Review: A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism

2113111Paul D. Wegner is the Director of Academic Graduate Studies Program and Professor of Old Testament Studies at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. Wegner has a M.Div. and Th.M from Trinity Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Kings College, University of London. Prior to his position at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Wegner taught at Moody Bible Institute for roughly thirteen years in the Bible department and Phoenix Seminary for about eleven years as Professor of Old Testament. Wegner has written numerous articles in the field of biblical studies and textual criticism, authored several books, including, The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and Development of the Bible (Baker Academic, 2004), Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching: A Guide for Students and Pastors (Kregel Academic, 2009), and contributed study notes for Habakkuk, Daniel, and an article on the reliability of the Old Testament for the highly acclaimed ESV Study Bible (Crossway, 2008). Wegner has consistently shown himself to be a competent scholar with a clear passion for bringing many of the conversations of the scholarly community in an accessible form to the classroom and pulpit.

A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism: It’s History, Methods, and Results (IVP Academic, 2006) is a unique and accessible introductory guide through the trenches of the complexities that characterize the study of the textual criticism of the Bible. It is unique in that Wegner effectively covers both the Old Testament and New Testament in a single volume, and does so in tremendous detail. It is accessible in that Wagner is continually sensitive to the technicalities that often plague the conversations by building a language barrier between the expert and laity. This doesn’t mean that Wegner avoids the technical terms that the reader needs to know, but rather he explains and illustrates them in a way that cultivates understanding. The book opens with a general introduction to the study of textual criticism, including the definition and importance of the study itself, the explanation of the various transmissional errors that occur in the Bible (i.e. homophony, haplography, dittography, etc.), as well as the transmission of the biblical texts themselves. The learned reader may be tempted to merely skim over this introductory section assuming little benefit, but this would only result in the bypass of one of the most helpful sections of the book. The novice readers will want to spend as much time here as possible, and mastery is recommended. Wegner provides a host of examples and illustrations as he sets the stage for the more detailed investigation ahead.

The second and third sections of the book detail specified attention to both Old Testament and New Testament textual criticism. Both sections are thorough in examination and extremely user-friendly. In regards to the Old Testament, Wegner walks the reader through the history of Old Testament textual criticism and the methods with which such practice is best practiced. After walking the reader through Wegner provides two specific examples of how textual criticism works in practice, 1 Chronicles 6:40 and Hosea 7:14. Wegner closes the Old Testament section with a sizeable discussion on various sources closely associated with Old Testament Criticism. The same format is provided with regards to the New Testament textual criticism section. Here Wegner guides the reader through the history and practice of New Testament textual criticism and provides specific examples from Ephesians 1:1 and Romans 15:7. Subsequently, the discussion is directed upon the sources of New Testament textual criticism—the biblical papyri, uncial manuscripts, and minuscule manuscripts.  With these two sections, both Old Testament and New Testament juxtaposed with one another the reader can quickly distinguish the difference between the two disciplines. Wegner also aids in this effort. The book closes with a look into other relevant text for the task of textual criticism, including early translations of the Old Testament and New Testament. The keen reader will certainly appreciate the inclusion of this section into the overall aim of the book, as some of these early versions of the biblical text become imperative the task at hand.

A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism: It’s History, Methods, and Results is an essential resource for anyone interested in the underlying investigation of the Bible. Not only because the discipline of textual criticism, in general, is imperative to the preaching and teaching of the Bible, as Wegner makes clear, but he has labored to make the study accessible and comprehendible to the reader. Apart from the goldmine of information provided within the sections briefly described above, Wegner has also included relevant bibliographic material for further reading at the end of each section. Moreover, each section in the book is littered with helpful illustrations and photographs to better engage the reader with the groundwork taking place. Lastly, for quick reference Wegner has included a healthy 10-page glossary for relevant terms and an exhaustive name and subject index. If you are looking for an introduction to the complex world of textual criticism from a trusted and reliable source then A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism is a book you should not overlook. Wegner has skillfully gathered a wealth of imperative information and presented it with judicious care and attention for the student of Scripture. If you are a pastor, teacher, student, or interested laymen, I couldn’t recommend this resource enough. It will encourage and enhance your understand and confidence in the Bible.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and 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: Encountering the Manuscripts

