Review: Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate

PrintInerrancy is an issue of vital importance in the life of the Christian Church. The denial of such leads to grave theological derailment in a variety of doctrinal convictions. Inerrancy is at the epicenter of Christian persuasion concerning the nature of God and the inspiration of the Bible. Still, the issues that loom around biblical inerrancy have continued to stir disagreement and debate for the better part of the past two centuries. Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate edited by F. David Farnell, Norman L. Geisler, Joseph M. Holden, William C. Roach, and Phil Fernandes looks to provide a definition and defense of biblical inerrancy amid some of the contemporary criticisms being lobbed in its direction.

Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate is divided into two major sections: (1) Inerrancy Defined and (2) Inerrancy Defended. The opening section is primarily orienting the reader towards the historical evangelical convictions surrounding the issues of biblical inerrancy. This section is an appropriate place to start and the authors do an excellent job to position the reader for the major thrust of the book found in the second section. This section was slightly over 100-pages and comprised a total of 8 chapters, which I think could have been shorter to avoid some of the redundancy. However, for the reader who is just now being concerned with the issues related to biblical inerrancy, these opening chapters will prove to be invaluable.

The second section of the book contains the bulk of the material. It is here that the editors have arranged an onslaught of articles relating to the various challenges biblical inerrancy witnessed over the last two centuries. Still, while the articles certainly address some of the past issues such as Barth and Neo-Orthodoxy, the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, ETS and Robert H. Gundry, the primary focus is centered on more contemporary issues. These issues include recent interactions with publications from Craig Blomberg, John Walton, Michael Licona, Robert H. Gundry, and more. Phil Fernandes also has a very interesting and somewhat provocative chapter dedicated to the (re)dating of the Four Gospels where he argues for a mid-fifties date for the Gospel of John. This second section is overflowing with helpful and respectful disagreement with recent scholarship and trends and will be the heart of the book for most readers.

Inerrancy is absolutely vital to the health and wellbeing of the Christian Church. This is not only shown theoretically in this volume but also practically. The level interaction that is found here is something that needs to be warmly embraced, regardless of personal agreement or disagreement with the authors therein. This is a timely book that warrants a keen ear. If you are looking for a fresh engagement with the contemporary landscape of biblical scholarship on the issues that surround the inerrancy of the Bible, then Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate edited by F. David Farnell, Norman L. Geisler, Joseph M. Holden, William C. Roach, and Phil Fernandes is a resource 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: The New Testament

PrintArthur J. Bellinzoni is Professor of Religion Emeritus at Wells College in Aurora, New York, where he served for nearly four decades. He received his B.A. from Princeton University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. Bellinzoni is the author of several books, including, The Sayings of Jesus in the Writings of Justin Martyr (Brill, 1967), The Two Source Hypothesis: A Critical Appraisal (Mercer University Press, 1985), and The Old Testament: An Introduction to Biblical Scholarship (Prometheus Books, 2008). Most recently, Bellinzoni has released the New Testament counterpart to his Old Testament introduction—a well-organized and uniquely situated introduction to New Testament scholarship.

The New Testament: An Introduction to Biblical Scholarship begins with a brief introduction to the origins of modern biblical scholarship and the methods and rules of evidence therein. As the book unfolds, Bellinzoni systematically tackles some of the various shades that flavor the discipline of New Testament scholarship, including, textual criticism, literary criticism and philology, source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, the quest for the historical Jesus, the early Christian movement, canonical and non-canonical Gospels, post-apostolic Christianities, the canon of the New Testament, and much more. The scope of material covered within this volume is quite impressive. However, it is the approach that Bellinzoni takes therein that makes this volume ideal for students of the New Testament.

Each chapter of the book seeks to both relay the need-to-know information regarding the current landscape of New Testament studies and provide the reader with a firm point of application of the particular method, discipline, or subdiscipline. Bellinzoni invites the reader to understand how biblical scholars seek to employ various methods of study within the arena of NT studies and then carefully guides them step-by-step through relevant passages to illustrate how such methods work. This approach is unique in that it doesn’t merely describe the conclusions of biblical scholarship, but rather encourages the readers to actually engage in biblical scholarship.

