Review: Ephesians (EGGNT)

27777748Benjamin L. Merkle is Associate Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Apart from writing numerous published articles, Merkle has authored several books and co-authored the recently released and highly acclaimed Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: A Intermediate Study of the Grammar, Syntax, and Exegesis of the New Testament (with Andreas J. Köstenberger and Robert L. Plummer). Still, most recently, Merkle has contributed the newest volume to the growing and increasingly useful Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) series.

This volume on Ephesians, much like the existing EGGNT volumes, is structured to optimize the reader’s understanding of the Greek text and facilitate a deeper recognition of the various nuances therein. Merkle begins with a brief introduction to the epistle that helpfully establishes the primry building blocks of the letter. However, while those interested in a fuller treatment of introductory issues will need to look elsewhere, Merkle offers enough information to get the reader properly acquainted with the epistle. I was especially surprised and appreciative of Merkle’s conversation surrounding the original recipients of the letter. Those who are familiar with the letter to the Ephesians should know the debate about the recipients and the textual variant in 1:1. Merkle affirms “in Ephesus” as the original reading for the recipients and provides some valid textual reasons for doing such.

The organization of the volume is arranged around a phrase-by-phrase analysis of the Greek text. Merkle provides extensive conversation concerning grammar, syntax, word usage, textual variants, and almost anything else exegetically significant to the text. The content requires a working knowledge of Greek, but Merkle is clear and careful when communicating technical concepts. Another useful feature of this volume is the Greek sentence diagraming that is offered at the beginning of each major section of text. This is helpful for quickly visualizing how the text joints together to establish Paul’s point. Each major section likewise concludes with a “For Further Study” section that takes various themes unearthed in the section and provides the reader with a bibliography for additional investigation. Lastly, Merkle has provided recommended preaching outlines that allow the reader to work from the text established in the volume to the sermon preached in the pulpit.

There is much to be praised about this volume. First, and probably foremost, Merkle is very well acquainted with the letter to the Ephesians and his sensitivity to the broader academic conversation concerning textual issues and grammatical debate is noticeable. Second, I found Merkle to be extremely thoughtful in his explanation of difficult concepts. He is clearly aware of his primary audience and knows that a variegated knowledge of the Greek language is found therein. This is beneficial for the pastors or students who are less frequently working out of the Greek text but have some formal training or exposure. Third, the scope of this volume’s content is impressive given its small footprint. Merkle has crammed a lot of relevant and useful information into a small package. In fact, I am confident to say that if you pair this volume with any of the recommended commentaries, you will be well equipped to preach or teach through the letter of Ephesians with excellence.

Ephesians: Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament by Benjamin L. Merkle is an exciting addition to an already exhilarating series. Merkle’s contribution fits extremely well with the quality and caliber that the EGGNT series has already produced, and I think that any serious student of the Bible would be ill-equipped without it. If you have been looking for a resource that will guide you through the depths of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, then look no further, because this will continually be your first stop on that journey. It comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of this books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: The Mind of the Spirit

27066913The Mind of the Spirit: Paul’s Approach to Transformed Thinking by Craig S. Keener is both dense with detail and saturated with a familiarity of the Greco-Roman world. This isn’t a book for the faint of heart, but the payoff is well worth the journey. Keener seeks to provide a contrast between the corrupted mind and the transformed mind, not by providing a long list of rules and regulations, but rather by presenting various windows into a new reality (p. 253).

Transformed thinking (or the renewing of mind) is the result of embodying the mindset of Christ and contemplating the things of God. This reality, according to Keener, is a continual and daily undertaking for the believer. Keener explains, “Walking by the Spirit rather than by the flesh requires a continuing, deliberate rethinking and retuning, with many determined decisions to believe God’s truth about our identity, until our brain is rewired enough that the new way becomes the more prevalent way” (p.263). Thus, the renewing of the mind is actualized by regular and predictable patterns of thought and reflection upon the things of Christ.

