Review: The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-First Century

7226378Mark F. Rooker is Senior Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rooker is a respected Old Testament scholar and the author of several books, including commentaries on Leviticus and Ezekiel, the widely praised introduction The World and The Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament (with Michael Grisanti and Eugene Merrill), and the present volume on the Decalogue in the NAC Studies in Bible & Theology series.

The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-First Century is a practical tour de force into the ethical heartbeat of God that transcends all cultural bounds. For Rooker, readers of this volume will “clearly see that the Ten Commandments are founded on the creation account of Gen[esis] 1-2” (Author’s Preface). It is here that Rooker, again and again, uncovers the transcendent nature of the Ten Commandments as he independently explores the meaning and significance of each.

Rooker opens the volume with a useful introduction concerning the influence of the Decalogue on Western law and the significance of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, Judaism, and Christianity. Rooker does well to familiarize readers with the Ancient Near Eastern background of the Ten Commandments and properly position the Decalogue within the historical context of the biblical narrative.

Rooker explores each Commandment with both academic rigor and contemporary sensitivity. It is here that readers will appreciate the approach of this volume most. The Ten Commandments is laden with meaningful exegesis and seasoned reflection on nearly every page. Those looking for serious interaction with scholarship will be quickly satisfied as Rooker guides the reader through the Commandments. Still, Rooker likewise possesses a unique awareness of ethical implications of the Commandments on the Christian life. For Rooker, “the law is not understood as a means of salvation but as instruction regarding the shape a redeemed life is to take in everyday affairs . . . the Ten Commandments are absolute and ultimate. We do not observe them for social stability, for happiness, or for security and prosperity. The Ten Commandments manifest the attributes of God. Thus we should delight in carrying out His commands” (p. 199).

The regularity of balance between academic and pastoral concerns that Rooker demonstrates in this volume is both uncommon and unexpected. The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-First Century offers readers careful exegesis and relevant application. Rooker has breathed new life into the Decalogue for contemporary readers, and pastors, lay-leaders, and even laity will do well to inhale along with him. It comes highly recommended!

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Review: The End of the Law

6867841Jason C. Meyer is Associate Professor of Preaching at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Meyer received both an M.Div. and Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Meyer is the author of Preaching: A Biblical Theology, as well as the present volume on the Mosaic Law in Pauline Theology in the acclaimed NAC Studies in Bible & Theology series.

The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology is a captivating study of an important and often oversimplified aspect of Paul’s theological framework. Meyer appropriately provides a much-needed introduction to familiarize readers with the landscape of academic dialog regarding the relationship between the Mosaic and New Covenants. This is considered essential reading for those entering into the dialog, as Meyer does an extraordinary job exposing readers to the issues and methodologies involved.

Meyer begins the exploration with a look at the plural usage of diathēkē (“covenant”) in Romans 9:4 and Ephesians 2:12. For Meyer, these two passages offer two unique examples of the term that view the Mosaic Covenant in a transhistorical sense—portraying the Mosaic Covenant as one covenant in the historical progression of covenants that carry along God’s promise of messianic salvation (p. 274). Next Meyer examines Paul’s use of the adjectives “old” and “new” as they relate to covenant. Here Meyer concludes that the distinction is essential eschatological in nature, rather than merely temporal.

As Meyer turns attention to a three-part study of the Mosaic Covenant in the context of contrast, the examination focuses three important covenant passages: (1) 2 Corinthians 3-4, (2) Galatians 3-4, and (3) Romans 9-11. Meyer further ground the eschatological emphasis of Paul’s theology of covenant before concentrating on the Old Testament metaphor of the circumcision of the heart. Meyer concludes, “although both covenants called for a heart change, the old and new covenants differ in that the old was ineffectual, belonging to the old age, and could not create the heart change for which it called. The new covenant is an effectual covenant, belonging to the new age, and does create the heart change for which it calls” (p. 277).

