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Book Review: Righteous by Promise (NSBT), Karl Deenick

The New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series is an excellent series for understanding particular themes in the Bible. While no series is perfect and some have lamented that it has fallen on hard times, this latest volume ought to relieve any lingering doubts. This book doesn’t deal only with the topic of circumcision in the Bible, but “two [other] facets on which this book focuses are the key biblical concepts of faith and righteousness.” The reason for this is seen in Paul’s statement about Abraham in Romans 4.11 that he “received the sign of circumcision of the seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.” Paul believed that circumcision meant something to Abraham about righteousness and faith. But how? Why circumcision? And scholars are in disagreement as to what the circumcision-righteousness-faith complex symbolizes. For N. T. Wright, “righteousness is about covenant membership” (5). For James Dunn, circumcision was “the boundary marker of  who was in the covenant and who was not” (6). But the OT authors look forward to a day when God’s people will be spiritually circumcised and will love and obey God with all their heart (6).

Karl Deenick does not consider every biblical reference to circumcision but only those which help demonstrate how righteousness and faith are woven together with circumcision. In chapter two he shows how righteousness and blamelessness are “both a present status but also a future promise that is appropriated by humble trust in God’s promise to Abraham of a blameless ‘seed'” (211). This is seen in Genesis 15 and 17. Abraham is reckoned as righteous because he believed Yahweh’s word (15.6) and then God called Abraham to walk blamelessly (17.1) before in a unique relationship.

After examining these truths and the ‘singular’ seed in Genesis, Deenick looks at how the sign of circumcision developed throughout the OT: Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 10 and 30, and Joshua 5 (chapter three). How can God call the people to love and obey him when they don’t have circumcised hearts and when God says he will give that to them in the future (Deut 10; 30)? They are to walk with Yahweh (Lev 26) and believe in his atoning promise to Abraham. “The circumcised heart repents and trusts in Yahweh’s words” (95). After Abraham’s call to be blameless, the next time we see something ‘blameless’ in the text is when we get to the sacrificial system. Blameless sacrifices cover the blame of God’s people, something fulfilled completely in Christ. “What God promised, Abraham did not have in full, and yet God reckoned him to have it” (213).

Deenick then observes how the NT authors picked up the metaphors of ‘walking’ and ‘being blameless’ (chapter four). Blamelessness comes through union with the resurrected Jesus Christ, the ‘seed’ of Abraham. Deenick ends the chapter looking at contested passages in Philippians 3, Colossians 2, and Ephesians 2. Chapters five and six cover Romans 2-4 and Galatians. Faith in God’s promised seed, Jesus, humility, and repentance over sin are what matter.

For Christians, as Deenick points out, the imputation of christ’s righteousness teaches us that “it is not enough to be ‘not guilty’: we must also be reckoned to be perfectly obedient and holy” (213). Abraham’s circumcision was a seal that he was humble and righteous by faith. The continuing acts of circumcision pointed God’s people to the future seed who would fulfill God’s promises to Abraham. It meant nothing to follow God’s law while rejecting his promise of a future seed. Instead, believing the promise meant fulfilling God’s law as your trust was in the future seed who would make you blameless. Christians don’t need to follow circumcision for we are circumcised in Christ. The flesh has been put off, and we are baptized in him. We have died and are raised with him.

Recommended?

I hope Deenick’s book will be read widely by students, teachers, and the scholarly community. While it is not written for the layman, teachers and pastors who pick this up can easily bring the information to life. Neither does Deenick give bland facts in his book. He fits his information within the story of Scripture, allowing the story to illuminate the details, and the details the story. We are the circumcision of Christ who have put off the old flesh, have received a spiritual circumcision, and love and desire to obey God. I highly recommend this book.

Lagniappe

Buy it from Amazon or Adlibris

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP 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.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

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Book Review: Echoes of Exodus (Roberts and Wilson)

Echoes of Exodus Review

Isaiah 43.16, 18-19:

16 Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters… 
18 Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old. 
19 I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.

The exodus was God’s grand display of his mighty arm. He drowned the world’s greatest army, Egypt, in their own sea and rescued his people who had been their slaves for 400 years. Israel had been redeemed, and this language permeates both Testaments. However, I myself have missed most of these connections. The idea here is the same as that in Bryan Estelle’s Echoes of Exodus (review): show how the biblical writers incorporated exodus  imagery into their stories, psalms, and praises. But Roberts and Wilson take a different tactic in this book. Instead of showing how one or two ideas are seen throughout a particular passage, the authors take the whole image of the exodus and apply it to different passages of Scripture.

Many find the Bible to be dissonant. Stories are boring, they don’t make sense, the heroes are hardly heroic, and the Big Man Upstairs has it out for the humans. The authors present the analogy of the Bible as a song. Some notes seem to be out of place. Some are sharped. Some are flattened. Some are repeated over and over. “You can’t prove logically that West Side Story is based on Romeo and Juliet. The echoes cannot be proved, any more than you can prove that a joke is funny. Rather, they have to be heard” (13). The exodus, like a song, and like a joke, must be heard. It cannot so easily be explained, but it must be understood for Israel’s story is ours (1 Cor 9.10; 10.11; Luke 9.31). The authors express our generation’s desire for freedom. But yet despite all of the liberation, people continue to fall into bondage, often by their own doing (Prov 26.27). The Church needs to understand that the God who redeemed Israel, and who has redeemed his Church through the blood of Christ, has played exodus riffs all throughout his story.

This book is really only about 150 pages, yet it took me a long time to read. Once I came to the First Movement: Out of the House of Slaves, I pulled my Bible out ready to take notes. Little did I know, this would not be a quick read. Adam and Eve were to be fruitful and multiply, extending the garden for the King. But they were out-crafted by a serpent. In Egypt, God’s people are fruitful and multiplying, yet they are building a kingdom for the serpent-king. Moses is put in an “ark,” passes through the water, and is saved by the serpent-king’s daughter, just as Israel will be saved from the waters. When Israel passes through the Re(e)d Sea, the waters divide and they walk on dry land, just as at creation when the waters above and below divided and dry land came to be (Gen 1.6-10). Jesus, the one who tabernacled among men, housing the presence of God, walked through the Jordan just as Israel had done before. Sinai brought national apostasy; Pentecost brought national blessing. Instead of 3,000 people dying at Sinai, 3,000 are cut to the heart at Pentecost and repent.

Missionary progress in the second half of Acts is a continued exodus cycle. Believers are forever leaving cities—often where they have been suffering—before venturing off into foreign lands, flourishing and succeeding, incorporating Gentiles in their number, and returning in triumph. More specifically we have Peter, who was going to be killed at Passover by the wicked king, waking up at nighttime, being told by the angel of the Lord to get dressed and put on his sandals, escaping captivity, and passing through a gate that opens for him “of its own accord” (Acts 12:10)… And in the final chapters, as Paul approaches Rome, we have yet another echo of the exodus: Paul escapes from the chains of captivity, goes on a journey for which we have an unusual level of geographical detail, and plunges into the sea, before emerging vindicated on the far side, revealing the healing power of God, and continuing toward his final destination. (140)

There is so much more to say, but so little space.

There are four movements. In the first, Israel moves from Egypt to the wilderness to the promised land. In the second, we see the exodus in Genesis in the lives of the patriarchs (see especially the wonderful section on Lot). The third movement leads the reader through Israel’s prophets and writings: Ruth, Samuel, Kings, the prophets, and Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. In the fourth movement, the reader is brought through the greater work of Godthe second exodus.

The Spoiled Milk

If there’s a downside to all of these connecting webs, it’s that some are hard to believe. Perhaps because there are too many connections between the stories, but cross-references really would have helped. Although perhaps that would have caused the book to feel more like a chemistry book than a concept album. Regardless, some connections are too difficult to find in the text. Commenting on Abraham & Co’s journey in Genesis 12-14, the authors state, “As they move from the north to Shechem in the center, then down to Bethel and Ai, and finally into the Negeb in the south, they are doing what Joshua will later do, and claiming the land for the Lord” (67). I tried searching for the terms, but, without a map, I just couldn’t see how this worked.

