Book Review: Romans (EGGNT), John Harvey

The Exegetical Guide to the Green New Testament (EGGNT) series seeks to bridge the gap between the Greek NT and the many tools available to study said Greek. Once intermediate students learn the ropes of syntactical terms through various intermediate grammars, where do they go from there? What do they do when their favorite commentators disagree on matters of syntax, grammar, and a text’s structure? This is where one intermediate grammar in particular gave massive help to students. Going Deeper with New Testament Greek (review here) gave students a chance to work through a text at the end of a chapter while seeing how the authors themselves worked through that text. The EGGNT series seeks to do much the same and more.

Here, John Harvey, Dean and Professor of New Testament at Columbia Biblical Seminary in Columbia, SC, leads the reader through each passage of Romans. In his Introduction he believes Paul to be the author, the letter was most likely written from Corinth near the end of Paul’s third missionary journey (AD 57), written to a mixed-but-Gentile-prominent church to “introduce himself to the church in Rome, clarify the nature of his ‘gospel to the Gentiles,’ and correct the attitudes and behavior of the Jewish and Gentile believers in the church” so that they would rally alongside Paul and support his missionary endeavors to Spain (4).

Each section begins with a brief explanation of Paul’s flow of thought, followed by a structural outline.

In Romans 6.2b-6 (in the larger section of 6.1-11), Harvey has spaced out the text to show his readers that the double use of ἐβαπτίσθημεν encompasses the two εἰς prepositional phrases. Other lines are indented to show subordination (the black an colored lines are my own doing). The outlines are only a visual key; they do not explain outright what kind of subordinate clauses the section has, or how certain lines relate or do not relate to others. One must go to the phrase-by-phrase explanation to understand that.

There, Harvey takes apart the text and examines it phrase by phrase. As others have noted, these books are not a reading guide. Only rare or difficult verbs are parsed, along with participles and infinitives.

Harvey does not explain syntactical terms but assumes his reader either already knows what they are or can look them up himself. For example, in Romans 6.4, Harvey writes that συνετάφημεν is an ingressive aorist. It explain the dative of αὐτῷ, which refers back to Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν in verse 3. When a preposition comes before a word in a particular case (v. 4, διὰ + genitive), Harvey explains its function in that instance (“intermediate agency”). What is immensely helpful with this book is how Harvey brings together the thoughts of key commentators (Cranfield, Dunn, Käsemann, Longenecker, Moo, Schreiner, Stott) and grammars (e.g., Wallace). Sometimes he gives the commentators’ thoughts on a phrase, other times he merely notes the page number you will find their opinion on.When he gives different interpretive options for understanding a passage, sometimes he indicates his opinion with an asterisk (*), and other times he does not. Instead of having six commentaries spread about with you having to spend much time looking back and forth for their opinions, Harvey puts it in front of you in one paragraph. This won’t give you every answer, but rather the most likely way to understand the text’s syntax.

At the end of each section, Harvey lists a host of bibliographic references for further study according to relevant topics (95 total) found in that section. Concerning the “I” in Romans 7 (7:7-25), Harvey lists 27 different references. He lists 25 different references under the topic Predestination and Election (8:29), 21 under “All Israel Will be Saved” (11:26), and 17 under Adam/Christ Typology (5:12-21). Not all topics have so many references, but all are a massive help. If you’re writing a paper or a sermon on a particular topic, begin by looking here.

The next section offers Homiletical Suggestions for the pastor/teacher. These won’t always fit depending on how you’re structuring your sermon, but they are a helpful for seeing the text divided up a different way from your own conclusions (since you will be doing your own exegetical work first, right?).

Recommended?

Those well into the intermediate stage of Greek would do well with this. The structural outlines, numerous bibliographic sections, and homiletical suggestions alone make this worthwhile for teachers and preachers. This does not replace learning koine Greek itself. While the book has been helpful for me, I have forgotten a lot on syntax, so his syntactical notes always lead me back to various grammars. I usually look at Harvey’s syntactical notes first just to give me a springboard to bounce off from. If he notes that a word is an ingressive aorist, I’ll write it down and then look up the different ways the aorist tense functions and see if I agree. For those further along than me, Harvey cuts down a lot of your preparation time (though you do still need to translate the text). A multifunctional book like this gives a lot of information to chew on and to incorporate into one’s teaching. I think Harvey has done a great service for pastors and teachers with this volume.

