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Curious? NIV Faithlife Study Bible

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Curiosity ignites a fire that both informs faith and encourages spiritual growth. There are several ways to feed this curiosity within the Christian life, but few are more impactful than uncovering new or previously unnoticed insights into the Bible. For those who study the Bible often it is easy to find yourself in a dangerous place when it comes to keeping this flame of curiosity alit. There is no easy or one-size solution to remedy this situation, but a well-rounded Study Bible such as the new NIV Faithlife Study Bible can provide an excellent point of engagement to kindle this flame. Let me tell you about a recent encounter I had with a well-known passage in the book of Hebrews.

The book of Hebrews contains five major warning passages against apostasy (2:1–4; 4:12–13; 6:4–6; 10:26–31; 12:25–29). These warnings are scattered throughout the landscape of the book and all of them, except for 6:4-6, appear to be intrinsically tied to an Old Testament allusion or quotation. Here is where curiosity set in and a flame was lit. Given the consistency of the pattern found in the other warning passages, does it make sense to look for a similar type of pattern in 6:4-6? Moreover, if such pattern were present in 6:4-6, would it impact the current wave of theological conversation surrounding the passage? With these questions in hand, I began to survey what commentaries were saying with almost no success. I knew there was a chance that I was off track, but the pattern seemed too strong to simply disregard. As curiosity carried on and I turned to the NIV Faithlife Study Bible, I was pleasantly surprised by my discovery. Not only did it confirm my curiosity, but it opened a door to further insights of exploration.

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There are at least three features of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible that distinguish it from other Study Bibles on the market and position it for readers motivated to stay curious about the Bible. First, and probably foremost, because a Study Bible is only as good as those who contribute, the list of contributors is both impressive and wide-ranging, including scholars such as Michael Bird and William Varner, and best-selling authors such as Randy Alcorn and Charles Stanley. This balance brings both academic and pastoral considerations to the forefront of the reader’s minds. Second, the visual appeal of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible is unlike any other Study Bible available today. Readers will be met with beautiful full-color maps, timelines, tables, infographics (example above), etc. This aspect alone should activate the reader’s curiosity, especially the family-tree diagrams. Third, the level of depth provided in the introductions, articles, and notes offer an unparalleled experience.

No matter where you are in your faith journey, the new NIV Faithlife Study Bible has something exciting for everyone. It will keep your interest near and engage your heart as you continue to discover God’s word. Stay curious. There’s always more to explore.

Review: Biblical Theology

30010115John 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 Testament, The Theology of the Book of Isaiah, the three-volume Old Testament Theology, and many more. Most recently, in Biblical Theology: The God of the Christian Scriptures, John Goldingay has uniquely navigated across canonical lines and produced a biblical theology that both encapsulates the grand narrative of the Bible while simultaneously transcending traditional theological categories.

Biblical Theology is a sizable tome, covering over 600 pages and divided into eight major sections: (1) God’s Person, (2) God’s Insight, (3) God’s Creation, (4) God’s Reign, (5) God’s Anointed, (6) God’s Children, (7) God’s Expectations, and (8) God’s Triumph. The keen reader will be able to detect the close parallel between Goldingay’s major category organization and that of classic systematic approaches to theology. That said, it is quickly visible that Goldingay has sought to venture off the beaten path to pave his own way. Those previously acquainted with Goldingay will be met with his familiar wit and lucid writing style as he reframes the conversation towards an understanding of God and the world as it effortlessly emerges from within the Christian Scriptures (p. 13).

Where I think Goldingay shines in this volume is in his willingness to allow the text of the Old and New Testament to speak for itself. Goldingay avoids trying to unnaturally harmonize tensions within the text, and instead seems to intentionally allow them to remain unresolved. I found this to be refreshing at times and frustrating at others. It is also here I presume that Goldingay is going to find himself in a familiar place with many conservative evangelicals. Among other things, this seemingly intentional ambiguity is most recognizable in Goldingay’s omission of an affirmation of penal substitutionary atonement (p. 332). It is here, and his comments on justification, that will likely generate the primary buzz within the ears of readers committed to traditional categories of Protestant Christianity (myself included)—none of which will detract from the usefulness or brilliance of this volume.

Biblical Theology: The God of the Christian Scriptures by John Goldingay is a masterpiece of excellence and a new benchmark in the arena of biblical/theological studies. Goldingay has an uncanny ability to keep his eye focused on the bigger picture of the Bible as he brilliantly unpacks a compelling portrait of the God revealed therein. While Biblical Theology is a large and somewhat intimidating book, Goldingay is accessible and easy to read. There will be some inevitable areas of disagreement along the way for many readers. That said, for most of those looking to engage with this volume, such points of disagreement are likely to be known by virtue of its author. Biblical Theology is a unique and praiseworthy work that merits the widest readership possible. If it hasn’t found its way on to your 2017 reading list yet, it should!

