Reveiw: Mark (NTL)

1246889M. Eugene Boring is I. Wylie Briscoe Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University. Boring is an accomplished New Testament scholar and the author of numerous books, including, An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology (WJK, 2012), Revelation: A commentary for Teaching and Preaching (WJK, 2011), The People’s New Testament Commentary (with Fred B. Craddock; WJK, 2010), The Continuing Voice of Jesus: Christian Prophecy and the Gospel Tradition (WJK, 1991), as well as Mark (WJK, 2006) and I & II Thessalonians (WJK, 2015) from the highly acclaimed New Testament Library series—the former of which being the focus of the present review.

Mark: A Commentary opens with a fairly healthy bibliography and introduction to orient the reader towards the intended direction. Boring covers all the standard introductory matters the reader would expect (i.e. authorship, date, provenance, purpose, genre, text and transmission, etc.), however, most of the technical details have been delegated to the footnotes, resulting in a much briefer introduction than some would expect. The organization of the commentary will be familiar for those acquainted with the New Testament Library series. Boring includes within each section the translation and translation notes, and the commentary proper, which tends to begin with an examination of the unit before the translation and then the verse or multiple verse-units.

Boring’s approach to the Gospel of Mark as a whole is quite unique. For Boring, the Second Gospel is primarily shaped by the creative storytelling of the Evangelist rather than history. In other words, for Boring, the author of Mark is far more concerned with presenting a portrait of Jesus that will resonate with his community than recounting the life events of a historical figure. Thus, a chasm exists between the Markan and Historical Jesus. Of course, the keen reader will recognize that some level of such characterized presentation of Jesus is inevitable for the Gospel writers, indeed for any New Testament writer, but such does not necessarily require a divorce from the Jesus of history. Still, despite the reluctance that some may have to his approach, it is clear that there is much insight to be gained if sifted with the appropriate balance.

The reader will appreciate the attention to detail offered in this volume. Boring has clearly done his homework and does the reader a service by allocating much of the technical details to the bottom of the page. Indeed, Boring properly utilizes the footnotes throughout the volume, and the attentive reader will do well in mining such riches. The translation notes are also full of important information. Interestingly, however, Boring follows the reading of Codex Bezae in 1:41, explaining, “Most MSS read . . . ‘having compassion’ and the reading is followed by most English translations . . . Most commentators, however, regard . . . ‘having become angry’ as original” (p. 70). This is simply not the case, as even his preceding statement attests. The former reading is found in virtually all English translations, critical editions of the Greek New Testament, and extant manuscript support for the Second Gospel.

M. Eugene Boring is a respected New Testament scholar who has consistently provided well-researched and well-written academic work for a broad ranging audience. Mark: A Commentary is no different. Boring offers a unique approach to the conversation that is certain to complement other Mark commentaries on the market. Moreover, the translation and translation notes Boring has provided are indispensable for any serious study of the Second Gospel, and his bibliography is thorough as always. In sum, if you are looking for a commentary on the Gospel of Mark that is both readable and informative, this is a volume you will enjoy and use often. Still, as has been briefly noted above, the emphasis that is taken therein may be cause enough for some readers to reconsider.  

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: From the Maccabees to the Mishnah

24920714Shaye J. D. Cohen is the Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of Harvard University—one of the oldest and most distinguished professorships of Jewish studies in the United States. Prior to Harvard, Cohen was the Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University, as well as the Dean of the Graduate School and Shenkman Professor of Jewish History at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Cohen has written numerous scholarly articles and authored several important books, which include, The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, and Uncertainties (University of California Press, 2001), Why Aren’t Jewish Women Circumcised?: Gender and Covenant in Judaism (University of California Press, 2005), and perhaps his most widely known book, now in its third edition and the subject of the present review, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah (Westminster John Knox, 2014).

From the Maccabees to the Mishnah is a calculated exploration into the history and development of Judaism between roughly164 BCE to 300 CE. It is here that Cohen carefully guides readers through a variegated landscape of transition, both before and after the rise of Christianity. However, Cohen does far more here than provide a mere historical survey of Judaism and its development into the rabbinic period. Rather, Cohen seeks to usher readers into the very heart of the social, cultural, and religious environment of Judaism as it was shaped and molded by the world and events around it.

Those familiar with the two previous editions of From the Maccabees to the Mishnah should welcome the revisions made to this third edition. Cohen has revised and updated the content for clarity and usability, and updated/added footnotes as needed. However, the most significant contribution to this third edition is the addition of a new chapter, titled, “Ways That Parted: Jews, Christians, and Jewish Christians (ca. 100-150).” This new chapter is a shortened and revised version of an essay Cohen wrote, “In Between: Jewish-Christians and the Curse of the Heretics,” in Partings: How Judaism and Christianity Became Two, edited by Hershel Shanks.

The strength of this volume are many, but the weaknesses are equally as numerous. For many readers, the approach to the topic brought by Cohen will be a breath of fresh air. He is lucid and judicious in his treatment of the period and its development, and the scope of material covered therein is well-organized, easily understandable, and presented with clarity. However, Cohen writes from a predominantly liberal Jewish perspective and his presuppositions can be seen on almost every page—especially the material on canonization and its implications. Still, apart from the content proper, the “Suggestions for Further Reading” section that has been included at the end of the book is alone worth the price of admission.

For some readers, Cohen’s approach and perspective will be value-added to their library even if they disagree with many of his conclusions. Others will find it to be rubbish. I am of the former persuasion. I found much of Cohen’s material extremely helpful and I appreciate the enduring nature of his work. But, like any book, this was only realized after understanding and evaluating the presuppositions therein. If you are looking for an informative guide into the social, cultural, and religious development of the Judaism underlying the New Testament, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah by Shaye J. D. Cohen is indispensable. Read it closely and carefully, and interact with it rigorously. 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: 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. 

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.