Speaking about the man of Judah and Jeroboam in 1 Kings 13, the authors note that “as the man from Judah is killed by a lion, so the Lion of Judah will be killed by men” (103). This seems to have been placed here more as a convenient fit than because it is a real connection. There are others for sure, but for the majority of the time I looked at what they said and searched my Bible to see if I could find it. If I did, my pen was ready. Already in the Prelude the authors have tipped their hats that their readers won’t agree to everything. Sometimes it may feel like they’re reaching, but sometimes some over-extending needs to be done to get us to use our imagination.

Recommended?

I highly recommend this work. I was baffled that I had neither seen nor heard of too many of these exodus riffs. Yet nonetheless, here I was hearing many of them for the first time. And for those riffs which were not new to me, I could listen and hum along as they were played. Echoes of Exodus  brings out the story of the Bible. This won’t revolutionize the way you read the Bible, but it will give you a greater appreciation for the artistic ability of the biblical authors to subtly reveal how God has woven his exodus redemption into the lives of his peopleboth past and present.

Between this book and Bryan Estelle’s Echoes of Exodus, this book is shorter, less “academic,” and more enjoyable to read. Buy this book.

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Alastair Roberts/Andrew Wilson
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway (March 31, 2018)

Buy it on AmazonCrossway, or Adlibris!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Crossway. 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.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

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Book Review: Old Testament Wisdom Literature (Bartholomew and O’Dowd)

Old Testament Wisdom Literature Bartholomew O'Dowd

What does the Bible have to say about wisdom? Can pithy poetics really form character? In their new book Old Testament Wisdom Literature, Craig Bartholomew and Ryan O’Dowd present a theological introduction to the Bible’s wisdom books—Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. Proverbs 3.19 says God created the world by wisdom, yet most 21st century Westerners have lost the wonder of creation. Christians are saved through the blood of Christ, what do we need to understand about the world? Being in a real covenantal relationship with Yahweh brought Israel together with the God who both created the universe and who redeemed Israel out of Egypt. Knowing his law meant knowing how to life. It meant wisdom and understanding (Deut 4.6). How can man expect to find it, and how can 21st century Christians apply 3,000-year-old Old Testament wisdom to their lives?

Summary

Chapters 1-3 bring us into (1) Israel’s world of wisdom—they believed that they were in covenant with the one God who created all of reality and who was the source of knowledge. Yet, as Job expresses, they knew their knowledge was limited. Next (2), the authors take a tour through Egyptian and Mesopotamian wisdom to bring us into the flow of thought around Israel. Chapter 3 makes a plea for poetry, which “gives us a nuanced understanding of people, language and culture” (51). Stating a mere proposition such as “God is omnipotent” is very different than “declaring that God rules ‘the raging sea'” or that he can “draw in Leviathan with a hook” (69). Poetry brings imagery to the stories which make up our life. 

At 160 pages, Chapters 4-9 make up the core of the book. The authors spend two chapters on each of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. In the first chapter on each book, rather than rehearsing the main gist of each book, they describe the book’s theological function. Each book’s second chapter (“Chapter B” as I call it) explores a particular theme in that book.

Proverbs

Proverbs 1-9 develops a character-consequence scheme. Here, your character (wise/foolish) determines the consequences in your life (life/ruin). Proverbs 10-30 nuance this idea and bring exceptions to the rule. These proverbs are not categorized by topic, but seem to be written chaotically and at random, just the way life is. In chapter B, the authors examine how wisdom is embodied in the Proverbs 31 woman, though she is not a real person for no one person could do what she does. Rather, that figure represents the extent to which wisdom reaches and the practical ways of living in which wisdom is required.

Unlike Proverbs 1-9, Job and Ecclesiastes “focus on profound experiences of apparent contradictions to the character-consequence theme,” which deepen our faith and our wisdom and form our character (285). The authors note, “Ecclesiastes is performatively enigmatic, just like suffering, and Job is long, at times tedious, with all those speeches, just like suffering” (318). Sometimes the text’s form is just as important as what it says.

Job

Job asks “Where can wisdom be found?” (28.20). His friends think they know it all, yet in the end Job is to make sacrifices for their foolish words. Job replies like a human being—he gives strong responses, fears, worries, and contradictions. Just like the process of suffering, all people learn as the conversation of suffering goes on. They change their answers from one idea to another, even being hopeful at points (Job 28), before plunging back into suffering again, and still yet before God shows up in a revealing way. Chapter B examines Job 28 and how we, limited in our understanding of all things, must go to the One who stands outside of creation to obtain wisdom.

Ecclesiastes

Similarly, Qohelet in Ecclesiastes looks for meaning in the world through his own autonomous wisdom—which is actually “folly” because Qohelet’s search occurs apart from God. The book “ultimately affirms life and joy… but only as the end result of a ferocious struggle with the brokenness of life” (189). Job presents bodily suffering; Ecclesiastes presents mental anguish. It’s not enough to have a high IQ. Job had money. Qohelet asked difficult philosophical questions. But wisdom requires us to admit our finite creatureliness before the infinite Creator. We, like the woman in Proverbs 31, can embody wisdom and image God. Chapter B takes up the topic of time, seeing the larger story, and using our time well.

Chapters 10 looks at wisdom in the NT through the coming of Jesus. Chapter 11 gives an OT theology of wisdom. The chapter both summarizes and expands on what has been said previously. Wisdom is related to creation and how the world works. It is brought about by the Creator who is also Israel’s Redeemer. God’s good creation links his wisdom with his law/covenant with the prophets. Chapter 12 applies wisdom to our present life concerning education, politics, spirituality, the ordinary, and the dark night of the soul. For example, even after we receive salvation, we still want to be the captains of our souls. We have “false selves” that we want to put on to protect ourselves, and God uses suffering to dismantle those false selves. The authors refer to C.S. Lewis’ image of someone buying a small cabin in the woods. She thinks it’s great to have God come live with her… until he begins to tear down walls and change out the stairs. He wants to revamp the whole house, and it hurts. But believing that he is great and good will help carry us to the end of the darkness that feels like our closest friend.

Recommended?

I greatly appreciated Bartholomew and O’Dowd’s theological interpretation. According to Ecclesiastes, how can we know if we truly have wisdom? Job 28 tells us that man searches high and low for treasure, yet even Abaddon and death themselves do not have wisdom (v. 22). God doesn’t come out and give us all the answers we need. How can man expect to find it, and how can a 21st century person apply 3,000 year old wisdom to their lives? The authors look at the meaning of the texts and what is really going on. Teacher and pastors would do well to read this book. Hopefully more people will grasp the importance of these important, often ignored Old Testament books. All people of all statuses everywhere can receive wisdom and they can use it, but it starts with fearing the Lord who both calms the raging seas, who condescends to know us, and who has descended and ascended to save us.

Lagniappe

Buy it on Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP 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.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

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Book Review: The Decalogue (Baker), Theologygrams (Wyld)

Decalogue David Baker

We’ve come along way from the giving of the Ten Commandments (AKA, the Decalogue or the Ten Words).  Do we still need them? Are they still relevant? Who doesn’t know that murder is wrong? If so many don’t believe in God, why have them around anyway? Should we enforce them as laws?

The Decalogue consists of two groups of five commandments concerned with loving God (1-5) and loving one’s neighbor (6-10). In his book, the Decalogue, David Baker believes the Decalogue “expresses the essence of the covenant but is not a treaty document in itself” (12). There are strong parallels between the commandments of the Decalogue and that of other ANE treaties (e.g., not to commit murder, adultery, theft, etc.). However, other ANE texts are not “as comprehensive in scope as the Decalogue” (19). The ethical appeals of the Decalogue are grounding in God’s character and how he says his “holy nation” should live to be holy as he is holy.

The Decalogue was spoken by God to all of Israel, the “whole people of God” (32). Baker believes it is Israel’s constitution. Far from being a burden to slog through life under, it (and the Book of the Covenant in the following chapters of Exodus) is their “charter of freedom to be embraced and celebrated,” as Psalms 19 and 119 point out (35).

