Author: John Kight

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

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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.                 

Review: Authorized

36026861Mark Ward is a Logos Pro who writes weekly on Bible study for the Logos Talk Blog training users in the use of Logos Bible Software. He has a PhD in New Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University and is the author of several high school Bible textbooks, including Biblical Worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption(BJU Press, 2016). Most recently, Ward has published a helpful and balanced little book on the King James Bible.

Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible is a generous and well-informed exploration into the most widely used Bible translation today (55% of readers, according to Ward, continue to seek out the KJV when looking for an English Bible translation). Ward doesn’t have an agenda to slander the KJV nor does he simply recycle weak arguments against its use. In fact, Ward begins with an excellent chapter on what the Church loses if the KJV stops being used. Agree with his assessment or not, this starting point is to be applauded and appreciated by serious and objective readers. Ward’s primary concern, and it’s a valid concern, is that the KJV is not a vernacular translation of the Bible. It is not written in a language that is spoken, read, or understood by the average English-speaking world. In fact, as Ward brilliantly displays, it is full of language that is not only outdated and obsolete but also includes many familiar words that have changed their meaning (i.e. “want” in Ps. 23:1; “halt” in 1 Kgs. 18:21; “commendeth” in Rm. 5:8; “apt” in 1Tm. 3:2). Ward (rightly) encourages readers to use a variety of translations and avoid the myth of a “Best” English translation.

Authorized is a short and enjoyable read. I finished it in a single sitting with absolutely no regrets. Ward is both readable and relatable. His approach to the subject is unique and filled with grace. It was honestly refreshing. I found the material to be engaging and presented in a manner that encourages reflection. I especially appreciated Ward’s linguistic focus, particularly surrounding “dead words” and “False Friends” as they relate to the KJV and contemporary English. I also appreciate and echo Ward’s conclusion to use multiple translations and avoid the temptation of believing in a “Best” translation. Where I think Ward could have added more to the volume, although I acknowledge that a comprehensive investigation is outside of the scope here, is in the arena of textual criticism and the textual reliability of the KJV. That said I’m more than happy with the balance and focus of the volume. I think it adds to the conversation from an angle that is often overlooked.

Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible by Mark Ward is a fantastic volume. It’s brief, easy to read, and packs an explosion of thought-provoking material. Readers will appreciate the gracious tone of the volume and the care that Ward has taken to inform without insulting. Of course, given the nature of the emotional investment, there will still be those unable to reconcile detachment with the KJV despite the sound advice provided by Ward here. This was an excellent book! It comes highly recommended and should find its home on the shelf next to The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism by D. A. Carson and The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? by James R. White.

Review: Jesus the LORD according to Paul the Apostles

35414913Gordon D. Fee is Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Regent College. Fee is a noteworthy New Testament scholar and the author of several important books, including God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (with Douglas Stuart), as well as a number of notable commentaries on the Pauline Epistles in the acclaimed New International Commentary on the New Testamentseries. Most recently, Fee released a useful and refreshingly concise distillation of his magisterial tome Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study.

Jesus the LORD according to Paul the Apostles: A Concise Introduction opens to the reader with an honorable forward by Cherith Fee Nordling, and readers will greatly appreciate the warm and personal tone of Nordling’s reflection on her father’s life and legacy. The book is divided into four major thematic sections: (1) The Savior, (2) The Second Adam, (3) The Jewish Messiah and Son of God, and (4) The Jewish Messiah and Exalted Lord. Each section examines the major Christological expressions of the Pauline Epistles, and Fee does a tremendous job guiding the reader through the nuanced nature of Paul’s adoration for Christ. Moreover, as a distillation of a larger work, Fee does an excellent job presenting the balance of detail and accessibility that the target audience will appreciate.