1167940Philip W. Comfort is senior editor of Bible reference at Tyndale House Publishers and a noted scholar in the field of biblical studies and textual criticism. Comfort has a Ph.D. in Theology from Fairfax University and a second doctorate degree earned under noted textual critic Jacobus H. Petzer from the University of South Africa. Comfort has taught at several academic institutions, including Wheaton College, Trinity Episcopal Seminary, Columbia International University, and Coastal Carolina University. He is author or co-author of numerous books, including The Origins of the Bible, The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Tyndale, 2008), and the subject of the current review, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism.

Encountering the Manuscripts is the effort of several years of detailed examination of every early New Testament manuscript prior to AD 300 (viii). For Comfort, the result of this work has led to the publication of The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (with David Barrett), New Testament Text and Translation Commentary, and Encountering the Manuscripts. The first volume represents a joint effort to reconstruct the earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts. The second volume represents Comfort’s longstanding desire to aid the overall conversation around the relationship between textual criticism and English translations of the Bible. This third volume focuses more narrowly on the most significant New Testament manuscripts from the vantage point of paleography and textual criticism.

According to Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts attempts: (1) to explore scribal participation in the production of the earliest New Testament writings; (2) to provide an annotated list of all significant Greek manuscripts and early versions; (3) to assign dates for the earliest New Testament manuscripts; (4) to examine the use of the nomina sacra in the early New Testament manuscripts; (5) to present the history of textual variation in the early centuries of the Christian church; (6) to explore various methods of recovering the original wording of the Greek New Testament and assess the New Testament manuscripts as to their textual groupings and their influence on New Testament textual criticism; and (7) to offer concrete examples for the praxis of textual criticism, and in so doing to identify how the papyri influenced the text of the Greek New Testament (viii).

The field of New Testament textual criticism is full of complexities and technical nuances. This is evident by the sheer number of introductory material being produced and even more evident when the bulk of that introductory material reads more like a dissertation than an introduction. While Encountering the Manuscripts isn’t going to diverge very far from that current trend, Comfort does an excellent job guiding the reader through the complex issues in such a way to bring about an understanding of the material. In fact, I would say with confidence that he does this much better than most introductions that  I have encountered. Still, the reader should be prepared to undergo and partake in a journey through a fairly complex conversation. The journey may be difficult, but the destination is more than desirable.

There are a number of excellent sections in this book that I found to be particularly helpful. First, the sections that address the topic of paleography (or the dating) of the New Testament Manuscripts are sure to be received as a highpoint for many readers. Comfort does an excellent job explaining the process and procedure that accompanies the task of paleography. Some readers may find his ascribed dates contestable, but Comfort provides ample explanation to support his conclusions. Second, the discussion that surrounds the nomina sacra (sacred name) in the New Testament manuscripts is indispensable and worth the price of the book alone. Lastly, the inclusion of a chapter devoted entirely to the praxis of New Testament textual criticism accommodates a much-needed sense of practical application. This allows the reader to experience some practical benefit from the long journey in which they just embarked on.

Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism by Philip W. Comfort will inspire readers to engage the New Testament text through cultivating a closer sense of interaction and familiarity with the manuscripts themselves. It is from this realization that the reader is able to better understand and utilize the tools of textual criticism. From the careful and comprehensive explanations provided throughout the book, to the visible firsthand familiarity with the manuscripts themselves, Comfort has provided an excellent introduction to the field. I think readers of all backgrounds and interests will find great benefit in this book. It is technical but readable, intricate but informative. If you are a student of the New Testament, a pastor, or a teacher, then I would recommend that you prepare room for this book to find a new home on your bookshelf—sooner rather than later.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and 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: A Political History of the Bible in America

066426039XPaul D. Hanson is the Florence Corliss Lamont Research Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School where he has taught Old Testament for over forty years. In 1970, Hanson received a PhD from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. Hanson is the author or co-author of several books and a number of noted Old Testament commentaries, including Isaiah 40-66 from the highly acclaimed Interpretation series, 2 Chronicles: A Commentary from the esteemed Hermeneia series, Political Engagement as Biblical Mandate, The People Called: The Growth of Community in the Bible, and many more. Most recently, with the release of A Political History of the Bible in America, Hanson has provided a substantial investigation into the religiopolitical relationship that permeates American civilization.

