Review: The New Chosen People

PrintWilliam W. Klein is professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary where he also serves as Chair of the Division of Biblical Studies. Klein earned a Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and a M.Div. from Denver Seminary. He has written articles for several dictionaries and encyclopedias and has edited or contributed to a number of major publications, including, An Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (with Craig Blomberg and Robert Hubbard Jr.) and the commentary on Ephesians in the revised Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Most recently, Klein has revised, enlarged, and re-published his classic book on corporate election, The New Chosen People: A Corporate View of Election (Wipf & Stock, 2015).

The New Chosen People begins with a thorough analysis of the Old Testament and Jewish background relating to the theme of election. Klein guides the reader through the Hebrew Bible, the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, the Qumran literature, as well as the rabbinic literature. For Klein, the Old Testament and Jewish sources unequivocally display a corporate nature of election found in the people of Israel. Klein states therein, contrary to the assertions of the Calvinist, “there is no evidence of the view that God chose specific individuals for salvation” (p. 40). This initial 40-page investigation becomes, in many ways, the lenses through which the latter conclusions are established as Klein turns attention to the New Testament.

The New Testament is examined systematically in five major sections: (1) the Synoptic Gospels, (2) the Acts, (3) the Johannine literature, (4) the Pauline literature, and (5) the letters of Hebrews, Peter, James, and Jude—or the catholic epistles. In each section Klein has identified significant election themes, gathered the appropriate passages for each theme in each category, and analyzes each biblical text through the thematic lenses he has prescribed. For example, discussing “God Foreknows People” in the Pauline literature, Klein discussed Romans 11:2 and 8:29. Another example, discussing “God’s Appointment of Individuals” in Hebrews, Klein briefly comments on Hebrews 5:4.

One of the most attractive features of this book is the organization that Kline has provided. By identifying the major categories in each section, Klein helps the reader grasp the larger picture at hand before he narrows in on each specific passage. On the other hand, I think many will also find this categorical organization frustrating because the comments on a specific passage could be scattered across a number of categories and subpoints. For example, Romans 8:28-30 includes major comments on page 135, 137, 160, 180, and 181. In other words, some readers would probably appreciate if Klein’s comments on a passage were more centrally located in a single place, while others will find Klein categorical organization helpful. I tend to prefer the latter, despite some difficulties therein.

In regards to the content of Klein’s work, I was admittedly unpersuaded by the exegesis and interpretation provided at various points in the book. I found his comments to be somewhat insufficient at points, and I was often left wanting more than I was provided. But, I also think that this could be an issue with the organization—despite my preference mentioned above. In other words, if I look over the entirety of Klein’s work I am able to better see the picture that he is trying to paint, but because there are additional comments found under different categories, the exegetical detail appears to be lacking. Either way, it is safe to say that this revised and expanded edition of The New Chosen People: A Corporate View of Election by William W. Klein has provided readers with an excellent treatment of election from a classical Arminian perspective. Thus, it should come highly recommended regardless of one’s theological persuasion, at least it does from this self-proclaimed Calvinist.

 

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: Rediscovering Jesus

9780830898565Rediscovering Jesus: An Introduction to Biblical, Religious, and Cultural Perspectives on Christ by
David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves, and E. Randolph Richards is a calculated investigation into nearly every corner of today’s Christological landscape. The perspectives presented in this book are numerous and the presentation is everything but boring. From the opening pages, the authors captivate the reader with illustrative narratives that are easily relatable and appropriately placed.

Each chapter of the book has three specific parts. First, the authors seek to clarify who Jesus is in relation to a particular perspective discussed. Second, the authors aim to articulate the more unique features of Jesus from within that perspective and how it is distinctive. Third, the authors attempt to discuss a hypothetical situation where that perspective of Jesus is the only perspective available to the conversation.

Rediscovering Jesus is divided into two major parts: (1) Jesus in the Bible and (2) Jesus outside the Bible. In the former, the authors guide the reader through the New Testament as they examine the portrait of Jesus painted in (1) Mark, (2) Matthew, (3) Luke-Acts, (4) John, (5) Pauline literature, (6) Hebrews, (7) James, Peter, and Jude, and (8) Revelation. In the latter, the reader is guided through various sketches of Jesus in (9) Gnostic literature, (10) the Quran, (11) history, (12) Mormonism, (13) America, and (14) the cinema.

The authors are sensitive to the fact that the majority understanding of Jesus is traceable back to either Paul, John, or some closely knit combination of both. I found the work shown on this observation to be accurate and important to the topic. The authors provide excellent guidance through each New Testament book. The discussion is informative and displays a keen eye of surveillance regarding the variegated portraits of Jesus presented therein—especially when one considers some of the more unusual books surveyed.

As the attention is directed to religious and cultural views of Jesus outside the Bible. I personally found the selection of perspectives for this section interesting and well-intended. Each of these perspectives could be encountered with some level of frequency by the average Christian in America, and the conversation and examination are all too appropriate. Still, I would have loved to have seen a chapter on the Jehovah Witnesses or Judaism. Of course, I am well aware that perspectives of Jesus outside the Bible could produce a volume much longer than that here.

