Review: The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic?

8218468Michael Rydelnik is Professor of Jewish Studies in the Intercultural Studies Department at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He has a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary and a DMiss from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Rydelnik was an OT Translator for The Holman Christian Standard Bible, a contributor to The Moody Bible Commentary and various Study Bibles, and the author of the present volume The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? (B&H Academic, 2010).

The Messianic Hope opens with a helpful introduction to orient the readers to the study of messianic prophecy in the OT. Rydelnik does well in the initial chapters to define key terms and delineate the shift away from a messianic interpretation of the OT. For Rydelnik, there appears to be a growing chasm of conviction between those that view messianic prophecy as explicitly predictive and those that view it as merely an ultimate end that points towards the Messiah. This is an appropriate foundation and Rydelnik does an admirable job interacting with recent scholarship.

Following the initial chapters, Rydelnik directs the reader’s attention towards various perspectives on messianic prophecy. While all the chapters are meaningful and important for the holistic portrait that Rydelnik paints, two chapters are particularly significant to the thesis of the book. First, the chapter on the innerbiblical perspectives on messianic prophecy offers readers a glimpse into how the OT interprets and understands itself, but especially messianic passages. Second, the chapter on the NT perspectives on messianic prophecy offers a similar window into the OT messianic passages but from a NT vantage point, including Jesus’ own understanding of messianic passages.

Beyond the establishment of the major thrust of his argument concerning messianic prophecy, Rydelnik offers the reader three examples from the three major divisions of the Hebrew Bible—Law (Gen. 3:15), Prophets (Isa. 7:14), and Writings (Ps. 110). These examples help the reader to observe the method and consistency of Rydelnik’s approach. I found the examples particularly helpful to bring together the bits of Rydelnik’s study that weren’t as clear early on in the book. Where Rydelnik shines is his keen ability to uncover the interpretive nuances of messianic prophecy. Where I would have liked to see Rydelnik do a bit more exploration is in the arena of reception history. Nevertheless, Rydelnik has provided a goldmine of interpretive and biblical-theological treasure.

The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? By Michael Rydelnik is an outstanding push against a growing interpretive trend. Rydelnik is consistently kind and courteous in his interactions with his opponents. But, more than that, he is readable and aware of his target audience. If you’re looking for a book that will encourage your heart towards an appreciation of the forward-pointing nature of the OT, then Rydelnik will be indispensable. It comes highly recommended with little reservation despite some interpretive disagreement.


Review: The Old Testament in Archaeology and History

61xDBGUZeALThe Old Testament in Archaeology and History edited by Jennie Ebeling, J. Edward Wright, Mark Elliott, and Paul V. M. Flesher is a captivating collection of essays by an international team of specialists on matters OT history and archaeology. The contributors include Victor H. Matthews, K. L. Noll, Jill Baker, Ann E. Killebrew, William G. Dever, Richard S. Hess, and many more. Together these essays combine the most noteworthy archaeological findings of the past 150 years with modern historical and literary analysis of the Old Testament to recount the history of ancient Israel and its neighboring nations and empires. While a full review is certainly warranted, it is not possible in the limited space available here. Thus, the following will review the overarching landscape of the book and comment on some of the important contributions that it makes for the target audience.

The Old Testament in Archaeology and History consist of five major sections: (1) Archaeology, the Bible, and Epigraphy: Discovery, Techniques, and Development, (2) Israel before Settling in the Land, (3) Israel Settles in the Land of Canaan, (4) The Kingdom of the People Israel, and (5) Judah as a Province. The initial chapters of the book aim to orient the reader towards the various aspects of the field archaeology, biblical studies related to the OT world, and the development of archaeological studies in the Middle East over the last two centuries. The following chapters aim to explore the history of ancient Israel through related archaeological insights in a chronological fashion from the Bronze Ages onward.

Sections 4 and 5 are more neatly presented than sections 2 and 3 due to the nature of the material being discussed. The former addresses “the People of Israel in the land of Israel, beginning with David’s creation of the Israelite kingdom and continuing to its split into two smaller countries and then to their destruction and the exile of their inhabitants, followed by the return of some exiles and their re-establishment of the Israelite community in the land” (p. 8). This section is by far more historically established, albeit considerable debate exists among scholars, and the essays prove to be equally grounded and beneficial to the aim of the book. The latter section concerns a period of Israelite history that is less established but equally as interesting, and 7 chapters in this section prove to be influential to the book’s academic value from an archaeological and historical perspective.

