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Book Log: April 2004

  1. Christian Faith in the Old Testament: The Bible of the Apostles – Gareth Lee Cockerill. At about half the length of Walton & Hill’s Old Testament Today and with less of a textbook feel, this is a great introduction/guide to the Old Testament for laypeople. Full review here.
  2. How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee – Bart D. Ehrman. In this book, Ehrman provides a historical account of how followers of Jesus came to see him as fully divine. His central assertions include that  Jewish conception of divinity was fluid much like that of their Greco-Roman neighbors, that during Jesus’s lifetime he did not claim to be divine nor did his followers believe him to be such, and that it is historically unlikely that Jesus received a decent burial in a tomb. The earliest Christology was exaltational and quickly morphed into incarnational, and orthodoxy was the result of “heresy hunters” rewriting history. Even though I disagree with the central theses of this book, I did find it at times to be an enjoyable read. Ehrman gets much right, but unfortunately he is devastatingly wrong at many significant points. I wouldn’t recommend this book to most lay Christians as it would probably be too difficult to sift the truths from the errors. But for those with some background knowledge pertaining to early Christology and interest in further study, this would be a good book to read along with the response book, How God Became Jesus. I am blogging through both books here.
  3. How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature-A Response to Bart Ehrman – Michael Bird ed. This is the evangelical response to Ehrman’s book noted above. A prepublication version was read by a team of five internationally renowned scholars (Michael Bird, Craig Evans, Simon Gathercole, Chris Tilling, and Charles Hill), and a response was released on the same day as Ehrman’s book. This book does a good job summarizing Ehrman’s main arguments, so that for most lay Christians it’s sufficient to read this book without Ehrman’s. But as noted above, those with particular interest in early Christology would benefit from reading Ehrman’s book first for engagement beyond the response book. As with any team-written book, there is some overlap between chapters and variable quality. Though some chapters are stellar and a few are a bit weak, overall this book is a very strong response. Whatever the reader might sense to be lacking can easily be further studied from extensive references in the endnotes. As mentioned above, I am blogging through both books here.
  4. Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes – Zack Eswine. Part of P&R’s “The Gospel According to the Old Testament” series, this volume shows how Ecclesiastes teaches us about “how a follower of God is meant to talk about the world as a fellow human being. We learn a wisdom kind of outreach, an evangelism or testimony as those who are human being wrestling with it all. It is as if the Preacher causes us to put off our religious persona and get honest about our human being in a fallen world” (12). As Eswine guides us through Ecclesiastes, he candidly, pastorally, and often poetically shows us not only implications for our personal journey and our knowledge of God, but how we can relate to those around us who do not know Him – to relate as human beings to human beings who do not know the Bible. The purpose is God, and the destination is Eden. Full review here.
  5. Apostle of the Last Days: The Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul C. Marvin Pate. This book is a valuable contribution to Pauline studies. The majority of the book is a survey through Paul’s entire corpus, demonstrating the eschatology of each epistle vis-à-vis the competing eschatologies of the respective cities. It’s written at a moderately academic level, with most Greek words untransliterated. This book is definitely a treat for anyone with particular interest in Pauline studies and/or eschatology; but because the thesis is advanced through a survey of all of Paul’s epistles, it would benefit any semi-academic student of the Word by imparting a greater understanding of each of Paul’s epistles. Full review at Nate Claiborne’s blog.
  6. Four Views on the Historical Adam –  Matthew Barrett & Ardel Caneday, ed. From Zondervan’s Counterpoint series, the views on Adam presented in this volume are evolutionary creation (Denis Lamoureux), archetypal creation (John Walton), old-earth creation (C. John Collins), and young-earth creation (William Barrick). Each view is followed by a response from each of the other authors and concludes with a final rejoinder by the original scholar. This particular volume ends with two pastoral reflections on the implications of the debate, with Greg Boyd arguing that it doesn’t make much of a difference and Phil Ryken arguing that without a real, historical Adam we cannot rightly understand the world or our Christian faith. Full review here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the above books for free from the publishers for review. I was not obligated to to write positive reviews, and the opinions I have expressed are honest.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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