Review: The Bible Unfiltered

35254165Michael S. Heiser is Scholar-in-Residence at Logos Bible Software. Heiser has an MA and PhD in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as well as an MA in Ancient History from the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of several important books, including The Unseen Realm: Discovering the Supernatural World of the Bibleand Reversing Hermon: Enoch, The Watchers, and the Forgotten Missing of Jesus Christ. Most recently, Heiser has brought together a collection of articles intended to aid an understanding the original context of the ancient world for the purpose of offering readers an unfiltered glimpse into Bible.

The Bible Unfiltered: Approaching Scripture on Its Own Terms is divided into three parts: (1) Interpreting the Bible Responsibly, (2) Old Testament, and (3) New Testament. Each chapter is only a few pages long. So, the content is easily digestible, and the point of each chapter is clearly presented. In part one, Heiser lays the groundwork for serious Bible reading and interpretation. In many ways, the reader is challenged to remove their theological lenses and unwind from presupposed tradition. Heiser is bold enough to not sidestep the issues as he goes straight to the heart of the matter and encourages readers to read their Bible responsibly. These chapters are certainly a challenge, but foundational to the entire book. In fact, if I were to guess I think Heiser would be more than happy if everyone that looked at the book only took the time to read and practice the content in part one. The remaining two parts are simply Heiser putting such hermeneutical practices into action for readers to observe in both the Old Testament and New.

Those previously acquainted with Heiser’s approach to the Bible will certainly meet on familiar territory in The Bible Unfiltered. This is one of the greatest aspects of the book. Heiser is keen to point readers to details in the text that are overlooked. The result, not surprisingly, is always a deeper understanding and awareness of the passage or narrative. Heiser is witty and controversial at all the right times and uses such to spur readers on to a more responsible study of the Bible. Moreover, Heiser knows the primary source material of the Old Testament and ancient Near East extremely well and is up-to-date on current conversations in biblical studies for both the Old Testament and New. Still, what I appreciate most about Heiser’s work is the amount of useful information and insight that he is able to shove into a small space. That said Heiser doesn’t just force mere factoids into a chapter for the sake of doing such. The information is always relevant to the text and digestible for the average reader—though it’s true that some food does take longer to process than others.

The Bible Unfiltered: Approaching Scripture on Its Own Terms isn’t a book for the faint of heart. Sure, it’s an easy read. But, for many readers, I think it will be paradigm shifting. Take time with it and be sure to test where Heiser takes you. It’s a journey well worth taking and The Bible Unfiltered is a great guide, as long as you take to heart Heiser’s call to read the Bible more responsibly. Whatever you do don’t remain trapped by tradition. Not that the filters of tradition are inherently wrong or misguided. But, the Bible just looks better unfiltered. Indeed, it is the unfiltered reading of the Bible that should become the foundation for all other filters.

The Bible Unfiltered: Approaching Scripture on Its Own Terms by Michael S. Heiser is superb. It comes highly recommended alongside his previous work of similar caliber and strength, I Dear You Not to Bore Me with the Bible.                 

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Review: Authorized

36026861Mark Ward is a Logos Pro who writes weekly on Bible study for the Logos Talk Blog training users in the use of Logos Bible Software. He has a PhD in New Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University and is the author of several high school Bible textbooks, including Biblical Worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption(BJU Press, 2016). Most recently, Ward has published a helpful and balanced little book on the King James Bible.

Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible is a generous and well-informed exploration into the most widely used Bible translation today (55% of readers, according to Ward, continue to seek out the KJV when looking for an English Bible translation). Ward doesn’t have an agenda to slander the KJV nor does he simply recycle weak arguments against its use. In fact, Ward begins with an excellent chapter on what the Church loses if the KJV stops being used. Agree with his assessment or not, this starting point is to be applauded and appreciated by serious and objective readers. Ward’s primary concern, and it’s a valid concern, is that the KJV is not a vernacular translation of the Bible. It is not written in a language that is spoken, read, or understood by the average English-speaking world. In fact, as Ward brilliantly displays, it is full of language that is not only outdated and obsolete but also includes many familiar words that have changed their meaning (i.e. “want” in Ps. 23:1; “halt” in 1 Kgs. 18:21; “commendeth” in Rm. 5:8; “apt” in 1Tm. 3:2). Ward (rightly) encourages readers to use a variety of translations and avoid the myth of a “Best” English translation.

