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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

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: Westminster | Amazon

Behind the Gospels: Understanding the Oral Tradition (Eric Eve)

Eric Eve. Behind the Gospels: Understanding the Oral Tradition. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2014. 224 pp. $29.00.

Behind the GospelsThere is currently to my knowledge no book-length survey of and introduction to scholarship of the oral tradition behind the Gospels. As such, Eve’s Behind the Gospels is a valuable contribution and should be read by every student of the gospels. It is also accessible, with technical terms defined rather than assumed; therefore, it’s also a good book for laypeople and nonspecialists interested in the cutting edge of Gospels studies and specifically oral tradition. This work is not concerned with source criticism or the Synoptic Problem; Eve assumes Marcan priority and leaves open the question of “Q.” While Behind the Gospels is primarily descriptive in that it surveys the main movers and shakers in this area of NT scholarship and provides an overview of the main models of oral tradition, Eve does also evaluate the main positions. He begins in Chapter 1 with providing a general orientation to the subject matter by briefly addressing what oral tradition is in the first century Mediterranean context – “one factor (albeit often the dominant one) of a complex interplay of memory, orality and scribality (the use of texts in a pre-print culture)” (17)*. Chapter 2 deals with form criticism, examining the constructive method of Martin Dibelius and the analytical method of Rudolf Bultmann.

In light of the weaknesses of form criticism, the rest of the book looks at alternative models that have been proposed in its place. Chapter 3 examines the rabbinic model (in which the passing on of Jesus tradition is seen as a tightly controlled process), focusing primarily on the work of Birger Gerhardsson. Next, in Chapter 4, Eve addresses the media contrast model, looking at the work of Erhardt GĂźttgemanns and Werner Kelber. He subsequently looks in Chapter 5 at Kenneth Bailey’s model of informed controlled oral tradition, which is a sort of via media between the informal uncontrolled model and formal controlled model. The final chapters address issues that relate memory with the oral tradition. Chapter 6 lays the foundation for these chapters by first surveying the role of memory in the pre-modern era before examining individual memory (the psychology of memory) and collective memory (the sociology of memory), and finally looking at social memory of performance tradition. Chapter 7 looks at how these concepts of memory specifically apply to the Jesus tradition, paying particular attention to the work of James Dunn (Jesus Remembered), Richard Horsley with Jonathan Draper, and Rafael Rodriguez (Structuring Early Christian Memory). Chapter 8 considers the role of eyewitnesses, focusing on the work of Samuel Byrskog and Richard Bauckham.

In Chapter 9 Eve begins to draw out implications of this book by probing the gospel tradition to get a sense of its nature, comparing Mark to Paul and Josephus. He concludes,

The traditions we have sampled in this chapter thus exhibit the kind of mix of stability and variability described in previous chapters’ discussion of social memory and oral traditions rather better than the kind of fixity suggested by Gerhardsson or the reliable eyewitness testimony urged by Bauckham. At the same time, the evidence tends to suggest that Mark and the other Evangelists had access to, and were to some extent constrained by, earlier traditions and did not simply invent all their own material. It does not, however, show that these traditions were necessarily being controlled for historical accuracy; as in the case of Bailey’s data, Kelber’s notion of preventative censorship, which accords well with social memory theory, would seem to be a better fit (provided it is not pushed to a radically skeptical extreme). Although it would be perilous to conclude too much from a mere pair of such probes, they do appear to lend general support to the convergence of the more workable ideas we reviewed in Chapters 4 to 7.

(Eve 199)

A concluding chapter draws the threads together and considers some implications for historical Jesus research and source criticism. Eve argues for a model combining the features of those advocated by Kelber, Dunn, Horsley and Rodriguez and notes that in light of research on memory and oral tradition, the criteria of authenticity and the Synoptic Problem need to be rethought.

As I mentioned right of the bat, Behind the Gospels is unique in the overview it provides of the oral tradition behind the gospels and is an excellent survey for anyone looking for an introduction to the topic, from the interested layperson to the biblical studies student. It’s definitely essential reading for those interested in the academic world of NT studies and especially Gospels studies.