The organization and approach of this volume make it a unique and appropriate textbook for orienting incoming students to the underbelly of NT studies. It is executed well and the reader will benefit greatly therein. However, I was disappointed with the lack of interaction with conservative scholarship and the criticisms of the methods covered therein. Bellinzoni seems to confuse biblical scholarship with critical scholarship—giving voice to the critical scholars while neglecting or sometimes outright dismissing the conservative ones. This is certainly more of an introduction to critical scholarship than an introduction to biblical scholarship in general—a point of distinction not all readers may be able to determine. Regardless, recognizing the above, Bellinzoni has provided an important volume that will benefit readers in more ways than one.

If you are in the market for an introduction into the world of NT studies from a modern critical perspective, The New Testament: An Introduction to Biblical Scholarship by Arthur J. Bellinzoni is one of the most helpful volumes available today. It is a useful resource that will make you think hard and engage quickly.

 

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 Making of the New Testament

11230776The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text & Canon (Second Edition) by Arthur G. Patzia is a thoroughly revised, expanded, and updated edition of his classic textbook on the origin, collection, copying and canonizing of the New Testament documents. Nearly everything that was previously praised about the first edition has remained here. However, to the benefit of the reader, Patzia has made several needed changes to this second edition, including revised and updated documentation and interaction with more recent works on the subject material.

The Making of the New Testament is divided into seven major sections: (1) The Literary World of the New Testament, (2) The Gospels, (3) The Pauline Literature, (4) Other New Testament Literature, (5) The Criteria of Canonicity, (6) Writing, Copying & Transmitting the New Testament Manuscripts, and (7) Textual Variants & The Practice of Textual Criticism. Beyond these seven major sections, Patzia also provides five useful appendixes relating to the making of the New Testament: (1) Canon of the Old Testament, (2) Significant Leaders of the Early Church, (3) Early Canonical Lists of the New Testament, (4) Later Canonical Lists of the New Testament, and (5) Early Manuscripts Containing the New Testament. Like the material found throughout the volume, the appendixes have been both updated and revised.

The Making of the New Testament is an excellent resource for anyone who has ever pondered questions about how books and documents were produced in the first century, the motivation of the early Christians to write Scripture, why there are four Gospels instead of one, who decided and what criteria was used to choose the New Testament documents, and much more. Patzia has packed the book with a number of excellent graphs, charts, tables, and illustrations to illuminate the material for the reader. These are helpful even for those familiar with the subject matter of the book. Patzia also does an incredible job providing examples for the reader to better connect the material to the New Testament. This is especially helpful in his interaction with The Synoptic Problem, Source Criticism, Writing New Testament Manuscripts, and various aspects of Textual Criticism. Lastly, the Glossary and Selected Bibliography provide the reader with an excellent point of reference for immediate and further study.

The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text & Canon by Arthur G. Patzia has been a well-received and widely used textbook for over two decades. Patzia is clear, concise, and informed in his interaction and communication of the issues related to the making of the New Testament. Those looking for an up-to-date introductory summation of the various disciplines related to the making of the New Testament will do well in acquiring this volume. It comes highly recommended to readers with all levels of interest and familiarity, but especially pastors and laity looking to ground their faith in something of substance and communicate it more clearly.

 

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 Temple and the Church’s Mission

894622There are few books that possess the ability to radically alter the way that you read Scripture. The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God by G. K. Beale is one of those books. But The Temple and the Church’s Mission is not for the academically faint of heart. It is both detailed and comprehensive. Beale leaves no stone unturned as he guides the reader through the biblical narrative and beyond, developing a crystal clear portrait of the dwelling place of God.

Beale begins with the climactic Temple vision of Revelation 21:1-22:5. It is here that Beale prepares the reader for the journey ahead, and sets the stage for one of the grandest themes in all of Scripture. For Beale, as John witnesses the new heavens and new earth descending, his attention is immediately fixed on the city-temple rather than the new creation in general. This becomes a unique vantage point to the overall narrative of Scripture, and an ideal start point for Beale’s thesis that, “the Old Testament tabernacle and temples were symbolically designed to point to the cosmic eschatological reality that God’s tabernacling presence, formerly limited to the holy of holies, was to be extended throughout the whole earth” (p.25).

The scope and detail of The Temple and the Church’s Mission is rather impressive. I previously reviewed God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth by G. K. Beale and Mitchell Kim (IVP, 2014), which is a more distilled and practically applied adaptation of the present volume. The overall thrust of the content is the same, but the level of detail here is certainly not. Beale possesses an uncanny ability to explore some of the most intricate details of the text without abandoning the larger theme. More impressive is Beale’s ability to synthesize those details into a well-constructed and persuasive presentation in favor of his initial thesis. In other words, while it may be that the reader will feel overwhelmed at times, Beale does an excellent job of guiding the reader into the depth of the text while also providing numerous breaks for air amid the journey.