Authorized is a short and enjoyable read. I finished it in a single sitting with absolutely no regrets. Ward is both readable and relatable. His approach to the subject is unique and filled with grace. It was honestly refreshing. I found the material to be engaging and presented in a manner that encourages reflection. I especially appreciated Ward’s linguistic focus, particularly surrounding “dead words” and “False Friends” as they relate to the KJV and contemporary English. I also appreciate and echo Ward’s conclusion to use multiple translations and avoid the temptation of believing in a “Best” translation. Where I think Ward could have added more to the volume, although I acknowledge that a comprehensive investigation is outside of the scope here, is in the arena of textual criticism and the textual reliability of the KJV. That said I’m more than happy with the balance and focus of the volume. I think it adds to the conversation from an angle that is often overlooked.

Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible by Mark Ward is a fantastic volume. It’s brief, easy to read, and packs an explosion of thought-provoking material. Readers will appreciate the gracious tone of the volume and the care that Ward has taken to inform without insulting. Of course, given the nature of the emotional investment, there will still be those unable to reconcile detachment with the KJV despite the sound advice provided by Ward here. This was an excellent book! It comes highly recommended and should find its home on the shelf next to The King James Version Debate: A Plea for Realism by D. A. Carson and The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? by James R. White.

Review: Jesus the LORD according to Paul the Apostles

35414913Gordon D. Fee is Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Regent College. Fee is a noteworthy New Testament scholar and the author of several important books, including God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (with Douglas Stuart), as well as a number of notable commentaries on the Pauline Epistles in the acclaimed New International Commentary on the New Testamentseries. Most recently, Fee released a useful and refreshingly concise distillation of his magisterial tome Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study.

Jesus the LORD according to Paul the Apostles: A Concise Introduction opens to the reader with an honorable forward by Cherith Fee Nordling, and readers will greatly appreciate the warm and personal tone of Nordling’s reflection on her father’s life and legacy. The book is divided into four major thematic sections: (1) The Savior, (2) The Second Adam, (3) The Jewish Messiah and Son of God, and (4) The Jewish Messiah and Exalted Lord. Each section examines the major Christological expressions of the Pauline Epistles, and Fee does a tremendous job guiding the reader through the nuanced nature of Paul’s adoration for Christ. Moreover, as a distillation of a larger work, Fee does an excellent job presenting the balance of detail and accessibility that the target audience will appreciate.

I’m generally not a big fan of abridgments of larger works. In fact, I have never been a fan. I think that they can be helpful to introduce a broader audience to an important work. But, overall, I tend to find myself wanting more detail to the arguments being presented. I had some of these same feelings with Jesus the LORD according to Paul the Apostles. It’s simply the nature of the beast. This in mind, I was thoroughly impressed with the overall depth and breadth of this volume—especially after familiarizing myself with Pauline Christology(I know what you’re thinking and the answer is, yes. My curiosity and appreciation for this distillation led me to Fee’s larger work and I’m happy it did). This book is a goldmine of distilled, exegetical application. The reader will get a clear sense that Fee knows Paul intimately, and it is from that place of deep familiarity that has birthed this fountain of rich reflection. The accessibility of this book is important for obvious reasons. But, most attentive readers with an interest in Pauline studies will be led, like I was, to the wellspring of that fountain—Pauline Christology.

Jesus the LORD according to Paul the Apostles: A Concise Introduction by Gordon D. Fee is a fantastic read. From beginning to end, readers will encounter a portrait of Paul’s Jesus that is too often overlooked in contemporary conversation. This is as true in the academy as it is in the pew. That said, while readers in the academy will still tend to identify with more closely with the exhaustive nature of Fee’s earlier work, those in the pew need something digestible to the average reader. I am extremely grateful for the life and legacy of Gordon Fee and the works that he has produced, and I am equally enthusiastic to recommend Jesus the LORD according to Paul the Apostles. It comes highly recommended!