Ebeling, Wright, Elliott, and Flesher have intentionally sought to ensure that The Old Testament in Archaeology and History functions as an introductory textbook. Readers of all backgrounds and interest levels will appreciate the tone and care taken by the contributors and editors to make sure the information therein is both useful and appropriately positioned. This is a massive benefit of a volume of this caliber and a huge advantage for professors looking to integrate this textbook into the classroom. The footnotes are keet at a minimum and citations generally utilize parenthetical documentation with the works appearing in the bibliography in the back of the book. Depending on one’s love for footnotes, this aspect of the book could be a shortcoming in disguise. Overall, I appreciated the chronological organization of the chapters. In my opinion, the organization was useful in observing how the archaeological and historical data intersected and cooperated as the author construct a particular portrait of Israel. Lastly, most chapters include maps and images to connect the content to illustrations, as well as highlighted terms that appear in the glossary. This allows the reader points of connection and useful reference for further study or future use.

The Old Testament in Archaeology and History edited by Jennie Ebeling, J. Edward Wright, Mark Elliott, and Paul V. M. Flesher is both ambitious all the right ways. The sheer scope of the volume offers readers a more than adequate portrait of ancient Israel within the OT world. The shortcomings of this volume should not be a surprise to most readers (i.e. inconsistency between the contributors and a variegated commitment among contributors to the core convictions of conservative Christianity concerning the OT). That said the usefulness of this volume should far outshine the minimal complaints found therein. In fact, don’t be surprised if you see it shows up on a syllabus near you this fall semester. It comes highly recommend for anyone interested in the OT studies, archaeology related to ancient Israel, or anything related OT history in general.

Review: God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments

539735James M. Hamilton Jr. is Professor of Biblical Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Hamilton has a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary and a PhD from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Hamilton is the author of numerous books in the field of biblical theology, including God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgement: A Biblical Theology, What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, and With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology. Still, one of Hamilton’s most widely received books remains God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments.  

God’s Indwelling Presence was the inaugural volume in the coveted New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology series. Hamilton set the pace of the series with a captivating study on the work of the Holy Spirit. Hamilton does much to bring canonical continuity to the discussion as he explores the details of the biblical text while remaining focused on the broader goal. Hamilton begins by orienting the reader towards the study, which beings in the Old Testament and moves (rather quickly) into the New. The major emphasis of Hamilton’s examination on the work of the Holy Spirit focuses on the concepts of indwelling, regeneration, baptism, and empowerment, and he spends a fair amount of time on each. Beyond the main content of the book, Hamilton provides three useful appendixes on relevant passage and themes in the New Testament.

An interesting aspect of the book, though rightly placed in my opinion, is the amount of emphasis that Hamilton devotes to the nature of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of the old covenant believer. For Hamilton, while old covenant believers were regenerate, as the Fourth Gospel seems to indicate rather clearly (Jn. 7:36; 16:7), they did not experience the same indwelling that characterized new covenant believers. Additionally, Hamilton’s interaction with the theme of the dwelling place of God (i.e. tabernacle, temple, new covenant believers) is excellent. Not only does he offer readers with a clear biblical-theological path, but he brings the weight of the application to life with the implications of a living temple. The only foreseeable shortcoming of the book is found in the theological assumptions that some readers may not be willing to themselves assume. Though this would have made the volume more comprehensive, I’m not convinced that such would have added much to the more narrow focus of the volume.

God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments by James M. Hamilton Jr. is a fascinating journey into a question that will eventually cross the mind of every Christian. Hamilton is a respected scholar and a learned biblical theological voice. Not only does he offer the reader insight into the biblical narrative and the work of the Holy Spirit therein, but he brings it home to the life of the believer. It comes highly recommended!

Review: The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes

9133273The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes edited by Thomas Schreiner and Matthew Crawford is a far-reaching collection of essays on Communion from a biblical, historical, theological, and practical perspective. The contributors include a number of established Baptist scholars, such as Andreas J. Köstenberger, Jonathan T. Pennington, James M. Hamilton Jr., Gregg R. Allison, Bruce A. Ware, and more.

The Lord’s Supper opens with a brief introduction to orient the reader towards the volume. The initial three chapters are devoted to the biblical framework for the practice of Communion. The opening chapter by Köstenberger establishes the Lord’s Supper as a Passover Meal and provides readers a positive presentation with noteworthy interaction to critical voices. Pennington surveys the theme of the Lord’s Supper in the Fourfold Gospels, including the Passover festival and the New Exodus and the inauguration of the New Covenant. Lastly, the Hamilton investigates the Pauline epistles emphasizing the corporate nature of the Lord’s Supper, including the pastoral and theological implications of such practice in the life of the Church.

The following chapters are primarily historical in nature and survey the Patristic Era through the Reformation and beyond, including the views of the Catholic Church, Luther, Zwingli, and the various issues that surround open and closed communion in Baptist history. It would have been helpful to have a more widespread treatment of the Lord’s Supper from the Baptist perspective, but the contributors offer implicitly Baptist support throughout. The final chapters offer readers practical considerations regarding the role and administration of Communion in the life of the Church. These chapters provide a useful touchdown for the target audience as they seek to apply the content of the book to the practice of the church.

