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

 

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two New IVP Books on Paul

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

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

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

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

(p. 13)

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

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

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon


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

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

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

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

(p. 257)

 

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

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

New & Noteworthy Books – TEDS Edition

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

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

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

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

Shaun Tabatt Interview

Thanks to Zondervan Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon


 

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

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

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

Purchase: Amazon


 

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

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

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

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon


 

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

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

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

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_20151105_023634635

IMG_20151105_022724298

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

New & Noteworthy Books

Susan Docherty. The Jewish Pseudepigrapha: An Introduction to the Literature of the Second Temple Period. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2015. 208 pp. $49.00.

Docherty PseudepigraphaThis short book is an excellent introduction to the Pseudepigrapha for the uninitiated. The literature is organized by genre, with each chapter devoted to a different type of writing. In contrast to organizing by chronology, along geographic lines, or according to the OT character with whose name they are associated or whom they honor, organizing by genre offers the advantages: “it is relatively easy for the reader to navigate; it highlights the creative use by the early Jewish writers of a variety of literary forms; it enables attention to be paid to all the noteworthy characteristics of each text; and it allows works which have something in common to be compared” (9). Each chapter first introduces the genre, then introduces several main texts from the genre, presenting key features and main themes of these texts. Each chapter concludes with the significance of the genre and suggestions for further reading. Distinguishing features of this volume include its accessibility and length as well as its focus on the significance of the texts.

Thanks to Fortress Press for the digital review copy!

Purchase: Amazon


Paul A. Hartog, ed. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian Contexts: Reconsidering the Bauer Thesis. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2015. 288 pp. $32.00.

Orthodoxy & HeresyThis volume offers a fresh, interdisciplinary reevaluation of the Bauer thesis from expert New Testament and Patristics scholars. Originally presented at an invited session of the Patristics and Medieval History Section of the Evangelical Theological Society, these essays provide a fresh look at orthodoxy and heresy and unity and diversity in early Christianity. Addressing topics from Apostolic Fathers to Gnosticism(s) to the rule of faith to  Patristic heresiology to the development of “orthodoxy,” this book is an excellent read for NT students and scholars, especially those with particular interest in early Christianity.

Although recognizing the importance of Bauer’s innovative methodologies, fruitful suggestions, and legitimate criticisms of traditional views, the contributors also expose Bauer’s numerous claims that fall short of the historical evidence. The contributors’ desire is that this fresh examination of Bauer’s paradigm may serve as a launching point to a richer and deeper understanding of the unity and diversity (and even normativity) found in the variegated early Christian movement” (5).

Thanks to Pickwick/Wipf & Stock for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon


Peter H. Davids. A Theology of James, Peter, and Jude: Living in the Light of the Coming King. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 352 pp. $39.99.

DavidsZondervan Academic’s Biblical Theology of the New Testament series under the editorship of Andreas Kostenberger explores the NT writings within the context of the theology of the NT and ultimately the entire Bible. Peter Davids contributes the latest volume on the General Letters of James, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude. Davids begins with an introductory chapter which addresses the common themes and issues across these four epistles – Greco-Roman background, theology, Christology, view of the source of sin, and eschatology. The introduction also examines the issue of pseudonymity. The rest of the book devotes one chapter to each of the epistles covered, surveying recent scholarship (including providing a brief biography) and introductory issues, providing a literary-theological reading and examination of key theological themes, and commenting on the canonical contribution of each of the epistles. This volume is a short and accessible read that offers rich biblical-theological insights on a neglected part of the NT. The bibliography, survey of scholarship, and introductory matters provide a helpful orientation to these Epistles for the beginning student. This is a great book from an accomplished NT scholar for anyone desiring a theological reading and insights into the theological themes of these epistles.

Thanks to Zondervan Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon


Brian K. Morley. Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. 384 pp. $25.00.

Mapping ApologeticsI had studied and employed apologetics for many years before I realized that there were different methodologies and that everything I had read about and utilized were in what are called classical and evidentialist schools. I thought what I had encountered was apologetics. I’d imagine that a great proportion of nonspecialists are unaware of the different methodologies in apologetics because most nonacademic literature is written from the perspective of a certain approach, labeling its contents apologetics. I would have greatly appreciated a book like Brian Morley’s new Mapping Apologetics in those early years when I first began studying apologetics.

Mapping Apologetics begins with two chapters on foundational issues that briefly survey apologetics in the Bible and apologetics in history. The rest of the book deals with the five major methodological approaches and the most influential current proponents of each. Organized according to a schema of increasing emphasis on objective, independently existing evidence, Morley addresses presuppositionalism (Cornelius Van Til and John Frame), Reformed epistemology (Alvin Plantinga), combinationalism (E. J Carnell, Gordon Lewis, and Francis Schaeffer), classical (Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig, and Norman Geisler), and evidentialism (John Warwick Montgomery and Gary Habermas). Mapping Apologetics is an excellent introduction to apologetic methodology, accessible enough for someone without prior knowledge yet containing deeper tidbits for the more advanced reader.