After his introduction, Baker gives a chapter to each commandment, setting each of the ten commandments against their surrounding ancient Near Eastern cultures to compare and contrast the uniqueness of God’s instructions to his people. He then reflects on how that commandment was (or wasn’t) lived out through examples in the OT and NT. Baker makes comparisons with the Decalogue that is repeated in Deuteronomy 5, noting any changes and why they might have been made.

In his final section he looks at how we, as Christians, the people of God, should live in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He says that the Decalogue is the basis for Old and New Testament ethics. It reveals the character of God to us, and from there we can explore the rest of the Bible to see what he is like.

Lagniappe

Buy it from Amazon

.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and often a picture is easier to look at than 1,000 words. Rich Wyld has created a host of diagrams to help distill some of theology’s deeper points into forms that visual people can digest. Until I get permission to share some pictures, I’ll share some links to his blog. Some of these from his blog are found in his book, others are not. Wyld begins with (1) the Old Testament, then moves to (2) the Gospels, (3) the rest of the NT, (4) the life of the church, and he ends on (5) the life of the church.

In section 4, Wyld, an Anglican, uses references mostly from the Anglican church, but tries to be fair when representing other churches too. Some sections found here are:

  • A “breakdown of time spent during a hymn”
  • “Ministry in the church” (those being pastors and teachers, evangelists, prophets, apostles, and people who hoover and make tea).
  • And the very humorous looks at “what’s going on in the mind of the person reading the Gospel in church,” which, if you’ve ever had to read in front of a crowd, you can very well relate.

In section 5, Wyld asks where wisdom can be found, and looks at Proverbs, Jesus, James…and Mr. T.

Mr. T, Theologygrams Wyld

Some examples which can be found on his blog are:

Bible references are provided for most pictures. The intention isn’t only to be silly, but to provoke thought and have the reader go back to the Bible to read that verse or section again. The intention isn’t to mock or belittle God, his creative works, nor his redeemed people.

Lagniappe

Buy it from Amazon

Disclosure: I received these books free from IVP Academic and IVP Books. 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.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

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Book Review: Creation Care (Douglas and Jonathan Moo)

Creation Care Jonathan Moo Douglas Moo

Do Christians need to be concerned about the creation? Isn’t it all just going to burn up anyway when God recreates it anew? Aren’t all those climate fanatics just being a bit, I don’t know, fanatical? Douglas and Jonathan Moo have written a book to encourage God’s people to care for his creation “by showing that the created world remains important in God’s purposes throughout the story of redemption” (126).

Summary

The book has three sections: 

(1) Queuing the Questions

“What role does the non-human creation play in God’s plan?” (23). How does it relate to our proclaiming the gospel, and why should we be involved? The Moos write that through our involvement we (1) address current challenges facing creation, (2) serve as witnesses to God’s kingdom before the members of the world, and (3) confirm Scripture’s witness of our vocation as “keepers” of God’s creation (26-27). 

Biblical theology summarizes and synthesizes “the teaching of the Bible using its own categories and with attention to its redemptive-historical movement,” it’s books make up one book, and it addresses people in today’s world (35). But along with the Bible’s teaching, we are also influenced by culture and science. The goal of theology is “the formation of Christian character and the practical living out of biblical values” (42). Culture can help us see things that we have taken for granted or haven’t noticed in the biblical text (it can also make us blind to what is there), and science can help inform us on how God’s creation “keepers” can care for his creation.

(2) Arriving at Answers

God created the world as “very good,” but he is the divine Creator and the “very good” world is the non-divine created. This does not give a lowly status to the world. Relationships where one person idolizes the other and treats the other as a god/goddess are harmful. So dethroning the creation from a divine status shifts people away from pantheism and toward being able to know the creation and to live in it as God’s creation. We are not gods who can use the earth according to our whims.

“In what ways do we prevent others from perceiving creation’s testimony to God when we fail to care well for creation, to enact justice, and to ensure that the abundance of the earth is shared with all?” (60).

Some say God surely wouldn’t allow creation to crumble because of our doing. Is it unreasonable to think that he wouldn’t allow humanity to suffer for the consequences of trashing his creation? Israel was put into exile for not giving proper rest to God’s land (God just let Israel use the land, Lev 25:23). The false prophets of Jeremiah’s day told Israel that neither famine nor sword would come. The people continued sinning, and in the end judgment did come (111-112). The suffering of creation, as with us, is only temporary, and it will end when Christ returns. But he hasn’t returned yet, and it’s been 2,000 years since he left.

“The incarnation furthermore reveals a God who binds himself to all of his creation” (115).

As the Moos note, in the tenth edition of the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report in 2014, they (speculatively) estimate “that between 1970 and 2010 the total number of wild mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish around the globe dropped fifty-two percent….The decline of terrestrial animals alone was thirty-nine percent” (199). This is “speculative” because it is hard to be so accurate with animals species and just how many animals there are, but the fact remains that even if the number were down to twenty-five percent, that is an astounding—a shocking—figure. Out of all the earth’s years, in just 40 years we have lost 25%, perhaps even 52%, of all our animals due largely in part to the ways of globalization and consumption.

But isn’t it all going to burn anyway? Doug Moo refutes that idea by spending some time leading the reader through 2 Peter 3. He briefly goes through some Greek and determines that verse 10 should read (as it does in the ESV, NIV, NET, and CSB), “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” The day of the Lord will not burn everything down but will expose the earth and the earth-dwellers to the majesty and terror of God. Nothing will stand in his way from seeing them in all their hatred for him (see Is 26.21).

The heavens and earth will not be destroyed and made brand new, but like us when we receive our resurrected bodies, it will all be renewed. The authors say, “The imagery we should have in our minds is not a log consumed in our fireplace but the piece of ore turned into a precious piece of metal” (164).

Even if the world is going to burn and be completely recreated, the one whom we serve created it all. Playing a small part in letting half of his animals die is to say, “We don’t care about your animals,” even if the Psalmist does. Psalm 104.21 says, “The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.” In fact, all of Psalm 104 is about God’s delightful (even if also terrifying) creation.

(3) Reflecting on Relevance

Douglas and Jonathan Moo have given us a great theological work on caring for God’s creation. They give practical examples of how interconnected everything is, such as how a demand for beef, biofuels, and animals feed causes trees to be cut down for cattle farms or other means. The lack of trees means a decline in biodiversity, increased risks from erosion and extreme weather, and the climate changes due to the “loss of moisture-enhancing trees.” Forests seize carbon dioxide, and losing forests means large concentrations of carbon-dioxide rise into the atmosphere, which brings changed weather patterns and acidification.

Coral reefs give life to a quarter of all marine life. Due to pollution, fishing techniques (like trawling), warming seas, and acidification (from the air-riding carbon dioxide, a quarter of which is absorbed into the oceans), projections say coral reefs could disappear by 2050.

Recommended?

Will we ever see a direct result of our careful, caring actions? Possibly not. But, as the authors point out, at the height of the slave trade numerous Christians refused to buy or use sugar that had been made at the cost of another human’s life (226). None of those acts ended the slave trade, but it may have been one of the proper ways to follow Christ at that time. Paraphrasing Alister McGrath, instead of merely looking at creation, knowing and believing and that all of the earth belongs to God, we can behold it. We can appreciate his artistry and care for the earth, the animals, and for us (179). Maybe you’re on the fence about climate change. Perhaps you’re adamantly opposed to it. Maybe you’re all for it. In either case, pick up this book. Something needs to be done. Or, when Isaiah told him that the Lord would bring judgment, should we be satisfied as Hezekiah and think, at least there “will be peace and security in my days”?

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Douglas and Jonathan Moo
  • Series: Biblical Theology for Life
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (February 27, 2018)

Buy it from Amazon

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.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

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Book Review: Beauty, Order, and Mystery (Hiestand and Wilson)

Beauty, Order, Mystery

In the beginning God made an ordered creation. All things were good, good, and very good. “God created mankind in his own image… male and female he created them.” He created man and placed him in a garden, and then created women for the man. What happens after that gets complicated, convoluted, and disturbing. What do we do with marriage, sex, and sexuality in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the “profound mystery” found in the relationship between husband and wife.

