Book Review – The Blessing of Abraham, the Spirit, & Justification in Galatians: Their Relationship and Significance for Understanding Paul’s Theology

Chee-Chiew Lee. The Blessing of Abraham, the Spirit, & Justification in Galatians: Their Relationship and Significance for Understanding Paul’s Theology. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2013. 256 pp. $28.00.

Gal3.14This book is a revision of a dissertation done under Douglas Moo at Wheaton. In this study, Chee-Chiew Lee investigates the relationship between the Abrahamic blessing and the promise of the Spirit in Galatians 3:14. Finding the arguments of those who see no relationship between these two motifs unconvincing and the explanations of those who do see a relationship (whether as equal or related in some other way) unsatisfactory, Lee  undertakes perhaps the most thorough study of the topic to date by looking at the two motifs throughout the OT and Second Temple literature. She thereby offers a cogent explanation of the relationship between the Abrahamic blessing and the promise of the Spirit, why Paul juxtaposed these two motifs in Gal 3:14, and how their relationship sheds light on Paul’s overall argument in Galatians and the theology of justification therein.

This study begins with a contextual and exegetical overview of Gal 3:1-14 in Chapter 2. Lee demonstrates that Gal 3:1-14 is situated in the context of Paul’s discussion of justification by faith and argues that the passage “constitutes the primary substantiation of his fundamental assertion in Gal 2:16 that justification is by faith in Christ Jesus and not by works of the law. The elaborations in Gal 3:15-6:10 may be seen as the secondary substantiation of Paul’s thesis” (22-23). In introducing the key issues related to determining the relationship between the Abrahamic blessing and the promise of the Spirit in Gal 3:14, Lee first looks at the other occurrences of juxtaposed ἵνα clauses in the Pauline letters before coming back to discuss Gal 4:4-5 and applying the findings to Gal 3:14. Outside of Galatians, when Paul juxtaposes of ἵνα clauses there is a general pattern of the second clause explicating the first and of the content of the two being related but not equal. Lee notes that there are exceptions; that while these two observations are important, syntax alone is not decisive in determining the relationship between the Abrahamic blessing and the promise of the Spirit in Galatians 3:14, and that the context of Galatians is key. Lee notes that “the Spirit should not be equated with the Abrahamic promise or taken as the fulfillment of the Abrahamic blessing. Rather, the promised Spirit is likely to be understood in the prophetic tradition of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel in relation to the Abrahamic, Sinai, and new covenants” (60).

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Reformation Commentary on Scripture – Galatians, Ephesians (Gerald Bray ed.)

Gerald L. Bray, ed. Galatians, Ephesians (Reformation Commentary on Scripture). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011. 446 pp. $50.00.

GalEphThough IVP Academic’s Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS) series is relatively new (with seven volumes published so far out of a projected 28 volumes), it has already garnered much praise. As a sequel to the highly acclaimed Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS) series, it shares an overall concept, method, format, and target audience with its predecessor. “The serious study of Scripture requires more than the latest Bible translation in one hand and the latest commentary (or niche study Bible) in the other” (xiv). As such, the ACCS and RCS series make available the finest exegetical works of their respective eras (Patristic and Reformation, respectively) for the sake of renewal through retrieval.

Each volume in the RCS series begins with a general introduction that provides an overview of the context and process of biblical interpretation of the Protestant Reformation era (including the historical context and the various schools of exegesis). Next, each volume contains a guide to using the commentary. Subsequently, the volume introduction places “that portion of the canon within the historical context of the Protestant Reformation and presents a summary of the theological themes, interpretive issues and reception of the particular book(s)” (xvii). The commentary itself proceeds by pericope, with a pericope heading, biblical text in the English Standard Version, an overview of the reformers’ comments that follow, and then excerpts from Reformation writers. In addition to typical backmatter, each volume of the RCS contains a map of the Reformation, a timeline of the Reformation, and biographical sketches of Reformation-era figures.

