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: The Old Testament is Dying

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

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

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

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

Review: Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity

32987886The landscape of specialized biblical and theological dictionaries seems to experience continual growth year-by-year. These dictionaries generally boast more focused and detailed attention on content and tend to provide a more unique product as an end goal. The level of usefulness of these types of dictionaries can vary greatly depending on the academic or personal interest of the reader, as well as the specializations of the contributing roster. Still, because of the distinctive qualities of such works the price-point is generally out of reach for most consumers. The intersection of such usefulness and availability is tellingly rare in this distinctive reference genre, and thus when it is clearly observed attention should be widely merited.

Originally published as four paperback volumes, The Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity edited by Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson has now arrived as a single-volume resource lodged in a beautiful hardcover binding. DDL is a landmark resource in the field of biblical studies. It truly is one of those unique cases, like that mentioned above, where the usefulness and availability of the resource intersect at almost every point. This new single-volume edition is jam-packed with both valuable and vital information for understanding the biblical world of the Old Testament and the New. Furthermore, the sheer affordability of DDL should almost guarantee that the intentions of the editors and contributors can be enjoyed by both scholar and interested laity alike.

DDL contains a number of important and unique articles related to the domestic life, technology, culture, laws, and religious practices of the ancient world. While other top-tier multi-volume dictionaries (Anchor Yale Bible DictionaryInternational Standard Encyclopedia of the Bible, etc.) may interact with similar themes and topics as DDL, it would be rare to see them interacting with the same level of detail as DDL, and certainly not in the same helpful format. This complete one-volume edition of DDL includes the same content from the four-volume set, including exhaustive essays unparalleled in other major dictionaries. For example, the DDL article on Abortion is near twice the length of that found in AYBD. The DDL article on dancing is nearly seven times the length of that found in ISBE—an article not even found in AYBD. There is a fascinating 20-page article on Death & Afterlife, as well as a 23-page article on Human Sacrifice. By comparison, ISBE has an article on Human Sacrifice that is roughly 3-pages, and AYBD doesn’t have such article at all. Other relevant and noteworthy articles include Incense, Nursing and Wet Nursing, Marriage, Names, Oaths & Vows, Wild Animals and Hunting, Same-Sex Relations, and Slavery.

The strong points of DDL are discovered in at least three major benefits for the reader. First, the sheer scope and comprehensive nature of each article is unique even among some of the other major, top-tier dictionaries (as noted above). So, while other works may occasionally have similar articles as DDL, they are generally much briefer in scope than that offered in DDL. Second, the organization of each article cultivates a much broader comprehension of the subject matter discussed. Each article opens with a brief summary, followed by six major sections: (1) The Old Testament, (2) The New Testament, (3) The Ancient New Eastern World, (4) The Greco-Roman World, (5) The Jewish World, and (6) The Christian World. Thus, DDL tends to trace the topic of discussion much further (approximately 2000 BC to AD 600) and across a broader scope of cultural boundaries. Lastly, each article concludes with a healthy and up-to-date bibliography that is intentionally curated to catapult the curious reader in the right direction—something that is certain to awaken excitement in fellow bibliography lovers.

The Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity is a phenomenal achievement in the field of biblical studies. Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson have helpfully gathered together some of the most important information about the ancient world and packaged it in such a way to make it accessible and understandable to the average reader. From the far-reaching scope of the articles to the comprehensive exploration therein, DDL is a useful and affordable resource that merits immediate attention from any serious student of the Bible. I couldn’t think of a better reason to invest in this resource today. This is a resource you will use and consult often.

Review: Do We Need the New Testament?

23055101John Goldingay is David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including An Introduction to the Old TestamentThe Theology of the Book of Isaiah, and the magisterial three-volume Old Testament Theology. Goldingay is well-known for his enthusiastic approach to the Old Testament and his desire to allow the ‘first’ Testament to function as authoritative Christian Scripture.

