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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


Giveaway – Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo

A few months ago I reviewed the Festschrift that was presented to Douglas Moo at last year’s ETS annual meeting (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3). This past weekend a friend gave me a goodie bag which contained a copy of this book, so I’m going to give it to one of you 🙂 Douglas Moo needs no introduction, and it’s obvious that this book is a treat for all Pauline studies nerds, especially those who appreciate the contributions of Moo. Since I don’t have a self-hosted site I can’t use one of those fancy giveaway widgets, so you’ll have to do a bit more work for entries. Here are the various ways you can enter (comment separately for each to gain more entries):

  1. Comment on one way Moo’s scholarship has impacted you
  2. Comment on one issue in Pauline studies that fascinates you
  3. Follow me on Twitter and comment saying you did
  4. Tweet the giveaway and comment saying you did
  5. Share the giveaway via any and any other social media platform and comment saying you did
  6. Subscribe to my blog and comment saying you did.

You can tweet the giveaway once a day for additional entries, just comment saying you did. The giveaway is open to residents of the contiguous US only (unless you’re going to the SBL annual meeting this year, in which case I can give it to you there if you win) and closes at 11:59PM EST on Thursday, May 21. I will use a random number generator to select the winning comment, and the winner will be announced on Friday, May 22. You can check out my reviews to whet your appetite if you missed them the first time around (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3). Below is the video of the presentation of the Festschrift.

Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo – Part 3 (Pauline Scholarship and His Contemporary Significance)

Matthew S. Harmon and Jay E. Smith, ed. Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 320 pp. $49.99.

Moo FSThis is the final installment of a three-part overview of the Festschrift presented to Dr. Douglas Moo at last year’s ETS Annual Meeting (read part 1 and part 2 if you missed them). Robert Yarbrough kicks off this last section with an essay entitled “Salvation History” (Heilsgeschichte) and Paul: Comments on a Disputed by Essential Category” in which he offers nine propositions for why we need to read Paul with a salvation-historical hermeneutic. Next is G. K. Beale with “The Eschatology of Paul.” Beale first provides as background a brief survey of “latter days” and similar phrases in the OT and Second Temple Judaism, and then goes on to give an overview of Paul’s eschatology, demonstrating it to be an inaugurated eschatology linked with new creation. Finally, Beale shows how the resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit in relation to resurrection and regeneration, the Holy Spirit in relation to sanctification, justification, the law, and ecclesiology are all best understood through the lens of already and not yet eschatological new creation.


Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo – Part 2 (Paul’s Use of Scripture and the Jesus Tradition)

Matthew S. Harmon and Jay E. Smith, ed. Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 320 pp. $49.99.

Moo FSYesterday I gave you guys a taste of the first section (Exegeting Paul) of the Festschrift that was presented to Dr. Douglas Moo at last year’s ETS Annual Meeting. Today we’ll take a look at the second section – “Paul’s Use of Scripture and the Jesus Tradition.” The first essay in this part is “Quotations, Allusions, and Echoes of Jesus in Paul” by Craig Blomberg. Blomberg  applies Richard Hays’s criteria for identifying Old Testament references in Paul (from his landmark work Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paulto the task of Pauline use of the Jesus tradition. This essay does not go in depth into which of Hays’s criteria each of the proposed allusions and echoes satisfies and how (for that would be impossible in a brief essay), but provides sweeping analyses and summary arguments for why certain Pauline texts are allusions or possible echoes of Jesus tradition. Blomberg’s approach in this essay is novel as well as interesting and provides stimulation for further and more detailed work using Hays’s criteria in studying Paul’s use of the oral gospel tradition. Blomberg’s conclusion is also interesting for the broader fields of New Testament and early Christianity:

His [Paul’s] interest in citing Jesus’s ethical teachings far more than his theological sayings, combined with broader conceptual comparisons of the theologies of Jesus and Paul (showing that Paul almost certainly knew Jesus’ views on a much broader array of topics than he explicitly discloses), suggests that there was more divergence in his churches from orthopraxy than from orthodoxy. This is a significant conclusion in a n age when comparatively minor differences in the theologies of various New Testament books are often exaggerated and turned into major, conflicting strands of early Christian thought. Where there was divergence, it appears to have been more in the areas of peripheral elements of eschatology than in core areas like Christology.

(Harmon and Smith 142).


Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo – Part 1 (Exegeting Paul)

Matthew S. Harmon and Jay E. Smith, ed. Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 320 pp. $49.99.

Moo FSThis Festschrift was presented to Dr. Moo at the ETS Annual Meeting last year (video of the presentation here) and is a treat for anyone with interest in Pauline studies. Because this is my favorite area of biblical and theological study, it would be much too difficult to select a few favorite essays to highlight in a conventional review. I will therefore follow the division of the book and take three posts to provide a brief summary of every essay in order to pique your interest. I think this would be especially helpful since Amazon still does not have the “look inside” feature for this book. The essays are divided into three sections: Exegeting Paul (6 chapters), Paul’s Use of Scripture and the Jesus Tradition (3 chapters), and Pauline Scholarship and His Contemporary Significance (7 chapters). Today we’ll look at the first section, “Exegeting Paul.”


