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!

Review: Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting

29011661Sam Serio is President and Founder of Healing Sexual Hurt—an Atlanta based ministry working to equip people around the world to wrestle with sexual hurt from a biblical worldview. Serio has over three and a half decades of experience in both preaching and counseling the sexually hurt, and his most recent book offers readers a wellspring of practical insight and biblical wisdom on how to navigate the difficult waters of such issues from the pulpit.
Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting is comprised of basically two major sections. In the initial section, Serio brings the reader up to speed with the contemporary landscape of the Christian church. This section may come as an eye-opener to the pastor who is largely disconnected from those in his congregation. Serio does an excellent job connecting the culture and congregational life with the reality of our present world, and his ministry puts him on the frontlines to speak to such issues with clarity and authority.

The second section comprises the majority of the book and is likely the reason that readers will find this volume appealing. It is here that Serio looks deep into his bag of experience and guides the reader through how to address sexual hurts such as abortion, pornography, childhood sexual abuse and molestation, same-sex attraction and homosexuality, and more. Serio is extremely careful in how he presents each topic, and the sensitivity of those being addressed is clearly at the forefront of his mind. Readers will glean much from Serio’s pastoral heart and compassion for people.

As a leader who is neither a pastor nor a counselor, I found Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting to be extremely helpful in my interaction and communication with people in general. Serio offers excellent and appropriate insight, and his demeanor throughout is a posture that every Christian should seek to exemplify when handling topics such as that addressed in this volume. To be completely fair, this is not the type of book that I would have purchased had I not been given the opportunity to do this review. That said, I cannot express enough the importance and timeliness of this volume. It was much more beneficial than I would have ever thought, both for understanding myself and communicating with others.

Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting by Sam Serio is a volume that all Christians, but especially pastors and teachers should read and refer to often. The wealth of wisdom and pastoral insight is breathtaking given the nature of the subject matter addressed. If you are looking for a book that will both instruct and inform your heart to better serve the people around you then this is a volume you will not want to overlook. It comes highly recommended!

NIVAC eBook Sale @ $4.99 Each!!

nivac_bannerWhen it comes to finding a Bible commentary with a perfect balance between strong biblical exegesis and practical life application, few commentary series are more relevant and equipped for the task than the NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC) series.

Right now, every eBook volume of the NIVAC is just $4.99!! This is an incredible value, and I promise that whatever volumes you pick up you will be paid back dividends immediately.

You can purchase individual volumes, or save even more when you buy bundles. The bundles collect several NIVAC volumes and start at $17.99, making it easier than ever to complete your NIVAC collection.

These prices won’t last forever. The NIVAC eBook Sale runs from November 7th to 13th. Take a look and let me know in the comments below which volumes you bought!!

Review: The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style

27840618Robert Hudson is no stranger to the world of Christian publication. Hudson is currently a senior editor-at-large at Zondervan and a longtime voice of reason in the writer’s community. Most recently, Hudson has released an updated and revised, fourth edition of his widely enjoyed and immensely useful handbook The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style.

The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style is an indispensable tool for anyone engaged in the discipline of reading or writing within Christian and religious studies. This includes the seasoned academics, frequent bloggers, and diligent readers. Hudson’s work is divided into two major sections: (1) the style guide and (2) the word list.

The style guide contains a broad swath of appropriate topics, including both guidelines and stylistic recommendations. The entries are organized alphabetically and cover both common and obscure topics, everything from abbreviations to garwlixes. The word list is likewise organized alphabetically and discusses specific words and phrases common within Christian and religious writings. Hudson also makes recommendation concerning proper usage within various contexts. The entries include anything from the proper usage of “ABC’s, ABCs” to the appropriate spelling and use of the tetragrammaton (“YHWH, JHWH”).

Hudson is very clear that his work is not to be used as a substitute for standard reference works such as Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, The Chicago Manual of Style, and The SBL Handbook of Style. Rather, Hudson has provided a niche reference work that supplements such titles—and that it does extremely well. The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style (4th edition) is both cognizant of, and sensitive to the established position of these works, and Hudson does an excellent job providing users with a tool that compliments their existence on the reader’s shelf.

The usability and comprehensive nature of The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style is impressive. I have used numerous style handbooks and reference works to improve my writing, including all the reference works mentioned above. However, apart from The SBL Handbook of Style, none have been more immediately useful than Hudson’s work. It is overflowing with beneficial information and seasoned guidance that only the most naïve of writers would overlook. There is much to be absorbed here, and Hudson has almost guaranteed that users of all backgrounds will benefit with the first crack of the cover.

If you read, write, or do both in the arena of Christian or religious studies The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style by Robert Hudson is a book that should be within an arm’s reach at any moment. It comes highly recommended and will used often!

Review: Intermediate Greek Grammar

27066901David L. Mathewson (Ph.D., University of Aberdeen) is Associate Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary. Mathewson has written two important volumes on the Book of Revelation, including Verbal Aspect in the Book of Revelation (Brill, 2010) and Revelation: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor University Press, 2016) in the highly acclaimed Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament series. Elodie Ballantine Emig (MA, Denver Seminary) is an instructor of New Testament Greek at Denver Seminary and has been teaching New Testament Greek for over three decades. Together Mathewson and Emig have delivered an intermediate Greek textbook that students will enjoy as a first-stop resource for building a transitional foundation from basic to advanced Greek.