In Beauty, Order, and Mystery, editors Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson—senior associate pastor and senior pastor, respectively, at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL—bring together essays from the 2016 Center for Pastor Theologians 2016 conference on the themes of human sexuality. Not all of the contributors agree on every point, but they all do agree on the “historic Christian consensus on sexuality,” which is centered around the importance of “biological sexuality” (3).

The books has three sections. 

Part one—a theological vision for sexuality

Part two—the beauty and brokenness of sexuality

Part three—biblical and historical reflections on gender and sexuality

To summarize each of the fourteen chapters below would be too much, so I’ll comment on a few that stood out to me.

Summary

Both Beth Jones and Matthew Mason emphasize that the bodies we have now will be the ones that are resurrected. Our bodies touch the core of our existence. This is why Paul says that the “fornicator sins against the body itself” (1 Cor 6.18). “Sex matters because it goes to the very heart of what it means to be human” (29). We can’t simply change our bodies to the way we think they should be. It is becoming increasingly difficult to say that maleness and femaleness are “created goods” (23). But that’s because we have fallen natures, and it is mistaken to think that the consequences of sin in the now created (dis)order are normal and good. As Mason points out, redemption involves both Christians and the whole created order (137). Our genders are shaped by our culture (e.g., different cultures and different eras have different standards on length of hair, style of dress, mannerisms), but “inscribed in our bodies” is our biological sex (139). Looking at 1 Corinthians 25.38, God has given each of us a body as he has chosen, and our resurrection body will correspond with our earthly body. To undergo reassignment surgery is to say humans—or each individual—are autonomous Creators.

In the same vein, Denny Burk’s “The Transgender Test” acknowledges that we should feel compassion for those who feel like they are living in two worlds, but his main point is the authority of Scripture. It is “nothing less than a shorthand for the authority of God” (91). What if someone has a “female” mind but a “male” body? iIs the Bible insufficient to deal with a situation like this? Popular opinion says God’s word is harmful to those dealing with these issues, but if that isn’t how Jesus tells us to love people, then it’s wrong. If we diminish Scripture’s authority, we’re hurting those we minister to.

Marriage is a “unity-in-difference,” says Wesley Hill (41). It represents the “other-oriented love of the Trinity” (208). The “trinitarian God gives himself in love to the other”—that is, the Son (who is not the Father) and the Holy Spirit (who is neither the son nor the Father). Jesus shares the perspective that marriage is between a man and a woman. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the picture of marriage—the Bridegroom with his Bride. The Christian who has homosexual tendencies cannot marry, but he/she can find love in Christ’s body. Similarly, single people can live well without a spouse, just as the married can live poorly with their own spouse. Within the body of Christ, deep, closely-knit friendships need to be encouraged. For that is how we will all survive.

Both my wife and I thought Daniel Brendsel’s chapter was an odd duck. About half of the chapter was spent talking about the selfie and where it came from. The other half talks about what the selfie portrays—I have a body that I can show off but is somehow separate from me, you can know “me” just through a picture and a paragraph, we are performers who can be someone else to different groups of people. We reap what we so, somehow. He says “we should consider what we as churches have been sowing and watering by way of our cultural practices and postures,” but doesn’t really say what church have been doing or what they should change beyond sharing meals with one another and confessing our sins—growing in our relationships with each other in order to know the real “me.” It wasn’t a bad chapter, it merely seemed out of place from all the rest.

Gerald Hiestand’s chapter took a very good look at the power inequality that exists between male and female. He examines third-wave feminist Camille Paglia’s argument on the relationship between biology and tyranny. Following the argument was difficult, and probably would have been better relayed if he had summarized it (though I understand it was part of his lecture). Also, compared to the other essays, Hiestand’s reads as though he is a PhD candidate. That being the case, men have more physical power, but we are to lay our lives down for our wives, the weaker vessel (1 Pet 3.7), as Christ laid his life down for his bride and continues to serve her.

Finally, Joel Willitt’s essay, “Bent Sexuality and the Pastor,” looks at “the pervasiveness of sexual trauma” and “the denial of our [pastors, specifically, but all people generally] own trauma around sexuality” (119). Being sexually bent comes as a result of a traumatic experience, often in the form of sexual abuse as a child. As a result, people try to survive snd work through it in different ways, often incorrectly (e.g., being paranoid, fatalistic, heroic, and optimistic). It often can lead them to have sexual difficulties (e.g., self-abuse, abusing others, porn addiction, not wanting sex, etc.). Willitts emphasized the difficulty that many go through as to how difficult it is to break through the trauma warfare. It “often… comes in fits and starts; it is the result of a long, painful process; and likely, it will not be completed until Christ’s return” (129).

I’m not sure, though, how to take his ending. Wanting to be careful about his essay, but he mentions having a hard time desiring sex with his wife (due to his childhood abuse), mentions having a porn addiction, but then doesn’t talk about how those two things work together. In the end, Willitts isn’t saying not to fight the trauma. Those who have been abused do need to fight through it with the power of the Spirit and know that they will be free in the resurrection, but the rest of us need to be gracious, empathetic, patient, and long-suffering. His essay gave me the most thought.

Recommended?

Yes, get this book. It is a great resource and will help you to think through these issues that are knocking on our doors. The contributors do not always agree (Mouw seems to have some reservations about how to apply the OT law to homosexuality, while Burk is for using the OT law). But Beauty, Order, and Mystery provided my wife and I with some good talking material, and with some excellent advice when we do face people who feel uncomfortable in their own bodies.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Center for Pastor Theologians
  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (October 24, 2017)
  • Press Kit available here

Buy it from Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP 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.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

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Book Review: The Pastoral Letters (BHGNT), Larry Perkins

The Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament (BHGNT) series is like a prequel, so to speak. When you as a pastor, or professor, or interpreter arrives at your text, you first translate your text. Then you turn to Wallace, Robertson, or any number of other grammars to tease out the details before you turn to your own exegesis. Now that you’ve done your own work, where should you turn next? This is where the BHGNT comes in. Before you turn to another commentary, and after you’ve done your own grammatical analysis, you pull open Larry Perkins’ The Pastoral Letters to double-check your work or perhaps to see what he says on a particularly sticky issue. Your order might go something like this:

Translation BHGNT Exegesis Commentaries

I’ve placed exegesis after Perkins’ BHGNT volume because you may want to double check your grammatical and translational work before you go ahead with your exegesis.

The BHGNT series deals with parsing, grammar, syntax, semantics, discourse (using Runge, but it mostly remains on the sentence level), and some text criticism. If you’ve ever scoured certain exegetical commentaries (e.g., BECNT, NIGTC) looking for answers to your specific Greek questions, you may have come away disappointed.

In his introduction, Perkins doesn’t explicitly come down on who the author of the Pastoral epistles is, but he does say, in his opinion, that “the Greek idiolect employed in these letters fits comfortably in the sixth decade of the first century,” in the final years of Paul’s ministry (ca. 63-65 A.D.) (xix). Household codes were commonly written about in this period (Perkins points to Aristotle, Politics, I.1253b1-13). Paul takes this motif and puts them into his letters to show how God’s household should live before the world. “Approved conduct in God’s household … is foundational for the accomplishment of the church’s mission… [and it] refutes the claims of false teachers” (xxii).

Perkins lists fourteen different kinds of rhetorical features in these three letters, such as: alliteration, asyndeton, hendiadys, paranomasia, periodic sentence, polysyndeton, and more. Deponent verbs are written as middle verbs as scholars have been working on understanding these verbs within their historical context. Perkins gives thirteen different semantic categories for middle verbs which appears in these letters. He has two sections on the use of the article with κύριος and with πίστις and a section on the meanings of οἶκος and οἰκία (xxviii-xxxi).

Example Passages

1 Tim 2.11, ἐν πάσῃ ὑποταγῇ: Manner. The sense of πάσῃ is ‘complete’ and suggests an elative idea. The noun ὑποταγῇ defines the relational posture in such learning contexts. It indicates a deferential attitude that recognizes the authority of the teacher and places a learner in the proper rank or order with respect to that authority. The nature of the deference offered will vary with the situation and the relationship. (43).