A Political History of the Bible in America is a massive volume that leaves virtually no stone unturned. Still I must admit at the outset of this review that I am by no means an expert or specialist on American politics, nor American history. At best one could classify me as an interested spectator in a culturally familiar game. But, then again, this makes me a somewhat interesting candidate to do a review on a book of this magnitude.

Hanson begins with a lengthy prologue in which he builds a workable framework for the road ahead, and constructs a compelling case for the overall aim of the book. Hanson explains, “Biblical history, enriched by many religious and cultural traditions, flows into and is intertwined with our nation’s epic, both for better and for worse. To ignore that history is to cut ourselves off from our roots and to deny the ancestral experiences that forged our individual and collective identity” (p. 23). It is here that A Political History of the Bible in America divides into two major parts: (1) a historical retrospective on the relation between the Bible and politics in the United States, and (2) politics in the Bible.

In part one, Hanson traces the history of America back to the colonial times, starting with the theocratic model of the Puritans, paying close attention to the role of biblical tradition in the development of the national story of the United States. Hanson summarizes this objective, writing, “our objective is to examine the relationship between religion and politics in US history and identify the theo-political models that were adopted and developed to shape that relationship” (p. 29). As a nonspecialist, I found this section to be both clear and compelling. Hanson quickly drew me into the historical portrait that he was painting. Nevertheless, I found myself wanting more as I entered into the following section. This is largely a result of the brevity of the first part, but also due to Hanson’s ability to pull the reader into the details of the story.

In part two, Hanson directs the reader’s attention to the biblical framework in which the political underpinnings of American life have developed. To call this section a detailed study would be a minor understatement at over 500 pages. Hanson surveys both the Old and the New Testament in chronological order and presents a comprehensive study of politics in the Bible. I found this section to be rich with interpretive insight, especially when it involved discussion of the Old Testament Prophets. It is clear that Hanson is in his stride here. Another notable section was the lengthy chapter on the politics of Jesus, where Hanson aims to entertain the historical Jesus conversation and political implications of such simultaneously. Finally, the expedition comes to a close, as Hanson considers the proper methodological approach of biblical interpretation for the changing landscape of contemporary American culture.

As mentioned above, I am not a political enthusiast nor an expert on American history. Still, I find both to interesting and intriguing for various reasons (hence, the desire to read and review this book), and inevitably I engage in both on a daily basis as an American citizen. Overall, Hanson has provided a fascinating and compelling study of the religiopolitical relationship in America and beyond, and I appreciate his effort in writing an accessible volume that can be enjoyed by readers of all educational backgrounds. I think that some readers will unavoidably disagree with Hanson’s interpretive method of the biblical text, but they should still be able to appreciate the biblical and theological lenses in which he wears. If you’re even slightly interested in submerging yourself into the world of American politics, then I would highly recommend finding a place for A Political History of the Bible in America in your library. It’s well worth the investment.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and 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 Question of Canon

17861711Michael J. Kruger is President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is one of the leading scholarly voices today in the study of the origins of the New Testament, particularly the development of the New Testament canon and the transmission of the New Testament text. Kruger received an M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary in California, and a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, where he studied under the advisement of Larry W. Hurtado. Kruger is the author of numerous books, including, The Gospel of the Savior (Brill, 2005), The Heresy of Orthodoxy (Crossway, 2010, with Andreas Köstenberger), and Canon Revisited (Crossway, 2012). He is also the co-editor of The Early Text of the New Testament (Oxford, 2012), and Gospel Fragments (Oxford, 2009). In his most recent publication, The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate (IVP, 2013), Kruger aims to address a crucial and foundational question: why is there a New Testament at all?