There are a number of things about this book that I really enjoyed. First and foremost, it was extremely readable and highly engaging. I found myself unable to put it down as I became more familiar with the format and anticipated the outcome of each chapter. Second, I really thought the authors made an excellent choice to wrestle with the hypothetical of each perspective being our only source of information about Jesus. It was well-thought and interesting to ponder. Third, each chapter has a number of call-out boxes that provide additional content on the specific perspective that is both informationally and practically oriented.

Rediscovering Jesus: An Introduction to Biblical, Religious, and Cultural Perspectives on Christ by David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves, and E. Randolph Richards is an easy candidate for a supplementary textbook for a seminary course. However, this does not mean that it is purely an academic work. In fact, you will find that it is quite the opposite. Rediscovering Jesus is an inviting book that will make you ponder long and hard about your understanding of Jesus—or lack thereof. If you are interested in a book that will challenge you to contemplate your answer to Jesus’ question—who do you say that I am?—then this is a book you will indeed not want to miss.

 

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: We Become What We Worship

9780830828777Far too often we overlook significant themes in the Bible until they are shown to us as such. It isn’t until the veil is carefully removed and the prominence of such theme is displayed as uniquely interwoven throughout the Old Testament and the New, that the once trivial understanding becomes replaced with a sense of adoration and awe. This is the kind of experience that a reader should anticipate from We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry by G. K. Beale.

We Become What We Worship begins with the prophet Isaiah as Beale establishes his exploration of the biblical theme of idolatry. But this book does not intend to be a comprehensive study of idolatry, rather, according to Beale, it is “primarily an attempt to trace one particular aspect of idolatry as it is sometimes developed in Scripture . . . what people revere, they resemble, either for ruins or restoration” (p.16). For Beale, this theme was first observed in the study of the commissioning of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-13), and it is here that he appropriately seeks to introduce the reader as well.

Following this initial observation in Isaiah 6, Beale backpedals his investigation and guides the reader through the Old Testament and into the New, pointing out the prominence of this aspect of idolatry along the way. One of the most interesting sections before transitioning into the New Testament, as some readers would rightly expect, is Beale’s discussion about Judaism’s view of Israel becoming like the calf that they worshiped (Ex. 32). Beale makes a parallel from an earlier chapter between the golden calf sin and that of Adam, writing, “Adam’s sin also involved becoming like part of the creation, as was the view of the calf transgression by Judaism and indeed by the Old Testament itself” (p. 159).

Turning attention to the New Testament, Beale follows the previously established theme that through the Gospels, Acts, Paul’s epistles, and the Book of Revelation. Much of the emphasis in these latter chapters is established upon the grounds of intertextuality—or the New Testament use of the Old. Beale is masterful on this playing field and his exegetical insight therein proves his observations again and again. This is most evident in his treatment of the Pauline epistles, especially that of Romans and First Corinthians.

As mentioned at the outset, far too often we tend to overlook significant biblical themes until the veil is removed. Beale has consistently presented himself as a scholar with a keen ability to observe a larger biblical picture with clarity before presenting that observation with precision and conviction. I found Beale’s exegetical insights across the board to be worth the admission of the book, but especially his insights on Isaiah 6. Still, what I appreciated the most about this book is the uncharted territory that it has sought to explore. The reader begins with a unique observation and insight and concludes with an unveiling of a scarlet thread intricately woven throughout the biblical narrative.

We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry by G. K. Beale is admittedly not for the academically faint of heart. This is a thick and weighty volume that is rich with informed exegesis and insight on the biblical text and an important biblical theme. Beale carefully guides the reader through the Old Testament and the New, providing a focused examination of the theme without losing sight of the peripherals. This book is unique in that it places attention on a single aspect of idolatry rather than idolatry in general, and Beale persuasively presents his case with conviction. This is a book that will alter the way you read and interact with the Scriptures, and for this reason, it comes highly recommended!

 

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

Review: Hidden But Now Revealed

9780830827183G.K. Beale is known for his unique ability to examine and synthesize biblical themes across canonical lines. He has published numerous volumes focused on biblical theology and the use of the Old Testament in the New. However, the present volume co-authored with Benjamin L. Gladd, Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery rightly positions itself as one of the more unique works in the growing corpus of Beale’s thematic explorations.  

Hidden But Now Revealed opens with an imperative first chapter. It is here that Beale and Gladd firmly establish the roots of the theme of mystery in the book of Daniel—specifically Daniel 2 and 4, although, as the reader will see, the theme is found elsewhere in Daniel as well (Daniel 5, 7-12). Thus, Daniel becomes a type of thematic launchpad with which Beale and Gladd inaugurate nearly all subsequent usages or allusions of the biblical theme of mystery.

Beale and Gladd describe a revelation of a mystery as, “God fully disclosing wisdom about end-times events that are mostly hitherto unknown . . . [it] signals the hidden nature of revelation and its subsequent interpretation” (p. 46). In other words, a mystery was once partially hidden in one form or another but has now been more fully revealed. Consequently, while there may be cases of revealed mystery in the Old Testament, the majority of the investigation inevitably rests in the New.

