Review: Q, The Earliest Gospel

5014957John S. Kloppenborg is Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department of Religion at the University of Toronto. He received both an M.A. and Ph.D. in New Testament and Early Christian Literature from the University of St. Michael’s College, where he completed his doctoral work under Heinz O. Guenther on the literary genre of the synoptic sayings source. Kloppenborg has since authored numerous books, including Q Parallels: Synopsis, Critical Notes & Concordance (Polebridge Press, 1988), The Formation of Q: Trajectories in Ancient Wisdom Collections (Fortress Press, 1987), Excavating Q: The History and Setting of the Sayings Gospel (Fortress Press, 2000), A Critical Edition of Q (with James M. Robinson and Paul Hoffman; Fortress Press, 2000), and the focus of the present review, Q, The Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Stories and Sayings of Jesus (Westminster John Knox, 2010).

Today, Kloppenborg is considered by many in the field to be one of the world’s leading experts on the Q source. The issues surrounding Q can be especially complex for the average reader who is unfamiliar with the synoptic problem and the conversations therein. Of course, this makes the task of creating a widely accessible introduction particularly challenging, as it requires beyond average familiarity with practically every corner of this scholarly discussion. It is here, I believe, that Q, The Earliest Gospel has provided something special for readers of all interest levels to engage. Kloppenborg attentively guides the reader through four fundamental questions—why should we think there was a Q? What did Q look like? What difference does Q make? And what happened to Q?—and provides the reader with ample interaction and examples to evaluate therein. This latter aspect of the book is invaluable for those who are newer to the Q conversation and provides a basis with which to weigh much of  Kloppenborg’s conclusions. Lastly, to the benefit of the reader, Kloppenborg closes the book with an English translation of the Critical Edition of Q that has been slightly modified in translation and noted where he differs with the editors.

Q, The Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Stories and Sayings of Jesus by John S. Kloppenborg is still one of the best introductions to Q on the market. Kloppenborg is well-qualified for the task and the fruit of his labor shows on nearly every page. Personally, I entered this review with an open mind but largely unconvinced by previous attempts at positing the existence of Q within the synoptic problem. Kloppenborg’s presentation was much better than the past attempts and I think that he may have even moved me forward towards his conclusion, but I am still largely unconvinced upon exit. Maybe I will give it another read with a keener ear towards evaluation. Nevertheless, if you are interested in investigating the various questions related to Q, for the first time or thirty-first time, Kloppenborg’s volume is the best entry point on the market and well worth the investment. 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. 

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Review: Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period

9780830826780Larry R. Helyer (Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary) is Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies at Taylor University, Upland, Indiana. Helyer has published numerous articles and reviews and has authored several books, including, Yesterday, Today and Forever: The Continuing Relevance of the Old Testament (Sheffield, 2004), The Witness of Jesus, Paul and John: An Exploration in Biblical Theology (IVP, 2008), and The Life and Witness of Peter (IVP, 2012). Still, it is within the present volume, Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students (IVP, 2002), that Helyer has offered the reader his most notable investment and contribution to the study of the New Testament.

Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period begins with a brief introduction outlining the history and importance of the Second Temple period for NT studies. While the information in this section may be considered foundational for the incoming reader, it is quite brief and could easily be ignored without consequence. However, the content that follows this section exhibits a much different story. Helyer systematically introduces the reader to the wealth of literature produced between the Babylonian exile and the rise of rabbinic Judaism. It is here that Helyer examines literary works generally categorized within groups such as the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, Philo, Dead Sea Scrolls, Mishnah, Targums, etc. Within each of the sections, the reader is carefully guided through various literary pieces, including information such as genre, sources, purpose, date, composition, structure and outline, content and characteristics, as well as a section devoted to the significance of the particular book to NT studies.

The examination of literature in this volume is impressive and includes such works as Tobit, Enoch, 2 Enoch, 4 Ezra, Thanksgiving Hymns, Damascus Document, Testament of Moses, Jubilees, and much, much more. Each major section of the book ends with helpful discussion questions for small groups or personal reflection, as well as a select bibliography for further study. One of the most impressive aspects of this volume is the sheer number of footnotes that accompany each section. This volume is both comprehensive and well-informed in its examination and research, and Helyer’s familiarity with the literature and context is evident with the turn of every page. Additionally, while the thoroughness of this volume will be enough to warrant its inclusion in your library, the readability will guarantee that it is met with equally good use.