Review: Ephesians (SOGBC)

33288691The 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 an attractive addition to the pastor’s library.

Ephesians by Mark D. Roberts is a welcomed addition to the series. Roberts is a brilliant man. With nearly two decades of pastoral ministry and three degrees from Harvard University, Roberts is well positioned for the focus on this series, and the results are noticeable. The commentary opens with a brief introduction to Ephesians, including comments surrounding some of the distinctive features of the letter, context and purpose, etc. Still, like other volumes in the series the introduction is rather lackluster, and those looking for introductory material will likely need to look elsewhere. This isn’t Robert’s fault. It’s simply the nature of the series. That said, Roberts does affirm the traditional Pauline authorship of the epistle and rightly encourages readers to interact with the letter itself as the best form of introduction.

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 (i.e. Eph. 1:3-10; Eph. 2:1-10; etc.), Roberts does an exceptional job steering the concerns towards the purpose of the letter. In this respect, Roberts exemplifies how to handle the text in a corporate setting. Not that these issues are insignificant or irrelevant, but the primary purpose of the passage isn’t always to bog down into the theological weeds. That said, Roberts generally provides a few words about such issues (without overtly taking sides) and moves forward towards the goal. This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest aspects of Robert’s work here, and it will inevitably prove useful for the target audience of the series.

The Story of God Bible Commentary: Ephesians by Mark D. Roberts is a unique contribution that offers a unified presentation of one of the most theologically significant Pauline epistles. Roberts 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 a worthwhile read if you are studying Ephesians. It comes highly recommended!

Review: Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature

28147335Richard A. Taylor is Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies and Director of the PhD program at Dallas Theological Seminary. Taylor received PhDs from Bob Jones University and the Catholic University of America and has published in both Bibliotheca Sacra and JETS. His previous publications include a commentary on Haggai in the New American Commentary series. Most recently, Taylor published an interpretive guide to the apocalyptic literature of the Old Testament in the widely praised Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis series by Kregel Academic.

Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook begins with a 20-page introduction to the genre of apocalyptic literature, including the distinctiveness of apocalyptic literature as a genre and various definitions related to the task of grasping apocalyptic literature in general. Taylor defines apocalyptic literature as “written expression of the emphasis that characterize apocalyptic communities, whether found in stand alone compositions known as apocalypses or in sections of material assimilated into other genres of literature” (p. 36). Taylor addresses the major themes in apocalyptic literature and covers a wide sample of representative text, including both biblical and extrabiblical material. Most of the book is spent equipping the reader with the tools for preparation, interpretation, and the proclamation of apocalyptic literature, specifically where such is discovered in the Old Testament. Lastly, Taylor offers a sample of his interpretive methods and uses Daniel and Joel as test cases.

There is much to be praised by Taylor’s work here. First, and probably foremost, the simple fact that he wrote the book is to be commended. Apocalyptic literature is a difficult genre that either gets mishandled or overlooked. Taylor has not only offered a framework for understanding this obscure genre, but he has made that framework exciting. Second, Taylor went beyond the canonical borders of the Old Testament and provided readers with a wider understanding of apocalyptic literature in general. Taylor demonstrates that the genre of apocalypses was both more widely used and better understood in the ancient world, and thus, guides the readers to that world as he surveys characteristics of related documents. Finally, the bibliographical material provided throughout the preparation, interpretation, and proclamation sections is invaluable. The keen reader wishing to build a useful library will harvest much from Taylor’s recommendations.

Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook by Richard A. Taylor is a unique and important work. Taylor informs both mind and heart on how to do proper exegesis of this obscure genre. Students, pastors, and teachers struggling to provide contemporary relevance to the apocalyptic literature of the Old Testament will do well consulting this volume. It’s an essential exegetical resource that will become a standard for many years to come. It will be on a syllabus near you soon, so you might as well be proactive and get started now! Trust me. It will pay off dividends in no time!

Review: No God but One

27840555Nabeel Qureshi is a New York Times best-selling author and an internationally recognized speaker. Qureshi received an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, an MA in Religion from Duke University, and is currently pursuing a PhD in New Testament studies at Oxford University. Qureshi is well-known Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity. It was here that he recounted much of the story of his faith conversion from Islam to Christianity. Now, in this much anticipated sequel, Qureshi provides readers with an outline of the evidence that ultimately moved his heart away from Allah and towards Jesus.