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Freebie Alert: The Text of Galatians and Its History (Stephen C. Carlson)

Stephen Carlson’s 2012 dissertation (Duke) has just been published by Mohr Siebeck. Major hat tip to my friend Cliff Kvidahl for noting the free digital availability here.

I was not aware of an open access dissertation database from Duke, but through the link to Carlson’s dissertation I poked around and found this landing page. It’s not as user-friendly as Durham’s, which has a page for all the dissertations from the Department of Theology and Religion. When you browse by subject on Duke’s page relevant dissertations are spread throughout multiple subjects. Nevertheless, if you know of dissertations from Duke you can just search for them directly. It’s just browsing that’s a bit hard to do.

In case anyone’s not aware, I have a “Free Resources” tab at the top that compiles free resources for biblical studies (courses, dissertations, journals, etc.). For nerds outside the academy without access to a university library, some of these are a real boon (especially dissertations, which are usually upwards of $100 a copy in published form). If anyone’s aware of other resources do let me know, and I will add them to the page.

Book Review – Union with Christ in the New Testament (Grant Macaskill)

Grant Macaskill. Union with Christ in the New Testament. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013. 368 pp. $150.00.

macaskillRecent years have seen a renewed interest in union with Christ among evangelicals (e.g. at the popular level Billings’s Union with Christ and Marcus Peter Johnson’s One with Christ, at a more academic level Constantine Campbell’s Paul and Union with Christ and Macaskill’s volume currently under review). Macaskill’s volume sets itself apart in research on this topic by focusing on the entire NT rather than just on the Pauline corpus, and by approaching the topic exegetically but in robust conversation with historical and (to a lesser extent) systematic theology. His main argument in Union with Christ in the New Testament is that despite the multiplicity of ways union with Christ is described in the NT, across the writings of several authors, there is a cohesive picture and broadly consistent theology of union. Macaskill summarizes this big picture that emerges from the NT as follows:

The union between God and humans is covenantal, presented in terms of the formal union between God and Israel. The concept of the covenant underlies a theology of representation, by which the story of one man (Jesus) is understood to be the story of his people. Their identification with him, their participation in his narrative, is realised by the indwelling Spirit, who constitutes the divine presence in their midst and is understood to be the eschatological gift of the new covenant. Reflecting this covenantal concept of presence, the union is commonly represented using temple imagery. The use of temple imagery maintains an essential distinction between God and his people, so that her glorification is understood as the inter-personal communication of a divine property, not a mingling of essence. This union is with a specific people, the members of which are depicted as the recipients of revealed wisdom, and this is the grounds of their intimacy with God. While the mystical language of vision is used to describe this knowledge, it is democratised to indicate that the revealed knowledge in question is possessed by all who have the Spirit, who are marked by faith, not just by a visionary elite. The faith that characterises this group is a real enactment of trust in what has been revealed in Jesus Christ, manifest in the conduct of the members of this community and particularly in their love for one another. The sacraments are formal rites of this union, made truly participatory by the divine presence in them.

(Macaskill 1-2)

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Enter to Win Our Commentary Club Giveaway

Jennifer Guo:

Become an Eerdliphant :)

Originally posted on EerdWord:

Scripture, says Gregory the Great, “is like a river with pools and shallows, where in one place the lamb may wade, in another the elephant may swim.”

Thus Eerdmans commentaries (often themselves a little like elephants in their girth) can be thought of as elephant swimming manuals, mapping out the deep pools in Scripture and demonstrating the best ways to navigate them.

So for all you elephants out there (is Eerdliphants too much of a stretch?), we’re delighted to announce the Eerdmans Commentary Club, a new online community that will keep you informed about commentary news, upcoming releases, new author announcements, sales, and members-only discounts.

