Review: Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief

25649959John M. Frame is a household name in the Reformed Tradition and has been at the forefront of Reformed theology for several decades. Frame is J. D. Trimble Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, and the author of the magisterial four-volume Theology of Lordship series and A History of Western Philosophy and Theology. Still, one of Frame’s most influential and widely used books remains Apologetics to the Glory of God. Now, extensively redeveloped and expanded, including a new name, Frame’s apologetic masterpiece is better than ever.

Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief is largely the result of the editorial work of Joseph E. Torres and his desire to ensure the continued legacy of Frame’s apologetic footprint two decades after the publication of Apologetics to the Glory of God. Frame’s presuppositional approach is both lucid and clear, and his keen awareness and ability to bring practical illustrations into the heart of the material is unparalleled. This was seen and recognized in the previous edition, but it is even more evident here. Torres has integrated both previously published and unpublished Frame material to furnish the interior of his apologetic framework found in the previous edition. Some of the previously published work comes from Frame’s monumental work titled The Doctrine of God: A Theology of Lordship (P&R, 2002), such as the material on miracles, evolution, and the problem of evil. Additional material has been designated to footnotes and Torres has done a fantastic job not only organizing the volume but offering contextual annotations to help the reader position Frame’s work within his larger corpus of literature.

There is much to be applauded about this volume. Torres has done a phenomenal service to all Framean enthusiasts everywhere, both in cohesively bringing together Frame’s apologetic thinking and the overall organization of the volume. Those acquainted with Apologetics to the Glory of God will welcome such updates and find this second edition extremely useful. Concerning presuppositional apologetics, in my opinion, there are few communicators more helpful and influential than Frame. Still many fatally misunderstand this apologetic approach, misrepresenting it as an irrational circular argument among other things. Frame and Torres have taken such caricatures into consideration throughout, making an already clear and helpful presentation clearer and more helpful.

Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief by John M. Frame and edited by Joseph E. Torres is by far one of the best introductions to presuppositional apologetics. Frame is readable and clear, and Torres has done an outstanding job bringing together Frame’s literary output on apologetic related matters accessible within a single volume. It comes highly recommended, and, in my opinion, possesses the ability to outlast the twenty-year run of the first edition. Regardless if you already own Apologetics to the Glory of God, there is so much new material in this second edition that it deserves a new name. Oh, wait! Maybe that’s why it got one?!

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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: Van Til’s Apologetic

547104Greg L. Bahnsen (1948-1995) was Scholar-in Residence at the Southern California Center for Christian Studies in Irvine. Bahnsen was a distinguished scholar and a well-known Reformed apologist and debater. Bahnsen is the author of numerous books, including By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today and Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended. Still, one of Bahnsen’s most coveted and useful works remains Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis.

Van Til’s Apologetic is a substantial 800-page volume aimed at promoting an understanding of the apologetic output of Cornelius Van Til. Bahnsen has brought together principal apologetic passages from Van Til’s massive body of work, organized them topically, and added keen and insightful comments throughout. The result is a careful and comprehensive examination of Van Til’s apologetic methodology from one of the foremost proponents of Van Til’s presuppositional approach to the task of Christian apologetics.

The thematic organization of the book offers readers an entryway with various side streets to explore. There are nine main sections with several subdivisions: (1) An Introduction to Van Til’s Apologetic, (2) The Task of Apologetics, (3) A Simple Summary and Illustration, (4) The Epistemological Side of Apologetics, (5) The Apologetical Side of Epistemology, (6) The Psychological Complexities of Unbelief, (7) The Presuppositional Apologetical Argument, (8) Comparison and Criticism of Apologetic Methods, and (9) Concluding Summary: How to Defend the Faith.

Bahnsen rightly identifies a number of obstacles readers generally encounter when standing before the mountain of Van Til’s apologetic worldview. Two are worth noting here. First, the sheer size of Van Til’s literary output makes it difficult for the average reader to engage. Second, much of Van Til’s work presupposes a certain understanding of various philosophical and theological concepts and can be difficult for some readers. Where Bahnsen offers assistance is gathering the essential portions of Van Til’s work and providing necessary commentary to help readers not only understand but apply Van Til’s apologetic methodology.

Bahnsen’s choice of Van Til material is calculated and intentionally displayed. He really shows himself to be acquainted, not only with Van Til but his apologetics. Moreover, Bahnsen’s notes on Van Til’s work is unparalleled. It is both helpful and insightful. I’ve tried to read Van Til on several occasions. It’s not impossible. But, reading Van Til next to Bahnsen was truly enjoyable. For the sake of objective and critical analysis of his methodology, It would have been beneficial to have interaction with someone who didn’t fancy everything about Van Til. But, the scope of the book was to orient readers to Van Til’s apologetic, and Bahnsen has certainly accomplished this goal with flying colors.

