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Review: Baptist Foundations

Recommended?

This review will begin backwards. Why even be interested in a book like Baptist Foundations? Students and laymen may (and should) take interest in this, whether to know the views of Baptist friends or to be able to interact with a solid book in their own denomination, this book has a lot of weight to it. But Baptist Foundations is pertinent for pastors and elders—yes, of any denomination (to wrestle and interact with)—but certainly of Baptist churches. In the foreword, James Garrett Jr. says,

Most beliefs that have ever been claimed as Baptist distinctives are ecclesiological in nature; for example, regenerate church membership, believer’s baptism by immersion, various forms of close or strict Communion, congregational polity and autonomy, religious liberty, separation of church and state, and so forth. (ix)

Baptist Foundations is written with Ephesians 4.11–14 in mind. The pastors/elders/overseers (and the deacons!) are not to take all of the work upon themselves, but they are to train the church for ministry both within the church body and outside among those whom they rub shoulders with on a daily basis. The local church—the elders and the members—has been given the keys of the kingdom. This book seeks to teach how to use them properly by presenting the proper structure of the church.

Summary

In the Preface, Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman state, “Church polity, most fundamentally, is about exercising God’s authority after him” (xvi). Some revile the idea of being under authority in a church (and some have good reason!), but nonetheless, God has desired to show the world his authority ruled through his church (1 Cor 6.1–8, 9–11). They add, “The congregation is called to exercise one kind of authority, the elders or pastors another kind” (xvi).

After calling for a return to a concern for church polity and an ongoing (or a brand new) humble submission to the Christ-given authority of a local church body, the reader arrives at the Introduction (Leeman). According to Leeman, polity officiates (or “establishes”) a local church, it guards what the gospel message is and who its believers are (and doesn’t mix them with non-believers), it shapes Christian discipleship, strengthens a church’s witness through the hard work of the shepherds to train their members in knowing the Word and understanding our redemption in Christ.

There are five sections to Baptist Foundations. One of the primary distinctives among Baptists is the authority given to the church as seen in Matthew 18.15–18. In part one, Michael Haykin provides the historical background to the rise of congregationalism (ch. 1), and Stephen and Kirk Wellum provide the biblical and theological case for it (2).

In part two, Shawn Wright prepares the reader by five ways through which we should understand the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (3). Wright spends two chapters (5 and 7) on the history and theology of these two ordinances, and Tom Schreiner gives two chapters on how these two ordinances are taught in the Bible (4 and 6). Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are for those who proclaim Christ as their Lord—thus, it is not to be given to infants. In baptism believers remember Christ’s death and resurrection for them. At the Supper, they remember how he died for them, and they look forward to the great eschatological banquet of the new creation.

In part three, John Hammett and Thomas White cover church membership and discipline. Though some churches have used church membership to bring guilt on their members who don’t do or give enough, church membership shows you are committed to the church and it’s members (8 and 9). In this commitment, all have God-given authority to keep one another (including the leadership) accountable. Leeman says, “A local church is a real-life embassy, set in the present, that represents Christ’s future kingdom and his coming universal church” (171). All members are to be regenerate. No church is perfect, but it ought to be easier to maintain sound doctrine with fully regenerate church members than with a mixed membership (for what non-Christian wants to follow Christ’s commands?). This section covers some practical matters as to when and how church discipline should (and should not) occur (10).

Part four covers elders and deacons. Dever scans through history to show how the biblical plurality of elders and deacons changed to what is seen today in many churches and denominations (11). Ben Merckle shows how in the Bible the terms “elder,” “overseer,” “pastor,” and “shepherd” all refer to the same church position (12). There is no notion of a senior pastor nor of an official distinction between elders who teach and elders who rule. Merckle then covers the qualifications (13) for plural eldership and their role (14) in church office. They work hard, lead, admonish, shepherd, equip—all with limited authority over the church members, but equal authority with the other elders (whether full-time or not). Merckle examines the office of deacon (16), and Andrew Davis lays out some practical issues to both elders (15) and deacons (17).

Part five, consisting of two chapters written by Leeman, covers the church and churches. (18) Leeman looks at the unity of the church throughout church history in the dual lenses of holiness (“Who is holy, and what makes a person holy?”) and apostolicity (“Who or what possesses the apostle’s authority, and what is it an authority to do?”—p. 334). Do Christians become members of a church through their status as saints or through what the church has been authorized to do—Christians enter through baptism? For Leeman, the church—the elders and the members—hold the keys to the kingdom (Matt 18.18). All Christians and their churches are united together under the Gospel, but local church members (i.e., those of the same church body) can “participate in the formal discipline of one another, whereas two Christians belonging to different churches cannot” (366).