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: WestminsterAmazon

Book Notice – An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology (M. Eugene Boring)

M. Eugene Boring. An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012. 720 pp. $45.00.

Boring NTThis NT introduction is the fruit of a lifetime of scholarship by a distinguished NT scholar, M. Eugene Boring, I. Wylie Briscoe Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University. One distinguishing feature of this NT introduction is immediately apparent: there are nine chapters weighing in at 181 pages before Boring even gets into the NT texts. Many NT introductions dive right into a book-by-book survey, with others supplying a brief chapter or two that provide a broad overview of the Greco-Roman and Jewish backgrounds of the NT. The detailed background from multiple angles that Boring provides sets his volume apart in the world of NT introductions and makes this a valuable resource for the motivated and serious beginning student of the NT.

Boring’s introduction to his introduction covers what the NT is and how it was formed as the Church’s book; it introduces textual criticism, bible translation and biblical interpretation; it provides an overview of the Hellenistic world and Palestinian Judaism within that world; and introduces the quests of the Historical Jesus and the first Christian generation. After this lengthy prolegomenon, the next surprise is that whereas NT introductions typically begin with the Gospels, Boring begins with Paul and ends with the Gospels, Acts, the Johannine letters, and Revelation. The other major unique attribute of Boring’s NT introduction is its theological emphasis, as noted in the subtext. Whereas NT introductions typically do not cover theology, Boring’s volume addresses what he calls the “exegetical-theological précis ” of each book.

For those not familiar with Boring as a scholar, it should be noted that this is a critical NT introduction. This is apparent from methodology as well as conclusions, from issues such as dating and authorship to more significant matters related to the integrity of the NT text. As such, as an evangelical, this isn’t a book I would recommend to the typical person in the pew as an introduction to serious study of the NT. The first NT introduction I’d recommend is hands-down The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown (Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles). That being said, for the academically-inclined evangelical who has read a few conservative NT introductions and is somewhat familiar with the terrain, I highly recommend Boring’s volume as a stellar work from a moderate, more critical approach.

For the serious student of the NT, Boring’s An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology is a worthy addition your library. Alongside the conservative must-haves such as Kostenberger/Kellum/Quarles and Carson/Moo, Boring’s volume merits a spot in one’s NT introduction section next to the likes of Raymond Brown and Luke Timothy Johnson.

Thanks to Westminster John Knox for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

In the (e)mail (Or, You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks)

Logos 2 Cor

Just a mere months ago I was a total print snob. In addition to far preferring the actual reading/annotating experience of print as opposed to any digital format, there were reasons such as the feel of the covers, the smell of the pages, the beauty of bountiful bookshelves. But through a series of irresistible deals I now have Logos 6 with a bangin biblical studies library (I’m not ready to sell the print books that have been duplicated in Logos, though. I’m very much attached to my beautiful, bountiful bookshelves). And I must admit….having thousands of books literally at my fingertips at all times (including essential commentary series such as PNTC, NIGTC, and BECNT) is pretty amazing. I was once made fun of for my aversion to technology, but…well, who’s laughing now? Me. With my unbelievable, albeit digital, library.

Anyway, as final evidence that I am no longer a Luddite, I will be reviewing one of the newest additions to the Pillar New Testament Commentary series, Mark Seifrid’s volume on 2 Corinthians. I never thought that, given the choice, I’d choose a digital book to review as opposed to print. But given that I own the Logos 15-volume PNTC set through my base package, the portability of digital books, and power of Logos 6, it made sense to continue and eventually complete the series in Logos.

The question that Paul set before the ancient church in Corinth—“Do you not recognize that Jesus Christ is in and among you?” (2 Cor 13:5)—remains a critical question for the church today. This commentary by Mark Seifrid seeks to hear Paul’s message afresh and communicate it to our time.

Seifrid offers a unified reading of 2 Corinthians, which has often been regarded as a composite of excerpts and fragments. He argues that Paul’s message is directed at the “practical atheism” of the Corinthian church—the hidden heresy that assumes God’s saving work in the world may be measured by outward standards of success and achievement.

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Thanks to Logos/Faithlife for the review copy!

New & Noteworthy Books (Pauline Studies)

I’ve recently begun digging into two very exciting new Paul books that were released towards the end of last year. One is “In Christ” In Paul: Explorations in Paul’s Theology of Union and Participation (WUNT II 384) edited by Michael Thate, Kevin Vanhoozer, and Constantine Campbell. This monograph assembles an all-star cast including several who have published significant books on the subject of union with Christ (e.g. Grant Macaskill, Constantine Campbell), and heavyweights in Pauline scholarship such as Michael Gorman, Susan Eastman, and Douglas Campbell. Other notable contributors abound. The publisher’s description is below.