Review: The Triune God

29491966Fred Sanders is Professor of Theology in the Torey Honors Institute at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He received an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and a PhD from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Sanders is the author or editor of numerous books, including Advancing Trinitarian Theology: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics and The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything.Still, Sanders’ most significant contribution to the contemporary conversation regarding Trinitarian theology is undoubtebly his recent volume in the New Studies in Dogmatics series.

The Triune God seeks to secure the reader’s knowledge of the triune God by rightly ordering the theological language more closely to the manner that the Trinity was revealed—a gift of divine revelation before theological achievement of the Christian church. Sanders showcases the heart of the New Studies in Dogmatics series, as he labors to retrieve the riches of classical Christian doctrine regarding the nature of God for the sake of contemporary theological renewal. Sanders is persuasive and articulate, and he does much to offer the readers a demonstration of Trinitarian exegesis that leads doctrinal conviction expressed in worship.

The Triune Godis organized unconventionally, as Sanders acknowledges (p. 19). In the initial chapter, Sanders places the doctrine of the Trinity as “a doxological movement of thought that gives glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (p. 20). This directs the reader’s heart and mind towards a necessary attunement to begin the exploration. The following chapters set the doctrine of the Trinity within a biblical theology of mystery, the communicative missions of the Son and Spirit, and then the Scriptural form of that communication is examined from the Incarnation to Pentecost. The remaining chapters explore the implications of God’s redemptive actions in the sending of himself and positions the reader towards a model of Trinitarian exegesis, which is then used to explore the Trinitarian presences in the Old Testament. This structure indicates a crucial order to be observed in the reader’s knowledge of the Trinity: revelation in the missions, attestation in the New Testament, and adumbration in the Old Testament (p. 23).

The strengths of The Triune God are evident as the reader exits the initial chapters. Sanders is a gifted communicator and well-acquainted with conversations new and old about the Trinity. The book is carefully written and wonderfully presented. The structural organization of the book is somewhat odd in comparison to other works on the market of similar scope. But, as the reader discovers the intentionality behind such approach and witnesses impact therein, it is hard to see this as a shortcoming. In fact, accompanied by Sanders’ logical coherence of the subject matter, it is easily one of the book’s biggest strength. Readers will especially appreciate Sanders keen ability to bring the reader back to Scripture while remaining in conversation with Christians from nearly every era of redemptive history. This is definitely an academic engagement on the subject and some readers will do better to explore other options. Nevertheless, this is also one of the best treatments on the Trinity available today.

The Triune God by Fred Sanders is simply excellent. It begins with worship and ends with a deep adoration for God. Sanders is rooted in Scripture and centered on the missional nature of the Son and Spirit. It is clearly written and persuasively presented. If you are looking for a tour de forcejourney into the most important theological conviction of the Christian faith, then The Triune God is an essential read. It comes recommended without hesitation!

Review: Retrieving Eternal Generation

34460448The doctrine of eternal generation has been affirmed by thinking Christians and theologians of nearly every ecclesiastical tradition since the fourth century. Eternal generation is a foundational component of two vital convictions of the Christian faith concerning Christology and the Trinity. Still, the doctrine of eternal generation has fallen upon difficult times among many evangelical theologians since the nineteenth century. The need for a retrieval is both immanent and timely in contemporary evangelicalism and few theological minds are more capable of facilitating a rescue mission than Fred Sanders and Scott R. Swain.