Want to join the club? It’s easy: just visit the site and click the big “Join the Club” button. As an added bonus, if you join before noon EST on Friday, March 13, you’ll automatically be entered in our March Commentary Giveaway. Three winners, chosen at random, will win their choice…

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Freebie Alert – Paul: Jewish Law and Early Christianity (from the Biblical Archeology Society)

In this latest publication from BAS, top Biblical scholars examine the controversial role of Jewish law and tradition in early Christianity. While Christianity was open to both Jews and Gentiles, some contended that converts had to first become Jews in order to become Christians. Others considered the outward signs of Judaism to be unnecessary for Christian life.

Paul, the apostle who wrote much of the New Testament, discussed the role of Judaism among Jesus’ followers in a number of his letters. Although Paul preached justification on the basis of faith in Christ, he was himself a Pharisee and addressed the role of Jewish traditions and the status of Israel in the new covenant.

This eBook considers the relevant writings of Paul and brings to light some of the difficult theological issues for Jews and Christians that persist to this day.

Check it out here. There’s a “free ebooks” tab at the top that links to quite a few more resources.

The Passing of Charles Cranfield (1915-2015) – A Fond Remembrance (Gupta)

Jennifer Guo:

See also this post by Ben Blackwell from 2008: Coffee with Charles Cranfield (HT John Byron)

Originally posted on Crux Sola:

CranfieldThe sad news was circulated today that Prof. Charles Cranfield (Emeritus, Durham) has passed away (1915-2015). It was about seven years ago that I sat in his home and had tea with him, while we talked about Romans, theology, getting old, and politics. I had a look back on my notes from my conversation with him and what strikes me is how warm and pastoral he was. He has left a great legacy in his written works. He wrote on many subjects, including excellent commentaries on Romans and Mark, but in more recent years I have become fond of his little book The Apostles’ Creed: A Faith to Live By. Something to check out if you haven’t read it yet.

I am re-posting here my notes from my time with Prof. Cranfield in 2008 as part of my fond remembrance.

1. Professor Cranfield, do you have any (new) thoughts…

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Biblical Studies Carnival – February 2015

Welcome to the February Carnival! This was an eventful month for biblical studies geeks, with the announcement that the Gospel of the Lots of Mary had been deciphered (exclusively covered by Jim West), that a new NT papyrus had been discovered, and that the entirety of Codex Vaticanus is now available online. February also contains our favorite holiday of the year, for which Abram KJ and William Ross both linked to previous posts on the LXX in honor of International Septuagint Day. William’s post also contains an interview with renowned NT scholar and septuagintalist Karen Jobes. Martin Shields celebrated the special day with a post looking at differences between the LXX and MT on Job’s wife.

Before we get to the real fun, I’d like to urge you to contact Phil Long (Twitter @Plong42, email plong42 [at] gmail [dot] com) if you’re interested in hosting a Carnival. Hosting a biblical studies carnival is a fun way to highlight the best of biblioblogging and connect with the community. Next month’s Carnival will be hosted by Jacob Prahlow (@prahlowjacob), April will be Jeff Carter, and May will be Claude Mariottini.


Hebrew Bible/OT Pseudepigrapha

Over at Remnants of Giants, Deane Galbraith notes that David Clines has made available a paper entitled “The Significance of the ‘Sons of God’ Episode (Genesis 6:1-4) in the Context of the ‘Primeval History’ (Genesis 1–11)”.

Simon Holloway (not to be confused with Paul Holloway!) posted about a paper he presented at Australian Association for Jewish Studies Conference entitled “Charmed, I’m Sure: Wizardry, Women and War in the book of Numbers.”

James Pate is continuing to blog his way through II Chronicles (Chapter 19; 20; 21; 22).

On Valentines Day Karen Keen asked, “Is Song of Songs about Sex?”

Jim Davila reveals that a new manuscript of the OT Pseudepigraphon Jannes and Jambres has been discovered in Ethiopia. Peter Head commented on this as well over at Evangelical Textual Criticism.


