Review: Since the Beginning

9780801030697Since the Scientific Revolution, there have been few biblical passages that have caused readers more interpretive confusion than the opening chapters of Genesis. The reason for the confusion is multidimensional, but the cause is clearly observed: modern readers are predisposed to approach the biblical text with modern questions—inquires that are cataclysmically divorced from the ancient mind. It is here that Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the ages, a new multi-authored volume edited by Kyle R. Greenwood, helpfully positions readers to observe the interpretive linage that been inherited—a unique vantage point to determine why one believes what they believe and evaluate its merit against the authorial intent to the biblical writer.

Since the Beginning contains eleven chapters and over 30 sidebars. The chapters are assigned to well-known scholars of particular interpretive timeframe and take readers from Old Testament reverberations of Genesis 1 and 2 to a post-Darwinian approach, including literature from within Second Temple Judaism, early Rabbinic writings, Ante-Nicene to Post-Nicene documents, and more. The sidebars cover a number of important subjects, including various biblical passages, historical figures, cultural concepts, and more. Each chapter of the book focuses on a specific interpretive framework from a particular age and addresses four major interpretive issues: (1) treatment of the days, (2) cosmology, (3) creation and nature of humanity, and (4) garden of Eden. Occasionally some of the categories are combined into a single discussion or addressed in different order, but the structure remains largely the same throughout the volume.

The organization of the volume is uniquely positioned to cultivate learning on an increasingly divisive passage from Genesis. The structure helps readers systematically peer into important issues age by age and issue by issue. I found each of the chapters to be surprisingly rich with insight and balanced. This isn’t something common to all multi-authored works. That said, the most useful chapters, in my opinion, were “Interpretations of Genesis 1-2 in Second Temple Jewish Literature” by Michael D. Matlock and “Rediscovery of the Ancient Near East and Its Implications for Genesis 1-2” by David T. Tsumura. The second of the two is a particularly important chapter for the modern reader, especially since it is the Ancient Near Eastern world that offers a historical backdrop for the biblical writer, and thus, becomes a proverbial backbone for contemporary comparative studies. I also enjoyed “Interpretations of Genesis 1-2 among the Protestant Reformers” by Jennifer Powell McNutt. I’ve found McNutt’s work on the Reformation extremely helpful and this chapter was no different.

There is much to praise about Since the Beginning. The organization, as noted above, is one of the most beneficial aspects of the book for readers. For those looking to plunge further into the content of each chapter, the author has included three sections curated to cultivate a journey: (1) For Further Reading, (2) Primary Texts, and (3) Primary Texts Online. The chapters are all well documented with footnotes and the sidebars are strategically placed for the reader to gain a better understanding of the primary source material. It should be noted that those who advocate for a “literal” reading of Genesis 1 and 2 will not find a supportive friend here. The tone of the book is in no way adversarial, but the authors aren’t concerned with supporting a particular position—especially modern positions weren’t even on the minds of most interpreters through the centuries.

Since the Beginning: Interpreting Genesis 1 and 2 through the ages edited by Kyle Greenwood is a timely contribution to an ongoing and frequently heated discussion. Often our conversations on the issues discussed in this book are confined to our own presuppositions and traditions. It is here, in my opinion, that Greenwood has helped to open our understanding of the past so that we could be more attentive for the future. This is a fascinating book that I hope helps readers better understand why they believe what they believe. If you’re looking for a book that will offer a constructive challenge to your assumptions about Genesis 1 and 2, then Since the Beginning is an easy choice. It’s a book I will recommend often!

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Review: ESV Heirloom Study Bible

IMG_4131The ESV Study Bible has been the most important tool in my Bible study journey over the last ten years. There’s no question that much of my focus today would be different had this Bible not been placed on my lap shortly after becoming a Christian. I simply devoured it. My heart was opened with a deep desire to study the Bible and journey beyond the shallow waters of many of my peers at the time.

Over the last decade, I’ve used and abused several editions of the ESV Study Bible, including the various (though limited) premium options offered by Crossway and the ESV Personal Size Study Bible bound by R.L. Allan. I’ve also grown to enjoy several other Study Bibles over the years. Nevertheless, I’ve always found myself coming back again and again to the ESV Study Bible. It’s by far the best single volume study resource on the market today—no questions asked. That said, in my opinion, the ESV Study Bible has always seemed to lack a binding and print quality combination that fully complemented the caliber of its inner beauty. 

