Review: High Definition Commentary: James

28279999Steven E. Runge currently serves as Scholar-in-Residence at Logos Bible Software. Runge has a Master of Theological Studies degree in Biblical Languages from Trinity Western Seminary in Langley, B.C., Canada, and a Doctor of Literature degree in Biblical Languages from the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. He is the author or editor of a number of books related to Greek discourse analysis, including Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis, Discourse Studies & Biblical Interpretation: A Festschrift in Honor of Stephen H. Levinsohn (editor), Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament (general editor), and the High Definition Commentary series of which three volumes have been published—Philippians, Romans, and most recently, James.

High Definition Commentary: James is a unique commentary experience that will position itself well alongside other commentaries, such as James (EEC) by William Varner or The Letter of James (PNTC) by Douglas Moo. Both the size and content of this volume display that it was not intended to be a replacement commentary for those mentioned above. Rather, Runge has provided an excellent supplemental commentary that guides the reader through the trenches of a rigorous discourse analysis of the Greek text. Still, the reader with no prior exposure to such analysis will be happy to find that this volume is extremely accessible notwithstanding the complexity of the preceding sentence. Runge has truly done the reader a service by distilling the fruit of such analysis and presenting it within a clear and digestible package—a package that will bolster the readers understanding of the text without bogging them down in details.

The commentary itself is very readable and overflowing with practical insight for pastors and teachers. This is likewise true with the other volumes in the High Definition Commentary series. The commentary lacks a traditional introduction that some readers may expect. However, Runge does provide some introductory material in his opening treatment of James 1:1-11. Nevertheless, the real benefit of this volume is the way that Runge guides the reader through the text of James with a unified approach to his overall thought process. This is unique in that the reader is able to see the clear shifts in James’ argument as he moves from thought to thought, but also see the unity therein—something that is lacking in some of the other approaches taken towards this book. This, accompanied by the numerous graphics included, will be particularly helpful for those seeking to teach or study the book cover-to-cover.

High Definition Commentary: James by Steven E. Runge is a commentary that I wouldn’t want to be without. Runge is clear and articulate in his presentation of the discourse analysis of the Greek text, and thus very readable for those approaching the book of James—maybe even for the first time. Moreover, the inclusion of the graphics allows the pastor or teacher to more easily digest and display the overall message of the book to his hearers—providing a visual point of reference to better communicate the information therein. In short, if you are preparing to teach or preach through the book of James, or even simply looking for a more holistic understanding of the text, this is a commentary that will make your efforts worthwhile. 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: 40 Questions About the Historical Jesus

9780825442841There have been literally thousands of volumes written on the subject of the Historical Jesus over the past two centuries. The reader can find anything from multi-volume scholarly monographs and encyclopedias to popular level introductions. Still, there have also been few resources that have presented the Historical Jesus material in the same helpful manner as that found in the present volume by C. Marvin Pate

40 Questions About the Historical Jesus is divided into four major sections: (1) Background Questions About the “Historical” Jesus, (2) Questions About Jesus’ Birth and Childhood, (3) Questions About Jesus’ Life and Teaching, and (4) Questions About Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection. Each of these major sections is comprised of two subdivisions and roughly ten questions relating to the life and ministry of Jesus.

The selection of questions and overall organization of the book is oriented to introduce the reader to a variety of topics related to Historical Jesus studies. Throughout the book, the reader will discover a number of helpfully curated charts and diagrams, and each of the chapters closes with a handful of reflection questions for further pondering. The interaction within each chapter is fair and balanced, and Pate does well in presenting the broader landscape of Historical Jesus studies to readers with all levels of topical exposure.

The comprehensive scope of this volume is incredible. Pate was very ambitious in his selection of material and the reader will benefit greatly therein. Pate’s work is consistently documented and footnoted throughout, and the inclusion of the select bibliography and source indexes will make this a useful volume for future reference. Still, the bibliography that is provided is quite scant in comparison to the interaction throughout. A good addition would have been a designated bibliography at the end of each chapter.

If you are looking for a helpful and unique resource that will reach across the breadth of Historical Jesus studies, 40 Questions About the Historical Jesus by C. Marvin Pate is a volume that cannot be ignored. It is up-to-date and engaging, and the questions therein usher the reader through an ongoing conversation of vital importance. This book was a joy to read and I look forward to consulting it 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: Revelation (BHGNT)

26590271David L. Mathewson is Associate Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary. Mathewson earned a Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. He is the author of numerous articles and monographs on the book of Revelation, including A New Heaven and a New Earth: The Meaning and Function of the Old Testament in Revelation 21:1-22:5 (Sheffield, 2003) and Verbal Aspect in the Book of Revelation: The Function of Greek Verb Tenses in John’s Apocalypse (Brill, 2010). Most recently, In Revelation: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor University Press, 2016), Mathewson has distilled nearly two decades of scholarly reflection on the Book of Revelation in his long-awaited contribution to the Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament (BHGNT) series.