Lagniappe

Buy it from Amazon, Adlibris, or B&H Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Book Review: Honoring the Son (Snapshots), Larry Hurtado

In Lexham Press’s Snapshots series, one that contains short books on various topics such as the atonement, transformation as the heart of Paul’s gospel, and the church and Israel. Now Lexham has added another volume by the eminent NT scholar Larry Hurtado, emeritus professor of New Testament language, literature, and theology at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He has written numerous books on the early church’s devotion to Jesus, such as Why on Earth did Anyone Become a Christian in the First Three Centuries?, Destroyer of the gods, One God, One Lord, and How on Earth did Jesus Become a God? In Honoring the Son, Hurtado distills the last 30 years of research into one small book (82 pages).

After a Foreword by David Capes, Hurtado’s Introduction previews the plan of his book and then briefly reviews 20th century scholarship on how Jesus received cultic (“religious”) devotion. A certain Wilhelm Bousset wrote a book asking whether worship of Jesus originated with Jewish Christians, or, as Bousset argued, “in diaspora settings such as Antioch and Damascus, where he posited believers were more subject to pagan influences in which divinized heroes and multiple deities were more acceptable than in Roman Judea” (6). Basically, Bousset argues that Jews didn’t worship other gods; they worshiped Yahweh alone. So it must be that some Jews further out in Antioch (modern-day Turkey, quite a ways from Rome) were influenced by other pagans to add “divinized heroes” on to their toolbelt of deities to whom to pray. Thus, being influenced by their culture, they ‘divinized’ Jesus and began to worship him. There is more to the history of research, but I’ll let you read the rest of that.

In brief, chapter 2 covers worship in the ancient world. Worship was “the heart of Roman-era religion” (21). They viewed gods as the guardians of homes, towns, nations, and the Roman Empire. While you would have your own god(s), when you went to other towns you would worship and ‘honor’ other gods. To refuse to honor gods “might provoke them to retaliate, or at least to take offense” (22). It was irresponsible (and antisocial) to refuse to worship other gods. Chapter 3 looks at ancient Jewish monotheism, where all people honored each others gods, well, except for the Jews. It’s not that they didn’t think there weren’t other gods or spiritual beings (see Deut 32.8-9, 17; Ps 82; 1 Cor 10.19-21), but they didn’t worship them. They worship only one God, Yahweh. Chapter 4 brings us to the early Christian “mutation.” Jews died for their belief that they worshiped one God alone. How did Jewish Christians come to incorporate Jesus into their devotional practices? Paul regularly refers to Jesus as “Lord” (Rom 10.9-13 // Joel 2.32; Phil 2.9-11 // Isa 45.23; 1 Cor 8.4-6). Chapter 5: Jesus in Earliest Christian Devotional Practice presents the different ways in which Jesus was worshiped, honored, and revered not as a second god, nor at God’s expense, but with God as a recipient. Prayers, calling on Jesus’ name, the place of Jesus in baptism and the Lord’s supper, prophecy, and hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs all feature the uniqueness of Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, in the New Testament time. Honoring the Son ends with a Conclusion and an Appendix against Bart Ehrman’s ideas in his How Jesus Became God.

Thoughts

This is a great resource and an excellent distillation of Hurtado’s previous books. I’ve only read one of Hurtado’s books, but I’ve heard a good bit about his thoughts, so it was very helpful to read this thoughtful compression of thoughts. Every chapter was good, and it was especially helpful to have the brief overview of Greco-Roman thought when it came to religious worship. The Jews stood in stark contrast to them, with many being mocked and martyred for their beliefs. For Paul, the other NT authors, and the early churches to view Jesus so highly would be in stark contrast to the Jewish way of life, while still fitting with the Old Testament! The historical context Hurtado presents gives even greater meaning to those of us Christians today who just assume that it was obvious Jesus was divine so there shouldn’t have been a problem worshiping him. As Paul hows from the OT Scriptures, Jesus was closely associated with Yahweh, having received the “name above all names” (see the above references).

It should be said that the writing here is still very academic. It means Hurtado can be as precise as he needs to be to get his point across, but it will be made to less people. One example of the book’s academic nature can be seen in a certain change of terms. Hurtado once described this new devotional pattern (worshiping God the Father and the Son) as “binitarian.” He now describes this Christian development as “dyadic,” but he doesn’t explain what a dyad is. According to Wikipedia, “In sociology, a dyad is a group of two people, the smallest possible social group. As an adjective, ‘dyadic’ describes their interaction.”