In the final chapter (20), Leeman provides 25 practical implications from this book for Baptist churches.

Still Recommended?

We live in an anti-institutional age. Many have been burned by churches and have broken away from them. To them, it is appropriate to do so for they are “the church.” However, that complicates matters when we’re called to love one another, discipline one another, treat the unrepentant as not a part of the local church, and so on. What churches need are both humble leaders and a good structure. Being a Baptist myself, I could agree with much in the book. While the practical matters for elders and deacons don’t mean much to me know, they surely will in the future (either when I am one of these things or when I am under the elders), and they will be very handy for those elders who are in a tough spot (like wanting to avoid being sued when church discipline occurs—there are some suggestions on that matter).

I think and hope this book would be read widely. Membership has been abused, but it makes church discipline difficult (how do you discipline someone who isn’t even a member)? We live in a non-committal age, but entering into the membership of a local body means you are committed to that local church body.

This book will not solve everything, but it provides a strong foundation to work on.

*Those in other denominations will probably take beef with Wright’s and Schreiner’s chapters on baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These chapters are short, but longer discussions may be found in their works Believer’s Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Lagniappe

  • Editors: Mark Dever/Jonathan Leeman
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: B&H Academic (June 15, 2015)

Buy it on 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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Review: Going Deeper with New Testament Greek

Not long ago a series of commercials ran where a salesman of some kind was trying to sell an expensive product to a customer. The customer was at a loss because directly to the side of the expensive item was the same item a few dollars less. The point of the commercial was not to pay more when you could get the same thing for less.

Going Deeper with New Testament Greek (KMP, an acronym of the authors’ surnames) is a catch-all kind of intermediate Greek grammar. The authors (Andreas Köstenberger, Benjamin Merckle, and Robert Plummer) have written this grammar with the student (and their wallets) in mind. KMP has grammar and syntax, a chapter on textual criticism, and vocabulary and practice exercises with almost every chapter. There is a built-in reader with portions of Scripture for the student to work through and read “detailed notes to guide the student in interpreting each text” (5). Another feature to this grammar are the chapters (written by Plummer) on sentence diagramming, discourse analysis, word studies, and encouragement to continue with Greek. Since all of these features are found in this one book, why buy five books when you can save money and buy only one?

There are also helps to aid instructors with teaching and grading. At the Deeper Greek website teachers can find weekly quizzes, the midterm, the final, powerpoint presentations, and more.

Unfortunately, I am no expert at Greek. I haven’t even attended an elementary Greek class (I studied it this past summer to test into Greek Syntax). On the other hand, because I am the kind of person this book was written for, hopefully I can provide a helpful perspective. I am not a Greek scholar who has been working with these texts and syntactical ideas for years, nor am I a student at the end of his academic career. I am a beginning student being stretched and pushed into the deep end.1

Summary

First, besides being a catch-all intermediate grammar, KMP prepares you for Daniel Wallace’s deep end grammar (860 pgs versus KMP’s 550 pgs). In KMP you get 16 uses of the genitive; Wallace gives 33. I would much rather wade through KMP first, develop my sea legs, and then swim over to Wallace. That isn’t to say KMP is easy to read. In fact, I disagree from other reviewers who say that it is easy to read, or especially that it is extremely readable.2 Even the authors themselves acknowledge that their book, a grammar, is dry (“writing a Greek grammar is a dry affair,” 127, fn. 24).

Plummer’s chapters (1, 12-15) were the easiest to read, and I am not saying that simply because he was my teacher. Plummer teaches clearly, and it is also seen in his writing. Now, of his five chapters, only one deals specifically with Greek Grammar (12, prepositions, conjunctions, adverbs, and articles), which is easier to write about than verbal tense. However, in his endorsement, Tom Schreiner said that if it could be said that “a Greek grammar is a delight to read,” it “applies to this book.” I believe I would agree with that statement if more chapters could have been written by Plummer. As it stands now, the other chapters are dense and dry.

Speaking of Verb Tense and Aspect, there is a chapter (7) dedicated to it in this book. Ben Merckle writes about (1) verbal aspect, the author’s perspective on a given action, (2) the time of the action, and (3) the type of the action. This is an important chapter because the Greeks looks at the timing of verbs in a different way (e.g., aorist tense, imperfect tense, etc.) than we do (present tense, past tense, etc.). Knowing how this works is critical to proper interpretation. We can’t look at verbal words (infinitives, participles, etc.) as 21st century readers.