According to most contemporary scholarship, the question of canon is not something understood to be intrinsic to the Christian faith, but rather something later imposed upon Christianity from an outside source—the result of an ecclesiastical response. Canon is then something that the biblical literature becomes, not something that the biblical literature already is. In other words, the question of canon is argued as an extrinsic development rather than intrinsic reality. According to Kruger, this extrinsic model may indeed retain value for the conversation, but it shouldn’t be the starting point of the conversation, and it certainly doesn’t explain the full story of why the New Testament canon exists. It is within this premise that The Question of Canon begins.

 

In Chapter one, The Definition of Canon, Kruger confronts the presuppositions of the extrinsic model in its desire to distinguish between Scripture and canon. For Kruger, canon existed even before it was recognized as being such. It was authoritative upon composition and then received by the Christian community as Scripture. In chapter two, The Origins of Canon, Kruger addresses the issue of apostolic authority and its implications on the inevitability of the existence of a canon. In chapter three, The Writing of Canon, Kruger critiques the assumption that the early Christian communities favored oral tradition over written documents. Thus, he rightly places emphasis on the early recognition of the New Testament writings. In chapter four, The Authors of Canon, Kruger aims to build upon the previous chapter by connecting the New Testament documents to apostolic authority they conveyed. This is an important chapter the book and a crucial presumption of the intrinsic model. In chapter five, The Date of Canon, Kruger presents a well-positioned critique of the idea that the canon formulated at the end of the second century following the influence of Irenaeus of Lyons. Kruger carefully surveys a number of early Christian documents considered to be contemporary to Irenaeus and examines the existence of any deposit of a concept of authoritative books.

The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate is an important book. By understanding and defining the concept of canon as an ontological, Kruger has rightfully positioned himself to discuss the issue on theological grounds. The attentive reader will recognize the importance of this presupposition, and appreciate the judicious care with which Kruger articulates his view. The goal of the book is not to discredit the extrinsic model as unbeneficial to the discussion, but rather to offer a well-intended corrective to the model’s narrow assessment and interpretation of the historical evidence. The book itself is well written and largely accessible to the average reader, and, for this reason, should be recommended to anyone questioning the existence of canon. If you are a pastor, teacher, student, or interested laymen who interacts with the world around you, The Question of Canon will better equip you to recognize the short sights of the current conversation and encourage your confidence in the inevitable existence of the New Testament text.

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and 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: An Introduction to the Old Testament

26267459John Goldingay (PhD, University of Nottingham; DD, Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth) is David Alan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. Goldingay is the author of numerous books, including the seventeen-volume Old Testament for Everyone series (Westminster John Knox, 2010-15), The Theology of the Book of Isaiah (IVP, 2014), Do We Need the New Testament? Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself (IVP, 2015), and the three-volume Old Testament Theology (IVP, 2003-09). Furthermore, Goldingay has also published a number of highly respected commentaries and a host of articles pertaining to the sphere of Old Testament studies. Most recently, An Introduction to the Old Testament: Exploring Text, Approaches & Issues (IVP, 2015), Goldingay has brought the lively and informative conversations of his classroom to the everyday reader.

Part of the difficulty with the current landscape of introductory material on the Old Testament is that it generally overlooks the necessary balance between engaging the reader and instructing them in the areas of information they need. There are certain topics that the instructor needs to address in detail, and others that they do not. Moreover, for the student, there are particular issues and topics that perk their interest and others that may not. Finding the proper balance between “need to know” and “want to know” is a difficult task, but it is essential if one is going to fully engage others in the learning process. It is within this need and reality that An Introduction to the Old Testament shines the brightest, as it executes this balance with intentional precision.

There are several unique features that make An Introduction to the Old Testament more accessible in this manner. For the sake of space here, I will list two. First, rather than operating within the traditional chapter divisions, Goldingay has designated separate two-page sections for each topic addressed within the five major sections of the book — (Part I) Introduction, (Part II) Torah, (Part III) The Prophets, (Part IV) The Writings, and (Part V) Looking Back over the Whole. This attention to detail makes the content more digestible and accessible for the average reader. Second, to supplement these smaller sections, Goldingay has provided the reader with a whole host of additional material and expanded discussions at his website. Thus, at the end of each major division the reader will find a dedicated section entitled “Web Resources” where they can further investigate related issues. This is a great feature and it really allows the reader to plunge as deep as they desire, into whatever area they desire, and come out on the other side with a better understanding of the material.