Now granted, I could have looked up that word immediately upon seeing it for the first time, and I should neither expect books to explain all complicated words to me (dictionaries are still around for a reason). Nowhere in the book does Hurtado express that this is meant for the person in the pew. I do hope many pastors and teachers will pick this up to show the historical significance of Jewish Christians worshiping Jesus and calling on his name to be saved.

Hurtado’s book helps to affirm the divine position of the Son of God. I hope this book will be read widely.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Snapshots
  • Author: Larry W. Hurtado
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Lexham Press (June 27, 2018)

Buy it from Amazon, Adlibris, or Lexham Press

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Book Review: Philippians (Verse by Verse), Grant Osborne

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Grant Osborne, former professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, has decided to finish his academic career by writing a commentary on every book of the NT specifically for the layperson. His three main intended uses are for devotional aids, for use in Bible study groups, and as sermon helps. The church needs teachers so that they don’t commit heresy, but studying the Bible doesn’t need to be a”a tedious duty we have to perform” (xi). Osborne wants studying the Bible to be a joy, not a burden.

As I’ve mentioned before, commentaries don’t need to be so difficult. Grant Osborne is doing pastors and teachers a big favor with his commentary series. Clocking in right at 200 pages, Osborne’s commentary on Philippians is easy to read and understand. Though written by an academic, this series is not ‘academic.’ It is not filled with terms from another language, the reader does not have to choke on reading about source-, form-, or redactional criticism (a la Bob Stein’s BECNT commentary on Mark, which I critique here), nor does the reader need to know what every other scholar thinks about a passage (if he wanted to know, he would buy their commentaries). Too many commentators give a few options without expressing their own opinion on what the text is saying. Osborne does spends some time, albeit little, on what others think about specific passages in Philippians, but he always offers his own interpretation of any passage. When he does present other views, he represents them carefully with grace.

Osborne understands the apostle Paul to be the author of Philippians, which could have been written probably in the early 60s AD during Paul’s Roman trial and imprisonment, as “the circumstances in the first three imprisonments do not fit well with what we actually see in the Prison Letters” (4). Osborne takes the genre of Philippians to be both a single “letter of friendship” and a “word of exhortation.” While he explains the circumstances leading up to the letter, he doesn’t describe the social setting of the church, such as the kind of people who lived in Philippi and how and why they were devoted to the Caesar and emperor worship (which would put pressure on the Philippian believers). He believes there are four groups of opponents confronting the church: (1) preachers opposing Paul [1.15–17], (2) Roman citizens [1.27–30], (3) Judaizers [3.2–3], and (4) Gentile libertines (3.18–19).

Osborne gives three-and-a-half pages on the theology of the letter. All focused on Christ, he presents the doctrine, the gospel, the church, and the return of Christ. The commentary ends with a two-page glossary in the back and a two-page bibliography.

Interpretive Matters

1.19: Paul’s ‘salvation’ has a double meaning. Either he will be released be with the Philippians or he will be released to be with the Lord. Either way is a deliverance to Paul.

1.21: Paul, a ‘slave’ (1.1) to Christ, knew that all value in this life or in the next was in Christ. So no matter what happened to him, he would glory in Christ.

1.28: The ‘sign’ is for both groups. The unbelievers who accepted the gospel would see that their persecution leads to God’s judgment and that believers will be vindication. Osborne states that “both outcomes—judgment and salvation—would be accomplished by God” (60). The sign was meant for all people to understand, but those who reject the gospel would remain blind.

2.7: Jesus’ emptying of himself refers to his incarnation, but he did not rid himself of his divine powers and attributes when he was on earth. Jesus ‘assumed the form/nature of a slave and served humankind’ and died on a cross to save humankind (80).

2.17: Paul’s being ‘poured out as a drink offering’ refers to his possible martyrdom.

3.1: Osborne believes that as Paul was writing his letter he may have received the message that the Judaizers were infiltrating Philippi, which led to the strange shift between Philippians 3.1 and 3.2.

Recommended?