Though, in the end, I didn’t learn much more about Tense & Aspect than I did in the beginning section og David Alan Black’s Learn to Read NT Greek. An example of how aspect is analyzed on the discourse level in John 2.1–11 is given on page 235. Main verbs which carry the story forward are cast in the past perfective aspect (aorist tense-form). All throughout this paragraph I kept asking “Why?” Why is this important? Why is this happening, and what different does this make? Why is the presence of Jesus’ mother and of the six stone water jars “indicated by past tense forms of the verb εἰμι,” and why and how does it provide “important supporting material” while not “advancing the mainline of the narrative” (235)?

How do we know?

There are other times when a grammatical fact was given without explaining how we know that it is this way. How do we know when an adjective is elative instead of superlative (173)? Or that a positive or comparative is meant as a superlative (175)? Or how we know that an adverbial participle is one of cause (331) or condition (332)? Or how some participles can have an imperatival force (339).3 Of course, as you will probably be learning this in a classroom, you should ask your teacher about any matter which confuses you. But when it comes to reading the book on your own, students may be left frustrated and wondering how they can ever know they should translate a participle in a certain way.

There are two additions that I think would be helpful in a second edition. First, in Black’s Learn to Read NT Greek (mentioned above), his vocabulary lists would often have a Greek word such as χρόνος, provide the gloss (“time”), and then connect the gloss to a word the modern reader is already familiar with (chronology).4 When (and if) possible, this is better than whatever random pneumonic the student can think up to pass his vocabulary quiz.

Second, the vocabulary lists place the words in alphabetical order, but they give no distinction to verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, or conjunctions. More distinction between the parts of speech will help impress the vocabulary into the student’s mind.

Recommended?

Unlike Hebrew, Greek hasn’t quite clicked with me yet, and that may be why I found this book difficult whereas others will not. KMP is a better grammar than others, and it’s authors can be trusted, even if it takes time to understand all that they are saying. Greek, with it’s abundance of grammatical nuance, takes time to learn. Students who have the luxury of learning second-year Greek within an actual year will profit from this book. Students who have it in one semester, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, had better buckle up. Many of the examples given for the different syntactical categories have new words that the second-year Greek student will be unfamiliar with. As a result, these examples will be more difficult to learn if you don’t translate the sentences yourself (the sentences are already translated, but because there isn’t a 1-to-1 correspondence between Greek and English it is difficult to know how some words function). I would suggest buying the book far in advance and working through it immediately. You will learn much through that practice.

One note: While it may seem arduous, reading through KMP while marking the given examples in your Greek Bible is a helpful way to process the grammar of the text. If you only read this book cover to cover just to get through it, you will retain very little—if anything. The study of Greek is a lifelong process, and this book is a reference tool. Seeing the examples “in action” will help you to better understand and retain the information.

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Andreas Köstenberger, Benjamin Merckle, and Robert Plummer
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: B&H Academic (June 1, 2016)
  • A Quick Chart for Intermediate Greek Grammar and Syntax

Buy Going Deeper with NT Greek from Amazon or B&H Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H Publishing. 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.


1I am more of a Hebrew guy. The two Hebrew classes I had have been my favorite classes overall so far in seminary. I can spend hours in Isaiah (because that’s how long it takes) and enjoy it. Greek, on the other hand, hasn’t clicked yet.

2My wife had Greek Syntax in the spring and I had it this semester, and there were students in both of our classes who didn’t think this was an easy read either.

3On this last point, it is pointed out that some believe the participial form communicates a more gentle appeal than the imperative mood. Travis Williams is noted as having challenged that notion. Yet, aside from his push back, no other reason is given as to why we would translate the participle as an infinitive (cf. 1 Peter 3.1 ,7).

4Or τόπος = “place” (topography).

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Review: A Modern Grammar for Biblical Hebrew & Workbook

Learning a language is not easy. You have to learn a new set of vocabulary, a new way to structure sentences, and new syntactical and grammatical rules just to be able to speak to somebody! It’s a bit different with Hebrew and Greek, as many student only learn to recognize and read the languages (unfortunately-languages stick better when you learn them through speaking and listening too). Duane Garrett (the John R. Sampey Professor of Old Testament at the SBTS) and Jason DeRouchie (Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology at Bethlehem Seminary) have come together and revised Garrett’s previous Hebrew textbook.

Outline

  1. Orthography (the conventions of spelling) and Phonology (chs 1-4)
  2. Basic Morphology and Syntax (chs 5-26)
  3. Detailed Study of the Qal Verb (chs 27-30)
  4. Detailed Study of the Derived Stems (chs 31-35)
  5. The Masoretic Text, Detailed Study of Syntax, and Poetry (chs 36-41)

Upon finishing chapter 41, the reader will have learned nearly all words that appear 79 times or more in the Hebrew Bible, 510 core vocabulary, 155 proper names, and will have translated over 300 verses of biblical text (along with many practice sentences). A CD is included with audio files for the alphabet and vocabulary.  

