Review: In Defense of the Bible

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

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

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

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

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

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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Review: Ephesians (EEC)

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

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

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

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

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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.

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.