1 Tim 2.12, αὐθεντεῖν: “Pres act inf αὐθεντέω …. Baldwin’s analysis … given that the verb functions transitively here, suggests that it probably means ‘to compel, influence,’ or ‘to control, dominate.’ If this infinitive is understood as providing a more specific description of prohibited behavior (n.b. the repeated reference to ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ), a domineering or controlling exercise of authority exhibited by some women in teaching may be the activity prohibited in this verse. (44)

1 Tim 3.11, γυναῖκας: “Accusative subject of the implied infinitive εἶναι. This accusative plural noun continues the series begun with ἐπίσκοπον and followed by διακόνους (3:8). Debate arises over whether γυναῖκας refers to women who function as διάκονοι, to wives of the candidates for this function, or to women filling a function different from a διάκονος. The use of ὡσαύτως in v. 11 suggests another category similar to or belonging to διακόνους. (64)

2 Tim 1.7, πνεῦμα: Perkins understands this to be a reference to the Holy Spirit, referencing Fee who “supports a reference to the Holy Spirit by noting the writer’s use of τὸ χάρισμα in v. 6, which is often associated with the Holy Spirit. Note also the mention of the Holy Spirit in v. 14.” (163)

Titus 2.11, πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις: “Dative of advantage. This dative may also function as the indirect object of ‘επεφάνη, but its placement after σωτήριος suggests that it qualifies this adjective (i.e., “bringing salvation to all people”). πᾶσιν has an inclusive sense (i.e., “all people without exception”). (267-68)

Titus 2.13, τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ: Perkins says that “the Granville Sharp rule … seems to apply here” (270). Further down the page he adds, “If the analysis of the previous genitives as part of a TSKS construction is plausible, with this last expression the writer leaves no doubt as to whose glory is going to be revealed and equates Jesus Christ with ‘our great God and Savior.’”

Recommended?

Perkins refers to different grammarians and studies such as Campbell, Moule, Pennington, Porter, Runge, and others. Perkins covers every word, even if just to provide a curt description, while other words will receive a hefty paragraph. This book brings together the best insights to figure out the meaning and function of words. It is not meant to explain Paul’s flow of thought (at least, not broadly) nor how one section relates to another. It is an in-depth look at how the Greek works so that you can understand what Paul is saying before you move on to your own exegesis.

If you’re preparing for a sermon or a Bible study, if your learning Greek, or if you’re trying to keep the rust away, get Perkins’ volume on the Pastoral epistles and grow in the knowledge of God’s word (and the struggle of wrestling with Greek).

Lagniappe

  • Series: Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament
  • Author: Larry Perkins
  • Paperback: 343 pages
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press (August 1, 2017)

Buy it on Amazon or Baylor University Press

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baylor University 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: Jeremiah (Derek Kidner)

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

During his lifetime, Derek Kidner (1913-2008) was a prolific commentator for the TOTC and BST series. He wrote commentaries on Genesis, Proverbs (review), Ecclesiastes, Ezra & Nehemiah, Hosea, and two volumes on Psalms (review of Pss 73–150). His pastor’s heart and his OT scholarship come out in all of his commentaries. He’s pithy, wise, discerning, and easily draws his readers to look to Christ in the NT.

Kidner has Old Testament wisdom/skill (ḥokmâ) when it comes to exegesis and application. One can observe his pithiness in this commentary—Kidner explains Jeremiah’s 1,364 verses in only 150 pages! While many other commentaries explain everything almost to the point that you no longer need to look at the biblical text itself, a reading of Kidner requires an open Bible.

Kidner divides Jeremiah into 3 units according to historical dates. 

  • Prologue (1)
  • From Josiah to the first year of Nebuchadnezzar (2–20)
  • From Josiah’s successors to the captivity (21–45)
  • Oracles concerning the nations (46–51)
  • Epilogue (52)

Kidner also provides three appendices:

  1. Sin, judgment, repentance, grace and salvation in the preaching of Jeremiah
  2. The chapters of the book in their chronological setting
  3. A table of dates

At 150 pages, Kidner’s Introduction is a mere 9 pages, though it gives the surrounding historical context. That context is vitally important in a book that dates many of its passages, they just aren’t usually in chronological order. Knowing the dates and the historical events in Kings and Chronicles (references also given throughout this volume) brings more life to Jeremiah.

Kidner points out the irony in Jeremiah’s statements against his opponents. In Jeremiah 7.8–15, concerning Jeremiah’s appeal to reason and to history, Kidner says,

Its first step is to expose the nonsense — and the effrontery — of tearing up the ten commandments and turning up in church (10), as though saved to sin. The second, the den of robbers saying (11), brings out the greater nonsense of thinking to tie God’s hands. The temple could only give sanctuary as a sanctuary. Let man take it over, and God will have left it (49).

When Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel comes to him in prison and asks if he would redeem and purchase Hanamel’s land (it was probably inhabited by the Babylonians at this point and, thus, was basically worthless), Kidner replies, “Was there ever a more insensitive prison-visitor?” (112). And should we expect anything less? His family plotted against him (12.6). Why should we expect kind words from his cousin? Given that this was of the Lord, Jeremiah bought the measly plot of land as a sign of God’s promise to return his people. Kidner says, “Each [field] a vindication of his [Jeremiah’s] gallant act of faith and of the Lord’s delight in doing [his people] good…. Seventeen shekels of silver (9) were surely never better spent” (114).

His proverbial twists and applicable thoughts express, in a nutshell, God’s words to Jeremiah, his Jerusalem audience, his Babylonian audience, and his present day audience and exhorts and encourages both God’s people and God’s preachers today. In Jeremiah 17.17–18, Kidner writes,

Jeramiah (sp) recalls the warning he received at his commissioning… for dismay [1.17, and “terror” in 17.17] is the word he now dwells on… but we should not miss the note of “fear and trembling” (cf. 1 Cor. 2:3) which was the cost of his outspokenness. It silently rebukes the blandness of the safe preacher (74).

As with Hetty and Wright, there is no Scripture index.

Recommended?

While Kidner’s volume isn’t strong in detailed exegesis, and it won’t be the go-to commentary for many because of it’s brevity, those brief comments give you a taste of each section’s distinct meaning and, ultimately, of all of Jeremiah. Kidner would be best used for both the Bible study and in sermon prep. He’s strong on the historical events of Jeremiah, drawing in the NT, and summarizing the main idea(s) in a section of Scripture.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Kidner Classic Commentaries
  • Author: Derek Kidner
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (March 3, 2014)

Buy this on Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP 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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Book Review: Jeremiah (BST), Christopher Wright

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Jeremiah Message Speaks Today Christopher Wright book review

The Bible Speaks Today (BST) series has a threefold ideal:

  • to expound the biblical text with accuracy
  • to relate it to contemporary life, and
  • to be readable.

While it is not exactly a “commentary,” this is not a sermon series either (a la Preaching the Word). In his volume, Wright writes specifically to pastors and preachers, those called to fill God’s people with his word and a solid, biblical knowledge of him. Wright is an ideal person to write on Jeremiah. He is an OT theologian who has been writing on the Old Testament and OT commentaries for years (e.g., Deuteronomy, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel). Having written so much about the OT, Wright is able to keeps the entire story and canon of the Bible in mind as he fills in the details about the suffering prophet.

The weeping prophet, who weeps God’s tears for his people and relays God’s anger against his people. Jeremiah images God’s relationship with Israel in two primary ways: one of a husband and his bride, the other of a father and his son. God is a “betrayed husband” and a “rejected father” (29). Thus, “God and his prophet suffer together in the anticipation and the actuality of the disaster” (30).