Van Til’s Apologetic: Readings & Analysis by Greg L. Bahnsen is an essential volume for those looking to engage the thought, theology, and apologetic of Cornelius Van Til. It’s a well-written and clearly presented volume that demonstrates a keen understand of one of the most important Reformed thinkers of the past hundred years. Bahnsen is encyclopedic and anyone serious about trying to understand Van Til will need this book on their shelf. It’s both Bahnsen’s best book and the best work on Van Til’s apologetic, and comes highly recommended!

Review: The Letters of Geerhardus Vos

567089The life and ministry of Geerhardus Vos have shaped the landscape of Reformed biblical theology more than any other thinker of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Vos is known by many as the father of Reformed biblical theology and his literary corpus has captivated the minds and hearts of many more. And while works such as Biblical Theology, The Pauline Eschatology, and the recently published 5-volume Reformed Dogmatics offer vital of insight into Geerhadus Vos, none seem to parallel the unplugged intimacy accessible in The Letters of Geerhardus Vos edited by James T. Dennison Jr.

The Letters of Geerhardus Vos commences with a comprehensive, 72-page biographical sketch of the life and career of Geerhardus Vos. Dennison notes, “this [is] the most thorough account of the life of Geerhardus Vos to date” (p. 11). This introduction fittingly positions readers towards a contextual backdrop to the personal letters found therein, and Dennison has done a fantastic job bringing Vos’ life to paper. Following the introduction, Dennison has included a chronological list of Vos’ writings stretching 23 pages. Following the bibliographical details, the reader will find more than 80 letters written by Geerhardus Vos from 1883-1946, including correspondence to Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, B. B. Warfield, and J. Gresham Machen. Lastly, Dennison included a number of Vos’ poems—yet another layer behind the scholar, Geerhardus Vos.

The Letters of Geerhardus Vos is not for everyone. That said, if you have been influenced by the work of Geerhardus Vos, the added dimension of reading his personal correspondence to figures such as Kuyper, Bavinck, Warfield, and Machen is simply invaluable. Moreover, the editorial work provided by Dennison, especially the footnotes throughout, provided immediate insight into the context of the letter. It’s hard to put into words how insightful and rewarding it is to see the humanness of such a theological giant of the Reformed tradition, and I am grateful for the work of Dennison and others to make such possible.

The Letters of Geerhardus Vos edited by James T. Dennison Jr. is essential reading for any Vos enthusiast. Dennison has done an exceptional job and should be greatly commended for making this collection available. It comes highly recommended!

Review: Matthew (SGBC)

34460467The 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.

Matthew by Rodney Reeves is a welcomed and (for many a) highly anticipated addition to the series. Reeves is a brilliant scholar and dedicated to helping others understand the riches of the Scriptures. He is College Dean and Courts Redford Professor of Biblical Studies at Southwest Baptist University. Reeves has done doctoral work in Pauline Studies at Oxford University and a received a Ph.D. in New Testament from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of numerous books and is positioned well for the focus on this series.

Matthew opens with a brief introduction to the First Gospel. In general, this series has not offered much in the arena of introductory material. It’s simply not the focal point of the series. That said, Reeves does much to orient the reader towards Matthew’s Gospel, and, in my opinion, offers one of the best introductions seen thus far in the SGBC series. Reeves is transparent about the lack of known information concerning authorship, but still affirms a traditional position. He also argues for a post AD 70 date of composition, comments at some length about Matthew’s use and adoration of the Old Testament, as well as other important introductory items.

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 illustrations to aid teachers, preachers, and beyond.

Reeves does an excellent service to the reader in his engagement with the First Gospel. Not only is the commentary informative and rich, but Reeves is keen to provide practical application that almost always seems to mirror the meaning of the passage. Reeves is sensitive to the partialities of Matthew (i.e. comparing Jesus and Moses) and does much to uncover the original context of the book. Still, I think it is the bridging of the cultural gap where Reeves shines most—both the Old Testament to the New, and the New Testament to today. I was especially appreciative of Reeves comments on the Sermon on the Mount (though McKnight’s volume on the Sermon in the SGBC series is among the best, in my opinion) and his ability to maneuver controversial passages with a close eye to the emphasis of the series (i.e. Matthew 24).

The Story of God Bible Commentary: Matthew by Rodney Reeves is an exceptional contribution that offers a contextually informed presentation of the First Gospel for contemporary readers. I found Reeves to be well-informed and easy to read, and any lack of distinctive contribution to a mountain of literature on Matthew is made up for in his keen ability to keep sight of the whole amid the details. This is definitely a worthwhile read if you are teaching or preaching through Matthew, and comes highly recommended!