Nearing thirty-five years ago, E. P. Sanders famously stated that the center of thought within Paul’s theology is participatory in nature – which, of course, caused no small debate within broad strands of Pauline scholarship. Sanders also suggested that we have no modern conception of what this thought might mean for us today. These two axioms of Sanders loosely organize the essays in this volume which seek to explore the complex notions of union and participation within Pauline theology through exegesis, highlights in reception history, and theological reflection. This collection of essays aims at teasing out the complex web of meaning conveyed through Paul’s theological vision of union and participation – both in their relationship and in their distinction with one another. Taken as a whole, this edited volume constitutes a multi-disciplinary reflection and exploration of Paul’s theological vision of participation and union. But it is precisely as a multi-disciplinary exploration that this volume hopes to chart new ground and make new connections within Pauline thought with the hope that further research might contest and/or clarify its findings.

The second is Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo. My Facebook and Twitter feeds were abuzz about this the night the festschrift was presented to Moo at ETS. I’m always excited when a festschrift is presented to a scholar that I have long appreciated, but I don’t usually gravitate towards reading them. However, I knew I had to read Moo’s. Where do I even begin giving reasons? His NICNT on Romans was the first commentary I ever bought, which solidified him in my list of favorite biblical scholars very early on in my Christian life. I suppose the facts that I love Pauline studies and that I’m solidly OPP make it more than obvious why I so appreciate Moo. But regardless of one’s perspective (hah!) on Paul, it’s undeniable that Moo is one of the most capable Pauline scholars of our time; this can be seen in the somewhat surprising presence of essays by Wright and Dunn. This book is really a must-read for Pauline nerds, especially those of the OP persuasion. Amazon does not yet have the “look inside” feature for the book, so you can check out this post by one of the editors for the TOC and some other tidbits.

Here is a video of the festschrift being presented to Dr. Moo.

 

Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment

Gregg R. Allison. Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014. 496 pp. $28.00.

AllisonA few weeks ago a friend asked me whether there were important theological distinctions between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. After explaining some of the core differences, I recommended Dr. Allison’s latest book, Roman Catholic Theology and Practice. This is the first time I’ve ever had a book to recommend on this issue, for prior to Allison’s volume, there had not been a thorough, book-length evangelical treatment of Roman Catholic theology for decades.

Prior to this book I had known of Allison as a (historical) theologian (I purchased his Historical Theology years ago and highly recommend it as a supplement for those who study Grudem’s Systematic Theology), but I was not aware of his evangelistic passion for Roman Catholics and his ministry experience among them. I love the anecdote he recounts at the beginning of Roman Catholic Theology and Practice, of how he and his wife, shortly before getting married, had felt called to serve with Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ) at Notre Dame; how they had struck out three times in trying to get placed there; and how they still ended up getting assigned there as their first campus. But beyond doing ministry at the most Catholic college campus in this country, the Allisons also served in Rome. One thing their story makes clear is that this book isn’t just a theoretical exercise; it’s not just the product of a theologian synthesizing research. Rather, this book is the product of the diligent research of an excellent theologian who, in addition, actually has direct experience with the subject matter and the people. Allison has two purposes for Roman Catholic Theology and Practice:

One purpose is to highlight the commonalities between Catholic and evangelical theology, agreements or similarities that prompt intrigue. These shared doctrines and practices—e.g., the Trinity; the full deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ; worship and prayer—need to be recognized and appreciated, and they lead to thanksgiving for a limited yet real unity between Catholicism and evangelicalism. The other purpose is to underscore the divergences between Catholic and evangelical theology—disagreements or dissimilarities that require critique. These doctrinal and practical disparities—e.g., apostolic succession, transubstantiation, the immaculate conception of Mary, praying for the dead in purgatory—are serious points of division that must be faced honestly and sorrowfully, yet with a humble conviction that avoids minimizing the substantive distance between Catholicism and evangelicalism.

(Allison 27)

This book walks through the Catechism of the Catholic Church section by section, first offering a summary and then an assessment from Scripture and evangelical theology. There is a concluding chapter dealing with ministry to Roman Catholics, showing, again, that this isn’t just theoretical; that ultimately, the purpose is the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Roman Catholic Theology and Practice is a valuable resource for the Church and is likely to become the definitive contemporary introductory guide for evangelicals desiring to understand what Roman Catholicism teaches, where key divergences with evangelical theology lie, and why it matters.

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

I received a free digital copy of the book without obligation for providing a positive assessment.