• Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 897 other followers

  • Follow on WordPress.com
  • RSS

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Categories

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 |

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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 While some might criticize Irons for using traditional categories enumerated by outdated grammars, he defends his choice in light of the fact that reference grammars based on insights of modern linguistics have yet to be published.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

1:9| σωτηρίαν is in apposition to τὸ τέλος

img_20161223_014808985

 

 

 

 

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

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

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Westminster John Knox for the review copy!

PurchaseAmazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giveaway – No God But One (Nabeel Qureshi)

NGB1No God But One: Allah or Jesus? A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam & Christianity is Nabeel Qureshi’s follow-up to his NYT Bestseller Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity. Qureshi contrasts these two books by describing Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus as the heart of the story and No God But One the mind of his story; whereas the former is largely a testimony, the latter is a tremendous apologetic resource. No God But One is a fantastic book to help Christians understand the core tenets of Islam and the foundational differences between Islam and Christianity. As such, it’s both a must-read for Christians  seeking to grow in their understanding of Islam and their ability to engage their Muslim friends in spiritual conversation, as well as for Muslims who are questioning their faith and asking questions about Christianity.

As a former Muslim, Qureshi has a rare insider’s perspective. As an apologist on the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries speaking team and a New Testament Ph.D. candidate at Oxford University, he is well-equipped with first-rate training on the subject matters pertinent to No God But One. These two factors combine to make the book a superb resource on the differences between Islam and Christianity. The arguments are robustly defended and winsomely presented, and Qureshi’s passion for the gospel and for his kinsmen according to the flesh to come to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is pervasive throughout the book. This really is a book that every Christian with a passion for evangelism/apologetics should read, but especially those with a burden to see Muslims come to faith.

Zondervan and the No God But One publicity team have sent me a number of copies to give away, and I’m excited to give away three copies on my blog. Instead of running one giveaway and selecting three winners, I’m going to run three separate giveaways in succession. Whenever I post announcing a winner, that post will also be the way to enter the subsequent giveaway. I will also post a full review with the last giveaway.

The book officially releases on August 30. Check out the website for an overview about the book, quotes, a video, as well as some sweet preorder offers.

Giveaway Details:

***Giveaway is now closed and winners will be announced shortly.

Each of the following gets an entry, just comment saying you did it (comment separately for each method for them to count as separate entries). This first giveaway will close this Friday at noon EST, at which time I will choose a winner from the comments using a random number generator. Giveaway open to residents of the contiguous US.

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

Thanks to Zondervan for the Advance Reader Copy and giveaway copies!

Preorder: Amazon

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (Walton & Keener)

Craig S. Keener and John H. Walton, ed. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2016. 2400 pp. $49.99.

CBSBProlific OT scholar Dr. John Walton and NT scholar Dr. Craig Keener have teamed up to bring us a new study Bible that illuminates the cultural, historical, and literary context of the Scriptures. Not only are Walton and Keener experts in OT and NT studies, respectively, but they are especially known for their research in backgrounds (as can be seen, for example, in the two-volume IVP Bible Background Commentary they edited). With the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, the kind of information that could previously only be found in massive dictionaries/encyclopedias or specialized monographs has been made accessible to the person in the pew in a stunning study Bible that uses the most popular and trusted modern translation.

While this study Bible contains many of the elements shared by most study Bibles (e.g. book introductions, maps, charts, photographs, study notes, etc.), here everything is distinctly focused on context and background (social, political, cultural, historical, literary). For example, at the beginning there is a chart that provides explanation and select key verses of key Hebrew words that have no exact equivalent in English and an article explicating major background issues from the ancient Near East. Before the New Testament text there’s a section on “Key New Testament Terms” that clarifies cultural concepts behind key terms. In this section not only terms in the NT itself are defined (e.g. Christ, law, Satan, etc.) but also terms from the Jewish (e.g. Dead Sea Scrolls, Qumran community, Maccabees, etc.) and Greco-Roman backgrounds of the NT (e.g. client, Cynic, etc.).

For the purpose of this review I read all the notes in the Gospel of Luke and will highlight the features and a few notable insights. First of all, a brief two-page introduction briefly addresses genre, authorship, provenance, and date. There are charts that detail Mary’s allusions to Hannah’s Song, compare Caesar and Christ, present the parables of Jesus across the Synoptic Gospels, and display the resurrection appearances across the four Gospels, Acts, and 1 Corinthians. There’s also an image and description of the Capernaum Synagogue, a brief description of disease and medicine in the ancient world, and a two-page spread on “Qumran and the New Testament.”

Some interesting background insights include the note for 6:29c-d (“If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them”), where we are told that the coat is “[t]he one possession that a creditor could not legally seize from a debtor” (1755), and the note for 9:60 (where Jesus responded to a man who asked to bury his father before following Jesus, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God”) tells us that “burying one’s father was one of society’s greatest obligations” (1766). Both of these background notes give us deeper insight into what Jesus is saying about discipleship. The note at 18:25 debunks the commonly preached erroneous insight that there was a gate in first century Jerusalem called “Needle’s Eye” (saying this drastically lessens the force of the point Jesus was making). Regarding the tearing of the temple in 23:45, in addition to the commonly preached insight about the tearing of the curtain perhaps signifying new access to the Holy Place we are told that it “probably implies the departure of God’s presence from the temple, prefiguring its destruction” (1797-98).

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible will help the serious Bible student who does not have advanced knowledge of the worlds of the biblical text enter those worlds. Key background and contextual insights will open up new riches of spiritual and theological understanding that will also have practical implications for the Christian life. This study Bible is a great one-stop-shop on cultural, historical, and literary backgrounds to the Bible. Find out more about the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible here!

Thanks to Zondervan Academic and AcademicPS for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ebook Sale Notice – Zondervan Academic Gospels Commentaries

Zondervan Sale

Zondervan Academic is currently having an awesome sale on some of their Gospels commentaries (up to 80% off!). The volumes fall into several series:

  1. NIV Application Commentary helps us understand how the Bible’s ancient message speaks today. I always consult this series when preparing a sermon. At $4.99 a pop, these are probably the best deals of the sale. You’ll want to snag Darrell Bock’s volume on Luke, as he’s one of today’s premier evangelical scholars on the Gospel of Luke!
  2. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (ZECNT) is designed especially for the pastor, Bible teacher, or students/laypeople with some knowledge of biblical Greek and is a powerful tool for anyone doing robust exegesis. This is probably my favorite Zondervan commentary series and one I almost always consult when I study a text of the New Testament, whether for personal edification, sermon preparation, or writing exegetical papers. I heartily recommend all three ZECNT volumes on sale, especially the volume on Matthew by the inestimable Grant Osborne, who just retired from TEDS.
  3. Story of God Bible commentary (SGBC) offers clear and compelling exposition in the context of the Bible’s overarching story. While outside the scope of this sale, the Conan O’Brien of biblical studies (Mike Bird) published the volume on Romans and the jazz saxophonist who taught me an aspect of Greek with a modern twist (Con Campbell) will be publishing the volume on 1-3 John. But you can get Scott McKnight’s volume on the Sermon on the Mount for $6.99.

The other series on sale (with which I’m less familiar) are the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, and Studies on the Go. Check out Zondervan Academic’s Gospels ebooks sale and stock up your digital library with great reference resources for your personal study, academic work, and/or teaching/preaching. The sale ends at 11:59 EST on August 11.