Retrieving Eternal Generation presents the multifaceted approach needed to establish the biblical necessity of the doctrine of eternal generation for contemporary evangelical theology. Retrieving Eternal Generation is separated into three parts: (1) Biblical Reasoning, (2) Historical Witnesses, and (3) Contemporary Statements. The contributors include D. A. Carson, Charles Lee Irons, R. Kendall Soulen, Michael Allen, and more. Following a brief introduction by Sanders and Swain, there are seven essays focused on building a biblical basis for the doctrine of eternal generation. In this section, the reader discovers three essays that explore aspects eternal generation in the Old Testament and four in the New Testament. The following five essays are historically motivated and trace the conviction of eternal generation from Origen to Karl Barth. The final segment has three theologically oriented essays that bridge the gap between the Bible and history to theological reflection. The volume closes with a number of indexes to help for further reference.

The importance of Retrieving Eternal Generation cannot be overstated. As Sanders and Swain articulate in the introduction, “it is not enough to say that the Son is God; we must see that he is God the Son, not just God in general. Sonship, or eternal generation, is what gives both form and content to the relation between the Father and the Son: the relation has the form of fromness and the content of filiality” (p. 17). The weight of this reality is demonstrated in the initial section of the book and then carried through with clarity into the subsequent sections. The initial section is also the highpoint in the book, in my opinion. Each essay in this initial section transmits its own importance. Nevertheless, the essay on John 5:26 as the interpretive crux of eternal generation by D. A. Carson and the essay on the “only begotten” in the Fourth Gospel by Charles Lee Irons are among the finest in the volume. The shortcomings of the volume are discovered in the variegated nature of the essays and the narrowness of content that occasionally overlooks a fuller portrait of the importance of the doctrine of eternal generation. This is trivial in contrast to the tremendous value the readers will find in Retrieving Eternal Generation.

Retrieving Eternal Generation edited by Fred Sanders and Scott R. Swain is a fascinating set of essays that is both immanent and timely in the context of contemporary evangelicalism. Eternal generation is an inseparable reality of the core convictions of the Christian faith. The thought of eternal generation somehow becoming divorced from the life and wellbeing of the identity of the Christian confession is unimaginable and Retrieving Eternal Generation is a clear example of the need that exists—a need for a doctrinal conviction that is rooted in the Christian Scriptures and expressed in the history of God’s people. If you’re looking for a book that will ignite your heart with a passion for biblical truth that matters, then Retrieving Eternal Generation comes highly recommended.

Review: Prostitutes and Polygamists

9780310518471David T. Lamb is Allan A. MacRae Professor of Old Testament and the Dean of the Faculty at Biblical Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Lamb received an MDiv from Fuller Theological and both an MPhil and DPhil from the University of Oxford. He is the author of Righteous Jehu and His Evil Heirs: The Deuteronomist’s Negative Perspective on Dynastic Succession(Oxford University Press, 2007), God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? (IVP, 2011), recently published The Historical Writings: Introducing Israel’s Historical Literature (with Mark Leuchter; Fortress Press, 2016), and Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style(Zondervan, 2015).

Prostitutes and Polygamists is a provocative and refreshing read that explores the overlooked depths of sexuality of the Old Testament. Lamb begins with an introductory chapter that turns the readers towards the wild nature of “love, Old Testament style.” Following a chapter on the God-ordained union of man and woman—husbands and wives—Lamb investigates nearly every major sexual issue found in the Old Testament, including polygamists, prostitutes, rapists and adulterers, incester, and homosexuals and sodomites. Each chapter is surprisingly detailed for the size of the volume, and Lamb’s witty approach and frequent illustrations lighten the tone of the volume despite the weight of the content. Lamb is also keen to allow the biblical text to guide the reader towards the intended conclusions in the lives of biblical figures explored in each of the chapters.

There is much to appreciate about Prostitutes and Polygamists.First and foremost, Lamb is an engaging communicator and a brilliant Old Testament scholar. There have been at least a few academic attempts to accomplish what Lamb has done here, and none them come close to the combination of wit and humor of Prostitutes and Polygamists. Second, Lamb tackles real and relevant issues without hesitation. The content itself necessitates this approach. However, Lamb does much to balance that necessity with honesty and insight that is rarely seen from the vantage point of the pew. Third, the textual dependence encountered throughout the volume allows the reader to freshly engage the biblical text alongside Lamb’s insight.