An Introduction to the Old Testament: Exploring Text, Approaches & Issues by John Goldingay is an excellent guide through the deep trenches of the Old Testament Scriptures. Goldingay is a seasoned professor and has provided the reader with a welcomed balance between the “need to know” information of the Old Testament and the “want to know” information. Moreover, he has presented it in an easily digestible layout and provided the reader additional avenues to further pursue other topics of interest. For these reasons and more, An Introduction to the Old Testament is an easy recommendation for anyone looking to explore the Old Testament. But, more specifically, if you are a teacher and/or professor and are considering the use of An Introduction to the Old Testament as a textbook, I couldn’t think of a better resource to engage your students and cultivate conversation in your classroom than this. It comes highly recommended.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and 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.

Book Review: Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?

8103566James D. G. Dunn is no stranger to the world of Early Christianity. In fact, it has been said of Dunn, “Anyone who is interested in the rigorous study of early Christianity and who has not engaged with the works of James D. G. Dunn is not really interested in the rigorous study of early Christianity” (The Holy Spirit and Christian Origins, 2004). Dunn is Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham. He received an M.A. and B.D. from the University of Glasgow and a Ph.D. and D.D. from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of numerous books, including, The Evidence for Jesus (1985), Romans 1-8 & 9-16 in the Word Biblical Commentary series (1988), Jesus Remembered, Christianity in the Making, vol. 1 (2003), Beginning from Jerusalem, Christianity in the Making, vol. 2 (2009), as well as the present volume and the subject of this review: Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence (2010).

Everything that I have read by Dunn has been well-written and thoroughly engaging. He is consistently both scholarly and accessible to the average reader, and Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? displays the marriage of these two realities well. Though it must be said that the content within may not be easily welcomed by conservative evangelicals. The book begins with a brief introduction where Dunn reveals his conversation partners—Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado—and builds the case for his investigation with a number of sub-questions that become the focus of the subsequent chapters. The thesis of the book is also laid on the table twofold: (1) for the first Christians worship of Jesus was a way of worshiping YHWH, and (2) the contemporary worship of Jesus now witnessed is only possible or acceptable within what is now understood as a Trinitarian framework (p. 6).  In Chapter one Dunn examines the language of worship in the New Testament as applied to Jesus. He concludes that there is no real concrete evidence that worship language, as applied to God, was ever directly applied to Jesus. According to Dunn the worship language found within the New Testament was never explicitly directed at Jesus, rather it was directed at God for Jesus (p. 27-28). Chapter two carries much of the same theme of ambiguity as Dunn examines at the practice of worship in relation to the person of Jesus (i.e. prayer and sacrifice). Dunn writes, “in earliest Christianity, Christ was never understood as the one to whom sacrifice was offered, even when the imagery of sacrifice was used symbolically for Christian service” (p. 56).

As Dunn moves toward the topic in closer detail, chapter three addresses the topic of monotheism, heavenly mediators, and divine agents. This was an interesting chapter and most readers will likely find it to be a highpoint in the book. Dunn examines Paul’s reframing of the Shema, the divine personification of Spirit, Wisdom, and Word in light of the early Christian claims about Jesus, as well as exalted human beings such as Moses, Elijah, and Enoch. Dunn historically concludes that none of these entities were treated as a rightful recipient of worship, and thus either was Jesus to the first Christians. The final chapter is the heartbeat of the book and crucial to Dunn’s thesis. If the reader is able to read only a single chapter from the book this is the chapter to read. In chapter four Dunn address a number of stimulating topics related to the proposed question of the book, such as Jesus’s view of monotheism, the New Testament texts that appear to refer to Jesus as YHWH (i.e. 1 Corinthians 8:6; 15:24-28), as well as related issues within the Fourth Gospel and Revelation. As the book concludes Dunn warns the reader of the dangers of an oversimplified answer to the question. It’s not that simple according to Dunn. So, did the first Christians worship Jesus? Dunn concludes, “No, by and large the first Christians did not worship Jesus as such . . . so our central question can indeed be answered negatively, and perhaps it should be” (p. 150-151).
As stated above, everything that I have read by Dunn has been well-written and thoroughly engaging. He is consistently scholarly and accessible to the average reader, and Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? displays the union of these two realities well. Nonetheless, the content within this book may not be as easily welcomed by conservative evangelicals. Still, Dunn will make you think long and hard about your reading of Scripture and history. While I would largely align myself in opposition to Dunn’s conclusion, and in full disclosure did so prior to reading the book, I personally discovered many benefits in his contribution to this ongoing conversation. Consequently, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence is a commendable book, and I am certain that it will be enjoyed and discussed often by the interested reader.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and 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.