*page numbers are from an epub version and may differ from print and Kindle page numbers.

I received a digital copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase: Amazon

Book Review – Reading Theologically (Eric D. Barreto, ed.)

Eric D. Barreto, ed. Reading Theologically (Foundations for Learning). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2014. 145 pp. $14.00.

reading theologicallyIf you follow my blog, chances are you like to read. Or you’d like to like to read. I read a decent amount, and in the back of my mind there are always thoughts about the practice of reading. Most of these can be classified into two categories: thoughts related to how I can read more, read faster, retain more, synthesize better, etc; and thoughts about holistic integration – whether my reading is causing me to love God and people more or just causing me to become prideful and ingrown, how I can facilitate the overflow of my reading into my life in ministry and service, etc.

I was delighted to find that Reading Theologically actually tackles both these spheres, even though I was only expecting the former (practicals of reading better). Though specifically written for seminarians and those intending to pursue seminary, this book is helpful for all Christians in regards to reading theologically. A compilation of eight chapters by eight seminary instructors from diverse backgrounds, this is a short and readable book that addresses both skills and habits vital to reading theologically as well as impact on and integration with spiritual formation and ministry.

The holistic emphasis can be seen right off the bat in chapter 1, “Reading Basically,” which addresses reading as embodied practice, communal practice, spiritual practice, and transformative practice. These challenge the tendency for seminarians (as well as lay bookworms/intellectuals) to neglect their bodies, communities, devotional lives, and transformation. Chapter 2, “Reading Meaningfully,” offers tools and strategies for reading meaningfully across the various kinds of books required in seminary. This chapter provides an introductory guide to the process of interpretation and reading for theological meaning.

Chapter 3, “Reading Biblically,” is perhaps the most important chapter in this book. Reading biblical and theological books is great; but as Christians, the Bible is our most important book and we must not neglect it. The temptation for seminarians and “bible/theology nerds” is to read about the Bible while neglecting the Bible itself; to depend on the fruits of others’ labors in the Word and cheat on doing the lifting ourselves. This chapter addresses reading the Bible academically (with tips on reading historically, linguistically, and contextually), communally, spiritually, and practically. Again, this chapter is holistic as it addresses not just the academic side of reading the Bible well, but also the importance of reading in community, asking what God is trying to say through a certain text, and how the exegetical process can be applied to a real life situation in service of the church.

The remaining chapters address reading generously (giving other perspectives a thoughtful look as a practice of love), reading critically (how ideological criticism can serve the theological reader), reading differently (why thinking contextually is important to thinking theologically and how to do so), reading digitally (celebrating the blessings as well as challenging the vices of of digital communication), and reading spiritually (how to enhance learning about yourself and deepening your connection with God as you read). The “Reading More” section before the bibliography must not be skipped by anyone serious about becoming a better reader. Several of the texts commended here are seminal for growing in general reading, Bible reading, and theological reading.

Due to the brevity of this volume as well as its nature as a compilation of chapters by different people, you will inevitably read things you wish were fleshed out in more detail as well as find a bit of both repetition and discontinuity. However, its brevity can also be extremely appealing. Someone seeking a book to help them become a better reader is much more likely to read a 150 page book (this one) than a 400 page book (Mortimer Adler’s classic tome on reading well, How to Read a Book). This book should be read by every student in Bible college or seminary and everyone considering these forms of schooling. Though it is specifically written for the formal theological student, this book would in the same way benefit every informal theological student – every Christian who desires to grow in reading theologically.

This book offers excellent practical suggestions for better reading. But what I appreciated most is the holistic emphasis throughout – that reading well is not just about having your nose perpetually in a book, but ultimately it’s about your own spiritual life, serving the church, and reaching out to a lost and broken world. These are vital reminders for seminarians as well as laymen with an academic bent – it is a dangerous thing to be so enraptured and consumed by concepts and ideas that you neglect your soul, your church, and the lost. Reading Theologically both helps the reader gain skills to better handle texts as well as provides impetus and suggestions to better love and serve God and His world.

