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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 |

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Jesus, Paul, and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright

My review of Jesus, Paul, and the People of God was just published over at Exegetical Tools. Edited by Richard Hays and Nicholas Perrin, this book brings together the proceedings of the 2010 Wheaton Theology Conference and is a very enjoyable read for anyone with interest in Jesus studies and Pauline studies, obviously with extra drawing power for those who want to critically interact with N. T. Wright’s contributions in these two areas of NT scholarship. As I mention in the review, my favorite essay was probably Vanhoozer’s – “Wrighting the Wrongs of the Reformation? The State of the Union with Christ in St. Paul and Protestant Soteriology.” Since his aim is “to encourage peace talks between New Perspectives and Old Protestants” (236), this is an important essay for those who identify with either camp. As an “Old Protestant,” I find this piece to be illuminating, nuanced, witty, and an important corrective for those with a traditional Reformation understanding of justification who write off Wright completely. Furthermore, because I’m particularly interested in the topic of union with Christ, I appreciated Vanhoozer’s contention that the key to incorporated righteousness reconciling old and new perspectives is both sides giving more attention to union with Christ.

What fortuitously has been called the ‘new perspective’ on Calvin’s soteriology anticipates, though not always for the same exegetical reasons, some of what the New Perspective has aimed to discover about Paul’s theology. In particular, what Calvin does with Paul’s notion of union with Christ provides fertile ground for a meeting of old and new perspective minds. Reading Calvin read Paul on union with Christ illustrates what systematic theology at its best can contribute to the discussion: not an imposition of some foreign conceptual scheme onto the text but rather a conceptual elaboration of what is implicit within it. It may also show us that there is more truth and light yet to break forth out of the research program we know as Protestant soteriology (247, emphasis original).

Check out the review for an overview of each of the essays. TL;DR: everyone interested in the topic of justification vis-à-vis the Old/New Perspective on Paul debate must read Vanhoozer’s essay; but the entire book is great for all students and scholars of the NT.

Many thanks to my friends at IVP Academic for the review copy!

The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Michael Licona)

Michael R. Licona. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010. 718 pp. $45.00.

resurrection liconaThe bodily resurrection of Jesus is a foundational tenet of the Christian faith. As such, it’s frequently addressed in apologetics books. In the biblical studies guild this topic also receives an enormous amount of attention, being considered the “prize puzzle of NT studies.” With approximately 3,400 scholarly journal articles and books on the topic of the historicity of the resurrection from 1975-2010 alone (19), can a new tome on the topic really contribute anything new? Indeed, it can. In The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach Michael Licona has accomplished something rather remarkable and largely unprecedented by providing a rigorous examination of the approach taken by historians outside of the biblical studies guild and then applying the methodology to an examination of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. The result is a historiographical examination that is impressively expansive and rigorous on any count, but especially noteworthy and possibly unprecedented on a biblical subject.

(more…)

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!

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Bound for the Promised Land: The land promise in God’s redemptive plan (Oren Martin)

Oren R. Martin. Bound for the Promised Land: The land promise in God’s redemptive plan. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. 208 pp. $25.00.

Bound for the Promised LandBound for the Promised Land, the latest volume in IVP Academic’s New Studies in Biblical Theology series under the editorship of D. A. Carson, is a substantial revision of Dr. Oren Martin’s doctoral dissertation completed in 2013 at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary under Dr. Bruce Ware. The aim of the study is “to demonstrate that the land promised to Abraham advances the place of kingdom that was lost in Eden and serves as a type throughout Israel’s history that anticipates the even greater land – prepared for all God’s people throughout history – that will come as a result of the person and work of Christ. In other words, the land and its blessings find their fulfillment in the new heaven and new earth won by Christ” (17).

Martin begins in Chapter 2 with providing a biblical-theological framework for understanding the land promise in redemptive history. In this framework, kingdom is key; “fundamental to the story line of Scripture is the notion that God, the Creator and King of the cosmos, has a people who live under his reign” (31). Chapters 3-6 examine the unfolding of the land promise across the Old Testament. Chapter 3 focuses on Genesis and argues first of all that the first 11 chapters are more than just a prologue to the story of Abraham and Israel, but is instead “crucial for the development of a biblical theology, for Abram is God’s response to a problem that emerges from Adam” (61). Secondly, Martin demonstrates through Genesis 12-50 that the land promise is both conditional and unconditional, both national and international, and both temporal and eternal. Chapter 4 traces the theme of land throughout Exodus and Deuteronomy and highlights the anticipation of the people of Israel for acquiring the Promised Land. By the end of the Pentateuch, God’s people are poised to enter. Chapter 5 examines the partial fulfillment of the land promise from Joshua – Kings. In Chapter 6, Martin investigates the loss of land through exile and the eschatological hope of the Prophets.

[T]he promise of restoration goes far beyond what was previously experienced and is described in astonishing realities, for it includes not only the nation of Israel but also the nations, and not only the boundaries of the promised land but also the entire earth. The universality stressed in the latter prophets revives the consciousness of the worldwide significance of the Abrahamic promises.

(Martin 96)

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

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

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

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

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Book Review – The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate (Michael Kruger)

Michael J. Kruger. The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013. 256 pp. $24.00.

Kruger CanonDr. Michael Kruger, President and NT professor at Reformed Theological Seminary Charlotte, is a leading expert in Christian origins, early Christianity, and the development of the NT canon. In The Question of Canon, Kruger focuses on the question of why we have a New Testament canon at all (which comparatively has received very little attention) rather than the overworked questions of when and how these twenty-seven books came to be regarded as canon. The status quo, the dominant view in regards to why we have a canon that is challenged in this book, is what Kruger calls the extrinsic model – that the New Testament canon is “a later ecclesiastical development imposed on books originally written for another purpose” (7). The alternative that Kruger proposes and defends in this book is what he calls an intrinsic model – “that the idea of canon is not something imposed from the outside but develops more organically from within the early Christian religion itself. The earliest Christian communities had certain characteristics and also held a number of theological beliefs that, especially when taken in tandem, would have made a new collection of sacred books (what we would call a ‘canon’) a more natural development” (21).

The goal of The Question of Canon is not to prove the intrinsic model, but to demonstrate that the extrinsic model is problematic and thereby raise serious questions about its viability, paving the way for scholarly consideration of and further research with the intrinsic model. Each chapter addresses one of the five major tenets of the extrinsic model. Chapter 1 addresses the first – that we must make a sharp distinction between Scripture and canon. While acknowledging the strengths of the exclusive definition of canon (e.g. it rightly expresses the canon’s fluid boundaries prior to the fourth century), Kruger points out that “on those terms we still do not have a closed canon” (32 emphasis original) and that “the abrupt change in terminology gives the impression that these books bore some lesser status prior to this point; it communicates that Christians only had Scripture and not a canon” (33 emphasis original). Kruger then defines and gives strengths and weaknesses of the functional definition of canon (whereby canon is determined by function instead of presence in a closed list) before proposing the ontological definition as best: “The ontological definition focuses on what the canon is in and of itself, namely the authoritative books that God gave his corporate church…Books do not become canonical – they are canonical because they are the books God has given as a permanent guide for his church” (4o emphasis original). Kruger finally demonstrates the strength of all three definitions of canon being used together in an integrative and multidimensional approach.

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