Book Review – The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing (Jonathan Dodson)

Jonathan K. Dodson. The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 240 pp. $16.99.

TUGIt’s been years since I’ve read a book on evangelism. But I read a ton in my first few years as a Christian; as is typical with dramatic conversions later in life, I was passionate about evangelism from day one as a Christian and was consumed with a desire to share the gospel at all times. I learned many different gospel presentations, including several that Dodson mentions in his new book, The Unbelievable Gospel. Sure, there were times when I felt awkward, when my words felt canned, when I felt discouraged; but as I grew in my Christian faith and continued to both read about and “do” evangelism in the context of community, it felt less and less canned and awkward. Different evangelistic presentations and methods became like tools on a toolbelt, ingredients at your disposal with which to get creative and create a good meal.

It seems from The Unbelievable Gospel that my experience is atypical; the feeling one gets from reading it is that in general this generation of Christians is disillusioned about evangelism because of both growing up in an “altar call” culture and because of experiences with gospel presentations that felt very canned and ineffective. If this is how you feel about evangelism, then The Unbelievable Gospel is definitely for you and can be paradigm-shifting; you’ll come away with a rather different conception of evangelism and a renewed vision for it, as well as helpful practical suggestions in methodology. Even if one does not have a distaste for traditional models and methods of evangelism, this is still a great book to read for anyone passionate about evangelism or wanting to (re)gain a passion for evangelism. Dodson writes from a place of sound theology and passion for the gospel and the local church, but also with keen insight into the postmodern culture.

Operating from the premise that traditional methods of evangelism are no longer effective, Dodson communicates that evangelism is not just about what we say, but how we say it and aims in this book to help readers share the gospel in a way that is worth believing (14). Part I addresses four reasons why we tend to avoid evangelism – essentially, four typical approaches that are not effective. These are impersonal evangelism (seeing people as “projects” rather than taking time to build authentic relationships), “preachy” witness (being seen as self-righteous and hypocritical), intolerant witness, and uninformed witness (avoiding evangelism due to fear of not knowing enough). Part 2 unpacks the content and message of the gospel. Dodson defines the gospel as “the good and true story that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through his own death and resurrection and is making all things new, even us” (110). He emphasizes that there are three dimensions to the gospel – historical, personal, and cosmic, which necessitate a corresponding threefold response – doctrinal, personal, and missional. Dodson also highlights five gospel metaphors which allow us “to communicate the good news in personal and contextual ways” (128) – justification, redemption, adoption, new creation, and union with Christ.

Finally, in part 3, Dodson devotes a chapter to each of these gospel metaphors, showing how they facilitate sharing the gospel in a “believable” way that connects with a person’s felt needs – justification for those seeking acceptance, new creation for those seeking hope, union with Christ for those seeking intimacy, redemption for those seeking tolerance, and adoption for those seeking approval. A concluding chapter emphasizes that it is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16) and reminds us of the importance of praying and being led by the Spirit in our evangelism.

The Unbelievable Gospel is a helpful and refreshing read for Christians disillusioned by traditional conceptions and methods of evangelism. There is a sensitivity to the culture, an awareness of the importance of relationship, and an emphasis on the Holy Spirit that is sometimes missing when more conservative circles talk about evangelism. As such, those in more conservative circles might be uncomfortable about some of these elements. However, regardless of certain elements of discomfort or disagreement, the core of this book is helpful. It’s an encouraging and edifying read for all Christians passionate about evangelism or wanting to (re)gain a passion for evangelism.

Thanks to Zondervan and GCD for a review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

Book Review – What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Matt Perman)

Matt Perman. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 352 pp. $19.99.


“It is odd that there is so little Christian teaching on productivity because, as Christians, we believe the gospel changes everything – how we go about our home life, work life, church life, community life, everything. Yet there has been little Christian reflection on how the gospel changes the way we get things done – something that affects all of us every day. In fact, good productivity practices are often downplayed in the church at the altar of overspiritualization” (Perman 18, emphasis original).

Matt Perman calls his approach to productivity “Gospel-Driven Productivity” (GDP). GDP is “centered on what the Bible has to say about getting things done while at the same time learning from the best secular thinking out there – and seeking to do this with excellence and original thought, rather than simply taking over secular ideas and adding out-of-context Bible verses” (28).


Book Review – The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology

Jeremy R. Treat. The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 320 pp. $26.99.

Crucified KingIn both the church and the academy, there has been an unfortunate separation of the kingdom and the cross. I’ve experienced church and parachurch settings where either kingdom or atonement was emphasized, to the near-exclusion of the other; and in both contexts I have an ache for what is missing. The same dichotomization characterizes theological tomes – works that treat the kingdom hardly ever mention the atonement, and works that deal with atonement hardly mention the kingdom of God. Both kingdom and atonement are significant motifs in Scripture, and focusing on either while discounting/ neglecting the other can have devastating impacts on both one’s theology and ministry/church life.