Do We Need the New Testament?: Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself is a brief volume that seeks to turn a popular question within Christian circles on its head. Now that Jesus has come and we have the New Testament, do Christians really need the Old Testament? Goldingay points the question back at the well-intended interrogator: Do we really need the New Testament? After all, what’s new about the New Testament? And what happens when we look at the Old Testament, not as a deficient old work in need of a Christological makeover, but as a rich and splendid revelation of God’s faithfulness to Israel and the world? (back cover). It is here that Goldingay begins to dismantle contemporary misnomers concerning the deficiency of the Old Testament.

Goldingay begins with a broad chapter that uncovers many of the issues examined in more detail as the book unfolds, such as ethics, spirituality, and various aspects of theology (i.e. salvation, etc.).  Most of the chapters in the book arose as papers presented at the Society of Biblical Literature, the Society of Old Testament Study, and others (p. 10). This explains the somewhat random organization of the book, which may come as a frustration to some readers. Goldingay’s conclusion is that, “Yes, of course, we need the New Testament Scriptures, but they don’t supersede the earlier Scriptures” (p. 32). According to Goldingay, we need the Old Testament for understanding the story of God’s working purpose, for its theology, spirituality, hope, understanding of mission, salvation, and for its ethics (p. 32). Goldingay not only substantiate such statements, but he does so by guiding readers towards a newfound appreciation for the Old Testament.

There are aspects of Goldingay’s approach that will undoubtedly cause some readers distress. The book as a whole is stimulating and exciting, but some statements can appear oversimplified and even somewhat misleading at times. For example, he states that “in none of the Gospels does Jesus tell his disciples to extend the kingdom, work for the kingdom, build the kingdom, or further the kingdom” (p. 34). This is certainly a thought provoking statement. But, is it an accurate statement? I’ll let the reader decide. Other examples of similar weight could be given as well. Where I think Goldingay shines is in the continuity that he brings between the portrait of God in the Old Testament and the New. This is helpful for many reasons, but the origin of the initial questions concerning the Old Testament tend to arise on this point and Goldingay hits the nail on the head.

Do We Need the New Testament?: Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself by John Goldingay is not without its shortcomings. But, what he does well, he does really well! Goldingay is witty and sharp in his interaction with the questions at hand, and readers will appreciate his serious desire to hear from the Old Testament as Scripture. If you’re a looking for a thought-provoking book that will turn your heart and mind todays the Scriptures, and consequently towards the God to whom the Scriptures reveal, then this is a book worth reading. It comes highly recommended!

Review: Old Testament Theology for Christians

36436636John H. Walton is Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. Walton received a Masters in Old Testament Studies from Wheaton and a PhD in Hebrew Bible and Cognate Studies from Hebrew Union College. Walton is a household name in the arena of Old Testament studies and a respected voice on the ancient Near Eastern context of the biblical world, contributing to several influential reference works and authoring over two dozen books. Most recently, Walton has provided readers a theological exploration of the Old Testament which embodies a lifetime of reflection and unites the scholarly engagement and scope characteristic of his previous works.

Old Testament Theology for Christians: From Ancient Context to Enduring Belief offers a fresh and unique theological exploration of the Old Testament that is both contextually informed by the environment of the ancient Near East and hermeneutically sensitive to the authorial intent of the biblical authors. Walton is convinced that the Old Testament is both relevant and useful for Christians today, though rightly recognizing that a massive chasm exists between contemporary readers and the ancient world. Walton develops a persuasive portrait of the Old Testament which presents itself as more than a Christological precursor centered on the person and work of Jesus. Rather, the Old Testament is revealed as a contextual expression of an enduring theological worldview ever capable of penetrating the hearts and minds of readers today.

Old Testament Theology for Christians appropriately begins with an introduction that provides a detailed discussion of Walton’s hermeneutical consideration, which becomes the foundation for the entire book. Walton is understandably clear about his approach and readers are encouraged to evaluate the presuppositions therein. The book is ordered thematically around six corresponding concepts: (1) Yahweh and the gods, (2) Cosmos and Humanity, (3) Covenant and Kingdom, (4) Temple and Torah, (5) Sin and Evil, and (6) Salvation and Afterlife. Each chapter is saturated in comparative analysis of the ancient Near Eastern thought as it relates to these biblical concepts, and Walton does a tremendous service to the reader by bridging such gaps with both clarity and precision.