I’m generally not a big fan of abridgments of larger works. In fact, I have never been a fan. I think that they can be helpful to introduce a broader audience to an important work. But, overall, I tend to find myself wanting more detail to the arguments being presented. I had some of these same feelings with Jesus the LORD according to Paul the Apostles. It’s simply the nature of the beast. This in mind, I was thoroughly impressed with the overall depth and breadth of this volume—especially after familiarizing myself with Pauline Christology(I know what you’re thinking and the answer is, yes. My curiosity and appreciation for this distillation led me to Fee’s larger work and I’m happy it did). This book is a goldmine of distilled, exegetical application. The reader will get a clear sense that Fee knows Paul intimately, and it is from that place of deep familiarity that has birthed this fountain of rich reflection. The accessibility of this book is important for obvious reasons. But, most attentive readers with an interest in Pauline studies will be led, like I was, to the wellspring of that fountain—Pauline Christology.

Jesus the LORD according to Paul the Apostles: A Concise Introduction by Gordon D. Fee is a fantastic read. From beginning to end, readers will encounter a portrait of Paul’s Jesus that is too often overlooked in contemporary conversation. This is as true in the academy as it is in the pew. That said, while readers in the academy will still tend to identify with more closely with the exhaustive nature of Fee’s earlier work, those in the pew need something digestible to the average reader. I am extremely grateful for the life and legacy of Gordon Fee and the works that he has produced, and I am equally enthusiastic to recommend Jesus the LORD according to Paul the Apostles. It comes highly recommended!

Review: The Triune God

29491966Fred Sanders is Professor of Theology in the Torey Honors Institute at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He received an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and a PhD from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Sanders is the author or editor of numerous books, including Advancing Trinitarian Theology: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics and The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything.Still, Sanders’ most significant contribution to the contemporary conversation regarding Trinitarian theology is undoubtebly his recent volume in the New Studies in Dogmatics series.

The Triune God seeks to secure the reader’s knowledge of the triune God by rightly ordering the theological language more closely to the manner that the Trinity was revealed—a gift of divine revelation before theological achievement of the Christian church. Sanders showcases the heart of the New Studies in Dogmatics series, as he labors to retrieve the riches of classical Christian doctrine regarding the nature of God for the sake of contemporary theological renewal. Sanders is persuasive and articulate, and he does much to offer the readers a demonstration of Trinitarian exegesis that leads doctrinal conviction expressed in worship.

The Triune Godis organized unconventionally, as Sanders acknowledges (p. 19). In the initial chapter, Sanders places the doctrine of the Trinity as “a doxological movement of thought that gives glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (p. 20). This directs the reader’s heart and mind towards a necessary attunement to begin the exploration. The following chapters set the doctrine of the Trinity within a biblical theology of mystery, the communicative missions of the Son and Spirit, and then the Scriptural form of that communication is examined from the Incarnation to Pentecost. The remaining chapters explore the implications of God’s redemptive actions in the sending of himself and positions the reader towards a model of Trinitarian exegesis, which is then used to explore the Trinitarian presences in the Old Testament. This structure indicates a crucial order to be observed in the reader’s knowledge of the Trinity: revelation in the missions, attestation in the New Testament, and adumbration in the Old Testament (p. 23).

The strengths of The Triune God are evident as the reader exits the initial chapters. Sanders is a gifted communicator and well-acquainted with conversations new and old about the Trinity. The book is carefully written and wonderfully presented. The structural organization of the book is somewhat odd in comparison to other works on the market of similar scope. But, as the reader discovers the intentionality behind such approach and witnesses impact therein, it is hard to see this as a shortcoming. In fact, accompanied by Sanders’ logical coherence of the subject matter, it is easily one of the book’s biggest strength. Readers will especially appreciate Sanders keen ability to bring the reader back to Scripture while remaining in conversation with Christians from nearly every era of redemptive history. This is definitely an academic engagement on the subject and some readers will do better to explore other options. Nevertheless, this is also one of the best treatments on the Trinity available today.

The Triune God by Fred Sanders is simply excellent. It begins with worship and ends with a deep adoration for God. Sanders is rooted in Scripture and centered on the missional nature of the Son and Spirit. It is clearly written and persuasively presented. If you are looking for a tour de forcejourney into the most important theological conviction of the Christian faith, then The Triune God is an essential read. It comes recommended without hesitation!