Category: Book Review

Review: Progressive Covenantalism

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

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

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

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

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Review: The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs

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

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

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

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

Review: 1, 2, and 3 John (SGBC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Advances in the Study of Greek

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

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

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

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

Review: 1 Peter (SGBC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: The Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible

41fMkqHERaL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_It’s not difficult to find a Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament combined under one cover. Biblia Sacra has been a standard for nearly two decades and A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek by A. Philip Brown II, Bryan W. Smith, Richard J. Goodrich, and Albert L. Lukaszewski has been offered by Zondervan for roughly 8 years. That said, earlier this year when I found out that Hendrickson would be publishing The Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible, the anticipation began to develop almost immediately.

There are a number of reasons Hendrickson’s The Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible is a standout from the crowd.

First, and probably foremost, the quality of The Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible is superior even to some of the most premium original language Bibles. The printed text is sharp and well-defined with minimal bleed on the opaque off-white paper. This is especially unique at under $40 for the hardcover edition and $60 for the imitation leather edition. A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek is over twice that price and half as nice.

Second, the choice to use the Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia (BHL) edited by Aron Dotan and the 1881 edition of the Greek New Testament edited by B. F. Westcott and F. J. A. Hort (WH) is both functional and unique in the marketplace. Where most options available tend to use the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) and either the 27th or 28th edition of the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (NA), here BHL and WH offer pastors and students a reliable text that is both readable and versatile.

Third, while other options may prefer the textual basis of the BHS and NA, both BHL and WH offer textual analysis where differences are present. WH includes a  critical apparatus at the bottom of the page indicating when it differed from NA27 and the Byzantine text by Robinson and Pierpont. Unfortunately, BHL does not include a critical apparatus at the bottom of the page, but Dotan did include an appendix with manuscript variants.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning a few stylistic features in WH, such as periscopes labeled in English, verse references to synoptic parallels, and Old Testament quotations and allusions indicated by bolded Greek text with reference at the bottom of the page. These features expand the functionality of the Greek New Testament beyond simply text on page, and allow the pastor or student room both to read and study.

The only foreseeable shortcoming of Hendrickson’s The Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible is a lack of attention to consistency with regards to the functionality of BHL. Apart from Qere forms in the margins and the corresponding unpointed Kethiv forms in the main text, there is little effort to offer the reader anything other than a reading experience. There isn’t anything wrong with this approach. But, as readers turn to the New Testament, the “bells and whistles” found in WH’s critical apparatus and stylistic features are evident. It seems that the Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament were edited separately before being bound together, and a consistency check was lacking. As mentioned above, Dotan does include a number of appendixes in BHL with helpful material. But, it would have been nice to have at the bottom of the page like WH.

Hendrickson’s The Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible is a phenomenal new resource at a very attractive price. The quality far exceeds the sticker-price! Both the Hebrew and Greek text are crisp and readable, and the binding is well-constructed. It opens flat with no issues and should last a very long time. Apart from the shortcoming mentioned above, I can think of no reason that pastors and students shouldn’t jump at the opportunity to own this volume. It’s easily the best option on the market for the price, and comes highly recommended!

Review: Getting Into the Text

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The influence of David Alan Black is observed far and wide in New Testament studies. Black is professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as the Dr. M. O. Owens Jr. Chair of New Testament Studies. Black is author, editor, and contributor to numerous influential works, including Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek, It’s Still Greek to Me: An Easy to Understand Guide to Intermediate Greek, and Learn to Read New Testament Greek. Recently, the legacy of David Alan Black was honored with the publication of a well-deserved and long-coming festschrift.

Getting Into the Text: New Testament Essays in Honor of David Alan Black edited by Daniel L. Akin and Thomas W. Hudgins is an attractive collection of essays by a top-tier list of scholarly contributors. The contributors include Stanley E. Porter, Constantine R. Campbell, J. K. Elliott, Tommy Wasserman, Maurice Robinson, and Steven H. Levinsohn. Most of the essays focus on aspects of New Testament Greek or textual criticism, but there are a few essays on the Synoptic Gospels and other areas of interest. The editors did an exceptional job in this volume selecting the contributors to ensure that the topics covered would reflect the longstanding academic career of David Alan Black.

The festschrift begins with a brief introduction to the life and ministry of David Alan Black by Thomas W. Hudgins. Hudgins orients readers towards Black and the impact of his work, which is followed by an 8-page listing of his published works. Each of the essays that follow do well to honor Black in the topic discussed. This is especially present in the methodology used to arrive at various conclusions. The essays were fairly balanced in their worth, but readers are going to be drawn to specific areas of interest and determine such value for themselves. I enjoyed most of the essays for different reasons. But, I was especially encouraged by the essays related to textual critical matters. Elliott, Wasserman, and Robinson offer important contributions worth the price of the book alone. I looked forward to reading Levinsohn’s essay, as I have appreciated his work in the past, but unfortunately was unable do to it being written in Spanish. Christian-B.Amphoux also has a Spanish essay.

Festschrifts tend to be hit or miss. It’s extremely difficult to get a capable group of contributors together to offer an adequate representation of a figure such as David Alan Black. The influence and legacy of this man is far-reaching and instrumental. Getting Into the Text: New Testament Essays in Honor of David Alan Black edited by Daniel L. Akin and Thomas W. Hudgins is not only a great representation of Black’s lifework, it’s a wonderful sample of how he has graciously served the academic community. If you are a fan of Black, a student of New Testament Greek, or an avid enthusiast on matters pertaining to textual criticism, then there is little reason to overlook this volume. It’s wonderfully done and thoroughly contemplated, and I couldn’t recommend it more strongly!

Thankfully Wipf & Stock Publishers has graciously given readers of Sojourner Theology 40% OFF the retail price of Getting Into the Text when they use the coupon code sojotheo between now and November 1, 2017. You now have no excuse!