If you are someone with even a remote interest in the study of the New Testament, Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students by Larry R. Helyer is an indispensable resource. I recommend a cover-to-cover read the first time around for familiarization with the content, and then the consultation of the various indexes for future reference. Regardless, this will be a volume you will use often. 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.

Review: Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology

9780830851324Shao Kai Tseng is assistant professor of Systematic Theology at China Evangelical Seminary in Taipei, Taiwan. Tseng has a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford and has authored a number of books and scholarly articles in both English and Chinese. Much of Tseng’s ongoing research has centered around the theology of Karl Barth. Tseng brings an interesting perspective to the current trends within Barth studies, and the present volume is a clear example of keen reflection and distilled scholarship.

Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology: Origins and Development 1920-1953 is made up of two major sections: (1) Reappraising Barth’s Lapsarian Position and (2) Barth’s Lapsarian Position in Development, 1920-1953. The first portion of Tseng’s investigation provides some definitional groundwork for the lapsarian problem. Tseng explains, “what defines supralapsarianism in general is the thesis that in election-reprobation God considers humanity as unfallen, while what defines infralapsarianism is the view that eternal double predestination—before the actual creation of the world—God conceives of fallen humanity as the object of election-reprobation” (p. 61). It is here that Tseng then reevaluates Barth’s position and his self-identification with the former lapsarian position.

Still, Barth’s lapsarian convictions are far more complex than that allowed by a simple ascription to a supralapsarianism position. For Tseng, the complex and dialectical nature of Barth’s lapsarian thinking, along with his doctrine of election outlined in CDII/2, could be described as basically infralapsarian (p. 79). Thus, the second portion of Tseng’s investigation seeks to establish this conclusion further by chronologically examining the development of Barth’s lapsarian position from Römerbrief II (1920-1921) to CDIV/1 (1951-1953). This latter section comprises the majority of the book and Tseng does well in guiding the reader to his intended conclusions. Tseng concludes that regardless of Barth’s avowed sympathy for the supralapsarian ordering of divine decrees, “Barth’s Christocentric doctrine of election . . . has in fact been a robustly complex scheme in which supra- and infralapsarian theological incentives and patterns of thinking . . . have been dialectically interwoven” (p. 290). In other words, a simple ascription to a supralapsarianism in Barth’s theology is just that—simple.

Those familiar with the landscape of Karl Barth and Barth studies will be able to examine the investigation of this book with more scrutiny than others. This is not a book written with a general readership in mind. It is both technical and dense, but rich with insight and theological reflection. If anything the reader will walk away encouraged that new explorations in theological studies are possible, which makes this title a perfect fit for the series in which it resides. This is a book that I can recommend for those interested or invested in Barth studies. It is a new page turned in the complex study of one of the twentieth centuries most influential figure. Still, for those who are looking for an entrance ramp into the conversation, I would recommend looking elsewhere.

 

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.

Review: The Canon of Scripture

51rTNoZf4HL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_The Canon of Scripture by F. F. Bruce is nothing short of a landmark publication on the subject of the biblical canon. It received two 1990 Christianity Today Awards including The Readers’ Choice Award and The Critics’ Choice Award, as well as a 1989 ECPA Gold Medallion Award. Nowadays, while many readers may be too easily willing to write off The Canon of Scripture as outdated and stale given the current landscape of biblical scholarship, the interaction therein by Bruce still provides much to be commended and praised.

The book covers both the Old Testament and the New. Still, only about one-third of the book is dedicated to the Old Testament. This is largely due to the fact that the Old Testament was a settled canon by the time of the New Testament, as seen in the testimony of Jesus and the apostles. Bruce states, “Our Lord and his apostles might differ from the religious leaders of Israel about the meaning of the scriptures; there is no suggestion that they differed about the limits of the scriptures” (p. 28). Bruce’s treatment of the Old Testament is brief, detailed, and overall helpful, but some Protestant readers may be uncomfortable with his handling of the Apocrypha.