My overall impression of the book is favorable. I admit that Walton has challenged my thinking on several occasions in the past, and Old Testament Theology for Christians was no exception. It is quintessential Walton in every respect—engaging, readable, and occasionally controversial—and each chapter overflows with an intentional goal of understanding the Old Testament as an ancient person. It can be theologically uncomfortable to follow at times because it is so different than our contemporary context of a developed Christian theology, but Walton does an excellent job synthesizing the content into a theologically timeless and meaningful package. Throughout Old Testament Theology for Christians readers will discover numerous sidebar discussions and excursus sections, as well as several tables displaying comparative material across the cultural divide. In short, Walton has effectively brought the Old Testament to life by breathing a fresh sense of worth upon its seemingly devalued theological bones, and readers emerge with a new appreciation for the God revealed therein.

Old Testament Theology for Christians: From Ancient Context to Enduring Belief by John H. Walton is the culmination of a lifetime of reflection on the ancient Near East as the contextual backdrop to the Old Testament. Walton is readable, engaging, and controversial enough to keep your interest captive. I honestly couldn’t put it down. If you are looking for an Old Testament theology that takes the Old Testament seriously, then Old Testament Theology for Christians is the next book to set on your nightstand.

Review: Old Testament Law for Christians

9780801049040Roy E. Gane is Professor of Hebrew and Ancient Near Eastern Languages at Seventh-Day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Gane received an MA and PhD from University of California, Berkeley, and has authored numerous books, including a commentary on Leviticus and Numbers in the NIV Application Commentary series. Most recently, Gane has provided a comprehensive volume on Old Testament Law that will help Christians better understand and apply such to everyday life.

Old Testament Law for Christians: Original Context and Enduring Application aims to “show Christians how OT laws are relevant, interesting, accessible, and useful; how to navigate around them; how to uncover their wise values; and how to arrive at answers to questions regarding their interpretation and application to modern life” (p. xiv). The book has been divided into four major sections: (1) Getting into Old Testament Law, (2) Literature and Background of Old Testament Law, (3) Applying Old Testament Laws, and (4) Values in Old Testament Law. These divisions provide a logical order in support of the overall objective of the book, and thus, most of the content is naturally centralized within parts 3 and 4.

Gane is a well-known and accomplished scholar of Biblical Law, and the scope of Old Testament Law for Christians demonstrates such with minimal effort. In part one, Gane offers justification and rationale for the relevance of OT law for New Covenant Christians. Gane focuses on Jesus and Paul’s view of OT law and sketches the trajectory. Gane also devotes a fair amount of space to the introduction of Old Testament law prior to establishing the contextual background in part two. Gane is especially strong on areas of literature and background of OT law, and the attentive reader will glean insight after insight as they follow him in the second section.

In part three, Gane introduces the difficult task of application and spends a portion of the time surveying the various approaches advocated both past and present. Those who appreciate methodology will enjoy Gane’s discussion here. Gane contends for a Progressive Moral Wisdom (PMW) approach to understanding and applying Old Testament law. There are five components of a PMW model: (1) analyze the law by itself, (2) analyze the law within the system of OT laws, (3) further analyze the law within the content of its ancient life situation, (4) analyze the law within the process of redemption, and (5) relate findings regarding the function of the law to modern life (p. 202-203). Then, after detailing the PMW model, Gane uses Exodus 23:4 as a test case for readers to engage the approach and witness its benefit. His approach is firmly built upon a solid hermeneutical methodology and readers will do well to take notes.