Pastors and teachers will be pleased with Osborne’s commentary. Osborne wants to lead his readers to a knowledge of Christ that expresses itself in joy, awe, and obedience in all matters of life. Osborne is faithful to Scripture, and I would highly recommend anyone who wants to study the Bible to pick up any of Osborne’s commentaries: laypersons, pastors, and teachers. Osborne will be a great conversation partner for most who want to study the New Testament.

Lagniappe

▪ Series: Osborne New Testament Commentaries
▪ Author: Grant Osborne

▪ Paperback: 224 pages
▪ Publisher: Lexham Press (August 2, 2017)

Buy it from Amazon, Adlibris, or Lexham Press

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Book Review: 1 Corinthians (ZECNT), Paul Gardner

Paul Gardner has written the newest volume in the ZECNT series on 1 Corinthians, a book that always requires a massive undertaking to study, teach, and exegete. Gardner agrees that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, probably around 54-55 AD. Looking at the history and culture of Corinth, Gardner, agreeing with David Garland, says that while Corinth, a seaport city, was very much sexually immoral, much of its sexual reputation came from earlier accounts before the Roman conquest on Corinth (146 BC).

The pervasiveness of temples meant that every part of life dealt with religion. To deal or trade with someone meant considering one another’s patron god. It meant receiving invitations to dinners where food would be offered which had been sacrificed to the particular god. Gardner provides some insight into a Corinthian lifestyle. The “main underlying issue that Paul addresses concerns the possession of wisdom and knowledge…. [T]he Corinthians regarded these as spiritual gifts and gave them a significance that caused spiritual arrogance among some” (36). As a result, “Paul’s response is to return to the humbling centrality of the gospel message in which Christ is preached as the crucified Lord” (36).

Commentary Set-Up

The Literary Context shows how, say, 1 Corinthians 1.18–25, fits in between the previous section and the next. and a short explanation of it’s position in the broader context. A Progress Bar with an outline is added at the end. The Main Idea is a simple, one- or two-sentence statement on the passage. The Translation and Graphical Layout is Gardner’s translation of the Greek text represented in a sentence phrasing diagram as to how each clause relates to each other. (See my review [https://spoiledmilks.com/2015/02/22/review-matthew-zecnt/] of the ZECNT’s Matthew volume for an “example of the Graphical Layout” [https://spoiledmilks.com/2015/02/22/review-matthew-zecnt/])

The Structure describes Paul’s flow of thought in 1.18–25.

The Exegetical Outline gives a detailed outline for the chapter.

In The Explanation of the Text, Gardner examines words, ideas, rhetoric, the social context, and/or biblical theology. So in 1.18, Gardner explains why the cross was “foolishness” to so many people “who are perishing,” and how “those who are being saved” are being done so by God’s power.  The highlight for many pastors and teachers, the Theology in Application section discusses how 1.18–25 contributes a piece of theology to the overall meaning of the book and provides some suggestions for application to the church. It will be incredibly helpful to the pastor/teacher in drawing out the text’s implications for the Christian community founded on solid exegesis.

With 15.20–28, Jesus is the conquering King who saves us from death, the great enemy of all people from the very beginning (at least since the third chapter). Paul writes of “Christ” (Messiah) four times, and this Christ represents his people who belong to him by being in him and are in his kingdom. He is currently destroying all powers and authorities, and he will destroy death itself. Thus, sin cannot be treated lightly. It must be preached so that Christ’s saving power over broken relationships, death, diseases, and corruption can be longed for.

In-Depth

Gardner also has many In Depth sections where he takes a deeper look at a particular topic, such as “The Theme of Stumbling” in 1.18–25 (101-104). Some In Depth sections are quite long, with “What Was Paul’s Attitude to ‘Speaking in a Tongue’ and What is the Phenomenon?” extending to 7 pages (593-600). Don’t miss the ever-interesting In Depth question asking if there is support for three resurrections (“Jesus, Those in Christ, and Others Who Have Died,” pp. 681-83). Though I agree with his position, Gardner doesn’t say much about the “others who have died” and where their resurrection will show up in the schema of things.

Interpretations

Though there is much to say, here are brief comments on a few of Gardner’s interpretations.

4.3–4: Paul does not preach the gospel according to “human wisdom” (2.13), and he will not be judged by a human court. The Corinthians are not to judge how ‘faithful’ Paul has been; that is the Lord’s prerogative.