Structure and Content

Unfortunately, Wright doesn’t provide an outline. Instead his volume is made up of 34 chapters, with Jeremiah 25 as the “hinge” chapter. He says, “Chapter 25 is clearly a ‘hinge’ chapter that first looks back to all that has gone before in chapters 1–24 (25:1–7). Then it effectively ‘programmes’ the rest of the book by looking forward to the inevitable judgment on Judah that God will bring through the agency of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon (25:8–11), followed by God’s promised judgment on Babylon itself and indeed on all the earth (25:12–38)” (27).

Chapters end with a section on “theological and expository reflections” which present short thoughts for the reader (paster/congregation) to consider. For example, Wright says, “Jeremiah highlights biblical standards for human governments,” and then asks why Christians are more vocal over the new sexual agenda than they are about government policies which keep the poor and the vulnerable confined in their present state (246). To know God is “to practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness” in this life now (Jer 9.23–24).

Wright sees wordplays, alliteration, OT allusions, the repetition of words and themes all throughout Jeremiah. He draws together Jeremiah’s messages throughout the book and shows his unified message. In commenting on the abrupt, jarring verses of 30:23–24, Wright says, “Why is that past oracle of doom repeated here? For the purpose of wrapping it in the smothering embrace of the core covenant promise that Israel had known from their origins” (311).

Wright has rhetoric and uses imagery well, saying that Jeremiah and his message “stick out like a funeral director at a wedding,” which is very true (51). Considering all the false prophets who cried, “Peace, peace,” Jeremiah wept that Jerusalem would be overtaken by Babylon. The false prophets preached a wedding; Jeremiah preached a funeral.

Wright is not only sensitive to OT themes, but to NT themes and references as well. God’s promise in Jeremiah 30–33 and 35–37 that nothing could separate him from his people is echoed in Romans 8.38–39.

The Spoiled Milks

My two disappointments with this volume concern the lack of an outline and a lack of indexes, specifically a Scripture index (my same complaint with Lalleman’s and Kidner’s volumes). With so many NT Scriptures referenced, this volume would have been even more resourceful if one could easily see all of the Bible verses used.

Recommended?

Wright is a highly trusted exegete who has written numerous books and commentaries. Get this one, and don’t stop there. Wright, like Lalleman, is good to have for all Bible teaching settings. His chapters are longer than Lalleman’s (only Mackay’s are longer), but are packed with exegetical and expositional insights. I would use his volume if I taught a Bible study, a Bible college class, or preparation for a sermon. Good to be paired with Lalleman’s volume.

Lagniappe

Buy this on Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP 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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Book Review: Jeremiah & Lamentations (TOTC), Hetty Lalleman

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Jeremiah Lamentations Hetty Lalleman book review

Since the 1960s, Tyndale Old (and New) Testament Commentaries (TOTC) series has sought to be faithful to the text of Scripture in a scholarly way without running into the despairing Bog of Details. New discoveries of ancient Near Eastern artifacts and texts increasingly give a sharper understanding of the Old Testament, 75% of the Bible which too often goes unnoticed. However, a significant reason the OT is often ignored is because, being so far removed from today’s reader, it is difficult to understand. Why would the Lord command Jeremiah three different times not to pray for Israel (7.16; 11.14; 14.11)? Why are six of the final seven chapters denunciations against the surrounding nations? How do we work out that God is in control of what happens to Israel, he is their enemy, yet he is also their loving husband (same in Lamentations too)? And why is Jeremiah impossible to outline?

Hetty Lalleman-de Winkel has set forth an excellent volume on Jeremiah and Lamentations. She teaches Old Testament studies at Spurgeon’s College in London, wrote her Master’s thesis and PhD on Jeremiah, and has also written Celebrating the Law? Rethinking Old Testament Ethics.

Content

It’s should be no surprise that Jeremiah takes up the bulk of this volume (299 pages) with Lamentations running at 55 pages. There are three parts to each section of the commentary—context, comment, and meaning. Context sets the new text within the flow of the book. Comment is the exegetical portion where Lalleman emphasis repeated themes, rhetorical questions, the שׁוּב motif of “repenting”/“returning”/“turning away,” Jeremiah’s laments, chiastic structures, what makes a prophet true or false, and contrasts (33.5//33.8-9;  31.4//31.22;  31.5//5.17). While she doesn’t comment on everything (which isn’t a drawback), she does draw the reader back and forth to many other places in Scripture (Jer 33.11 with Pss 100.5 + 136; Lam 2.14 with Jer 6.14 + 8.11).

Finally, the Meaning section draws the main points of the passage together into a brief paragraph so that the reader can get his bearings. Lalleman doesn’t speak much about the NT, but it does come up, and especially when there is messianic language (see the Meaning section at the end of Jer 33 [pgs 243–44]). This strength is seen more in the volumes by Kidner and Wright. The primary purpose of the TOTC volumes is to discuss what the OT text is saying. It’s the job of the TNTC (NT commentaries) to take the OT information and show its fulfillment in Christ.

Lalleman makes some comments about the chronology and structuring of Jeremiah, but doesn’t have an extended conversation about it. Primarily, Jeremiah isn’t set in a chronological manner because he/Baruch wanted to emphasize certain themes throughout the book (see her outline here). Thus, the chronology has been “rearranged” to make certain themes visible.

Lamentations is easier to outline, and it divided into 5 units based on each chapter. Further outlining can be found at the beginning of each unit.

Unfortunately, I can’t cover everything in Lalleman’s volume here, but I will try to show what Lalleman says about some of the complex issues raised above.

  • Don’t pray (7.16; 11.14; 14.11)? Jeremiah is told not to intercede for Israel because they are too far gone. Babylon will come, and exile will happen. “Judgment is now irreversible” (135).
  • Oracles against the nations (OAN): Theologically, the OAN “emphasize that God is in control over all nations” (55). God will not be bested by any earthly superpower, not even Babylon. He even uses them for his own purposes, which goes for the other nations too. Israel and Judah are often times worse than their pagan neighbors, yet if God can change the hearts of his own rebellious people, then he can even change those of the Gentiles.
  • Israel’s enemy and loving Husband?: “Israel will be punished for their sins, but will eventually be saved through judgment” (226). The new covenant is promised, and God promises throughout the book, especially here in the Book of Comfort (30–33) to “turn” the hearts of his people to him. It is in the exile that Israel realizes their need for repentance (Lam 3.40).
  • Structure of Jeremiah: There are many ways to divide Jeremiah, and “a consensus is not in sight” (62). However, she disagrees with other commentators (e.g., Wright, Mackay, Wilcock) who see Jeremiah 25 as a hinge chapter. Instead she takes Jeremiah 23–29 together, “because the theme of ‘false prophets versus true prophet’ extends through these chapters” (63).

Unfortunately, as with Kidner and Wright, there is no Scripture index.

Recommended?

Lalleman has helped explain the big picture and the nuances of Jeremiah to me. She has sat with me for a number of Sunday mornings and has guided me through this long, foreign, and bewildering text, and I wouldn’t want to be far away from her volume when I study this book. A good expositional companion to Lalleman on Jermeiah would be Christopher Wright’s BST volume, and a good companion commentary on Lamentations would be Parry’s THOTC volume.

Lalleman’s volume is good to use as preparation for a Bible study, for a sermon, and for teaching in a Bible college/seminary atmosphere. She gives enough detail without being overbearing, and that makes her volume a delight to use in all settings.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Book 21)
  • Author: Hetty Lalleman
  • Paperback: 373 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (March 1, 2013)
  • Read a sample here

Buy it on Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP 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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Book Review: Hermeneutics as Apprenticeship (David Starling)

hermeneutics as apprenticeship david starling book review

How should we read the Bible? Interpret obtuse texts with the clear texts? Should the Scripture interpret me alone? Those are helpful methods, but Starling vouches for an intertextual hermeneutic. Like the snowball which rolls down a hill and picks up more snow along the way, the Biblical authors picked up former themes and ideas when they wrote. Revelation, the last book of the Bible, has more echoes and allusions (~635) than any other NT book. That’s quite the snowball. But more than that, Starling argues that the “interpretation of the Scriptures is like a craft or a trade that must be learned if we are to draw the right connections, make the right intuitive leaps, and bring to bear on the task the right dispositions, affections, and virtues” (17). The work of the interpreter (which is anyone and everyone who reads the Bible) will require sweat, toil, and character.