BHGNT has been a breath of fresh air for both scholars, students, and pastors alike. It has provided the reader with a trusted guide through the rigorous trenches of grammatical and textual difficulties, and thus established itself as an initial point of reference for determining the most reliable and readable translation before consulting with commentators. Mathewson’s volume opens with a brief introduction that summarizes some of the most important issues related to the Greek text of the Apocalypse, including, the literary style and genre of Revelation, the language of the Book of Revelation and Semitic influences, verbal aspect, and participles. The handbook proper has broken up the Book of Revelation into approximately 53 units of text (i.e. 1:1-3, 1:4-8, 1:9-20, etc.) where the reader will find an English translation each unit followed by a verse-by-verse analysis of the Greek text—including a detailed examination of relationship of each word, morphology, textual and grammatical issues, and interpretive challenges.

Mathewson’s volume does assume that the reader has, at least, some level of familiarity with the original languages. However, I think the main point of familiarity that is needed for this volume is in the department of grammatical terminology rather than vocabulary or some other aspect of the language. A first-year Greek student will surely be able to navigate the waters, but it may be a good idea to have a Greek grammar to consult along the way for further explanation. Also, there is a short, but helpful glossary of grammatical terms in the rear of the book for immediate assistance. A longer glossary would have been more useful, but the target audience should do well with what has been provided. Furthermore, I think that much more could have been done to make this volume, indeed to make the series more accessible to a broader audience (i.e. more translation of Greek terms and phrases), but, again, the target audience will do well with what has been provided.

Revelation: A Handbook on the Greek Text by David L. Mathewson should be the initial stop for all trained teachers, pastors, and students seeking to communicate the Book of Revelation. This volume has comprehensively compiled much of the groundwork needed to establish a thoughtful understanding of the Apocalypse. It is here that the communicator must begin, and it is here that this volume comes recommended. If you are looking for a guided tour through the marvelous, and sometimes murky waters of the Greek text of the Book of Revelation, this is a volume that you cannot ignore. Pair this volume with G. K. Beale, Robert Mounce, and David E. Aune and you should be ready to take on the world! 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: Historical and Biblical Israel

9780198728771Reinhard G. Kratz is Professor of Old Testament at the University of Göttingen. Kratz previously served as an assistant in the Department of Old Testament at the University of Zurich and held a Visiting Fellowship position in Christ Church College, Oxford. Kratz has studied literary history and theology of the Old Testament, Ancient Near Eastern prophecy, and Judaism in both the Persian and Hellenistic periods. He is the author of several scholarly books, including, The Composition of the Narrative Books of the Old Testament and Law and Religion in the Eastern Mediterranean: From Antiquity to Early Islam (with Anselm C. Hagedron). Most recently, with the assistance of Paul Michael Kurtz (translator), Historical and Biblical Israel: The History, Tradition, and Archives of Israel and Judah was made available for the first time in the English-speaking world.

Historical and Biblical Israel is a tour de force into the life and literature of the people of Israel. Kartz has divided the book into three major sections: (1) The History of Israel and Judah, (2) The Biblical Tradition, and (3) Jewish Archives. Depending on the interest or needs of the reader, these sections can be read individually or together. The first section depends primarily on the broader, external scope of politics, culture, and religion for its reconstruction of the history of Israel and Judah (p. 6). Kratz helpfully seeks to divorce this initial investigation from the biblical narrative and focus attention on “the archeological . . . evidence and additional information that can be won from the biblical tradition by means of both critical analysis and historical analogy” (p. 2). This section is packed with careful scholarship and reflection, and the reader is guided from the origins of Israel to the Herodian Kingdom.