IMG_4135Crossway is well-known for publishing quality resources. They are also well-known for producing quality premium Bibles, especially their ever-growing Heirloom line. I’ve always been curious why the same level of detail and quality wasn’t available for the ESV Study Bible. Don’t get me wrong, Crossway has produced a few nice quality calfskin editions. But nothing close to the beauty of, for example, the recently released 80th Anniversary Omega Thinline Reference. 

When Crossway announced they were planning on releasing an Heirloom edition of the ESV Study Bible my heart leaped with joy. Wait. It gets better. Not only was Crossway planning on producing an Heirloom edition their flagship Study Bible, but they were planning on having it printed in Italy by the renowned L.E.G.O. before being bound in the Netherlands by the equally renowned Royal Jongbloed—a collision of two of the best in the premium Bible industry. 

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When it finally showed up and my feelings of anticipation turned to  reality, I was blown away by its quality and outward beauty. It’s the ESV Study Bible that I’ve waited a decade to hold. 

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IMG_4148Not much has changed concerning the layout and pagination of the Bible (9-point type, single-column layout for the Bible text; 7.25-point type, double-column layout for the notes). As one would expect coming out of L.E.G.O., the quality of the print is consistent and dark throughout as its richly presented on a beautiful 31gsm. paper. Readers will notice minimal ghosting despite the thinness of the paper and the reading experience is very pleasant. The red under gold art-gilt page edging is perfectly executed—among the best I’ve seen on a premium Bible—and the four ribbon markers are finally(!) premium in quality (they appear to be Berisford Ribbons or something similar).

Those readers familiar with the quality of the binding on the 80th Anniversary Omega Thinline Reference will be excited to know that Royal Jongbloed equally knocked the cover off the ball with the ESV Heirloom Study Bible. Honestly, I’m not sure if they could have fit it with a more luxurious natural grain goatskin cover. It’s leather lined in supple calfskin, perimeter stitched and includes a gold gilt line perfectly surrounding the text-block. More importantly, however, both the text-block and the spine of the goatskin cover have been firmly reinforced. This will allow for the longevity of use one would expect for a Bible of this quality with this level of study content. Finally! The binding and print quality match the content of the Bible.

The only improvements possible are minor. Two are worth mention here. First, it would have been nice to have note-taking paper included in the back of the Bible. It’s already a large Bible. So, adding 25-50 pages of lined paper wouldn’t hurt and only add to the heirloom nature of the Bible. Second, while the ribbon markers are much better quality than previous Crossway Bibles (thanks for listening!), I think they were cut a bit too short. In my opinion, longer ribbons add to the premium look of the Bible and allow more options for the user. If you don’t like them long, then you can simply cut them. Doing the reverse isn’t as easy. 

The ESV Heirloom Study Bible is the ESV Study Bible I’ve waited a decade to use. This Bible has been the most important tool in my Bible study journey. It’s transformed how I approach the Bible and what it means to study it. I’m looking forward to using this one for the rest of my days and then passing it on to my children. If you’re in the market for a Study Bible that will outlast a lifetime of use, then the ESV Heirloom Study Bible is worth every single penny. 

Well done, Crossway! 

Review: Christianity at the Crossroads

41fAACe5-LL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_Michael J. Kruger is President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Kruger is a leading voice for the study of early Christianity and the development of the New Testament and has a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where he studied under the advisement of Larry Hurtado. Kruger is the author of several books, including The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity (with Andreas Köstenberger) and Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books. In his most recent publication, Kruger offers readers an important and unique glimpse into the distinctives of early Christianity in the overlooked world of the second century.

Christianity at the Crossroads is topically arranged around several key issues within second-century Christianity. These issues reflect a sociological transition, a doctrinal-theological transition, and a textual-canonical transition reflected in early Christianity. Kruger devotes space to numerous aspects within the boundaries of each of these transitions and offers readers a balanced introduction, including engagement with both primary and secondary sources. Kruger begins with a detailed overview of the sociological structure of second-century Christianity. He dedicates most of the chapter to the relationship between Jew and Gentiles, but also deals with other issues related to social standing, education and literacy, and gender. Kruger subsequently evaluates the political and intellectual acceptability of second-century Christianity, the ecclesiological structure of the second-century Christian church, theological diversity and unity witnessed in the second century, and the “bookish” nature of early Christianity along with the new Scriptures they produced.