In part four, the reader is taken on a tour de force into the world of OT law. Here Gane addresses the Decalogue in two chapters before considering additional law related issues, such as the value of social justice and ritual laws, OT law and theodicy, etc. Gane also provides a sizable chapter on keeping OT laws today, where he specifically addresses the OT laws that seem most strange to the modern reader, including various occurrences of forbidden mixtures, vast dietary restrictions, sex during menstruation, etc. Gane is reliably informative and pastorally sensitive to the difficulty that Christians face concerning the implications of these issues, and the reader will appreciate the candor and attention that is found therein. Gane is constantly canonically oriented in his approach and keen to offer explanations for New Covenant Christians.

Old Testament Law for Christians is outstanding as an introduction to OT law and equally as helpful as a hermeneutical model. That said, for many readers, I am confident that there will be inevitable disagreement with Gane at several points during the journey. Gane is unashamedly honest when his conclusion differs with the common position among Christians (especially in the chapter titled “Questions about Keeping the Old Testament Laws Today”). Still, his consistency is to be commended despite disagreement. Where most readers will find Gane helpful is in parts 3 and 4. Overall, Gane has succeeded in his objective and does much to elevate the usefulness of the OT law for New Covenant Christians. Gane removes an unfortunate false dichotomy in the contemporary church and encourages Christians to take the Torah as serious as Jesus and Paul. The Progressive Moral Wisdom approach is properly established and the outcome is a step in a much-needed direction.

Old Testament Law for Christians: Original Context and Enduring Application by Roy E. Gane is a timely resource. Gane has provided a comprehensive examination of OT law that will serve the New Covenant people of God for years to come. Any shortcomings will be found in the inevitable disagreement that arises out of a topic as such addressed here. That said, shortcomings aside, while I didn’t agree with Gane on every turn, I am very pleased to recommend this much-needed book.

Review: Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church

12925065Charles L. Quarles professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology and Director of PhD studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Quarles received both an MDiv and a PhD from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of numerous books, including a newly released commentary on the Greek text of Matthew in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series, The Illustrated Life of Paul, and The Cradle, The Cross, and The Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (with Andreas J. Köstenberger and L. Scott Kellum). Still, Quarles is likely most notably known for his outstanding commentary The Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church.

The Sermon on the Mount begins with a 34-page introduction that traces the Sermon’s history of interpretation, the relationship of the Matthew 5-7 to Luke 6:17-49, the structure of the Sermon, and the theological framework for understanding the content of the Sermon. Quarles offers both careful and accessible interaction within the introduction, and allows readers to embody a sense of familiarity with the Sermon before attention turns towards the content. The reader will do well to acquaint themselves with Quarles’ brief history of interpretation. This context is pivotal for the pages that follow, as it provides readers a sense of historical direction and allows them to pinpoint the origin of various presuppositions concerning the passage. That said, the introduction is not an essential read for readers simply stopping by for insight into a specific passage.

The commentary proper is positioned well to excite the reader about the content of the Sermon. Quarles writes with an enjoyable demeanor and tone, which the reader will appreciate as the exposition unfolds from depth to destination. Quarles treats the Sermon in a passage-by-passage manner. This approach is beneficial for pastors and teachers who generally tend to focus on sections. Quarles is sensitive to the Jewish context of the Sermon, including its inherent connection to the Old Testament within early Judaism. Moreover, Quarles rightly recognizes the need to provide an exposition that is established within a biblical-theological approach to the Matthean Gospel holistically. The Sermon on the Mount demonstrates a proper balance between practical application and ministry-driven insight that is uniquely packaged with a shared depth and breadth of academic rigor.

Charles L. Quarles is accomplished scholar and The Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church is testimony of his unique ability to reach multiple audiences at once. Honestly, there isn’t much to dislike about this volume. Quarles delivers as expected and does so with excellence. It would have been nice to see an original translation of the Sermon by Quarles with annotations concerning textual and translational matters. It also would have been enjoyable to see more intentional interaction with source and redaction critics. But neither detract. Quarles is unapologetically conservative in his approach and conviction regarding the Sermon, and the outcome reflects these values. Those who share similar convictions or not will be foolish to overlook this volume. It brings insightful exegesis and application, and comes strongly recommended.