neglected in commentaries, grammars, and other literature. Convinced that it is as much the questions in the NT as the statements that make such a great impact on readers (16), Douglas Estes has written Questions and Rhetoric in the Greek New Testament (hereafter Questions and Rhetoric) to help the exegete of the GNT understand and interpret the questions of the GNT, questions that not only influence the theology of the text but also the life of the reader. “[T]he purpose of this book is to help interpreters understand the logic of questions in the GNT so they can explain the rhetorical (persuasive) effect of these questions in their interpretation of the NT” (20, emphasis original).

Questions and Rhetoric examines the top thirty-six types of questions in the GNT, which are distributed among the four major syntactic formations for questions (variable questions, polar questions, alternative questions, and set questions, covered in chapter 3). Once the syntactical construction is identified, the interpreter must determine the degree to which the question is also driven by semantics (chapter 4). Estes covers twenty-three types of questions driven by semantics, including open questions (questions without a push toward a possible answer), deliberative questions (questions asked of oneself for reflection), indexical questions (questions that introduce uncertainty or ambiguity), phatic questions (questions oriented more toward social than informational or rhetorical purposes), inapposite questions (questions in which the asker knows the answer), and request questions (questions intended to elicit a corresponding action).

The last major chapter of the book addresses questions driven by pragmatics, the most rhetorically powerful yet most difficult to identify category.  This chapter examines pragmatic factors by looking at three main areas: turn, position, and repetition. Turn is related to which speaker asks the question (e.g. a first-turn question is asked by the first speaker in the first utterance of a dialogue, a second-turn question is asked by the second speaker in the second utterance of a dialogue, etc.), position has to do with where the question is within the turn, and repetition occurs when there is more than one question in a sequence. A total of nine question types within these three areas are addressed, such as governing questions (first-turn; asked to assert control over the direction of the dialogue), focus-shifting questions (second-turn; asked to move the dialogue away from the focus of the first-utterance turn), middle-position questions (position; asked in the middle of a turn), and multiple questions (repetition; three or more related questions in succession to amplify the rhetorical goal of the speaker).

Each of the question types in Questions and Rhetoric is covered in six sections: introduction, formation, rhetorical effects, case studies, further examples from the GNT, and key bibliography. While this brief overview of the book did not address rhetorical effects, I think these section are the heart of the book as they illuminate what interpreters have likely missed from NT texts due to not understanding questions and/or interpreting them with alethic logic (the thinking behind propositions). Questions and Rhetoric is a must-have resource for all who take interpreting the NT seriously and have at least intermediate knowledge of NT Greek. Seminary Greek students and instructors, pastors with a working knowledge of Koine, and NT scholars alike would do well to have this book on their shelf of tools for exegesis.

Many thanks to Zondervan Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon


Book Notice – New Dictionary of Theology (Second Edition)

Davie, Martin, et al., ed. New Dictionary of Theology: Historical and Systematic (Second Edition). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016. 1044 pp. $60.00

First published in 1988, IVP Academic’s New Dictionary of Theology has become an indispensable/definitive resource for pastors and theological students alike, providing an introduction to a host of diverse of topics in systematic, historical, and biblical theology. This new edition reflects some of the most important new issues in historical and systematic theology that have arisen in the past three decades, boasting over 400 new articles. The articles on biblical theology in the first edition have been eliminated due to IVP Academic’s New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (2000), giving this dictionary a specific focus on historical and systematic theology (as reflected in the new subtitle).

New articles address challenging contemporary issues such as abortion, gender, and human rights law and new theological movements such as analytic theology, postliberalism, and the Yale School. I was particularly delighted to see new articles on theology from the majority world, such as African theology, Arab Christian thought, Asian Christian thought, Black theology, Chinese theology, Japanese Christian thought, and Korean theology. Since the first edition did not have a single article on theology outside the West, the presence of these articles seems to reflect a conscious decision on the part of the editors. Old articles have also been rewritten by new authors, including, interestingly, justification (previously by N. T. Wright, now by Brian Lugioyo). The article on justification reflects what seems to be a general emphasis on historical rather than systematic presentation.