There is much to appreciate about Christianity at the Crossroads. Kruger is recognized as an expert in early Christianity and his balanced interaction with both primary and secondary sources is unique for a volume of this nature and scope. Readers will gain a sense of early Christianity from early Christians, as well as modern and contemporary scholarship. Kruger is also balanced in his evaluation of the sources, though his presuppositional convictions are transparent. It would have been nice to see a fuller treatment then what was provided here. For example, it would have been helpful to see more detailed interaction with Christian theology of the period. That said, as an intended introduction to second-century Christianity, Kruger is detailed and informative in his engagement and offers readers a trustworthy sense of direction for further study. Lastly, I found the organization of the book to be the best possible option for accomplishing what Kruger was looking to achieve. It is easy to follow and logically structured for future topical reference.

Christianity at the Crossroads: How the Second Century Shaped the Future of the Church by Michael J. Kruger is uniquely positioned in the market place to close an unfortunate gap in the literature on early Christianity. Before Christianity at the Crossroads the options for a survey of second-century Christianity were few. But, Kruger offers more than a missing link. This book is written with clarity and precision. Few scholars on the subject can communicate as clearly and precise as Kruger, and readers will benefit from its accessibility. If you’re looking for a book that is both informative and engaging on a subject often overlooked, then Christianity at the Crossroads will be a fantastic addition to your library. It’s easily one of Kruger’s best books yet.

Review: Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not

51UaYOuaK2L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Over the past two decades biblical scholarship has experienced an interesting move towards an anti-imperial and postcolonial reading of the New Testament. Reading the New Testament with lenses of empirehas undoubtedly been demonstrated as interpretively useful and valuable for the purpose of understanding the message of the text. But, to what extent can we conclude that New Testament writers intended such lenses? Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not: Evaluating Empire in the New Testament Studies edited by Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica offers a groundbreaking introductory evaluation of the intricacies of empire criticism to the New Testament.

Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not is a collection of essays from various scholars in the field of New Testament studies who are sensitive to the anti-imperialistic tone of its writings. The contributors include Michael F. Bird, Lynn H. Cohick, Joel Willitts, David Nystrom, Judith A. Diehl, and more. McKnight and Modica open the volume with a fascinating essay on Roman religion and the workings of the imperial cult by David Nystrom. Nystrom is an expert on Rome, and he offers the reader an important glance into the background of empire criticism of the New Testament. The second chapter is equally important and arguably more interesting than the former. Judith Diehl abridges her three articles on empire criticism published for Currents in Biblical Research and gives readers a wide-ranging sketch of the interpretive movement. These two chapters are foundational to the volume and are alone worth the cover price of the book. The following essays are organized around New Testament authors and writings.

The editors and contributors of Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not acknowledge the variegated degree of complexity associated with uncovering anti-imperial sentiments in the New Testament. That is, empire criticism is most notably recognized and examined on a spectrum from obvious to implicit (p. 17). Some statements in the New Testament are blatantly obvious in their opposition to empire (e.g. Acts 14:14-18), while others are much more subtle and difficult to discern (e.g. Romans 13). It is here that Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not becomes of value to the reader, as the contributors not only labor to offer a coherent description of empire criticism, but also seek to evaluate the methodology of empire criticism within the context of the New Testament writings themselves. The result is a well-balanced and easily accessible treatment of a very complex and nuanced hermeneutical position. It covers nearly every New Testament writing and demonstrates a level of consistency across contributors that is somewhat uncharacteristic of similar works.

The content itself is both comprehensive and persuasive. The reader not only walks away with a better sense of empire criticism, but they experience its many shades being uncovered in the writings of the New Testament. It’s hard to pinpoint a favorite essay because all are of almost equal caliber in their contribution to the conversation. What I did appreciate about the volume was its candor around the limitations of the anti-imperialistic reading of the New Testament—especially the tendency of empire critics to overreach their conclusions. McKnight and Modica have done a praiseworthy job emphasizing the value of empire criticism without giving undue credence to the reactionary attempts to read the New Testament with postcolonial eyes. Beyond the content of the book, I found the provision of bibliographic material following each essay useful for further study. If you are looking to explore the world of empire criticism, then this material is a true treasuretrove of information.

Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not: Evaluating Empire in the New Testament Studies edited by Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica is a fascinating, balanced, and easily accessible introduction to an increasingly popular interpretive conversation. The contributions to this volume are incredible and readers will do well to explore their content. I do feel like some of the chapters were cut short and left me wanting more, but the content included was excellent. If you are looking to better understand the New Testament or empire criticism, then Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not should be the first volume off your bookshelf. It come highly recommended!

Review: The Lost World of the Flood

A1SGm1PXu5LThe Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate by John H. Walton and Tremper Longman III is a thought-provoking engagement on one of the most emotionally charged controversies of biblical history—the Noahic Flood. Walton and Longman offer readers a fresh and intellectually stimulating analysis of the Genesis flood narrative within the context of the ANE world. The outcome is accessible and thoughtfully presented, and its treatment is worth careful consideration from all sides of the theological debate.

Those familiar with the format of the previous volumes in theLost World series will appreciate its prepositional approach applied to the flood narrative of Genesis 6:9-9:17. Walton and Longman divide the book into four major parts: (1) Method: Perspectives on Interpretation, (2) Background: Ancient Near Eastern Texts, (3) Text: Understanding the Biblical Literarily and Theologically, and (4) The World: Thinking About Evidence for the Flood. The hermeneutically sensitive outline of the book entertains 17 prepositions related to the interpretive approach and conclusions argued by Walton and Longman. Each of these prepositions logically build upon the previous and provide the reader with specialized guidance through the mind and literature of the ancient author.

Walton and Longman begin by appropriately encouraging the reader to approach Genesis as an ancient document. This is an essential entrance because it informs everything about how we are to read and interpret the flood narrative. Moreover, for Walton and Longman, it also safeguards their interpretative propositions from forsaking an Evangelical commitment to biblical inerrancy. This doesn’t mean that the conclusions therein are anything less than controversial. Walton and Longman affirm that the flood was a historical event in the ancient world—a local cataclysmic flood that is intentionally described by the biblical writer as a global flood. Additionally, Walton and Longman suggest that the biblical writer intentionally used hyperbole to describe the flood for rhetorical purposes and theological reasons. If Walton and Longman are correct, then most interpreters of the flood narrative have been either misinformed, misguided, or both. That is, it’s been lost.It is here that The Lost World of the Flood warrants careful consideration as the reader wrestles with the narrative without the filters of tradition and theological presuppositions.

The Lost World of the Flood unsurprisingly affirms a local flood theory. Agree or disagree with their conclusion, Walton and Longman do a phenomenal service for readers as they guide them one preposition at a time towards the projected conclusion. Moreover, as one would expect, they spend a good deal of space wrestling with the evidence marshaled by global flood proponents, including an excellent chapter (Preposition 15: Geology Does Not Support a Worldwide Flood) by geologist Stephen O. Moshier. Those familiar with the flood debate won’t find much new in the discussion of evidence. Where The Lost World of the Flood shines most is in its presentation of the ANE world as a springboard for the biblical narrative, which establishes the grounds for a proper evaluation of the evidence. It is here that the reader will discover a treasure trove of firm exegetical insight and persuasive historical analysis.

Like many readers, there hasn’t been a single volume in the Lost World series that I haven’t appreciated. Despite the interpretive and methodological differences which undoubtedly arise from the bedrock of each of the volumes, I have always found them to be both stimulating and informative in more ways than not. This in mind, in my opinion, The Lost World of the Flood is among the best volume in the series. Walton and Longman are specialists in the ANE world and its intersection with the biblical text, and the flood narrative of Genesis is a perfect candidate for a project of this scope and its treatment is worth careful consideration. The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate is controversial, coherent, and cogent, and readers will find nothing short of interpretive gold on almost every page. It comes highly recommended alongside the rest of the Lost World series!

Review: ESV Archaeology Study Bible

 

The ESV Archaeology Study Bible is an impressive new study resource shaped under the editorial eyes of John D. Currid (PhD, University of Chicago) and David W. Chapman (PhD, University of Cambridge). The contributors to the ESV Archaeology Study Bibleinclude a roster of field-trained archaeologists and biblical scholars, and the depth of their first-hand expertise is visible throughout. The contributors include David L. Adams, Barry J. Beitzel, Richard S. Hess, Gerald L. Mattingly, Paul H. Wright, and many more. This is important to acknowledge at the outset of this review because Currid and Chapman have taken extreme care to safeguard against this Study Bible becoming another example of a sensationalist approach to biblical archaeology.