The extent of the essays in The Lord’s Supper is impressive and noteworthy. The reader is guided through the history of the Church and its Eucharistic expressions with thoroughness and clarity. Where I foresee some readers will be left wanting is in the area of biblical exposition. More specifically, interaction with the biblical text and the theme of the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. I thought that Köstenberger, Pennington, and Hamilton did an excellent job, but more could have been explored in the Gospels and beyond. The historical essays were well done but lacked a distinctly Baptist presentation of Communion. Nevertheless, The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes edited by Thomas Schreiner and Matthew Crawford remains one of the most comprehensive treatments on the market. It comes recommended with no reservations.

Review: Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament

30259211Gary A. Anderson is Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana. He received an M.Div. from Duke University and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Anderson is a past president of the Catholic Biblical Association and is the author of numerous books, including Charity: The Place of the Poor in Biblical Tradition (Yale University Press, 2013), Sin: A History (Yale University Press, 2009) and Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination (Westminster John Knox, 2001). Most recently, Baker Academic has published a fascinating collection of articles from some of Anderson’s previously published (with the exception of chapter 3) work on Christian theology and its intersection with the Old Testament.

Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament: Theology in the Service of Biblical Exegesis is made up of ten articles thematically organized into four sections: (1) Who Is a God Like You?, (2) In the Beginning, (3) The Word Became Flesh, and (4) Conformed to the Image of His Son. Each of the sections contains 2-3 essays, which seek to examine a doctrine and demonstrates how it is able to illuminate the intent of a biblical author. This approach may feel exegetically backward for most readers. But, as Anderson acknowledges and argues in the book, “theological doctrines need not be a hindrance to exegesis but, when properly deployed, play a key role in uncovering a text’s meaning” (p. xi).

The initial two chapters are concerned with the doctrine of God and uniquely approach the topic theological, as one would expect. Chapter one looks at Leviticus 10 through lenses of apophatic theology. Chapter two discusses the impassibility of God. Anderson takes a unique approach to the subject that might cause angst to many readers. Chapters three to five address creation, sin, and election. Chapters six and seven focus on the tabernacle from a Christological perspective and a Mariological perspective. Chapter eight returns to the theme of Christology but uses the deuterocanonical book of Tobit as a foundation for its examination of “suffering servant” figure. Chapters nine and ten draw attention to matters of Catholic theology (and one could argue that chapter seven on Mariology does the same), including the treasury of merits and purgatory. Most Protestant readers will lose interest here, although they are encouraged to remain alert. These last two chapters are chiefly important if readers are interested in observing Anderson’s methodology at work—allowing doctrine to illuminate the usefulness of biblical exegesis.

Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament: Theology in the Service of Biblical Exegesis offers a service to the Christian community in the inherent value that is observed in the Old Testament. I am grateful that Anderson takes the Old Testament seriously. Moreover, it is clear that Anderson is uniquely familiar with broader Jewish and Christian scholarship, especially those approaching the Old Testament from a canonical interpretative position. That said, where I think many readers will find Anderson’s approach difficult is in the seemingly backward nature of taking developed doctrine to the text to illuminate its intent. In many ways, it feels like Anderson is searching for something that he already found. I think Anderson’s perspective is helpful and needs to be taken seriously, but I’m not convinced that his approach is more important or methodologically sound than other interpretive approaches. Honestly, I left unsatisfied more times than not, though this may be more of a reflection of myself than Anderson.

Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament: Theology in the Service of Biblical Exegesis by Gary A. Anderson is well-written and intellectually engaging. Anderson is a brilliant thinker and his work suggests decades of thoughtful reflection. Anderson will make you think long and hard about theological topics that you thought you knew front and back. For sure, many readers will leave Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament unsatisfied with its sometimes-reaching conclusions. However, forfeiting engagement with a thinker like Anderson is not worth passing this volume up if you are interested in biblical interpretation or the Old Testament and its place in the Church today.

Review: The Old Testament is Dying

17321403Brent A. Strawn is Professor of Old Testament and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Strawn received an M.Div. and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the author of What is Stronger Than a Lion? Leonine Image and Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East, and the co-editor of several important works related to OT and ANE studies, such as The World Around the Old Testament: The People and Places of the Ancient Near East and The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law. Most recently, Strawn has released a blockbuster book focused on the nature of the Old Testament in contemporary Christianity—a book that should both cause concern and promote change in its readers.