The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God by G. K. Beale has provided one of the most impressive works of biblical theology ever produced. The detailed journey is impressive and Beale’s initial vision is well-presented and persuasively received. Having read the distilled version of Beale’s material prior to this volume did well to prepare me for the overall direction of the cumulative case presented here, and this may be a recommended route for those with an interest in the subject. However, it must be stated that the distilled volume is no substitute for the riches that will be unearthed here. This is a journey that you will want to travel with an attentive eye to detail, and G. K. Beale is a tour guide par excellence. It will alter the way that you read your Bible and motivate you to worship! 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: Fool’s Talk

24043186Fool’s Talk: Rediscovering the Art of Christian Persuasion by Os Guinness is a well-timed reminder concerning the importance of persuasion in the proclamation of the Christian gospel. “We are all apologists now,” declares Guinness, “and we stand at the dawn of the grand age of human apologetics, or so some are saying because our wired world and our global era are a time when expressing, presenting, sharing, defending and selling ourselves have become a staple of everyday life for countless millions of people around the world, both Christians and others” (p. 15). It is here that Guinness boldly observes our time and context as the greatest opportunity for Christian proclamation since Jesus and the apostles, and thus, it is here that Guinness persuasively (pun intended) reorients the reader towards the heartbeat of apologetics found in the art of Christian persuasion.

Guinness guides the reader from beginning to end with noticeable expertise and experience in the field of Christian apologetics. However, for Guinness, Christian apologetics looks much different than the traditional approaches still used by many Christians today. Rather, the approach Guinness is keen to advocates is simple, cross-centered and cross-shaped persuasion. This is not a book for those seeking to catch up on the most recent apologetic techniques to be utilized in the workplace and beyond. It is a call to the Christian to put down the soulless crutch of technique alone and rediscover the all-encompassing power of the gospel of the cross. “Technique has its place,” as Guinness rightly acknowledges, “but it is time to challenge the imperialism of technique and keep technique in its place” (p. 46).

The art of Christian persuasion, then, is that which seeks to use the uppermost strengths of human reason and creativity in the defense of truth. Guinness describes the twofold reality of such persuasion as the apologists effort in, “Mustering all the powers of reason, logic, evidence and argument . . . [for] the task of answering every question, countering every objection, and dismantling false objections to the faith and to knowing God . . . Expressing the love and compassion of Jesus, and using eloquence, creativity, imagination, humor and irony . . . to pry open hearts and minds that, for a thousand reasons, had long grown resistant to God’s great grace, so that it could shine in like the sun” (p. 253). This is the art of Christian persuasion, the heartbeat of Christian apologetics, and the rediscovered platform of gospel-centered proclamation that Guinness commends to his readers.

Fool’s Talk: Rediscovering the Art of Christian Persuasion by Os Guinness is nothing short of a classic. Guinness is remarkably warmhearted in his exhortation and criticism of the present-day landscape of Christian apologetics, and his alternative approach is refreshingly biblical. “We are all apologists now,” and yet, as Guinness explains, “many of us have yet to rise to the challenge of a way of apologetics that is as profound as the good news we announce” (p. 16). It is here that Guinness has delivered a book that will both encourage your heart and reignite your soul for the task of Christian apologetics—namely, the art of Christian persuasion. If you are looking for an apologetic book that will alter the way that you interact with the world around you for the sake of the gospel, and reorient your heart towards the proper means of such interaction, then this is a book that you will do well to read. 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: Jesus as a Figure in History

066423447XMark Allan Powell is Robert and Phyllis Leatherman Professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio. Powell has a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary and is the Chair of the Historical Jesus division of the Society of Biblical Literature. Powell is the author of numerous books related to New Testament and Historical Jesus studies, including Introduction to the New Testament (Baker Academic, 2008) and the well-received survey, and focus of the present review, Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee, second edition (WJK Books, 2013).