In The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology, Jeremy Treat provides an in-depth study of the biblical and theological relationship between the kingdom of God and the atoning death of Christ on the cross. “[T]he answer lies ultimately in Jesus, the crucified king, as properly understood within the story and logic of redemption” (25). Here “the story” of redemption is biblical theology and “the logic” of redemption is systematic theology. Because the cross-kingdom divide has much to do with the divide between biblical and systematic theology (with the former emphasizing the kingdom of God whilst largely neglecting the doctrine of atonement and the latter focusing on the doctrine of atonement whilst paying little attention to the theme of the kingdom of God), a holistic, integrative treatment of the themes of kingdom and atonement “will bridge this gap between biblical studies and systematic theology, incorporating insights from both disciplines for both doctrines” (27).


Kingdom and Atonement

This past weekend I read The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology by Jeremy Treat. A full review will be coming soon, but I wanted offer a few preliminary thoughts.

The number of books that fly across my radar is staggering. I have to be pretty selective about what I read, and there are plenty of good and worthy books that don’t necessarily excite me just because, well, there are so many good books and a lot of them say the same thing. The Crucified King excited me immediately when I heard about it because the very title (subtitle, to be exact) brings together two pairs of topics that are unfortunately frequently torn asunder: atonement and kingdom, and biblical and systematic theology. In fact, the dichotomization of the latter in part causes the dichotomization of the former, which is why a comprehensive treatment of kingdom and atonement requires an integration of biblical and systematic the0logy.

In the introduction Treat provides six reasons why the rift between atonement and kingdom developed (pp. 26-29).

  1. reactionary conservative response to the social gospel movement of the early twentieth century.
  2. fragmentation of Scripture ever since the enlightenment – if the Bible is not a unified whole, then there is no need to integrate seemingly incompatible themes.
  3. the “ugly ditch” between biblical studies and systematic theology, since the former tends to emphasize the kingdom of God and the latter focuses largely on the doctrine of the atonement.
  4. the  Gospels (where the kingdom theme is most explicit) have largely been ignored as a source for theology.
  5. oversystematization of doctrines as such the states and offices of Christ. If the cross is only in the state of humiliation, and Christ’s death is interpreted only in terms of his priestly office , it’s hard to see how atonement relates to kingdom.
  6. if one has a mistaken view of either the kingdom or the cross, then obviously the two cannot be properly related.

The Crucified King will probably end up being one of my favorite books of the year. If you have an interest in any of the four topics in the subtitle (atonement, kingdom, biblical theology, systematic theology) you will love this book. But you will especially appreciate it if you lament the dichotomization of either atonement and kingdom and/or biblical and systematic theology and long to see these pairs integrated as they should be. This book is the published version of Treat’s doctoral dissertation at Wheaton under Kevin Vanhoozer.

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon


How Jesus Became God/How God Became Jesus – Part 6 (To Nicea and Beyond)

See the rest of the series here.

How Jesus Became God (Ehrman)
In chapters 8 and 9, Ehrman addresses the Christological views that came to be declared as heresy and the views that came to be declared  as orthodoxy, respectively. A recurring assertion in these chapters is that in the debates over orthodoxy and heresy views that were originally considered right were eventually considered wrong – for example, the first Christians held to exaltation Christology but second century “heresy hunters” more or less rewrote history by claiming that such views had never been held by the apostles at the beginning or by the majority of Christians ever.

Chapter 8 addresses adoptionistic views that denied Christ’s deity (Ebionites, Theodotians), docetic views that denied Christ’s humanity (those supposedly opposed by 1 John, those opposed by Ignatius, and the Marcionites), and views that denied Christ’s unity (Christian “Gnostics”). Ehrman also addresses modalism and the opposition by Hippolytus and Tertullian on the way to the orthodox formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity.

In chapter 9, Ehrman coins the term ortho-paradox. His reasoning is that it’s best to see orthodox formulations regarding Christ as paradoxes that resulted from the debates over Christ’s being. “[I]f u put together all the orthodox affirmations, the result is the ortho-paradox” (328). Here Ehrman summarizes the Christological and theological ortho-paradoxes leading up to the Council of Nicea and looks at some of the important early theologians who helped to shape them (Justin Martyr, Dionysus of Rome). Chapter 9 ends with a look at the Arian controversy and the Council of Nicea, with some attention devoted to Constantine and the political background. The chapter ends with the following:

The Christ of Nicea is obviously a far cry from the historical Jesus of Nazareth, an itinerant apocalyptic preacher in the backwaters of rural Galilee who offended the authorities and was unceremoniously crucified for crimes against the state. Whatever he many have been in real life, Jesus had now become fully God.

(Ehrman 352)