The breadth and depth of The End of the Law is simply impressive. The cumulative case that Meyer presents is both persuasive and clear. Meyer has effectively synthesized Paul’s theology of the Old and New Covenants, and provided readers with a plethora of meaningful exegesis of the major passages along the way. It is readable and accessible for the average reader and detailed enough for the academics. It is evident that Meyer has done his homework and the footnotes are a testimony to the extensiveness of his research. The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology by Jason C. Meyer is a book that will reignite your heart with a passion for the gospel. It comes highly recommended!

Review: Progressive Covenantalism

25802608The nuanced differences between Dispensational and Covenantal theologies have stirred conversation for over a century. There have been numerous attempts to find common ground that encompasses the far-reaching nature of these differences, but unfortunately, most of the attempts have failed to be more than subtle modifications of an already deficient system. Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course between Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies edited by Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker has in many ways changed that trajectory for the better.

Progressive Covenantalism is a curated collection of essays that “seek to underscore the unfolding nature of God’s revelation over time, while . . . emphasiz[ing] that God’s plan unfolds through the covenant and all of the covenants find their fulfillment . . . and terminus in Christ” (p. 2). Furthermore, the essays included here exegetically and theologically underscore the substantial work of Stephen J. Wellum and Peter Gentry presented in Kingdom through Covenant (Crossway, 2012). Chapters 1-4 are targeted at various topics considered crucial to putting together the biblical covenants, including the relationship between Israel and the Church and the function of the Mosaic Law. Chapters 5-8 are more specifically concerned with issues related to covenant theology, including a fascinating essay by Thomas R. Schreiner on the Sabbath and an essay on the warning passages in Hebrews and the New Covenant Community. Finally, chapters 9-10 are concerned with issues that tend to arise within the framework of progressive dispensationalism, such as the appeal to Romans 11 concerning nature of future Israel and a captivating essay by Oren R. Martin on the nature of the Promise Land.

There is much to be praised about Progressive Covenantalism. All of the essays are well-written and appropriately targeted. Additionally, I think that most readers will find the exegetical and theological treatment of the various topics therein satisfying. There are some essays that readers will find to be more informative than others, but it will largely depend on one’s exposure to the ongoing dialog. That said Progressive Covenantalism is also an appropriate entry point for many readers looking to engage the issues at hand, as the interaction therein is both up-to-date and academically honest. Those who disagree with the essays presented in Progressive Covenantalism will be unable to simply dismiss the effort of the contributors. There is serious exegesis and biblical theological reflection that demands interaction at numerous levels. At the very least, Progressive Covenantalism has accomplished exactly what is set out to accomplish: to chart a course between dispensational and covenantal theologies.

Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course between Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies edited by Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker is a must-read resource for anyone interested in the discussion between these two theological camps. It offers readers a fresh presentation of an increasingly popular view while building upon the work of others in the process. It comes highly recommended!

Review: The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs

Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 8.10.39 PMThere are few aspects of New Testament Greek more problematic for students and professors than difficult and irregular verbs. Not only are they challenging to identify and memorize for students, but they are largely avoided or underemphasized in the classroom. What has been needed for some time is a concise resource that students and professors can use as a supplement to the traditional Greek grammar. The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs: Aids for Readers of the Greek New Testament by Jon C. Laansma and Randall X. Gauthier offers this much-needed reference tool in a brief and useful package.

The goal of The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs is to provide readers with a vocabulary assistance not found in other resources. The book is divided into two major sections: (1) a frequency list of difficult and irregular principal parts and (2) an alphabetical list of verbs with their compounds. There are also two appendixes, including paradigms of εἰμί and ἵημι in the present and imperfect forms and more. The organization of the volume is superb and the layout is similar to the previous volume in the series—The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek by Douglas S. Huffman.

The most useful part of The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs is the frequency list. This allows readers to quickly familiarize themselves with the most frequently difficult and irregular verbs found in the New Testament, thus foraging a well-traveled path to future mastery of the language. The alphabetical list is equally useful, but more so for potential reference than memorization. The only deficiency is the lack of New Testament examples or verse references. While likely outside the scope of the editor’s intention, it would have been a welcomed addition to have verse references and examples to connect the reader back to the Greek New Testament.