No God But One: Allah or Jesus? addresses the major questions at the interface of Islam and Christianity. The book is divided into ten specific questions: (1) Sharia or Gospel? (2) Tawhid or the Trinity? (3) Muhammad or Jesus? (4) The Quran or the Bible? (5) Jihad or the Crusades? (6) Did Jesus die on the cross? (7) Did Jesus rise from the dead? (8) Did Jesus claim to be God? (9) Is Muhammad a Prophet of God? (10) Is the Quran the word of God? The breadth of coverage is impressive and the reader will certainly benefit from Qureshi’s lucid writing.

While Qureshi doesn’t address every concerning issue related to the Muslim/Christian dialogue, he does cover most of the major issues the reader should be familiar with in the conversation if they are approaching this book with questions. Not to mention, this book is slightly narratival in scope, and thus, Qureshi is primarily concerned with walking the reader through the theological and historical questions that ultimately persuaded him to faith in Christ. This is a benefit for the target audience. Qureshi is engaging and careful in his presentation, and he does well to balance need-to-know information without getting “too academic.” This will be considered both a strength and a weakness for most readers—a strength in that Qureshi has provided an introduction that requires little intellectual taxation and will be useful for ministry; a weakness in that a popular level book of this caliber will ultimately leave some readers left wanting.

No God But One: Allah or Jesus? by Nabeel Qureshi is a much anticipated sequel that offers the reader an honest appraisal of some of the major questions that continue to linger at the interface of Islam and Christianity. Qureshi is lucid and informative without being overbearing and overly academic. It is clear that Qureshi has sincerely wrestled with these questions before bringing the reader into the journey. While Qureshi clearly affirms a Christian bias given his faith journey, if you are looking for an honest and balanced introduction to the Muslim/Christian dialogue from a somewhat autobiographical perspective, Nabeel Qureshi’s No God But One: Allah or Jesus? is a book I would highly recommend engaging.

Review: The Biblical Greek Companion for Bible Software Users

27840554The Biblical Greek Companion for Bible Software Users: Grammatical Terms Explained for Exegesis by Mark L. Strauss is a unique language resource that both refreshes and guides the reader through a plethora of Greek grammatical terms utilized by today’s leading Bible software programs. This resource, along with its Hebrew counterpart, rightly recognizes the popularity of such programs, and instead of allowing the users to float aimlessly amid a sea of grammatical terms, Strauss has intentionally curated The Biblical Greek Companion to fill this void.

The Biblical Greek Companion assumes ownership or access to a biblical language software program. There are a number of options available and most of the programs on the market today possess the ability to simply hover over or click a word to display the grammatical information. It is here that the reader will discover the grammatical terms comprising the content of the book. Each term is addressed alphabetically and contains a two-page spread with three major sections: (1) What It Looks Like, (2) What It Does, and (3) An Exegetical Insight.

I use Bible software daily and have been for nearly a decade. I use it for personal study, leisure reading, academic work, and various ministerial duties. I even use multiple Bible software platforms for different objectives. It should be noted to the reader that most of the top-tier Bible software platforms also provide at least a glossary definition of the grammatical terms mentioned above with a quick hover. In other words, it is safe to assume that most of the software programs have recognized and attempted to fill the same void as Strauss here—at least in part. Still, it is clear from even a cursory use of this book that Strauss has provided much more than a short definition with examples.

The organization of the book intentionally guides the reader from the point of identification to application. It is here that The Biblical Greek Companion shows the most benefit. Not only is Strauss removing the grammatical rust from the reader through helping them (re)identify and (re)discover the meaning of the term, but he is also actively helping them restore the original finish that once provided exegetical payoff. The latter is exceptionally useful for readers of all levels of linguistic understanding—from seasoned readers of the biblical languages to the Bible software user with no formal training whatsoever. Lastly, for those landing in the last category, or somewhere in between, Strauss has provided a host of helpful appendices on the Greek alphabet, diphthongs, accents, breathing marks, etc.

The use of technology in Bible study and academic work isn’t going away. Today more than ever, pastors, students, teachers, and even laity are utilizing the ever-growing and increasingly accessible market of Bible software. The answer isn’t to eliminate these tools to promise proficiency in the original languages. Rather the answer is to equip the user with resources to ensure that these tools do not become a replacement for proficiency. It is here that The Biblical Greek Companion for Bible Software Users: Grammatical Terms Explained for Exegesis by Mark L. Strauss comes with the highest recommendation!