The shortcomings are mostly the result of interpretive and category difference. For example, while the incident between Noah and Ham is not commented on at length, it is mentioned in a footnote related to homosexuality (p. 162) despite Lamb’s disbelief that a homosexual action took place. What seems clear is some form of incestral relationship between Ham and either his mother or father—likely the former Leviticus 18—but there is no interaction with Genesis 9 in the Incester chapter. These types of disagreements are somewhat inevitable given the content of the book, but readers should be aware that such shortcomings exist.

Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style by David T. Lamb is a fresh and sensible. Lamb is well-informed, sensitive, witty, and downright hilarious at times. Readers will be sure to appreciate Lamb’s approach and insight into the often-controversial content of the book. This is a book that deserves to be read widely and should be on the shelf of every Pastor, especially those living among the sexual revolution that is sweeping across North America. If you are looking for a book that is both informative and engaging on a topic rarely discussed in church, then Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style by David T. Lamb is an excellent choice. It comes highly recommended!

Review: Studies in the Pauline Epistles

91IlUeY7VtLDouglas J. Moo is Kenneth T. Wessner Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. Moo is a well-respected New Testament scholar with prominent publications ranging from a magisterial commentary on Romans in The New International Commentary on the New Testament series to the widely used New Testament Textbook An Introduction to the New Testament (with D. A. Carson). Moo’s steady influence and academic esteem over the last several decades have left a long-term mark on the field of New Testament studies, especially in the arena of Pauline scholarship. So, the idea of a festschrift to honor the life and career of such an individual as Douglas J. Moo only makes sense.

Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo edited by Matthew Harmon and Jay E. Smith is a must-have for any serious Pauline scholar or student of the New Testament. Studies in the Pauline Epistles opens with a brief introduction to the volume followed by a short biography of Douglas J. Moo by Dane C. Ortlund. The collected essays are organized into three major sections: (1) Exegeting Paul, (2) Paul’s Use of Scripture and the Jesus Tradition, and (3) Pauline Scholarship and His Contemporary Significance. The contributors include Thomas R. Schreiner, D. A. Carson, G. K. Beale, James D. G. Dunn, N. T. Wright, and more.

The initial six essays are grouped under the heading of “Exegeting Paul” and focus on specific Pauline passages. The scope of these essays are narrow and positioned to highlight the reach of Moo’s academic interest in the Pauline Epistles. The following three essays are grouped under the heading of “Paul’s Use of Scripture and the Jesus Tradition” and focus on the intertextual nature of the Pauline Epistles. Craig L. Blomberg has a fascinating essay entitled “Quotations, Allusions, and Echoes of Jesus in Paul” where he interacts with the criteria of Richard B. Hays for identifying Old Testament references and applies it to Paul’s use of Jesus tradition. The final seven essays are grouped under “Pauline Scholarship and His Contemporary Significance” and focus on a few of the anticipated Pauline issues. These essays are among the most noteworthy in the volume, especially the essays by James D. G. Dunn, Stephen Westerholm, N. T. Wright, and G. K. Beale.

The reader interested in Pauline Studies will have much to devour in this festschrift. The essays are all important for various reasons, and Harmon and Smith have done a commendable job both in bringing together the contributing roster and organizing the volume. I can’t think of any overt shortcomings. Although with the exception of Carson’s essay, I did find the essays in the latter two sections to be the most interesting due to the nature of the content and personal interest. It was also exciting to see an essay by Jonathan Moo, which was very well done. The final essays by Thomas R. Schreiner and Mark A. Seifrid offer a practical bridge out of a volume that holds a good deal of academic merit. These essays were both refreshing and helpful in reminding the reader the reason for doing biblical scholarship—a focus that has clearly marked the life and career of Douglas J. Moo.

Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo edited by Matthew Harmon and Jay E. Smith is a must-have for any serious Pauline scholar or student of the New Testament. Those who have been encouraged and blessed by the work of Moo will find themselves in familiar company, and the reward of reading through these honorary essays will demonstrate the grace of God present in biblical scholarship. This is a must-have volume that comes highly recommended!