1 Cor 10: Food sacrificed to idols should not be eaten in a temple/religious setting but can be eaten in “a nonreligious context,” for then it is eaten as food and not as a sacrifice (464).

10.28–29: “Even though this is not a religious context, if the eating is suddenly given religious significance, they should not eat” (466). This is an instance of one of the ‘strong’ asserting his ‘knowledge’ that he can eat this food before others. Paul says in this instance all Christians should not eat. “To eat at this stage would be to confirm the informant in his arrogance. It would be bad for their ‘self-awareness’ and add to their false sense of confidence that is altogether based in the wrong things” (466). Gardner provides a helpful paraphrase of the text that shows how Paul’s “for” statement in 10.29b fits into the context.

14.33c–35: To use Gardner’s summary, “wives are told not to judge or question publicly any prophecies emanating from their own husbands. Such action might bring shame upon the marriage” (629). Gardner provides a helpful In Depth look here. He does not believe it forbids all women from speaking in the gathered assembly.

Recommended?

There are an overwhelming amount of 1 Corinthian commentaries one could buy. There is no ‘right’ commentary. Excellent commentaries have been written by Fee, Garland, Hays, Blomberg, Ciampa/Rosner, Thiselton, with most of these (especially Ciampa/Rosner) being pretty long. Gardner has provided one that is worthy of purchase and could be paired with Schreiner’s upcoming volume in the TNTC series, which is shorter than most of the above. 

Gardner provides explanations, the main points, flow of thought, and a commentary that abounds with application sections. Gardner is to be commended and his volume recommended. His volume is an excellent addition to the ZECNT series.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
  • Author: Paul D. Gardner
  • Hardcover: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (April 3, 2018)

Buy it from Amazon or Zondervan

Disclosure: I received this book free from Zondervan. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Book Review: Making Sense of God (Tim Keller)

In 2008, Tim Keller wrote The Reason For God, which addressed the doubts of both skeptics and believers. Now, eight years later, his Making Sense of God: Finding God in the Modern World makes a case to skeptics that Christianity is relevant and brings “meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, justice, and hope.” Being more or less a prequel to The Reason For God, Making Sense is written primarily to skeptics of Christianity, but Keller’s audience certainly includes Christians too. He writes to give them the knowledge to discuss confidently with other skeptics.

Making Sense is made up of three sections.

  1. Why does anyone need religion?
  2. Religion is more than you think it is
  3. Christianity makes sense

He first explains that in the 1800s, humanists thought the world’s citizens would become more human as religion died away, which would lead to a decrease in wars and conflicts. Wars and conflicts have not ceased, and neither has racism nor eugenics. But clearly we can’t believe in Christianity since we can’t empirically prove its claims. But can that sentence be empirically proven? If we evolved, and survival is of the fittest, why love one another instead of (metaphorically) eating one another?One wants to feed the poor while the other wants to trample on them while climbing up the corporate ladder. Whose life meaning is correct?  Keller states that the concept of “natural” human rights came about in Medieval Christianity. All people, regardless of their status, class, gender, or vocation are owed some things. While taking care of the poor didn’t originate with Christianity, the Christian ideas of caring for the marginalized because all are created in God’s image permeate our society. We have a view of people being equal because of Christianity.

If all people are created to love and serve God, putting anything else will be a futile effort for nothing can satisfy us, and everything will disappoint and frustrate us. Our children will not always follow our dreams for them, our spouses will fail us, our bodies will break now, our houses will need repairing, we are replaceable. We are limited. We cannot do everything we want. Saying ‘yes’ to one person means saying ‘no’ to 10 others. Saying ‘yes’ to one woman means saying ‘no’ to all others at all times. People want to be “true to themselves,” but we are all connected. If everyone lived in a way that was “true to themselves,” where would the heroes be? Who would sacrifice themselves for others? No one wants to be a slave, but in being completely independent from all people and opinions one is a slave to independence. As Keller says, “You are a slave to it, because it forces you to stay uncommitted, and, probably, pretty lonely” (111).

Keller finishes his book showing how it is reasonable to believe in God and Christianity. He looks at the cosmic and intellectual design of the universe, morals, reason, beauty, and consciousness. Keller then looks at the sources for what we know about Jesus (the four Gospels), his character, wisdom, claims, freedom, the conundrum of Jesus (how a human was considered divine), and his resurrection.