Purchase: Amazon

See the Foundations for Learning series page here. You can receive 35% off each volume if you sign up for the entire six-volume series.

Many thanks to Shaun and Fortress Press for sending me a free copy in exchange for an unbiased review!

Book Review – The Message of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and Ben Witherington III in Dialogue

Robert B. Stewart, ed. The Message of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and Ben Witherington III in Dialogue. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2013. 240 pp. $25.00.

crossan and withThis book presents the dialogues and accompanying papers from the sixth annual Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum in Faith and Culture held at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 2010. This forum brings together a respected Evangelical scholar and a respected non-Evangelical or non-Christian scholar to dialogue on an important subject in religion or culture. The goal of the forum is to facilitate respectful, irenic exchange of ideas that does not require any party to compromise his convictions.

Robert Stewart, the editor of this book and the chair of the forum, opens the book with a survey of the quest of the historical Jesus that pays particular attention to hermeneutical issues and their influence upon key scholars in the history of historical Jesus research. Chapter 1 presents the transcript of the dialogue between John Dominic Crossan and Ben Witherington III from the first evening of the forum, which consists of an opening address by each, a dialogue between the two, and a Q&A session. For Crossan, the message of Jesus is that the eschatological vision of the kingdom of God, the “Great Divine Cleanup of the World,” needs our divinely inspired participation and collaboration; furthermore, the coming of God is nonviolent and therefore so is our participation in it. For Witherington, what Jesus preached was the saving intervention of God through his own ministry and that of his disciples. Without his death, resurrection, and return, there would have been no completion to the story of the Son of Man.

The remaining seven chapters consist of four papers presented on the second day of the forum (by Craig Evans, Amy-Jill Levine & Myrick C. Shinall Jr. , Stephen Patterson, and Darrell Bock) and three additional essays (by Robert Miller, Craig Blomberg, and David Wenham). For Evans, the focus of Jesus’s teaching is the reign/kingdom of God and the redemption of Israel. His paper begins with a look at Jesus’s proclamation of the rule of God and the scriptural roots of this proclamation, moves into an analysis of how Jesus understood and applied the Jewish scriptures (a deliberately subversive interpretation of Scripture), and concludes with an inquiry into Jesus’s relationship with the Judaism of his day (not one of opposition as is commonly taught by Christians).


Book Review – The Vine and the Son of Man: Eschatological Interpretation of Psalm 80 in Early Judaism (Andrew Streett)

Andrew Streett. The Vine and the Son of Man: Eschatological Interpretation of Psalm 80 in Early Judaism. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2014. 232 pp. $59.00.

VinePart of the Emerging Scholars Series from Fortress Press, this title is the revised doctoral dissertation of Andrew Streett, which investigates the eschatological and messianic interpretations of Psalm 80 from the time of its writing, through Second Temple Judaism, and in the New Testament. “The thesis of the study is (a) that Jewish and Christian interpreters found material in Psalm 80 pertaining to events at the end of the age, a time that some interpreters believed had already come upon them and their communities; and (b) that the meaning derived from Psalm 80 most often comes from the images of the vine (vv. 9-17) and the potentially messianic man (vv. 16b, 18), which because of the ambiguity of the text are open to a variety of interpretations” (1).

Chapter 1 sets the stage for investigating the eschatological interpretation of Psalm 80 in the Second Temple Period by exploring the content of the psalm itself, showing “how concepts that would later become the basis of eschatological interpretation are rooted in the psalm as it might have been understood in the original context” (15). Streett analyzes the broader issues and themes of the psalm that are the seedbed for later eschatological developments, such as the exodus/new exodus and creation/recreation motifs of the vine image in verses 9-16, the man/son of man in verse 18, the features of the vine descriptions that appear to be royal motifs, and probable allusions to a Davidic king. The chapter ends with a look at the addition of verse 16b as the first stage of messianic interpretation of Psalm 80.