The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs: Aids for Readers of the Greek New Testament by Jon C. Laansma and Randall X. Gauthier is an essential resource that needs to be in the hands of every student of the Greek New Testament. It will be a go-to reference for both students and professors for the foreseeable future and will be used often. It couldn’t be more strongly recommended!

Review: 1, 2, and 3 John (SGBC)

34650040The Story of God Bible Commentary is an exciting and practical series that seeks to explain the Bible in light of the grand story of the biblical narrative. The editors and contributors for this series are top-tier scholars and pastors with seasoned insight and experience into the world of biblical interpretation and proclamation—making this series both a useful and attractive addition to the pastor’s library.

One of the most recent additions to the series is 1, 2, & 3 John by Constantine R. Campbell. Campbell is professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Campbell is a capable New Testament scholar and an influential thinker in the arena of Biblical Greek. Though The Story of God Bible Commentary is by no means an academic work, Campbell’s background is well situated for the focus on this series.

The commentary opens with a sizable introduction compared to other volumes in the series (20 pages for 1 John alone). Campbell comments on some of the major themes of the Johannine epistles (love, the centrality of Christ, sin and forgiveness, truth, and fellowship with God), authorship (Campbell affirms traditional author as John the Apostle), situation, similarities of 1 John to John’s Gospel, etc. Campbell treats both 2 and 3 John with similar yet separate, smaller introductions. While the series itself is somewhat characteristic of lackluster introductions, Campbell breaks the trend and offers readers a stellar orientation to 1, 2, & 3 John.

As the commentary proper opens the reader is guided passage-by-passage through three major sections: (1) LISTEN to the Story—includes the NIV translation with additional references to encourage the reader to hear the story within its broader biblical context, (2) EXPLAIN the Story—explores and illuminates each passage within its canonical and historical setting, and (3) LIVE the Story—reflects how each passage can be lived today and includes contemporary stories and illustration to aid teachers, preachers, and beyond.

Where Campbell shines, surprisingly, is in the application of the Johannine epistles. Readers who are familiar with Campbell might expect him to deliver results in the EXPLAIN section, and, to be honest, he does such extremely well. Campbell does an excellent job of keeping the story of God in view while navigating the Johannine epistles. That said, readers will be pleasantly surprised at how natural Campbell was able to move from exegesis to application here. It was both consistently meaningful and dependably appropriate for the contemporary audience. Readers may be slightly disappointed in the lack of attention spent on 2 and 3 John, but quality of Campbell’s interaction easily overshadows any possible shortcomings.

The Story of God Bible Commentary: 1, 2, & 3 John by Constantine R. Campbell is a magnificent contribution that offers a cohesive presentation of one of the most theologically overlooked of the New Testament epistles. Not only is he well-informed and easy to read, but Campbell is surprisingly keen on matters of practical application. This is a must have if you are studying the Johannine epistles and should be one of the first application commentaries off the shelf for the foreseeable future.

Review: Advances in the Study of Greek

23403812Constantine R. Campbell is Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Theological Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois. Campbell received a PhD from Macquaire University and is author of numerous books, including Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek (Zondervan, 2008), Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People (Zondervan, 2010), and Reading Biblical Greek: A Grammar for Students (with Richard J. Gibson, Zondervan, 2017). Still, one of the most important resources that Campbell has written for students of New Testament Greek is Advances in the Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading the New Testament (Zondervan, 2016). 

The goal of Advances in the Study of Greek is simple: to introduce students of New Testament Greek to the latest developments in Greek scholarship. Campbell covers a range of topics in a relatively short amount of space, including a brief history of Greek Studies from the nineteenth century to the present day, linguistic theories, lexical semantics and lexicography, deponency and the middle voice, verbal aspect and Aktionsart, discourse analysis, pronunciation, and more. A second-year level understanding of Greek is assumed, but not required for comprehension. At times the conversation hits a scholarly peak, but for the most part Campbell does an excellent job keeping a wider audience in focus. Campbell is clear and concise, and the organization of the volume is appropriate for both classroom or personal use. Moreover, each chapter concludes with a “Further Reading” section that allows interested readers to explore specific topics. The resources that Campbell provides appear to be both up-to-date and relevant for academic use or personal exploration, but most would accommodate the former given the nature of the volume.