The majority of the book is dedicated to the New Testament canon, and Bruce’s interaction with various Church Fathers therein is commendable. Bruce rightly recognizes that “authority precedes canonicity” when it comes to the New Testament documents (p. 123). In other words, the New Testament documents were already considered canonical prior to the recognition of such because of their authority, not vice versa. Still, Bruce offers six criteria in which the recognition of such books would be considered canonical by the early Church: (1) apostolic authority, (2) antiquity, (3) orthodoxy, (4) catholicity, (5) traditional use, and (6) inspiration (p. 256-269). Bruce’s treatment of the New Testament is much more detailed than the Old, and it is here that the primary usefulness of the book remains for the contemporary reader—especially Bruce’s interaction with the Church Fathers.

The Canon of Scripture by F. F. Bruce is a classic work on the canon of the Old Testament and the New. The comprehensive scope of the book and Bruce’s knowledge of the landscape is certainly commendable, and the detail and clarity therein will only work to benefit the reader. Those familiar with the issues surrounding the canon of Scripture should be well-acquainted with Bruce already, but for those seeking to enter into the conversation The Canon of Scripture by F. F. Bruce is a mandatory stop. It comes highly recommended regardless of the publication date!

 

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.

Review: Everlasting Dominion

7261Eugene H. Merrill is a seasoned scholarly voice on the Old Testament. Merrill is distinguished professor emeritus of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary and the author of numerous books, including Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel, The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament (with Mark E. Rooker and Michael A. Grisanti), and several notable Old Testament commentaries. Still, the pinnacle of Merrill’s scholarship has been widely attributed to Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament.

Everlasting Dominion is divided into five major sections: (1) God – His Person and Work, (2) Mankind – The Image of God, (3) The Kingdom of God, (4) The Prophets and the Kingdom, and (5) Human Reflection on the Ways of God. Each major section of the book encompasses a mountain of detailed reflection on the Old Testament, and Merrill tends to largely follow a canonical ordering therein. The overall organization of the book is also helpful for reference and research, and the table of contents provides a rather detailed outline to assist in this effort.

The opening section is among the best in the book. It is here that Merrill carefully delineates the person and work of God as revealed in the Old Testament, including the nature, character, revelation, work, and purpose of God. Merrill’s treatment of the nature and character of God is worth the cover price of the book alone. It will quickly and consistently connect your head and heart in worship and adoration before God. Merrill is similarly effective in presenting a theology of the Old Testament throughout the book. Some readers will disagree with the dispensational underbelly of the book, but the undeniable commitment of the author to the inspiration and authority of the Bible should leave such concerns in the dust.

Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament by Eugene H. Merrill is a welcomed volume that follows in the train of worthy works that have preceded it. Everlasting Dominion is Old Testament theology done right! It is both engaging and informative, and written by one who has labored rigorously in a lifetime of prayer and research on the subject. Disagreements are certain to arise due to the dispensational presuppositions seen throughout, but the view of God that Merrill presents is worth every moment of the journey. This is a book that will connect your head and heart in all the proper places. I recommend it with joy and look forward to referencing it often!

 

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.

Review: In Defense of the Bible

16072386It would be safe to say that the world is growing increasingly hostile towards a biblical worldview. The once prominent influence of Christianity has taken a cultural backseat to the rise of a post-Christian society, and the effects therein can be seen almost everywhere. For the sake of modernity, this cultural shift has largely encouraged an undue stance of skepticism towards the Bible. It is here that In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture edited by Steven B. Cowan and Terry L. Wilder provides the reader with a much-needed reevaluation of the current challenges facing the sacred Scriptures.

Despite the onslaught of negative opinion concerning the Bible, the contributors of this volume remain firmly persuaded with the faith of the Church in the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture. This conviction is stated rather unashamedly in the introduction. In Defense of the Bible is divided into three major sections: (1) Philosophical and Methodological Challenges, (2) Textual and Historical Challenges, and (3) Ethical, Scientific, and Theological Challenges. Each of these sections are strategically pointed at specific challenges that have arisen against the Bible. These challenges are largely variegated in nature, but Cowan and Wilder have done justice to the subtitle in their attempt to provide a comprehensive apologetic.