While this is a necessary task for the believer, and one aided by the transforming power of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit, it is likewise an increasingly difficult task. There exists today a tension in this world (and churches) that seems to negate the need for a transformed mind in the life of the believer. Keener rightly reminds the reader that despite the overwhelming joy of a life governed by the transformed mind of the Spirit, such is by no means an escape from the realities of the tension and conflict in this life (p. 258). That is, for Keener, taking up the mind of the Spirit is a daily endeavor that takes discipline and determination despite the world around us.

The aim of The Mind of the Spirit is admirable and Keener has accomplished his purpose therein with much to be praised. Keener’s expertise in the background literature of the New Testament and his deep-seated longing to see the people of God flourish in all that God has for them in this life is contagious. This is a much needed subject of discussion that has, until now received very little serious and scholarly attention. The reader will appreciate the clarity and conviction that Keener has brought to the table, and leave encouraged knowing that such transformation is available today—indeed, available now! This is a book that will be read across Christian disciplines for many years to come. It comes highly recommended!!

 

I received a review copy of this books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Eschatology

26314330Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches edited by D. Jeffrey Bingham and Gleen R. Kreider is a collection of twenty-eight essays, written by various contributors, divided into four major sections: (1) the doctrine of the future and its foundations, (2) the doctrine of the future in the Bible, (3) the doctrine of the future in the history of Christian thought, and (4) the doctrine of the future and Christian ministry. The project as a whole is a Festschrift in honor of Craig Alan Blaising on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday and begins with a brief biography written by Steven L. James.

Eschatology includes a number of well-known contributors generally associated with some form of dispensational theology (although this is not exclusively the case), such as, Charles C. Ryrie, Daniel I. Block, Mark F. Rooker, Darrell L. Bock, David L. Allen, Paige Patterson, David S. Dockery, R. Albert Mohler Jr., and many more. The essays are wide-ranging and informative, and while the undertone of the book is clearly favorable to a dispensational framework, all of the contributions are evenhanded and well-informed concerning the larger conversation. That is, these essays are not akin to some of the other, more radically inclined dispensational literature currently on the market.

The praises for this volume are numerous. I am personally not someone who subscribes to any form of dispensational theology, and yet I found several of the essays (indeed large sections of the book) to be more than beneficial with regards to eschatology in general. This was especially the case for me in the third section of the book that dealt with the doctrine of the future in the history of Christian thought. Here the essays trace the conversation from the Apostolic Fathers to the contemporary engagements and nearly everywhere between. Still, the most helpful and engaging section, I thought, was the discussion of the future in the Old and New Testament.

Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches edited by D. Jeffrey Bingham and Gleen R. Kreider is an excellent introduction to the study of the last things. This is a volume that will prove helpful for the pastor and interested layperson, as well as a possible introductory textbook for a seminary course. The contributors are well-respected and well-acquainted with the issues at hand, and the scope of these essays promises to provide something for all interested in the Christian doctrine of the future. While theological disagreement will be inevitable for those who have broken from pop culture Christianity, Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches will build a foundation worth reevaluation and consideration for years to come. It comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of this books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: The Mosaic of Christian Belief

26598226The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity (2nd ed.) by Roger E. Olson is an up-to-date, revised and expanded exploration into the history of Christian doctrine. As with the previous edition, Olson does an excellent service to the reader by thematically tracing the contours of Christianity down through the centuries in and easy-to-read package. Olson carefully unearths much of the consensus teaching to be discovered in the history of the Church, including details surrounding various areas of doctrinal diversity, and adds an additional chapter on the Holy Spirit.

There is much to be excited about here. First, and probably foremost, Olson does an incredible job keeping his audience in focus as he surveys the land of theological belief. Olson makes historical theology exciting and accessible for the nonspecialist. Second, Olson’s overall tone is to be appreciated as he interacts with various figures and ideas that have plagued the history of Christianity—some for good, others not so much. Third, while addressing various doctrines (divine revelation, the Trinity, divine providence, Christology, Soteriology, Eschatology, etc.), Olson constructs a picture (or mosaic) of Christian belief as it has been handed down through the centuries. The benefits of this are immediately accessible to the reader and compound as the journey continues.