The ESV Archaeology Study Bible advocates three core pillarsas the foundation of its existence in the marketplace—biblical orthodoxy, academic integrity, and accessibility. These core pillarsbecome a chaperone for the contributors as they interact with the biblical text and its intersection with the field of archaeology. This allows readers of various backgrounds and exposure levels an opportunity to approach the ESV Archaeology Study Biblewith confidence in the material and the ability to understand and apply it to preaching, teaching, and daily study.

The ESV Archaeology Study Bible contains over 2,000 study notes, over 700 full-color maps and photos, over 200 sidebar sections, various charts and timelines, book introductions, and a number of archaeology related articles. The text is black-letter and presented in a readable 9-point lexicon type font, with the study notes in an 8-point type. The paper used is a 36gsm thin coated paper, which is surprisingly quite opaque and shows little ghosting. I found the text to readable and resulted in little eye-strain when used for extended periods of time. Beyond the typeset and other reading-related matters, the illustrative power of the ESV Archaeology Study Bible is on a level of its own (see photos below). The print quality is consistent and detailed despite being printed in China. This is important note because not all heavily illustrated study Bibles are created equally. The ESV Archaeology Study Bible is both beautifully and appropriately illustrated to emphasize the archaeological aim of the volume.

 

 

The most notable aspects of the ESV Archaeology Study Bible are numerous in relation to the overall focus of the work. Three are worth mention here. First, the wide-ranging and numerous sidebars that are strategically placed throughout offer readers insight into the cultural background and practices of the ancient world that dot the landscape of biblical archaeology. They’re usually only a paragraph or two and often provide a translation of other related ancient literature. Second, each biblical book contains a brief and focused introduction that centers around the contribution of archaeology to that particular book. This is both unique and important to the overall emphasis of the ESV Archaeology Study Bible, and I believe that readers will enjoy such overviews before engaging with the biblical text and study notes. Third, there are approximately 15 articles that have been included and each is archaeologically oriented. Some of the most noteworthy and unique of such articles include “Expository Preaching and Archaeology” by John D. Currid, “Biblical Geography and Archaeology” by Barry J. Beitzel, “Daily Life in Israel Old Testament Times” by Gerald L. Mattingly, and “Daily Life in Judea-Palestine in New Testament Times” by Paul H. Wright. More could certainly be said about the articles, but I think the names alone lend insight into their usefulness. Finally, I should also note the editorial decision to include a number of reference sections, including a glossary of archaeology related terms, indexes of sidebars and maps, a concordance, and more.

While the ESV Archaeology Study Bible is everything that an armchair archaeological enthusiast could want and more, I did have a few practical expectations that were surprisingly unsatisfied. Two are worth mention here. First and foremost, I honestly expected more from the study notes. Don’t get me wrong. I found the study notes to be both informative and illuminating. But, there appeared to be a subtle lack of consistency across the contributors. For example, the study notes on Psalm 82 by David L. Adams provide extensive discussion (almost two full pages) on various expressions of divine council worldview in ancient Near Eastern literature. But, the study notes on Genesis 6 by John D. Currid doesn’t even attempt to address verses 1-4 and the significant insight provided by parallel Mesopotamian literature and myth. Similarly, Currid fails to offer any related insight from such literature on Deuteronomy 32. This is only one example, but it does illustrate a shortcoming of inconsistency across the contributors on related themes. Second, I would have expected more information and illustration of textual related archaeological finds, such as manuscript discoveries, writing practices, etc. To be fair, both subjects are addressed at various points in the ESV Archaeology Study Bible, but there is definitely an opportunity to better illuminate such from within the field of archaeology.

The ESV Archaeology Study Bible is an impressive new study resource that will both enrich and inform your study of the Bible with up-to-date archaeological insight. Currid and Chapman have done a fantastic job to ensure that the core pillars of biblical orthodoxy, academic integrity, and accessibility remain a constant reality throughout the volume. Where this resource shines will be different for each reader, but it clearly has a place complimented next to the ESV Study Bible and the ESV Bible Atlas.It’s beautifully illustrated and strategically presented to maximize its unique emphasis. I can sense that this will be used and consulted often by many, and thus, comes highly recommended for anyone serious about studying the Bible in its original context!