The Old Testament is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment is a straightforward and clear examination of the state of Christianity in North America. Strawn exposes exactly what an observant Christian has likely been pondering for some time now: what’s happening to the Old Testament? As Strawn observes, “the Old Testament has ceased to function in healthy ways in . . . lives as sacred, authoritative, canonical literature. These individuals . . . do not regard the Old Testament in the same way (or as highly) as the New Testament, don’t understand the Old Testament, would prefer to do without the Old Testament, and for all practical purposes do exactly that by means of their neglect and ignorance of it, whether in private devotion or public worship or both” (p. 4-5). Strawn skillfully frames the investigation in terms of linguistic analogy to provide explanatory impact for the reader. Strawn rightly notes, “the Old Testament, like any other piece of literature or art—like any other way of figuring the world—is, or at least can be, a way of constructing reality, a way of understanding the world, and way of perceiving all that is, including ourselves” (p. 8).

The initial section of the book, The Old Testament as a Dying Language, is primarily focused on orienting the reader towards the diagnosis. Strawn overviews the case, provides initial testing by way of Pew Research surveys and the examination of ecclesiastical expressions, and further adds to the linguistic analogy—applying characteristics of pidginized and creolized languages to the modern landscape of Old Testament awareness. The second section, Signs of Morbidity, directs focus upon three groups: (1) New Atheists, (2) Marcionites Old and New, and (3) Happiologists. The interaction in this section is illuminating and telling. There is a clear and variegated problem that Strawn uncovers in these three groups and the reader will do well to observe the discussion therein. The third section, Path to Recovery, brings the recommended treatment to the table and offers readers a clear and detailed way forward, including a renewed passion for Hebrew and the aim to push past a pidginized or creole dialect towards a fully developed linguistic expression.

The Old Testament is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment is timely and important. Strawn combines a unique and observable understanding of both culture and Christian faith in North America, and he makes the symptomatic manifestation of a dying or dead Old Testament is visible on almost every street corner and pew. The diagnosis is soundly established and the recommendation provides a hope for the future. In my opinion, Strawn has rightly identified a problem that deserves immediate and full attention, because once a language dies an identity soon follows. Thus, not only is the book readable and engaging, but the content of the message and the establishment of the thesis are perfectly positioned for readers to engage and act accordingly. If you are looking for a book that will likely challenge and expose some of your own frailties concerning the function of the Old Testament in your daily life, while also offering a feasible solution, then The Old Testament is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment is a perfect next read. It comes highly recommended and could easily be tagged as one of the most important books of the last year!

Review: Biblical Leadership

411A8jCsc+L._SX265_BO1,204,203,200_Biblical Leadership: Theology for the Everyday Leader edited by Benjamin K. Forrest and Chet Roden is a foundational volume that brings biblical theology to the arena of leadership resources. Most Christian leadership books on the market focus on practical principals or applicable models of personal experience. This approach is both helpful and needed, but visibly oversaturated even by a cursory glance on Amazon. It is here that Forrest and Roden fill a significant void and offer a unique exploration of Christian leadership through biblical-theological lenses that observe the Old and New Testament as divinely inspired Scripture.

Biblical Leadership brings together over thirty leading evangelical scholars to survey the whole Bible in order to draw out its practical and relevant leadership lessons. Most of the contributors come from the Baptist tradition and many from Liberty University. Other contributors include Robert B. Chisholm Jr., Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Tremper Longman III, Andrew E. Hill, Benjamin Merkle, Stanley E. Porter, William D. Mounce, Andreas J. Köstenberger, Peter H. Davids, and more. This list of contributors unlikely to grace the pages of any other leadership book on the market, and, if I’m honest, reason enough for many readers to find this volume enjoyable.

Biblical Leadership boasts thirty-three chapters—nineteen concentrated on the Old Testament and fourteen concentrated on the New. Not surprisingly, like other most multi-authored works, the usefulness of the chapters is fairly variegated although the scope is rather comprehensive. I found the New Testament contributions significantly more evenhanded than the Old, though the Old Testament did have a few standout chapters, such as Kaiser on Psalm 23 and Longman on leadership in Ecclesiastes. Still, despite some inconsistencies (and, to be fair, this is somewhat of a subjective description), the overall biblical-theological emphasis of the volume is strong and needed in the marketplace.

As a former student of Liberty University, I have had classes with or interacted with the content of many of these authors, including both Forrest and Roden. I have witnessed first-hand how the contributors of this volume not only articulate biblical leadership but live biblical leadership in the classroom and beyond. Still, the strength of this volume is discovered in the gap that it fills. Forrest and Roden have uncovered a foundation of leadership that should become the bedrock of all Christian leadership—a basis on which practical principals or applicable models of personal experience ultimately make sense.

For this reason alone that Biblical Leadership: Theology for the Everyday Leader edited by Benjamin K. Forrest and Chet Roden merits a place on the bookshelf of every aspiring Christian leader—professional and laity alike.