New Testament/Early Christianity

James Crossley offers three posts at The Jesus Blog on the possibility of Aramaic sources behind the Gospel tradition (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

At The Bible and Interpretation Michael Kok offered a piece on his specialty, the Gospel of Mark, looking at “the reasons why some later Christian intellectuals were hesitant to embrace Mark, especially highlighting their concerns that Mark could be read as amenable to the theological views of their opponents.”

BW3 mentioned (here and here) a new series on CNN beginning today entitled “Finding Jesus: Fact, Faith, or Forgery.”

Richard Goode posted a summary and Powerpoint slides of Steve Moyise’s lecture entitled “Was the Birth of Jesus According to Scripture?

Reading Acts has been living up to its name, as Phil Long is continuing to blog his way through Acts:

Whew! I know it sounds treasonous, but perhaps Phil is dethroning King James as most prodigious blogger! You know who to go after to avenge me if I end up dead.

I mentioned the Battle of the Dougs (Moo vs. Campbell) on Pauline justification that took place at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. It might seem like something’s not quite wright….thankfully, N. T. Wright was not left out this month. Richard Goode posted a handout and audio to Steve Moyise’s lecture assessing Wright’s understanding of Paul’s use of Scripture in PFG.

Mike Bird commented on Paula Fredriksen’s article “Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the Ten Commandments, and Pagan ‘Justification by faith'” from the latest JBL. Mke also mentioned an article by Matthew Bates entitled “A Christology of Incarnation and Enthronement: Romans 1:3-4 as unified, Nonadoptionist, and Nonconciliatory.”

Matthew Montonini continued his series “Fridays with Fee” in which he is working through the recently revised version of Gordon Fee’s classic commentary (NICNT) on 1 Corinthians (Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

Larry Hurtado offers a few comments on Hebrews 1:6 and angelic worship of Christ in response to David Allen’s Essay in the Festchrift in the former’s honor. Hurtado also responds to Bauckham’s essay and Mary Ann Beavis’s essay from the same volume.

At Old School Script, Kris Lyle looks at whether James 3:6 is about the tongue or the fire.

Daniel Gullotta continues his “The Great Schweitzer Reread” series with Chapter 2, Part 1 on Reimarus. Daniel also wrote on how different Paul and John are as well as F. C. Bauer and the Two-Mission Thesis.



At The Bible and Interpretation Holger Gzella wrote an article entitled “Aramaic, the English of the Levant in Antiquity.”

William Ross wrote a post explaining and justifying his work in LXX studies and lexicography.

Mike Aubrey pointed to a recently completed Ph.D. dissertation entitled “The loss of the genitive in the diachrony of Greek.”

Brian Davidson linked to a file that helps one learn the vocabulary of 1 John (words occurring 50 times or less in the NT).

I don’t know how this could be possible, but if any of you are not following Wayne Coppins’s blog German for Neutestamentler, you really need to. Go subscribe now and finish playing at the Carnival later. It’s an invaluable resource for resource for those working with German for NT studies. This month Coppins worked through a section of Jörg Frey’s Die johanneische Eschatologie in honor of his birthday.



Women Biblical Scholars linked to a series on biblical prophecy by Ellen F. Davis (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).

James McGrath noted the free digital availability of two of his articles on monotheism.

Peter Head at Evangelical Textual Criticism announced that the Bodmer Papyrus XIV-XV (P75) now has a new name. Brice Jones comments on P.Monts.Roca 4.59, part of a fragment recently published for the first time.

Nijay Gupta pointed to a video of Marianne Meye Thompson on “Christ and Human Flourishing.”

Daniel Gullotta wrote a post on circumcision and one on epispasm. He also pointed us to a video lecture on the Mandaeans by James McGrath.

Jim Davila points to and comments on a series of posts on Gnosticism.

Marg Mowczko wrote on Eusebius and letter writing in the early church.



Alan Brill interviewed chair in Talmud at Princeton University Moulie Vidas on Talmudic source criticism.