 

Available in Hardcover, TruTone Leather, and Genuine Leather

Review: Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments and Agrapha: A New Translation

35873454Rick Brannan is the author of Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles: First Timothyand Second Timothy: Notes on Grammar, Syntax, and Structure, both published in 2016 by Appian Way Press. Brannan is also the general editor of the Lexham English Septuagint, an editor for the Lexham English Bible, as well as the contributor of the introduction and translation of John and the Robberin the opening volume of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016) by Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Most recently, Lexham Press has published Brannan’s translation of the Greek Apocryphal Gospels, fragments, and agrapha.

Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments and Agrapha: A New Translation is a lucid collection of ancient documents related to early Christianity, including longer stories connected to the life of Jesus (Gospels), smaller pieces of material with written words about Jesus (Fragments), as well as unwritten sayings attributed to Jesus (Agrapha). Still, it’s important to mention that Brannan has provided much more than a mere translation of ancient texts. Each translation is offered with introductory comments and various observations to help readers connect the material within the context of biblical studies. These comments and observations are invaluable and may even come as somewhat of a surprise to readers given the narrowness of the subtitle.

Brannan opens the book and concentrates on numerous agrapha from within four major sources: (1) sayings in the New Testament outside the Gospels, (2) sayings in additions to New Testament manuscripts, (3) sayings in the Apostolic Fathers, and (4) sayings in Justin Martyr. Brannan has done an excellent service to the reader by choosing some of the most significant agrapha to interact within this section and the inclusion of parallel passages offers readers a better sense of the overall context of each saying. It’s certainly not comprehensive by any stretch. But, it’s an appropriate starting point and an excellent orientation to the genre. The following six chapters are occupied with apocryphal Gospels, including The Protoevangelium of James,The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Peter, and more. Each apocryphal Gospel includes an introduction to orient the reader towards the content and a readable translation of the text. Finally, Brannan rounds the volume out with translations of ten well-known fragments from Oxyrhynchus. The choice of fragments is similar in scope to the previous choice of agrapha, and readers will appreciate the variety and importance of Brannan’s selection.

There is much to welcome in Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments and Agrapha. Three things are worth mention here. First, I think readers will appreciate the attention to detail that Brannan displays. For example, the reader will find numerous footnotes to encourage deeper study and provide additional translations of texts. Also, Brannan provides both a “Reading Translation” and a “Line Translation” for agrapha and fragments. Second, given the academic nature of the content, I thought it was great that Brannan had included various bibliography sections. This is a book that will ultimately encourage readers into a deeper exploration of the literary landscape of early Christianity, and Brannan has provided a great roadmap for that journey. Third, like other books in the Lexham Classics series, the typeset and presentation of the volume is excellent. It’s readable and easy on the eyes.

Greek Apocryphal Gospels, Fragments and Agrapha: A New Translation by Rick Brannan is a fantastic addition to the Lexham Classics series. It may be somewhat selfish to wish that Brannan had included more material, specifically more agrapha and fragments. But, if that is my only complaint, then I’d have to say that this volume is a huge success. It’s affordable, readable, and informative. I couldn’t recommend it more!

Review: The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation

35873453Rick Brannan is the author of Lexical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles: First Timothyand Second Timothy: Notes on Grammar, Syntax, and Structure, both published in 2016 by Appian Way Press. Brannan is also the general editor of the Lexham English Septuagint, an editor for the Lexham English Bible, as well as the contributor of the introduction and translation of John and the Robberin the opening volume of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures(Eerdmans, 2016) by Tony Burke and Brent Landau. Most recently, Lexham Press has finally published Brannan’s translation of the Apostolic Fathers.

The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation is a fresh and readable alternative to some of the more widely used contemporary translations of the Apostolic Fathers, particularly The Apostolic Fathers in English by Michael W. Holmes (3rd ed., Baker Academic, 2006) and The Apostolic Fathersby Bart D. Ehrman (2 vol., Harvard University Press, 2003). Brannan has provided, to use translation-speak, an “essentially literal” representation of Kirsopp Lake’s Greek text. Lake’s Latin text is also used where it is applicable, including some portions of Polycarp to the Philippiansand the Shepherd of Hermas. Additionally, most areas in the text where differences tend to surface between Lake and other available Greek texts (e.g Holmes, Lightfoot, and Ehrman), Brannan is careful to discuss such within the numerous notes that saturate the volume. These notes in the translation appear to have been curated from various sources and offer readers with cross-references, translational notes, textual critical issues, and lexical oriented discussions.