The Chocolate Milk

I’ve found Garrett/DeRouchie’s grammar to be a helpful guide. Most chapters are packed with information (though this can be a double-edged sword), which is helpful for self-study and for after-class-need-more-time-to-let-this-soak-in-study. In chapter six, “Hebrew Verbs,” the authors give a very helpful discussion on verb tense, mood, aspect, and voice. 

  • Tense tells us if the “situation expressed by the verb is past, present, or future” (35).
  • Mood tells us whether the action (expressed by the verb) is real/actual (“was,” “is,” or “will”) or possible (“may,” “would,” “could”).
  • Aspect “relates to how a speaker portrays the action” (35). Are we told “it [the whole event] happened” or that “it was happening” (as a process)?
  • Voice “tells us whether the subject of a verb acts or is acted upon” (36). This is seen in active verbs (“The dog bit the man”) and passive verbs (“The man was bitten by the dog”).

Each chapter has a section on vocabulary, and beginning with chapter nine the reader is presented with a guided reading from Psalm 1, Numbers 1.24–35, Psalm 14, and various texts from Genesis. The authors cover the expected grammar of Hebrew: nouns, adjectives, adverbs, prefixes, etc. But Section E has six chapters, one on Masoretic marks, and five covering syntax and literary structure, discourse analysis, and poetry. These chapters give important advice on sentence clauses, speech, embedded discourse, paragraph markers, and more. There is a case study in historical discourse in Genesis 37.2–11 which will benefit any who put the time into understanding it. It’s not enough to know vocabulary and to be able to parse; you must know how to read sentences and paragraphs and to know how the sense units function in relation to each other. This is a large task, and Garrett and DeRouchie faithfully guide their beginners through these ravines.

The Workbook is excellent. Each chapter comes with many sentences to translate and many verbs to parse for extra practice. It’s unfortunate that the reader isn’t required to translate from English in Hebrew. It actually helps to reinforce what was taught in the chapter. Bonus: The workbook has an answer key (I’ve actually seen some books that do not have an answer key, which boggles my mind).

The Spoiled Milk

As I said above, almost every chapter is is packed with information, which can be a real benefit. But when I open A Modern Grammar I feel like I’m drowning in words. Though helpful, it can really be overwhelming.

The flip side to my praise of the chapter on verbs (ch 6) is followed up by my distaste for the chapter on verbs. Right off the bat, I’m a paradigm guy. I’ve seen that there are some people who have really appreciated that the chapters on verbs didn’t list paradigms. I’m not one of those people. That’s just not how my mind works. So even though I had already had a semester of Hebrew, this chapter still threw me for a loop.

The chapter quickly introduces the reader to the verb יִפֹּל (yippol) and it’s meaning, gloss, and alternative translations. The first verb reader meets is a weak verb. On the next page the reader is given six more verbs, and again, all are weak verbs (which are more difficult to properly recognize than the strong verbs). Then יִפֹּל (yippol) is described as an imperfect verb, what Garrett refers to as the yiqtol (יִקְטֹל) verb. קָם (qam) is a perfect verb, or a qatal verb. My point? יִפֹּל doesn’t look like יִקְטֹל, and קָם doesn’t look like קָטַל. The vocabulary list at the end of the chapter contains 15 verbs; two are strong. The rest are weak (and, thus, act differently).

Why not explain the perfect verbs (קָטַל) by strong verbs that actually like like the verb קָטַל? why use a weak verb with only two radicals (or ‘letters’) instead of three? Weak verbs are difficult enough to understand. Why begin verbs with them?  

In fact, I found all/most of the chapters on verbs to be at least somewhat confusing. On the one hand, the explanations are excellent, but the format of the chapters (and lack of paradigms, though they are in a back appendix) was unhelpful.

Recommended?

Yes, though in a number of ways I still prefer both Allen Ross’ grammar (which you can find free lectures here) and Van Pelt/Pratico’s grammar. Part of that is because I’ve worked through both of them (and Ross’ in Hebrew I & II). I also think both grammars are laid out  better than this one. This one has a lot of good information in it, but it does require a lot of reading. Some chapters also try to get too far ahead of themselves by providing a brief look at a grammatical rule that will be examined in a later chapter.

Chapter 1, when learning about vowels there’s a brief section about how nouns in construct can change their vowels. Yet this topic won’t be covered until chapter 12. Why not just leave it until then? Had this been my introduction to Hebrew, seeing vowels change in this way would have felt like a burden.