Review: Zondervan Handbook to the Bible (5th ed.)

34460428At over three million copies sold, the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible edited by David and Pat Alexander is arguably the most widely used study tool since it was originally published in 1973. Now, in a newly revised and updated fifth edition, Pat Alexander has built upon the great legacy of the previous four editions with updated visuals, new and revised articles, and more.

The feature list of the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible is quite astounding, and the presentation is even more attractive. Over 800 full-color pages, packed with valuable illustrations and reliable insight. In fact, there are over 700 full-color photographs and illustrations that vividly illumine a world of characters and events known to many through the biblical narrative. Beyond the photos and illustrations, there are a countless number of vibrant, full-color maps and charts of historical background information.

The content of the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible is equally as pleasant as the visual appeal. The contributors to the volume include Richard Bauckham, John Goldingay, R.T. France, Ben Witherington III, Gordon Wenham, I. Howard Marshall, Richard Hess, Michael Green, Walter Wangerin Jr., and many more. The format and organization of the volume is a section-by-section guide to the Bible, including explanatory notes and insights into the biblical world. The volume opens with a sizable introductory section (95 pages) that is devoted to orienting readers towards the Bible and biblical interpretation. There follows a canonical guide through the Old Testament (~ 430 pages) and the New (~ 250 pages), as well as a “Rapid Factfinder” (~ 34 pages) section that serves as an A to Z directory to both the book and the Bible.

The design of the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible is to offer readers a supplemental resource to be used alongside the Bible. This is not necessarily a reference work or textbook, as some might imagine. It is a resource that has been intentionally organized and presented to bring the reader into the biblical world by gathering together information only otherwise found in a number of different reference works. In this sense, the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible functions as a supercharged Study Bible that is divorced, or separated from the biblical text. This affords the room necessary to illuminate the biblical world in a way not possible in the space provided by a standard Study Bible, and this to the benefit of the reader.

The Zondervan Handbook to the Bible is a classic by any count. There is a reason so many have found this volume to be a blessing to their personal Bible study. It’s clear and concise, readable and informative, and attractively presented. It truly is the best book to have next to your Bible. I would recommend getting the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible over all major Study Bibles on the market. The content and visual appeal are attractively paired, and the list of contributors is as good as one could ask. Skip the Study Bible and grab the Handbook! It will offer more to your personal study than you think. Trust me!

Review: Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology

35720745The Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology: A Book by Book Guide to Archaeological Discoveries Related to the Bible by Randall Price with H. Wayne House is an up-to-date and comprehensive illustrated examination of the biblical world. Readers will encounter numerous full-color photographs, charts, maps, and illustrations that inform the historical context of Bible and offer insight into landscape of biblical archaeology.

The Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology opens with an informative introduction that is to be considered essential reading for most readers. Price and House do much to position readers towards the field and usefulness (or lack thereof in some cases [i.e. the limitations]) of biblical archaeology, including methodology, practices, and the significance of archaeology to the field of biblical studies. The Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology is organized into three sections: (1) Archaeology of the Old Testament, (2) Archaeology of the Intertestamental Period, and (3) Archaeology of the New Testament. With the exception of the second section (which is primarily concerned with the Second Temple Period and the Dead Sea Scrolls), Price and House guide the reader book-by-book (Genesis through Revelation) investigating the most important discoveries that enhance an understanding of the biblical text. Additionally, readers will find a full-bodied glossary, detailed atlas maps, and an updated bibliography.

The feature-packed pages of the Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology make this volume an essential addition to the library of any serious student of the Bible. It’s a perfect companion to any major Bible Atlas. Moreover, the quality of images compliments the content and seriousness of the material presented. Price and House are appropriately cautious and transparent about the limitations of archaeology, though they are also equally forward about the significance of such discoveries for the study of the Bible. Still, the uniqueness of this volume comes in its canonical approach to the task at hand. Not only is this helpful for the reader to pinpoint where and how the archaeological discoveries supportively enhance the biblical narrative, but it brings a contextual edge to the biblical text that allows the reader to connect the historical dots with ease.

The Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology: A Book by Book Guide to Archaeological Discoveries Related to the Bible by Randall Price with H. Wayne House is an exciting resource that will quickly find its way into the academy as a textbook standard. That said, it’s well written and attractively presented to allow for a broad array of readers. If you’re serious about the Bible and desire to understand the world in which it emerged, then this up-to-date and comprehensive biblical archaeological resource could not be recommended more strongly. It will be used and consulted more than you think!