Ancient Jew Review interviewed Jodi Magness about her excavation of the Galilean Synagogue of Huqoq.

Women Biblical Scholars interviewed Karen Jobes, Kristine Garroway, Amy-Jill Levine, Ruthe Anne Reese, Mitzi J. Smith, and Lynn Cohick.

Old School Script started a new interview series called “Scholars in Press.” So far Mike Aubrey and Jacob Cerone have been interviewed. If you haven’t done so already, do give Jacob a hearty CONGRATULATIONS for successfully defending his thesis!

Daniel Gullotta linked to an interview of Claudia Setzer by Larry Hurtado, which includes some great advice at the end for aspiring Ph.D. students.


Reviews and More

Abram KJ reviewed Nahum Sarna’s JPS Torah Commentary on Exodus.

Lindsay Kennedy reviewed Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and coming of Israel’s King and also began a series on the Jewish Trinity, a Logos MobileEd course by Michael Heiser.

Mike Bird reviewed Mark Strauss’s commentary on Mark (ZECNT).

Steve Walton reviewed Jesus is Lord, Caesar is Not at Reviews of Biblical and Early Christian Studies.

I did a three-part overview of the Festschrift presented to Douglas Moo at last year’s ETS Annual Meeting (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Matthew Montonini noted that John Barcley’s Paul and the Gift is scheduled for release this October.

Nijay Gupta covered Galatians and Christian Theology, The Church According to Paul, Rodney Decker’s Reading Koine Greek, Mark Seifrid’s commentary on 2 Corinthians (Pillar NTC), and Daniel L. Smith’s Into the World of the New Testament: Greco-Roman and Jewish Texts and Contexts.

Nick Norelli reviewed Logos’s Socio-Rhetorical Commetary series.

BW3 interacted at length with Richard Hays’s Reading Backwards this month (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6; Interview Part 1, Part 2,Part 3, Part 4 ).

Aaaaaaaand that’s all folks! If you want more fun, check out King James’s avignonian carnival.



Saturday Sillies

For chemistry peeps. This is one of the funniest images I’ve seen in a long time, from “Christian Memes” on Facebook. Please comment if you get it! I suspect there will only be a few.



Book Review – Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for Those Who Suffer from Depression (Zack Eswine)

Zack Eswine. Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for Those Who Suffer from Depression. Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 2014. 144 pp. $9.99.

spurgeon's sorrowsI don’t think I’ve ever even hinted on this blog of my battle with depression, and I’m thankful that it’s now but a distant memory. The short version of the story is that depression captured me a few months after I became a Christian (almost 10 years ago) and quickly became all-consuming. From waking ’till sleeping I just wanted to die, and no amount of prayer, singing, reciting Scripture, preaching the gospel to myself, etc. gave me even momentary reprieve. I mostly kept my struggles a secret. Though I’m thankful for the love and prayers of a handful of people in my life that knew about my depression, I hated talking about it because I almost always ended up feeling worse. I received a lot of trite, unhelpful words and a few down-right harmful words. I don’t think my experience is unique; depression and mental health are issues that the Church doesn’t really talk about, which means sufferers feel like an anomalies and non-sufferers don’t know how to counsel or just “be there” for them. Platitudes are the norm, and untrue words implying presence of sin, lack of faith, the need to just “lighten up” are unfortunately common.

Though my struggle has ended (the Lord supernaturally and instantaneously delivered me from depression about a year and a half ago, but that’s another story for another day), I share it here because the subject matter of Spurgeon’s Sorrows was my constant reality for eight years. I therefore read this book with an eye toward two questions: 1) would this book have helped me and given me perspective back then (i.e. would those battling depression find this book helpful?); and 2) would this book help those who have never struggled with depression understand and provide support to those who do? Though I don’t often read Christian living books, I knew I had to read this book not just because of my own past struggle with depression, but also because 1) this struggle is more common in the Church than we realize and 2) the Church doesn’t address it nearly enough.

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