With over 800 articles by some of the finest theologians of our day addressing a variety of topics in historical and systematic theology (e.g. figures, movements, doctrines), the second edition of IVP Academic’s New Dictionary of Theology is an essential resource for historical and systematic theology from a broadly evangelical perspective. Those with strong confessional affiliations will likely find irksome the lack of definitive theological position in some articles and those more conservative might be troubled by openness to positions such as a nonhistorical Adam, annihilationism, etc. However, as a one-volume reference, there is no better resource than the new second edition of New Dictionary of Theology.

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

Book Notice – Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook (Richard A. Taylor)

Richard A. Taylor. Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook (Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2016. 208 pp. $21.99.

Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature is the latest volume from Kregel Academic’s Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis series, which offers a basic introduction to exegesis and proclamation of different genres of OT texts. The purpose of this volume is fourfold: to 1) provide an introduction to Second Temple Jewish apocalyptic literature; 2) situate OT apocalyptic literature within the context of ancient apocalyptic thought; 3) provide guidelines for interpreting this genre; and 4) provide a sample treatment of two OT apocalyptic texts.

Chapter 1 provides an introduction to apocalyptic literature, addressing renewed scholarly interest in this genre (with a note on Kasemann), distinguishing helpfully between apocalypse, apocalypticism, and apocalyptic literature, tracing the development of Jewish apocalyptic literature, and sketching the social world behind the literature. Chapter 2 addresses major themes in apocalyptic literature, dealing with major texts and then the genre as a whole. For Old Testament Prophets, a bit more attention is devoted to Daniel than the rest of the texts (which makes sense given the scope and aims of this book), summarizing its message, purpose, major themes, and structure. Then quick overviews are provided for Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Joel, Malachi. For extrabiblical texts, a brief introduction to types of apocalypses is first provided before surveying each of the five parts of 1 Enoch, then 2 Enoch, Jubilees, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, Apocalypse of Abraham, Testament of Levi, Testament of Abraham, Apocalypse of Zephaniah, and Testament of Moses. Then Taylor addresses the question of whether Qumran was an apocalyptic community and surveys a few DSS texts with apocalyptic elements (Community Rule, War Scroll, and New Jerusalem. Chapter 2 concludes with some general characteristic features (revelatory content, dreams and visions, pseudonymous authorship, hiddenness and secrecy, and pervasive symbolism) and major themes (developed angelology, ethical dualism, deterministic outlook, imminent crisis, faithful remnant, divine judgment, and eschatological hope) of the genre of apocalyptic literature.

Chapter 3 focuses on the book of Daniel (since it contains the only true apocalypse in the OT) to address the issue of how to prepare to interpret apocalyptic texts, noting key exegetical procedures and tools . Taylor covers figurative language, reception history, the issue of bilingualism in Daniel and textual criticism,working with original languages, and benefiting previous scholarship. He provides an annotated bibliography of OT textual criticism, Bible software, lexical resources, grammatical resources for Hebrew as well as Aramaic, and primary and secondary sources for the study of apocalyptic literature. In chapters 4 and 5 Taylor addresses guidelines for interpreting and proclaiming apocalyptic literature, respectively. Finally, Chapter 6 models the process that has been taught in the rest of the book by working through Daniel 8:1-27 and Joel 2:28-32.

Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature is an excellent guide to exegeting and preaching apocalyptic (and proto-apocalyptic) OT texts. It provides a valuable (albeit brief) introduction to the genre and sketches the Second Temple Jewish context, situating OT apocalyptic literature within the broader world in which it was birthed. I think this would be a great text for upper level bible college and introductory seminary OT courses. It would also be a great resource for self-learners unfamiliar with the genre (for whom the annotated bibliographies in chapter 3 would be particularly valuable), especially those with regular opportunities to preach.

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon



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


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!


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.


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.


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.