There is much to appreciate in this volume, and at least two are worth mention here. First, and foremost, the organization and readability of the book surprised me. It is clear that Campbell has aimed towards a broader audience, and he succeeded without compromising or oversimplifying the issues. Thus, not only has Campbell made these topics more accessible to the community of Greek enthusiasts, but he has also implicitly moved the conversations forward as incoming and current students are now able to further engage. Second, the comprehensiveness of this volume and the amount of information crammed in such a small package is praiseworthy. Campbell has left almost no stone unturned in his treatment of the field. That said, I think that there was one obvious omission: textual criticism. If I’m completely honest, I was at least a little disappointed as I glanced through the table of contents. I recognize that the field of textual criticism is distinct in several ways from Greek linguistics. But, an acknowledgement of how textual criticism has and continues inform our study of the Greek language could have been a useful bridge to build.

Advances in the Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading the New Testament by Constantine R. Campbell is a worthwhile and enjoyable read for anyone interested in the developments that are and have occurred in Greek scholarship. Not only does Campbell inform the past and the present, but also has made a way forward for many students—both current and future. There is no better book on the market to orient yourself towards the recent research in New Testament Greek! It comes strongly recommended!

Review: 1 Peter (SGBC)

34377650The Story of God Bible Commentary is an exciting and practical series that seeks to explain the Bible in light of the grander story of the biblical narrative. The editors and contributors for this series are top-tier scholars and pastors with seasoned insight and experience into the world of biblical interpretation and proclamation—making this series both a useful and attractive addition to the pastor’s library.

One of the most recent additions to the series is 1 Peter by Dennis R. Edwards. Edwards is a brilliant communicator with more than two decades of pastoral ministry experience and degrees from Cornell University, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and The Catholic University of America. Edwards is well positioned for the focus on this series, and his perspective on 1 Peter as an African American thinker has produced results that are noticeable in this volume.

The commentary opens with a brief introduction to 1 Peter. Edwards comments on some of the distinctive features of the epistle, including the debate around authorship (Edwards affirms the traditional Petrine authorship of the epistle), date, the recipients, its placement in the story of God, and the major themes—suffering, holiness, and salvation. That said, like other volumes in the series, the introduction is somewhat lackluster. This isn’t the fault of Edwards. It’s simply the nature of the series.

As the commentary proper opens the reader is guided passage-by-passage through three major sections: (1) LISTEN to the Story—includes the NIV translation with additional references to encourage the reader to hear the story within its broader biblical context, (2) EXPLAIN the Story—explores and illuminates each passage within its canonical and historical setting, and (3) LIVE the Story—reflects how each passage can be lived today and includes contemporary stories and illustration to aid teachers, preachers, and beyond.

When issues arise where theological/interpretive disagreements are inevitable, Edwards does an exceptional job steering the concerns towards the purpose of the epistle within the overarching portrait of the story of God. In this respect, Edwards exemplifies how to handle the text in a contemporary context with a corporate emphasis. Edwards does a fantastic job connecting the context and situation of 1 Peter to the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. This awareness is, in my opinion, is one of the greatest aspects of Edwards’ work, and it will prove invaluable for the sensitive pastor or teacher looking to reach the world around them.

The Story of God Bible Commentary: 1 Peter by Dennis R. Edwards is a unique contribution that offers a unified presentation of one of the most theologically significant of the Petrine epistles. Edwards is well-informed and easy to read, and any lack of distinctive interpretive contribution is made up for in his keen ability to keep sight of the whole amid the details. This is an excellent and worthwhile read if you are studying 1 Peter!