Recommended?

Reviewing a book by Keller is always difficult for me. First, I think they should sell themselves. Second, there’s too much information to gather for a book review. I found this book fascinating and helpful in flipping the world’s claims around and seeing how they (at least those presented in the book), don’t make sense. Unlike The Reason For God though, occasionally a chapter felt like it dragged on, but this was uncommon. The writing is both readable yet dense, at times requiring the reader to slow down to absorb the arguments. Christianity is not merely a feel good religion. “Feeling good” requires knowing God himself and that he is wise and all-knowing. He is logical and loving. He is trust-worthy and faithful, and we can put our full confidence in him, even though we won’t have every answer.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Timothy Keller
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (March 20, 2018)

Buy it from Amazon, Adlibris, or Penguin Random House!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Penguin Random House. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Book Review: Unbreakable (Andrew Wilson)

Written by humans and claimed to be divinely inspired by God, what is the Bible? The creation of the world, rebellion, bloodshed, de-creation, drunkenness, war, capital punishment, judgment, miracles… what are we to expect from a book filled with these things? Can all of these stories truly be “breathed out” by God? Why believe the Bible is God’s word when it is the bible itself that tells us it is God’s word? Shouldn’t we want better reasoning than the circular kind? As Andrew Wilson, Teaching Pastor at King’s Church London, says, “All sets of beliefs have to start somewhere; you trust reason because it’s rational, you trust experience because it fits with your experience, you trust the Bible because it’s biblical, and so on” (11). Why should one trust the Bible? If you trust Jesus, then you should trust the Bible. Wilson says, “If he [Jesus] talks and acts as if the Bible is trustworthy, authoritative, good, helpful and powerful, I will too … even if some of my questions remain unanswered, or my answers remain unpopular” (12).

From there Wilson briefly looks at Scripture’s clarity, coherence, sufficiency, challenges, Jesus as its fulfillment, and more, and he cleverly does it all with a humorous bit o’ wit. Jesus, the Son of God, loved God’s word with all of his mind, heart, and soul. He wholly trusted in it, fought sin with it, debated the Pharisees with the true understanding of it, and believed that it was unbroken. As Wilson points out, when faced with the many biblical difficulties many people decide that Scripture is in fact broken. But instead, what we really ought to do is look at ourselves to see if we are the ones whom are broken.

It is in the Scriptures that’s God’s character, wisdom, and power is seen. And when Jesus was asked a question, he never said, “Yeah, I’m just not sure about that text. That’s a tough one.” As Wilson shows, Jesus often puts the ‘hardness’ of understanding the Scriptures on the ‘hardness’ of the people’s heart. We are arrogant. We are stubborn. Prideful. Naive. Ignorant. Sinful. Thankfully, Jesus was perfect, understanding, wise, and is our Savior. His Spirit is in us to humbly study his word to know him better, not to know a bunch of facts, literary structures, and intertextual allusions. Those things are good, but they are meant to point us to Jesus.

Recommended?

Each chapter here is approximately three pages long. Mounds of books have been written on each chapter, but Wilson cuts through and gives the reader a thoughtful perspective on the one who was truly human, the one who perfectly imaged God in everything he did and said (and didn’t do and didn’t say), and how he viewed Scripture. And, since Jesus perfectly represented God in every way, we should really consider accepting his view of Scripture. If you’ve never read a book on Scripture because you think they’ll all be boring and stodgy, begin here. This one isn’t boring, stodgy, stuck-up, insincere nonsense. It was a pleasure to read, and you should pick up more of Wilson’s books (I review his book on Scripture’s use of Exodus imagery here).

Lagniappe

  • Author: Andrew Wilson
  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: 10Publishing (October 1, 2014)

Buy it on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from 10Publishing. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Book Review: Romans (BTCP), David Peterson

In a world of Romans commentaries, why buy one more? Or if you don’t have any, why buy this one? David Peterson, who was a senior research fellow and lecturer in New Testament at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, was the Principal of Oak Hill Theological College, London for eleven years, and is an ordained minister of the Anglican Church of Australia, has written the third commentary in the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series. This series focuses on discussing the themes of each biblical book and how it fits into the whole canon for Christian proclamation. This series doesn’t aim at producing dense, academic works, but rather to present Biblical theology to the lives of all of Christ’s body (you can find more information about the series in my review of Tom Schreiner’s Hebrews commentary).