The rest of his book is made up of fourteen case studies, six from the Old Testament and eight from the New. Each chapter has a specific theme (or “hermeneutic”) that is developed throughout that biblical book. If each theme was a play, Starling gives us tickets to the front row, the side balcony, and the nose bleed section. Each seat is a different angle and allows the ticket-holder the see the play, its actors, their motions, and their faces from different angles (near, far, and to the side). Some examples are Psalms (“delight”), Deuteronomy (“law”), Zechariah (“prophecy”), Luke (“fulfillment”), Galatians (“allegory”), and 1 Peter (“Empire”).

For example, in 1 Peter, how do we read the Bible and live in this world as exiles under an evil empire (no matter where we live)? Peter teaches his readers what the OT says about living as followers of Christ today (yes, even today) by having us sit in the different seats of the play Empire. We are to live with both a reverent fear/respect to those we live and serve under, and a reverent fear of God whom everyone lives under. We live under a God who has show us grace and we should show grace and good works as well to others. When we are alienated from the world we know that there is another greater One who we serve and approves of our lives. Our glorious salvation is incorruptible, greater than all the gold and social approval this world can give us. We were taken out of darkness and into light by the precious blood of Christ through a horrific crucifixion. “What is beautiful in the sight of God can—at least in principle—be found beautiful by all those who have eyes to see” (190).

The Spoiled Milk

There not much I don’t like about this book, but there are times when Starling is making a point, but it either seems to come out of nowhere or it’s very vague. For example, to conclude his chapter on Luke-Acts and to clarify how they explain a true “gospel-centered hermeneutic,” Starling says in his third concluding point that “the gospel preaching of Jesus and his apostles in Luke-Acts does not sit well with one-dimensional propositional accounts of the gospel speech-act, or with overly sharp attempts to pare off the response the gospel calls for and the blessing that it offers from the facts that it announces, as if only the latter were properly part of the gospel” (117). He states just before that the way Luke-Acts uses the OT contrasts with a one-dimensional use of the OT simply as a backdrop for the facts of the gospel that many people today use.

But just what are these “one-dimensional propositional accounts”? What does he mean by “gospel speech-act”? What are the “overly sharp attempts to pare off” the gospel response and its offered blessings from the facts of the gospel, and who is doing the paring? I don’t know, but this is one of final main points. To give (what I thought to be) a vague expression of how we shouldn’t interpret the OT without explaining what that looks like is disappointing. Many may continue on without realizing their own one-dimensional interpretations. 

Recommended?

I would assign this book if I taught a hermeneutics class in a Bible college, and at least a few chapters if I taught this in a high school. It’s a good subset of larger Biblical theologies that keeps an eye on what the individual biblical authors are teaching their readers. They each have something specific they want to emphasize (multiple things, really), and it all fits under the heading of God’s Word.

Interpreting Scripture requires sweat, skill, and character. We work and develop the skill of learning how to read and understand it properly, and as God develops our character and shapes us into the image of his Son, we will understand better just who this God is who is working in the world around us. The fear of God which leads to godly wisdom “is a way of living with unanswered questions that still bears true witness, keeps faith with friends, maintains integrity, and hopes in God” (80). 

The reading and interpretation of God’s word should continually shape us into the image of Christ. The end goal of the Bible is not that we know every correct interpretation (taking up all of our time), but that we love God and serve others because we are transformed by interpreting what the Bible teaches us. We will never get to the end of the Bible, and we will never have all the answers. But we will eventually have to make decisions in life, and what we have learned from the Bible will inform those decisions. Learn to interpret well. 

Lagniappe

Author: David I. Starling
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Baker Academic (September 20, 2016)
Podcasts: OnScript with Matthew Bates

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Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Academic through the Baker Academic Bloggers program. 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: Colloquial Norwegian (O’Leary/Anderson)

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

colloquial-norwegian

It’s one thing to know the structure of the language, it’s another to be able to speak that same language to others. While Norwegian Grammar has many good helps with idiomatic phrases, it’s incredibly helpful to have a few Norwegian books with exercises in them. Colloquial Norwegian is one of those books.

Each chapter includes two Dialogues, one in Norwegian and the other in English. After this is a Vocabulary which contains new words found in the norsk dialogue. Then there are fill-in-the-blank, true or false, or writing exercises. Some chapters have a Culture section that explains an aspect of the Norwegian way of life related to the subject matter of the chapter. There are Language Points that explain some of the grammar from the chapter. There are charts and lists throughout the book, and in many places if you have the CD you can listen to the pronunciations of words (such as with the Dialogue sections). 

After Unit 14 there is a short reference grammar, a few pages on nynorsk, the book’s answer key, and then both a Norwegian-English glossary and an English-Norwegian glossary. 

Recommended?

You should begin learning Norwegian by working through Norwegian in 10 Minutes a Day. It gives basic understanding of the pronunciation by actually translating it phonetically next to the ‘norsk ord,’ and it teaches you a lot of basic Norwegian terms and phrases dealing with food, time, work, play, etc. 

Then move on to Colloquial Norwegian and then to Teach Yourself Norwegian. Personally, I favor TYN over CN, although with TYN the dialogues are mostly in Norwegian, with the occasional English sentence given for guidance. TYN also has sections on grammar and how to say a wealth of phrases in Norwegian. Both books are very similar, through they have their differences, and both books would serve you very well. 

The back cover of Colloquial Norwegian says that after completing this book, “you will be at Level B1 of the Common European Framework for Languages, and at the intermediate level on the ACTFL proficiency scales.” I think this is well worth working through so that you can be at that level. I didn’t receive the CD that comes with the book, but it would benefit you to use it. You might even impress your norsk neighbors (naboer) with your fancy pronunciations (meaning you don’t sound too American and you can actually roll your R’s).

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Margaret O’Leary og Torunn Andresen
  • Series: Colloquial Series
  • Paperback: 391 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (May 12, 2016)

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Disclosure: I received this book free from Routledge. 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: James (EEC), William Varner

JEEC

Besides being one of the administrators to a number of “nerdy” Facebook groups (I should add that they are wonderful groups which have helpful discussions on biblical languages and theology), William Varner is a Professor of Bible & Greek at The Master’s College and Seminary (where John MacArthur serves as President).

In the EEC series, “Each of the authors affirms historic, orthodox Christianity and the inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures” (xi). The EEC series is also the first series to be produced in electronic form. Besides being linked up with your other Logos resources, the benefit with this is that the authors can add and change their insights when they gain new insights (even 20 years from now). 

Though highly neglected for much of church history, the “last forty years . . . have witnessed both James and the writing attributed to him emerging into the brightness of a new day for Jacobean scholarship” (1). There have been at least thirty major commentaries since the 1970s. Why do we need another commentary on such a small letter? To quote Varner, “I can only say that there will always be a need for good commentaries on a biblical text, because ‘God yet has light to spring forth from His word,’” and “the application of fresh linguistic methods to exegetical analysis demands an occasional fresh look at familiar biblical passages” (1, fn 4).

Varner believes James to have been both the brother of Jesus and the leader of the church, the Jerusalem church and of the entire Jesus movement. The letter was written in Jerusalem in the mid-to-late 40s AD for Jewish-Christian congregations “in or around Syria” (18). Some of James’ main themes are God, the Messiah, the Holy Spirit, faith, wisdom, and eschatology. Both a kingdom and a judgment are waiting for us in the future, but also a part of that future kingdom is here now. We have the King’s “royal law” (2.8) now, and we experience the “new birth” (1.18) now too.

Layout

The layout of the series works pretty much the same for all volumes (for more detail, check out my review on the Ephesians volume). Generally, each section is separated into 9 different sections.

  1. Introduction
  2. Outline
  3. Original Text
  4. Textual Notes
  5. Translation
  6. Commentary
  7. Biblical Theology Comments
  8. Application and Devotional Implications
  9. Selected Bibliography

There are also 3 excursuses at the end of the commentary.