The second section of the book focuses attention on the biblical tradition of the Hebrew Bible. This includes a helpful chapter on the scribal culture, scribes and scribe schools, as well as writing and writing sources in the pre-biblical period. Kratz seeks to present a focused investigation on the transformation of the pre-biblical material into biblical tradition and then outlines the literary history of such through the forthcoming centuries. Kratz work here is especially helpful, but will undoubtedly be met with opposition from some readers. The final section of the book provides somewhat of a blended examination of the preceding methods, as Kratz seeks to broaden his investigation of historical and biblical Israel into the Jewish archives—namely the Elephantine, Al-Yahudu, Qumran, Gerizim, Jerusalem, and Alexandrian archives. The book concludes with three appendices (Timeline, List of Kings and High Priests, and Glossary), a lengthy bibliography, and source index that will be useful for future consultation.

Historical and Biblical Israel is a wealth of informed scholarly reflection. I found myself in disagreement with the presuppositions presented in this volume more than once, but the sheer usefulness of the approach taken therein outweighed such contention. Still, I think it may have the approach taken—the divorced examination of historical and biblical Israel—that made these presuppositions more evident. This is, of course, to the reader’s advantage, and I believe that the keen reader will likewise walk away with such observations. Nevertheless, even those entering into the conversation in disagreement with Kratz will learn much. Kratz is concise and direct in his presentation, and the reader will appreciate the scope of the investigation despite the apparent lack in page count. If you are looking for a book that will stimulate your present understanding (or misunderstanding) of the people of Israel, then Historical and Biblical Israel: The History, Tradition, and Archives of Israel and Judah by Reinhard G. Kratz would be a volume well worth the investment.

 

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 Biblical Hebrew Companion for Bible Software Users

26263554 The Biblical Hebrew Companion for Bible Software User by Michael Williams is a unique language resource that both refreshes and guides the reader through a plethora of Hebrew grammatical terms utilized by today’s leading Bible software programs. This resource rightly recognizes the popularity of such programs, and instead of allowing the users of such programs to float aimlessly amid a sea of grammatical terms (they may or may not know), Williams has intentionally curated The Biblical Hebrew Companion to fill this void.

The Biblical Hebrew Companion presumes ownership or access to a biblical language software program. There are a number of options available and most of the programs on the market today possess the ability to hover over or click a word to display the grammatical information relevant to that specific word. It is here that the reader discovers the grammatical terms comprising the content of the book. The terms are addressed alphabetically and each entry contains a two-page spread including three major sections: (1) What It Looks Like, (2) What It Does, and (3) An Exegetical Insight.

I use Bible software daily and have been for nearly a decade. I use it for personal study, leisure reading, academic work, various ministerial duties, and much more. I even use multiple Bible software platforms for different objectives. It should be noted to the reader that most of the top-tier Bible software platforms also provide at least a glossary definition of the grammatical terms mentioned above with a quick hover. In other words, it is safe to assume that most of the software programs have recognized and attempted to fill the same void as Williams here—at least in part. Still, it is clear from even a cursory use of this book that Williams has provided the reader with much more than a short definition with examples.

The organization of the book intentionally guides the reader from the point identification to application. It is here that The Biblical Hebrew Companion exhibits the most benefit. Not only is Williams removing the grammatical rust from the reader through helping them (re)identify and (re)discover the meaning of the term, but he is also actively helping them restore the original finish that once provided exegetical payoff. The latter is exceptionally useful for readers of all levels of linguistic understanding—from seasoned readers of the biblical languages to the Bible software user with no formal training whatsoever. Lastly, for those landing in the latter category, or somewhere in between, Williams has provided a host of helpful appendices on Hebrew consonants, vowels, syllables, the effects of the accent on vowels, and much more.

The use of technology in Bible study and academic work isn’t going away. Today more than ever, pastors, students, teachers, and laity are utilizing the ever-growing and increasingly accessible market of Bible software. The answer isn’t to eliminate these tools to promise proficiency in the original languages, rather the answer is to equip the user with resources to ensure that these tools do not become a replacement for proficiency. It is here that The Biblical Hebrew Companion for Bible Software Users by Michael Williams is best represented, and it is here that this resource 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: Genesis (SGBC)

26309267The Story of God Bible Commentary is an exciting and practical commentary series that seeks to explain the biblical text in light of the grand story of the biblical narrative. The editors and contributors for this series are top-tier scholars with seasoned insight and experience into the world of biblical interpretation and proclamation—making this series an attractive addition to the minister’s library. Most recently, Genesis by Tremper Longman III, also the Old Testament general editor, adds a long awaited volume to this quickly growing series. Longman is certainly no stranger to the writing of sizable and useful commentaries on the Old Testament, and this volume is anything but an exception to that rule.