A number of helpful intermediate Greek grammars have been released this year. The most recent of which is the multi-authored Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the New Testament (B&H, 2016). This upsurge in linguistic attention is a welcomed reality for Greek enthusiasts everywhere, and Mathewson and Emig have added a unique contribution to this excitement. The differentiator is observed in the minimalist approach Mathewson and Emig have sought to establish, which is further accompanied by an informed understanding of the recent advances in the study of NT Greek. The combination of these two characteristics offers a clear, up-to-date, and student-friendly Greek grammar that provides the reader with an enough information to build a foundation without taking a journey too far into the grammatical forest of concepts and labels.

As mentioned above, one of the distinctive features of this volume is its minimalistic approach to Greek grammar. That is, Mathewson and Emig have sought to eliminate the perceived duty of a grammar to “uncover the most meaning possible in each grammatical form and construct,” which is frequently supplemented by “the multiplication of categories, labels, and rules for their usage” (xvii). Consequently, Mathewson and Emig have “kept categories and labels to a minimum” for the purpose of relieving “the student from the burden of learning an unwieldy list of case or tense labels,” which “greatly streamlines the choices and categories for which the students are responsible, thereby freeing them up to focus on entire text instead of isolated details” (xix). In short, while recognizing the importance of extended categories and labels, Mathewson and Emig have taken a different approach to better assist the reader in grasping the larger grammatical picture.

The benefits of Intermediate Greek Grammar are numerous. First, and probably foremost, as one who has read and reviewed a number of intermediate Greek grammars (including Going Deeper with New Testament Greek), the minimalist approach that Mathewson and Emig have presented really does free the reader from the burden of rigorous case and label memorization. Not that such should be completely ruled out of one’s linguistic journey (in fact, it is imperative), but for many readers, such will be more applicable after the minimalist foundation is laid. Second, Mathewson and Emig have provided ample “fresh examples” throughout the book. That is, whenever possible, Mathewson and Emig have sought to use unconventional examples to illustrate the concepts. This choice will be helpful for readers familiar with the landscape of Greek grammars and the traditional passages used therein. Third, the “For Practice” section that concludes each chapter intentionally seeks to position the reader to move beyond isolated passages to longer portions of Scripture, often highlighting the concept discussed in the chapter. That said, I think the minimalist mindset may have overflowed too far into this section, as the scope of the exercises is just that, minimal.

Intermediate Greek Grammar: Syntax for Students of the New Testament by David L. Mathewson and Elodie Ballantine Emig is a breath of fresh “grammatical” air. Mathewson and Emig have provided readers with an intermediate Greek grammar that seeks to bring the student into the grammatical world with minimal distractions. The result is a clear, student-friendly grammar uniquely submerged in the recent advances in New Testament Greek. While the minimalist approach should not be the final stop in one’s linguistic journey, it is well-situated as the first. It would be difficult to recommend any other resource as a proper stepping stone into the world of intermediate Greek grammar. This book promises to establish a foundation of fertile soil with which other traditional New Testament Greek grammars will plant seeds and continue to grow. It could not be recommended more highly!

Review: Destroyer of the gods

29894928Larry W. Hurtado is Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. Hurtado has authored numerous books related to early Christianity, including Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity and The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins. Most recently, Hurtado has written a blockbuster of a book and thought-provoking investigation into the distinctiveness of early Christianity within the Greco-Roman context.

Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World is an important and well-thought monograph that explores various aspects of the early Christian movement. The goal of the book is to display the uniqueness of early Christianity in the vast religious landscape of the Greco-Roman world. The book begins with a quick survey of early Christianity through the lenses of non-Christians, including both Jewish and Pagan critiques of Christians. Hurtado concludes, “a good many outsiders, who were the overwhelming majority of the populace, regarded Christians and Christianity as objectionably different and certainly not simply one group among an undifferentiated lot” (p. 35). It is this discovery that establishes the subsequent chapters as the reader is guided through the distinctiveness of early Christian ethics, worship, and more.

The entire book is fascinating and chocked full of rich historical commentary on the Christian movement of the second century. However, one of the most exciting chapters in the book has to do with the early Christian interest with the written word. That is, according to Hurtado, the early Christian movement was particularly interested in books—a “bookish” religion. The implications of this fly in the face of the popular misnomer that early Christians were primarily concerned with oral tradition rather than written words. Early Christianity, according to Hurtado, was uniquely fond of reading, writing, copying, and circulating text. In fact, the modern book likely discovers its origins in the early Christian utilization of the codex. Thus, Hurtado concludes, “the young Christian movement [was] distinctively text oriented in context of the varied religious environment of that time . . . ‘textuality’ was central, and, from the outset, early Christianity was, indeed, ‘a bookish religion’” (p. 141).

Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World by Larry W. Hurtado is a worthwhile investment for anyone interested in early Christianity. Hurtado is usually lucid in his presentation, but this book easily tops the charts of Hurtado’s life works. The reader will likely appreciate Hurtado’s interaction with contemporary scholarship and sensitivity to make the subject matter accessible to a wide range of readership. While much more could surely be said about Hurtado’s treatment of early Christian ethics and worship, in my opinion, the chapter outlined above is alone worth the price of the book. It comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.