Those previously acquainted with the writings of the Apostolic Fathers will be familiar with the various works included here. The material was composed in the centuries immediately following the Apostles and the type of literature ranges from letters and epistolary writings to theological tracts and apocalyptic literature. Outside the New Testament and various writings from within Second Temple Judaism, these writings are the most important sources for understanding the rise and development of early Christianity. Brannan has provided students and scholars with a clear and readable translation that synthesizes the most up-to-date research (personal and other peer-reviewed works) into its many translation notes. But, for me, apart from the notes and readability of the translation, I found the typeset and presentation of the work to be unparalleled. It’s absolutely beautiful and really does cultivate a desire to sit down and read. The only thing that would make it better, in my opinion, is a cloth-over-board hardcover binding and the inclusion of the original language text on the opposing page. At the very least, this volume deserves a sturdier binding—something that is a bit more functional for the type of use it will receive as it is likely going to be read and used often.

The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation by Rick Brannan is remarkable. Not only is the translation readable and fresh, but the presentation is among the best on the market. I know that Brannan didn’t intend to replace Holmes or Ehrman, but this volume should be viewed as a very strong contender. So, if you are looking for an inexpensive alternative to the above-mentioned authors—a translation that is readable and easy on the eyes—then Brannan’s translation couldn’t be recommended more highly!

Review: The Bible Unfiltered

35254165Michael S. Heiser is Scholar-in-Residence at Logos Bible Software. Heiser has an MA and PhD in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as an MA in Ancient History from the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of several important books, including The Unseen Realm: Discovering the Supernatural World of the Bibleand Reversing Hermon: Enoch, The Watchers, and the Forgotten Missing of Jesus Christ. Most recently, Heiser has brought together a collection of articles intended to aid an understanding the original context of the ancient world for the purpose of offering readers an unfiltered glimpse into Bible.

The Bible Unfiltered: Approaching Scripture on Its Own Terms is divided into three parts: (1) Interpreting the Bible Responsibly, (2) Old Testament, and (3) New Testament. Each chapter is only a few pages long. So, the content is easily digestible, and the point of each chapter is clearly presented. In part one, Heiser lays the groundwork for serious Bible reading and interpretation. In many ways, the reader is challenged to remove their theological lenses and unwind from presupposed tradition. Heiser is bold enough to not sidestep the issues as he goes straight to the heart of the matter and encourages readers to read their Bible responsibly. These chapters are certainly a challenge, but foundational to the entire book. In fact, if I were to guess I think Heiser would be more than happy if everyone that looked at the book only took the time to read and practice the content in part one. The remaining two parts are simply Heiser putting such hermeneutical practices into action for readers to observe in both the Old Testament and New.

Those previously acquainted with Heiser’s approach to the Bible will certainly meet on familiar territory in The Bible Unfiltered. This is one of the greatest aspects of the book. Heiser is keen to point readers to details in the text that are overlooked. The result, not surprisingly, is always a deeper understanding and awareness of the passage or narrative. Heiser is witty and controversial at all the right times and uses such to spur readers on to a more responsible study of the Bible. Moreover, Heiser knows the primary source material of the Old Testament and ancient Near East extremely well and is up-to-date on current conversations in biblical studies for both the Old Testament and New. Still, what I appreciate most about Heiser’s work is the amount of useful information and insight that he is able to shove into a small space. That said Heiser doesn’t just force mere factoids into a chapter for the sake of doing such. The information is always relevant to the text and digestible for the average reader—though it’s true that some food does take longer to process than others.

The Bible Unfiltered: Approaching Scripture on Its Own Terms isn’t a book for the faint of heart. Sure, it’s an easy read. But, for many readers, I think it will be paradigm shifting. Take time with it and be sure to test where Heiser takes you. It’s a journey well worth taking and The Bible Unfiltered is a great guide, as long as you take to heart Heiser’s call to read the Bible more responsibly. Whatever you do don’t remain trapped by tradition. Not that the filters of tradition are inherently wrong or misguided. But, the Bible just looks better unfiltered. Indeed, it is the unfiltered reading of the Bible that should become the foundation for all other filters.

The Bible Unfiltered: Approaching Scripture on Its Own Terms by Michael S. Heiser is superb. It comes highly recommended alongside his previous work of similar caliber and strength, I Dear You Not to Bore Me with the Bible.