Longman begins with a brief introduction where he orients the reader towards the issues related to authorship and date, canonicity, genre, structure, historical background within the Ancient Near Eastern world, and the theological message of Genesis past and present. I found the introduction to be rather concise, but Longman is succinct in his treatment and does well for the given space and targeted audience. 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 illustration to aid teachers, preachers, and beyond.

One of the most rewarding and beneficial aspects of this commentary, especially given the target audience, is Longman’s near-encyclopedic understanding of the Ancient Near Eastern world. As Longman guides the reader through the Book of Genesis, it is not uncommon for him to quickly delve into various avenues of Ancient Near Eastern background and literature. Longman does an incredible service to the reader by making this information accessible and easy to digest. Still, while I found Longman to be helpful across the board within the different sections of the commentary, it is clear that his strengths are primarily designated to explanation rather than application. He does fairly well in both, but if consistency has anything to say about it, the former clearly outweighs the latter. Lastly, it should be said that Longman is not going to align with most conservative readers by way of his understanding and explanation of text—especially in the earlier chapters of Genesis. He is undoubtedly more sensitive to a figurative and critical reading of the book than a literal historical reading. Should this bring concern? Maybe, for some. But I wouldn’t allow such to deviate potential buyers from purchasing this commentary. If anything, it will do well to promote critical thinking and engagement with those who the reader disagrees, and we all know this world could use a little more of that!

The Story of God Bible Commentary: Genesis by Tremper Longman III is both practical and engaging. Longman has a keen ability to turn technical ideas into everyday concepts of understanding and application. Moreover, Longman is nothing short of a seasoned Old Testament scholar and he possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience in the matters of the Ancient Near Eastern world. I can almost predict with absolute certainty that the reader will catch himself in dispute with Longman more than once, but such should not be a reason to forgo this volume, it should be a reason to engage therein. If you are looking for a practical and accessible commentary on the Book of Genesis that will keep you on your toes, this is a commentary that you cannot afford to overlook. 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: The Baptist Story

23492913The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A. G. Haykin is a landmark textbook on the history of the Baptist movement. Chute, Finn, and Haykin guide the reader through roughly four hundred years of Baptist history characterized by three key interrelated themes: “promoting liberty of conscience, following Christ’s will in our individual lives and churches, and proclaiming the gospel everywhere” (p. 344). Still, Chute, Finn, and Haykin are well aware that Baptists haven’t always lived up to these ideals, and to the benefit of the reader, the authors aren’t afraid of being transparent along the way.

The Baptist Story is divided into four major sections: (1) Baptists in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, (2) Baptists in the Nineteenth Century, (3) Baptists in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, and (4) Baptist Beliefs. The majority of the book is devoted to the earlier years of the Baptist movement, namely the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, as these years are instrumental to the modern expression of the Baptist story. Chute, Finn, and Haykin do the reader a favor therein by integrating stories of non-English speaking Baptists, ethnic minorities, women, and minority theological traditions within the context of historic, orthodox Christianity.

One of the clearest strengths of The Baptist Story is its treatment of the African-American Baptist tradition. Chute, Finn, and Haykin rightly credit George Liele, a freed slave turned Baptist missionary, with being the pioneer of the Baptist missionary movement. Liele planted a church in Savannah, Georgia, prior to the close of the eighteenth century, before relocating to Jamaica as an indentured servant, where he formed a small congregation in 1783—a decade before the missionary work of William Carey in India. The story and impact of George Liele is both encouraging and inspirational, and Chute, Finn, and Haykin do well in making it a central treatment of the book.

There are a number of other strengths that could be mentioned, including the usefulness of the volume within the classroom setting, the clear and concise communication of each of the most significant events and themes within the Baptist movement, the intentional desire to uncover and unearth unfamiliar faces within the Baptist tradition, the utilization of photographs and textboxes throughout, and much more. However, the omission of several important figures and events proves to be an unfortunate weakness to an otherwise outstanding book. For example, while Chute, Finn, and Haykin rightly recognize R. Albert Mohler as a significant Baptist voice at the turn of the century, it would have been appropriate to say more than a few sentences about the controversy at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary when Mohler became president (p. 289). For some these omissions will be minor, but for others, the omissions of such significant events and figures may compromise the usefulness of the book. I stand with the former.

The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement by Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A. G. Haykin is an excellent and engaging journey through the historical landscape of one of today’s most influential religious groups. Chute, Finn, and Haykin are well-positioned tour guides for this journey, and the reader is certain to benefit greatly. If you are looking for a book that will educate and encourage your heart toward the mission of Christ, past, present, and future, then this book 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.