Jesus as a Figure in History has been long praised for its balanced and unbiased approach to the study of the Historical Jesus. Now thoroughly revised and expanded, the second edition of this best-selling textbook brings the conversation up-to-date with the current trends within Historical Jesus scholarship. The book opens with a brief exploration of the conversation up to the present and provides strategic focus on some of the key players, contributions, criteria, and sources that have largely defined the discipline. For those unfamiliar with the issues and individuals surrounding the quest for the Historical Jesus, Powell has provided an excellent entry point into the conversation, and function as a type of prerequisite for the remaining chapters.

The substance of the book is spent unpacking (1) the method and approach used, (2) summary of the results, and (3) criticisms therein of major players in Historical Jesus studies. These players include Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, E.P. Sanders, John Meier, and N.T. Wright. However, before these in-depth treatments, Powell provides what he calls “snapshots” of some of the more peripheral players and the images of Jesus that have arose therein, including, Jesus the social prophet (Richard Horsley), Jesus the charismatic Jew (Geza Vermes), Jesus the magician (Morton Smith), Jesus the sage (Ben Witherington III), Jesus the Cynic philosopher (F. Gerald Downing), Jesus the itinerant radical (Gerd Theissen), Jesus the millenarian prophet (Dale Allison), Jesus the mamzer rabbi (Bruce Chilton), and Jesus the purported Messiah (Paula Fredriksen).

The book concludes with summary and cross-referencing of key issues that remain within the scholarly conversation, both agreements and disagreements concerning method and context. Finally, Powell has included additional appendix material not found in the first edition, including, Did Jesus Exist?, Historical Jesus Studies and Christian Apologetics, and Psychological Studies of the Historical Jesus. Each of the appendixes are a welcomed addition to Powell’s overall treatment, especially the attention given to the marginalization of Christian apologists within the conversation, namely Darrel Bock and Craig Keener.

Jesus as a Figure in History is skilled in its investigation and presentation of the Historical Jesus material, and it remains surprisingly unbiased throughout. The reader will find that the content and organization of the volume is well oriented and intentionally curated for all background types and interest levels. In other words, Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee by Mark Allan Powell has provided nearly everything the interested reader would need to enter into or keep current on the developments of the discipline both past and present, and for this reason 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: Hidden Riches

17384428Christopher B. Hays is D. Wilson Moore Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. Hays has received a M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Emory University. He is the author of Death in the Iron Age II and in First Isaiah and is currently working on the Isaiah commentary for the Old Testament Library series. Most recently, Hays has released an excitingly useful volume for students and enthusiasts of the Old Testament: Hidden Riches: A Sourcebook for the Comparative Study of the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East (WJK Books, 2014)

Hidden Riches opens with a brief introduction to the history and methods of comparative studies. Hays does the reader a service by immediately establishing his efforts within the overall context of the discipline, and rightly positions the reader for the coming investigation. The book is arranged canonically (Pentateuch, Former Prophets, Latter Prophets, and Writings), and thus is ideal for the task of comparative studies. Each chapter begins with introductory or composition information for both the biblical and ancient Near Eastern literature, including date, location, language, and more, followed by a readable and up-to-date translation of the comparative source (translations are done by Hays and others scholars, and footnotes are provided therein). Each chapter concludes with discussion around the sources, reflection questions, and a brief bibliography for additional study.

Hidden Riches is an excellent resource for serious study of the Hebrew Bible, and I think that there are a number of qualities that make this volume appropriate for the average reader but especially for academic use. First, Hays’ interaction when seeking to provide discussion around the biblical and ancient Near Eastern text is accessible and easy to understand for the average reader, although it does assume some prior knowledge in various sections. Second, the inclusion of a separate bibliography at the end of each chapter is fitting for additional study, but I think that the work cited will be largely inaccessible to the average reader. There are certainly gems buried, but this section will find its primary use in the work of graduate students and beyond. Third, Hays covers a wide range of comparative genres and the scope of the volume is quite impressive. There is certain to be something for every reader to ponder regardless of academic experience and background.

The comparative study of the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near Easter literature is strangely neglected in the arena of popular thought concerning the Old Testament. While the reader is certain to walk away with some level of disagreement with Hays, the importance of the study should not be overshadowed by intellectual conflict. The Hebrew Bible did not develop in a vacuum. What I appreciated most about Hays’ treatment of the study in Hidden Riches was his keen ability to bring high-level scholarly conversations down to a level in which even an interested undergraduate student could interact. This is a volume that will both make you think and challenge your thinking. Hays is clear, informative, fair, judicious, and well-positioned for the task of this book. It will be used often and 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.