Depending on the particular interest of the reader, I found that the content of the chapters amid the three major sections mentioned above can vary as much as the challenges they address. For example, if your interests are more easily perked by the philosophical and methodological issues, the opening four chapters will be a goldmine of useful information. However, if these issues are not of immediate importance or interest, regardless of the content therein, the reader is likely to find the treatment to be satisfactory but not overly helpful. I was among the latter group in the opening chapters of the book, although the chapter on higher criticism by Charles L. Quarles was easily one of the most helpful chapters in the book.

The second section of the book is where I found the most benefit. It is here that the reader is exposed to some of the most substantial challenges to the Bible. The other challenges tackled in the book are important, but largely irrelevant if the text of the Bible is unsustainable. This is also where much of the modern challenge today is being directed, and directed quite strategically. Both the Old Testament and the New are thoroughly addressed, and the contributors to this section are all qualified voices amid the larger academic dialog. The chapter by Daniel B. Wallace is worth admission alone. The same could easily be said for the chapters by Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Paul D. Wegner, and Paul W. Barnett, but Wallace’s chapter will be noteworthy for anyone familiar with the frequent challenges administered by Bart D. Ehrman and others.

The challenges that are addressed in this volume show no sign of decelerating anytime soon. It is in the best interest of Christians everywhere to be familiar with these challenges, both ready and equipped to provide a defense for the hope that is within them. Thus, In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture edited by Steven B. Cowan and Terry L. Wilder is a book that I could not recommend more enthusiastically! It will both strengthen your confidence and encourage your faith!

 

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.

Review: Ephesians (EEC)

29597964S. M. Baugh is Professor of New Testament at Westminster Seminary California. Baugh has earned both a M.A.R. and MDiv from Westminster Seminary California and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine. He is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and is actively engaged in preaching and teaching. Baugh has written essays and articles for various publications, and he is the author of A First John Reader: Intermediate Greek Reading Notes and Grammar (P&R, 1999) and New Testament Greek Primer, 3rd edition (P&R, 2012). Most recently, Baugh released a mammoth commentary on Ephesians in the highly acclaimed and quickly growing Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series published by Lexham Press.

Ephesians is a powerhouse of exegetical insight and reflection. Baugh seems to leave no interpretive stone unturned, and his interaction therein displays decades of seasoned consideration on both primary and secondary literature. The introduction alone is approximately 50-pages in length and includes a healthy and up-to-date bibliography, as well as the standard introductory material that the reader would expect from a commentary of this caliber. Although it must be said outright that Baugh does little if anything “standard” in this commentary. From beginning to end, it would not be a stretch to conclude that even the most learned of readers will walk away from Baugh’s interaction with a wealth of exegetical and interpretive insights.

One of the most apparent benefits of this commentary is the organization and presentation of the content. This really works well with Baugh’s interaction with the text. Each of the major sections begins with a brief introduction to the unit of text, followed by an outline, the original text, textual notes, translation, commentary, biblical theology comments, application and devotional implications, and a selected bibliography. Also, the reader will occasionally meet an additional exegetical comments section, where Baugh seeks to provide additional comments on various themes in the letter (i.e. magic, faith in/of Christ, etc.). One of the most helpful features of Baugh’s work is the amount of information provided in the original text and textual notes sections. Baugh does well in assisting the reader in the task of establishing the text before he carefully guides them on an exegetical tour towards a very practical end.

Ephesians: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary by S. M. Baugh is undoubtedly one of the best, if not the best technical commentary on Ephesians available today. Baugh has offered far more than a reworking of his predecessors. This volume is carefully researched and judiciously presented for maximum usability. There is an assumed knowledge of the original languages that is required, but even those with limited knowledge will benefit greatly. Baugh has effectively blended academic rigor with practical exposition—a feat that could only be accomplished after decades of reflection and interaction. If you are looking for a commentary that will make you think and evaluate the available landscape of ideas before guiding you through the outcomes therein, this is a volume that you cannot ignore. It will quickly become the first off of your bookshelf!

 

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.