  1. Scot McKnight’s Treatment of James 2.18
  2. James 3.1-12: Can the Tongue Really Be Controlled?
  3. Wisdom in James

Conclusion

Sometimes when I review a commentary, knowing that a commentary can’t do everything, I try to suggest at least one other commentary to pair the reviewed copy with. I’m not really sure who I should suggest here. Moo’s PNTC volume is a wise choice, and Blomberg’s ZECNT volume will likely have great practical points. But when I really compared them to Varner, I found Varner to have more clarity and better application.

And really, the biggest difference was something small, simple, and often overlooked in a commentary: his outline. It’s not just the outline itself that is impressive, but his argument for it. Varner believes that 3.13-18 is the “thematic peak” of James (where it brings all of the themes together), and 4.1-10 is the “hortatory peak,” a section filled with exhortations, commands, loving rebuke, and encouragement to James’ readers to cut off their friendship with the world, to stop their selfish bickering, and to humble themselves before the majestic King of glory.

Martin Luther accused James of borrowing “a few ideas from the apostles” and then afterwards he “‘threw them on paper.’ Luther thought that the organization of the book was as bad as its doctrine” (62). Many others have found James’ structure to be equally elusive. Varner shows that the leader of the Church did know what he was talking about, and it sets this commentary apart from the rest as Varner guides through the commentary, showing us the word-signs that point backwards and forwards to reveal and to herald what has been and what is to come.

Varner’s commentary is technical, but in the Grammarian Desert you will also find equally refreshing pools of theology, theology that is biblically practical. He follows the flow of James’ river of wisdom and smoothes out gnarled passages (e.g., James 4.5). This should be on your shelf. Better yet, this should be open on your desk.

Lagniappe

  • Author: William Varner
  • Series: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary
  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Lexham Press (April 9, 2014)

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[Special thanks to Lexham Press for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book].

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Book Review: Ephesians (EEC), S. M. Baugh

EEEC

If you haven’t been able to tell, or if you haven’t seen the eight other posts I’ve written up about Baugh’s new Ephesians commentary, I’ve certainly enjoyed his new volume in the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series. “Each of the authors affirms historic, orthodox Christianity and the inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures” (xi). The EEC series is also the first series to be produced in electronic form. Besides being linked up with your other Logos resources, the benefit with this is that the authors can add and change their insights when they gain new insights. Unlike physical copies, the Logos volumes can be updated by their authors 20 years from now (not to downplay the physical books too much).

S. M. Baugh is Professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, California. He ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and he is mindful of the toils in both scholarship and the pastorate. Baugh didn’t set out to create brand new interpretations on Ephesians when he began working on this volume. Instead he used his particular interests and areas of study to illuminate the text for scholars, pastors, and students. His horde of interests include the classics, ancient history (especially Ephesus), Greek grammar, textual criticism, Greek literary composition and rhetoric, and, finally, biblical theology.

These interests come together to make a powerhouse of a commentary. As a technical commentary, this is one of the best (if not the best). But don’t think that this commentary was spit out to split hairs on Greek grammar. There is much to gain from this commentary for both the pastor and the student (see my Previous Posts below), not only the scholar.

Layout

The layout of the series works pretty much the same for all volumes. Generally, each section is separated into 9 different sections.

  1. Introduction: A brief overview of the section (e.g., 2.1-10) and where Baugh gives his periodic arrangement of the Greek text for that section.
  2. Outline: A simple outline for the text.
  3. Original Text: The text as it is in Greek
  4. Textual Notes: Differences between manuscripts
  5. Translation: Baugh’s English translation
  6. Commentary: A full explanation of the text.
  7. Biblical Theology Comments: How the teaching in the text fits with the rest of the Bible, or the New Testament, or Paul’s own teaching, etc.
  8. Application and Devotional Implications: A few paragraphs on how the reader can think about the text in their own personal life, or how a pastor could preach this to his congregation.
  9. Selected Bibliography: Bibliography of books mentioned throughout the chapter

Eight Additional Exegetical Comments sections are strewn throughout this volume. A few of the subjects covered are Redemption; Magic; Faith in/of Christ; and Wine in Ephesus.

Baugh agrees that Paul is the author of this epistle, and that Ephesians is one of “generic” character. There are “no serious problems or concerns with his addressees that led Paul to write Ephesians” (31). Ephesians has a “positive” and certainly “less polemic” tone than most of Paul’s other letters (31).

Baugh believes the main theme of the letter “is easy to summarize with the phrase unity in the inaugurated new creation” (35).The church’s unity is rooted in the Triune God’s counsel and redemptive love. The Messiah has complete sovereignty over the old powers of creation, especially magic. The new creation is entering this world.

Conclusion

While Baugh does give a special attention to magic in Ephesus, you would do well to pair his commentary with Clinton Arnold’s ZECNT volume on Ephesians. Arnold has done a lot of work on the influence of magic in the Greco-Roman world, and his commentary is extremely skilled in putting forward the main ideas of Paul’s letter while remaining very practical too.

Those who have a handle on Greek will be the ones who benefit the most from this volume. But while Baugh certainly goes into detail into his commentary, he also agrees that “it is important to keep the theological center of ‘unity in the inaugurated new creation’ in view . . . The trees are beautiful in themselves, but the whole forest is where the vision of majesty dwells.”

Again, if you want one of the best technical commentaries on Ephesians, then you need to pick up Baugh’s commentary. 

Lagniappe

  • Author: Steven Baugh
  • Series: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary
  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Lexham Press (April 27, 2016)

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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.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

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Review: Psalms 73-150

Psalms

Derek Kidner was a brilliant British Old Testament scholar. He taught at Oak Hill Theological College before becoming Warden of Tyndale House. He wrote many commentaries in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series and The Bible Speaks Today (BST) series. He has written volumes on the books of Genesis, Ezra–Nehemiah, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Jeremiah, and Hosea.

Here I’ll review his commentary on Psalms 73-150 (Books III to V) in the Kidner Classic Commentaries series. At just over 240 pages this serves as a nice, thick completion to his commentaries on the Psalms. Each Psalm is given between 3-6 pages. Kidner doesn’t treat the Psalms as just words on a page. They are life.

Examples

In Psalm 93 the Psalmist proclaims that “The Lord is king!” And Kidner insightfully reminds us that “It confronts us afresh with a fact whose impact on us may have weakened; and further, its decisive tense points on to the day when the King will come in power…” (370). Neither does Kidner forget to read the Psalms in context as he recognizes that the “King who will come to power” is a prominent theme in the surrounding psalms, especially 96 to 99.

In Ps 113, who is like the Lord? No one. “It is here that God’s glory most sharply differs from man’s: a glory that is equally at home ‘above the heavens’ (4) and at the side of one forlorn person” (437). God’s glory is seen in “giving the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother” (v9).

The next Psalm (114) also begins in a tremendous fashion and ends in a whispered wonder: The whole earth trembles before God’s majesty, and He directs his power “to the point of need, transforming what is least promising [a desert] into a place of plenty and a source of joy,” a place to water and feed His people (438).

The Chocolate Milk

He doesn’t allow himself to fall into the mire of despair, that swamp of gritty details and mindless facts. Kidner is brief and crisp. He takes conservative views on the Psalms. Discussions about the Hebrew text are usually placed in the footnotes.

You’ll have to look elsewhere if you want in-depth word studies, structure of the psalm(s), literary analysis, reading the Psalms as a canonical unit, or opposing views. Although some will want to look for other commentaries on the Psalms, not everyone wants all of the extra analyses. These volumes are especially helpful for the pastor, the student, and as a morning devotional (with some extra details).

Kidner’s volume works best if you have both volumes. Volume 1 has the Introduction and exegesis of Books I and II. Volume 2 continues on the page number where Vol 1 left off (so Vol 2 starts on page 285). So a reference back to “page 12” means page 12 in Vol 1. There is no Bibliography in Vol 2, so I assume its in Vol 1. Nevertheless, you really ought to own both.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Derek Kidner
  • Series: Kidner Classic Commentaries (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 242 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (October 5, 2014)

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(Special thanks to IVP Academic for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book).

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