I still think that Garrett and DeRouchie have put together an excellent grammar, one that tries to give the reader all the information they need to understand the language. But this wouldn’t be the first grammar I reach for, nor the first I recommend as I don’t find it the simplest grammar to go through, but with self-discipline and patience one can surely make it through this grammar with a firm understanding of both beginning Hebrew and syntax.

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Duane Garrett & Jason DeRouchie
  • Hardcover Grammar: 432 pages
  • Paperback Workbook: 320 pages
  • Publisher: B&H Academic (July 1, 2009)

Buy the Grammar from B&H Academic or on Amazon!

Buy the Workbook from B&H Academic or on Amazon!

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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Review: The Message of the Twelve

Who said it first?

  1. “I will make your grave, for you are vile.”

2. “And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place.”

3. “I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them.”

4. “What’s love got to do with it?”

5. “And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.”

6. “Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?”

If you could only answer #4 (Tina Turner), then congratulations(!), you’ve found yourself in the midst of the Minor Prophets. The Book of the Twelve is a wild ride, however, because we are so far removed from this culture and history, even the harshest critiques preached against Israel (see #1, Nahum 1.13) put many right to sleep. What hope is there for the modern day mother with kids to understand the hope found in Zechariah? What conviction is Joel supposed to bring to the busy husband who is tired from a long week of work? Richard Fuhr, Jr. and Gary Yates have written The Message of the Twelve: Hearing the Voice of the Minor Prophets with the purpose of unveiling some of the mystery that shrouds the Twelve from our eyes. Fuhr and Yates aim to present to the reader of the the individual voices that make up the Twelve.

Layout

There are two parts to the book.

Part 1

  1. The World of the Twelve sets the reader within the history of the Minor Prophets. Which kings were in play? Why were they important? Who was the ruling superpower of the day (e.g., Assyria, Babylon, Persia, etc)? What was wrong with Israel at this time? The authors give a brief overview of Israel’s history in the promise land after the death of Solomon to the exile of Israel up through to the return to the land. Knowing Israel’s history is pivotal to understanding the Minor Prophets, and the authors do a good job of showing what was going on during the preaching of each prophet.
  2. The Role of the Twelve: The prophets were forth-tellers and foretellers. They taught the heart of God to his people, and, at times, they were given insight into what God would do in the future.
  3. The Words of the Twelve reminds us that the Minor Prophets are poetic texts (with prose included). The prophets’ words can be separated into three broad categories:
    1. Announcements of judgment
    2. Oracles of salvation
    3. Calls to repentance.
      Each of these have their own categories. The prophets were skilled in getting the attention of their audience, and they did so with the use of metaphors, parallelism, repetition, irony, sarcasm, rhetorical questions, and wordplays.
  4. The Book of the Twelve doesn’t always seem to be much of a unity at all, but Fuhr and Yates show the reader that through chronology, catchwords, and themes there is a strong unity between the twelve books. Some of those themes are Israel’s failure to repent in response to the prophetic word, the Day of the Lord, and the broken and restored covenant.

Part 2

The next twelve chapters are summaries of each of the Twelve’s books. After introducing the book and giving some of the historical background information, the authors present the structure of the book, showing that each book was purposefully written. None of them were just thrown together (although Hosea is difficult to outline). The authors then give a brief commentary on each section, ending with a Theological Message and Application of ___ section where the message of the book is condensed into a few paragraphs and its significance throughout the canon of Scripture (and primarily in the NT) is brought to light.

Conclusion

This book is a plea for the church to renew their interest in the Twelve. It remains part of God’s inerrant and inspired word. There are four ways the Twelve continues to speak to the church. (1) It gives a distinctive portrayal of God, (2) it gives an ethical call for God’s people to “act justly, love faithfulness, and walk humbly” with God (Mich 6.8), (3) it shows ways God deals with his people and the nations, and (4) it comforts the church with its message of comfort, restoration, and the kingdom of God that is coming in full.

Recommended?

For twelve books that many of us have a difficult time reading and understanding today, Fuhr and Yates have provided the church with an important work. They provide the literary structure of each book. They show wordplays that we miss in English translations, and connections within the literary structure from from the repetition of certain words. They clearly explain each section of each book, and finish it off with it’s application for believers today. This is a solid work for the student, pastor, and teacher. This is the perfect primer to use when studying the Minor Prophets. This should be read with a Bible on your desk and a pen in your hand.

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Fuhr / Yates
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: B&H Academic (September 1, 2016)

Buy it now from B&H Academic or Amazon!

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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