Those familiar with Olson’s work will be able to easily detect his theological bias and Arminian presuppositions. This framework is visible throughout and should be noted. However, compared to some of Olson’s other works, The Mosaic of Christian Belief is much more mild and balanced. If you identify with Olson’s tradition, you will likely find his analysis helpful and cooperative in your convictions. Those who do not identify with Olson’s theological tradition will unavoidably approach disagreement more frequently than others. Still, as one who rarely agrees with Olson, for the reasons mentioned above (and more), I found The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity to be an excellent (possibly even one of the best) introduction to historical theology.

 

I received a review copy of this books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Paul and Judaism Revisited

17364976Paul and Judaism Revisited: A Study of Divine and Human Agency in Salvation by Preston Sprinkle is an exciting and refreshing investigation into the thought and theology of Paul as it relates to Second Temple Judaism. This book follows in the footsteps of Sprinkle’s previous work Law and Life: The Interpretation of Leviticus 18:5 in Early Judaism and in Paul (2008). In fact, much of the research and questions answered in Paul and Judaism Revisited arose out of the latter investigation. In both of these works, Sprinkle has shown with clarity the divergence of Pauline thought from that of Early Judaism and thus has provided a significant contribution to the ongoing conversation pegged by the New Perspective on Paul (NPP).

Paul and Judaism Revisited sets out “to compare soteriological motifs in Paul and Qumran in order to better understand how these two Second Temple communities understood divine and human agency in salvation” (p. 36). For Sprinkle, there appears to be no straightforward line of continuity between Paul and the Qumran communities concerning a singular soteriological motif. Moreover, as Sprinkle acknowledges, there doesn’t even appear to be a line of continuity within the Qumran community itself. This diversity adds to the complexity of understanding Paul and does much to undermine traditional and NPP soteriological claims. Sprinkle presents a portrait of Paul that is framed within a Prophetic Restoration structure rather than the Deuteronomic Restoration structure generally found in the Qumran communities.

Paul and Judaism Revisited: A Study of Divine and Human Agency in Salvation by Preston Sprinkle is an excellent book for anyone interested in Pauline thought concerning salvation, the NPP, Second Temple Judaism, and the intersection of any of these areas of study. Sprinkle has offered a fresh and up-to-date exploration of one of the most frequently traveled roads in biblical-theological studies today. While disagreement will assuredly come from those rooted within the NPP, the caliber of Sprinkle’s work cannot be denied, and his presentation should be praised. This is a book that will make you think long and hard about the external influences on Paul’s thought and theology, and provide grounds for reevaluation and consideration therein. As with all of Sprinkle’s books, this book comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of this books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Delivered from the Elements of the World

26598227Peter J. Leithart is President of Thepolis Institute for Biblical, Liturgical, and Cultural Studies in Birmingham, Alabama, and adjunct Senior Fellow of Theology at New St. Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. Leithart is ordained in the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches. He has earned an M.A.R. and a Th.M. from Westminster Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. Leithart has written numerous books on a wide range of biblical and theological topics. Most recently, Leithart has provided an up-to-date, well-researched, and thoroughly documented investigation into the unique nature and function of the Atonement for everyday life—Delivered from the Elements of the World: Atonement, Justification, and Mission.

Delivered from the Elements of the World is primarily concerned with repositioning the dialogue of atonement towards a more practical and applicable social theory. It is here that Leithart offers a helpful approach that detaches the abstractness of the doctrine and shines a fresh light of practicality into the contemporary conversation. The process of developing this reality is founded in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (specifically Paul’s words “the elementary principals of the world” in Galatians 4) and provides the reader with a host of biblical-theological themes that will cultivate deeper reflection. For Leithart, the person and work of Christ has brought about a required social change that challenges every corner of society, as the world is no longer bound by “elementary principals” but the lordship of Christ—a reality that affects all mankind (p. 203), including Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Jews (p. 239-257).