Book Review: James (EGGNT)

13212720Chris A. Vlachos is the Ph.D. program administrator and adjunct assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. Prior to joining the staff and teaching at Wheaton College in 2007, Vlachos served in Utah for thirty years, twenty-two years of which as an instructor and professor of Greek and New Testament at Salt Lake Theological Seminary. Vlachos earned an M.A. in New Testament from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in Biblical Theology of the New Testament from Wheaton College. Vlachos is the author (with Marvin R. Wilson) of A Workbook for New Testament Greek: Grammar and Exegesis in First John (Baker Academic, 2010) and The Law and the Knowledge of Good and Evil: The Edenic Background of the Catalytic Operation of the Law in Paul (Wipf & Stock, 2009). Most recently, Vlachos has authored a welcomed commentary in the EGGNT series, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: James (B&H Academic, 2013).

The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series seeks to function as a bridge to narrow the gap between the text of the Greek New Testament (UBS4) and the available lexical and grammatical resources being utilized by pastors and teachers today. The book begins with a brief introduction, discussing issues of authorship, date, occasion and purpose. If you are looking for extensive introductory material on the epistle you will need to look elsewhere, but Vlachos will provide you with a good survey of the need-to-know introductory information. As the commentary opens the reader is met by diagramed Greek text that functions as the roadmap for the commentary that follows. This is helpful for understanding the flow of the epistle and the overall thought of James as his pen hit the page. The commentary is discussed at the clausal level, as Vlachos explains and surveys the grammatical and exegetical discussion amongst biblical scholarship. Overall, I think Vlachos was objective in his evaluation, presenting the evidence in a responsible way in which cultivates contemplation on the part of the reader. Each unit in the commentary closes with a “For Further Study” section that includes a topically organized bibliography, as well as a “Homiletical Suggestions” segment which provides the reader with a number of text-derived preaching and teaching proposals.

The highlights of this commentary are numerous. First, Vlachos is clear, concise, and careful in his treatment of the text. If you are looking for a commentary that delivers sprinkles and frosting to decorate the cake, then you will want to look elsewhere. Vlachos is going to give you the cake alone. But the cake that Vlachos delivers is going to be some of the best cake you have ever tasted. It will be refreshing, enjoyable, and bursting with flavor. In other words, at under 200 pages, Vlachos will give you what you to know rather than what you may want to know. Second, as someone who seeks to engage in conversation with Mormon’s often, and given Vlachos’ prior position in Salt Lake City, I found his interaction on James 2:14-26 incredibly insightful. This is also testimony to the text-centered objectivity of Vlachos’ approach as he seeks to provide you with what the text says (and could say) without diverting into theological name-calling. Lastly, I found the grammatical index at the back of the book to extremely helpful for consulting the grammatical ideas flow across the letter. Not to mention, I seem to remember grammatical phraseology well, and thus can find the section I need quickly.

It is certainly no easy task to follow up the inaugural volume of what has come to be recognized as one of the best exegetically oriented series on the Greek New Testament. But if that wasn’t enough pressure on Vlachos, the introductory volume was written by one of the world’s foremost respected biblical exegetes Murray J. Harris. Still, despite these mental challenges that inevitably entered into his mind, Vlachos has produced a clear and concise compilation of some of the best work on the letter of James and did so while walking the reader through the grammatical and exegetical forest of one of the most important New Testament writings. If you are a pastor, teacher, student, or trained laymen, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: James is a resource you will not want to see missing from your bookshelf. It follows closely in the footsteps of Harris’ work and has become the first book off my shelf when studying the letter of James.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and 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.