Peterson’s introduction is short. He agrees with many of the conservative, consensus views. Although here he takes a new approach to the structure of Romans. He believes Paul alternates between confirming the gospel and defending the gospel against Jewish objections.

confirming….| defending the gospel 

.the gospel…..|….against Jewish objections

…..1.18-32………|…….2.1-3.20

…..3.21-26………|…….3.27-4.25

…..5.1-11…………|…….5.12-21

…..6.1-23………..|…….7.1-25

…..8.1-39……….|…….9.1-11.36

…..12.1-13.14….|…….14.1-15.7

He presents the book of Romans as one long recursion (or chiasm), however I did not understand his recursive structure (given on p. 18).

Peterson offers almost 50 pages on the biblical and theological themes of Romans, writing about topics such as Romans and creation, sin, and judgment; God’s electing grace and Israel; Israel and the law; the gospel; the Scriptures; the Trinity; righteousness and justification; Israel and the church; and more.

Peterson helpfully explains the logic of Paul’s arguments, how the verbal forms of Greek explain Paul’s thinking, and how that helps the pastor understand Paul’s theology. For example, on Romans 6:9-10 Peterson says, “The connective γάρ (‘for’) introduces a supportive argument (v. 10), which prepares for Paul’s application in v. 11” (269). Though it’s one sentence, it easily shows the reader Paul’s line of thinking. And Peterson sprinkles these helpful statements liberally throughout his commentary. Peterson then adds, “The adverb ἐφάπαξ… highlights the power of his [Jesus’] achievement and its epoch-changing effect. His death was a completed event, but (lit.) ‘the life he lives, he lives to God’… Double use of the present tense stresses that his resurrection life has no end” (269).

Each new section begins with a brief summary of that section, the particular text from Romans, a section on the surrounding context, and the structure of the section. Peterson then goes verse by verse (sometimes two at a time) and sketches out Paul’s teaching.The BTCP series succeeds here where others series fail. All of this helps to situate the reader into the text and to orient him (or her) to his surroundings. Rather than having to read the previous ten pages to get a grip on the argument, the reader is quickly brought up to speed with each new section.

Noteworthy Thoughts

2.13: works are an indicator of genuine faith, and “doing the law” means obedience to Christ by faith.

2.14-15: Paul refers to Gentile Christians as having God’s law, now all Gentiles as somehow having God’s law on their hearts. Peterson says it would be very strange for Paul to coincidentally use the Jeremiah’s specific description of God’s law being written on one’s hearts while referring to all (unbelieving) Gentiles in general.

Work of the law: The singular ‘work‘ “signifies ‘the essential unity of the law’s requirements'” which God himself writes on his new covenant people (148).

Law to themselves: even though the Gentile Christians weren’t physically born into a community (as the Jews were) that had God’s law, they know God’s law and have an “earnest desire to obey it” (149).

Accusing or even excusing thoughts: the “evidence of honest self-assessment before God” (cf. 1 John 3.20), which ends on the day of the Lord (150). God judges the heart and our inner transformation.

3.22: διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ means “through faith in Jesus Christ” (188-190). Peterson says that πίστις often refers to “the faith of believers in general, both before (1:5, 8, 12, 17) and after this passage (3:27-4:25),” and Paul would have needed to add more contextual clues if he intended to say “through the faith/fulness of Jesus Christ.”

3.25: ἱλαστήριον should be understood as “propitiation.”

5.12: We are made sinners by the sinful act of Adam. Because of his sin, we come into this world alienated from God and spiritually dead. Peterson doesn’t delve into how we are made sinners through Adam.

11.25-27: The “Deliverer” who will come “from Zion” is Jesus the Messiah who came from the midst of God’s people. The new covenant benefits have come through this Messiah, benefits that are being proclaimed through Paul’s ministry. The “all Israel” who will be saved is the corporate people of Israel throughout history who hear the gospel and turn to Christ.

Recommended?

I would certainly recommend Peterson’s commentary to any teacher, paster, student, Bible study leader, etc. Having a commentary from the deep well of a biblical scholar that is easily accessible is uncommon, but it is a pleasure to read. It would serve you well to pick up anything by Peterson.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation
  • Author: David Peterson
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Holman Reference (August 1, 2017)

Buy it from Amazon or B&H Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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