Delivered from the Elements of the World will be recognized as controversial despite Leithart’s efforts to stay within the confines of orthodoxy. Nevertheless, while there were a few disagreements here and there, I found the overall intention and approach of Leithart’s work to be rather refreshing and creative. It isn’t often that you come across something new and exciting when it comes to the atonement. It tends to be the same conversations and the same debates using the same points of argument and the same biblical references. Leithart’s work is different. It was practical and inviting, and yet scholarly and well-researched. Leithart hypothesizes about the implications of the atonement in such a way that the reader will be challenged more deeply to live within the reality of Christ’s atoning work—and, for that reason alone, Delivered from the Elements of the World: Atonement, Justification, and Mission is a book that should be read and pondered by all. It comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of this books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Truth in a Culture of Doubt

TruthInCultureDoubt_cover.indd

In a world saturated with skepticism and doubt, there remains few books that are more important and helpful than Truth in a Culture of Doubt by Andreas J. Köstenberger, Darrell L. Bock, and Josh D. Chatraw. This conservative trio seeks to critically examine the claims of one of today’s leading skeptics, Bart D. Ehrman, and provide a rational defense of biblical Christianity and the reliability of the Bible. The result has given Christian leaders one of the most noteworthy books for equipping the church to engage the culture in recent times.

The book is comprised of five chapters. Each chapter seeks to tackle Ehrman’s challenges to Christianity or the Bible one by one. Chapter one, “Is God Immoral because He allows suffering?” begins the conversation with a look at several of Ehrman’s claims arising out of his book God’s Problem. Köstenberger, Bock, and Chatraw address claims such as “the Bible’s explanation of suffering and evil are not satisfying” and “the God of the Bible is immoral, and therefore, he doesn’t exist.” The interaction of the authors is well suited for those wrestling with such claims and helpful and informative for those who don’t but are engaging with those who do. Chapter two, “Is the Bible full of irresolvable contradictions?” addresses an onslaught of common attacks on the unity of the Bible.

Chapter three, “Are the biblical manuscripts corrupt?” does an excellent job getting to the heart of Ehrman’s skepticism and examining how his skeptical presupposition flavor his reading of the evidence. Chapter four, “Were there many Christianities?” dismantles Ehrman’s repackaging of the Bauer Thesis. This is familiar ground for the authors, especially Köstenberger who authored The Orthodoxy of Heresy (Crossway, 2010) with Michael J. Kruger. Chapter five, “Are many New Testament documents forged?” the issue of authorship is addressed, and done so with a keen awareness of the underlying issues that bolster the skeptical claims of Ehrman and others. This final chapter is among the most beneficial for those familiar with the conversations that take place in the public sphere.

There are a number of helpful features of this book that make it especially useful for Christian leaders and those seeking to assist others to engage better with skeptical challenges to the Bible. For example, each chapter concludes with a handful of discussion questions to facilitate group reflection. Moreover, each chapter opens with a brief list of the claims addressed within the chapter, and the chapter proceeds to address each claim one by one. This organization is especially helpful for quick reference. Speaking of quick reference, the book concludes with a glossary of terms, a quick response section, and a general index. The quick response section provides short answers to each of the claims treated more fully in the chapter—an indispensable addition to an already useful book.

Truth in a Culture of Doubt by Andreas J. Köstenberger, Darrell L. Bock, and Josh D. Chatraw is a book that deserves a spot on the bookshelf of all serious students of the Bible. Those who engage with culture and have yet to engage with this book are likely ill-equipped for such task. Köstenberger, Bock, and Chatraw have provided a clear, concise, and calculated resource that will strengthen your faith and equip you to present truth in a culture of doubt. It comes highly recommended!!

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.