As the book unfolds, Beale and Gladd guide the reader through early Judaism and into the writings of the New Testament. The reader is accompanied in a carefully and detailed investigation of every occurrence of mystery from Matthew to Revelation, and then challenged to see the whole picture in light of that established in the first chapter. Apart from the content of each of the chapters, Beale and Gladd provide a number of related excursus materials to launch further insight.

I opened this review alluding to the fact that this was one of the more unique works that I have read by Beale. This is not because there is anything uncharacteristic about the book that one would not expect from Beale, quite the opposite. Rather, it displays Beale’s unique ability to observe the whole of Scripture in relation to the various parts more than some of his other works. Beale has taken a seemingly mysterious (pun intended) biblical theme, displayed the interconnectedness between the Old Testament and the New, and carefully guided the reader to the practical end of understanding and application.

The usefulness of biblical theology to the ongoing interdisciplinary interaction between the fields of biblical studies, theology, and hermeneutics is undeniable. While there is certainly a number of difficulties that will inevitably arise when trying to synthesize a single theme across the biblical canon, the profit of such pursuit will always outweigh the loss. Still, the insights to be unearthed from this book are numerous, and Beale and Gladd provide unparalleled guidance therein.

If you are in the market for a comprehensive journey into the biblical theme of mystery and its implications on the Christian life, you will not find anything better on the shelf than Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery by G. K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd. It is rich with interpretive insight and deep in practical significance, and thus 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: Unchanging Witness

28869720We are now witnessing a moral transformation before our own eyes. It is a cultural shift that continues to sweep the land, and it is the issue of same-sex marriage and homosexuality that stands at the forefront of this fast-moving revolution, and its agenda is being bolstered on nearly every street corner. Are Christians to assume that they have got it wrong all this time? Has tradition really misunderstood what appears to be the clear and consistent message of Scripture on these issues? In today’s increasingly post-Christian world it is imperative that such challenges are met with gentleness and love, and the Christian must be well-equipped to meet such tasks. It is here that S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams have provided a unique and timely volume that aims to fill a much needed void amid an ever-changing world.

Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition (B&H Academic, 2016) begins with a history of the Gay Christian movement in America—from the New York Stonewall Inn riots of 1969 to the publication and proclamation of the Boswell Thesis in the early 1980’s. This is an appropriate place to start the conversation for the reader. Not only does it provide a well-documented outline of events for where we are today, but it also helpfully places the conversation amid its proper historical context. This context then becomes an essential part of the initial section as the reader is guided through nearly two millennia of church history, beginning with the Church Fathers and ending with the current landscape of many modern mainline denominations. Fortson and Grams systematically dismantle the revisionist claims that characterize the Gay Christian movement, but it is the abundance of primary source material that carries the bulk of their argumentative weight.

With the historical foundation firmly established, Fortson and Grams can now direct the appropriate attention to the Scriptures that rightly motivated the previous convictions of the Christian Church. This section is divided into three parts: (1) The Bible and Homosexuality, (2) Creation and Law: Old Testament Text and Homosexuality, and (3) Creation, the Law and the Gospel: New Testament Text and Homosexuality—with the latter two parts comprising nearly half of the content of the book. There is no Scriptural concern that is left unturned as Fortson and Grams carefully guide the reader through the biblical passages, what the text says about homosexuality, how the text was understood historically and culturally, and how the text has been understood and interpreted by Christians (p. 2). The interaction with the major interpreters of the Gay Christian movement is ample, and the reader will benefit greatly from the level of scholarship and documentation provided therein.

The attention to scholarly detail in this volume is incredible. On a stylistic note, Fortson and Grams have chosen to utilize the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible because of the similar ecumenical intent of the volume and translation. Fortson and Grams have also provided a whole host of primary source material in the initial section of the book, and to make interaction easier for the reader they have used italics to highlight the portions of text that are most important. In regards to the content, it would be difficult to differentiate between the quality of work therein. Every chapter is equally important to the thesis of the book and the interaction with the Gay Christian movement is witnessed throughout. Nevertheless, some points of particular enjoyment will be the parallels presented between the law code text of Leviticus and Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 5-7 and the revisionist readings of Romans 1:24-28. Moreover, the assessment of the Pauline argument of nature/creation and nurture/law in Romans was also extremely helpful for interacting with some of the contemporary arguments against the traditional understanding of the texts. One major downfall of the volume is the lack of a bibliography. While skimming the footnotes is more work, and I am reluctant to recommend such, it will certainly prove beneficial for the interested reader.

Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition by S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams is easily projected to be one of the most important books of 2016. The comprehensive treatment of the issues at hand are presented in a clear and persuasive manner that only the most uninformed of readers would be willing to ignore. Of course, while continuing to play interpretive leapfrog with the biblical text may work in prolonging the conversation among supporters, the nearly two millennia of unchanging witness within the Christian community is not easily dismissed—at least not without severe logical and historical implications. The testimony of both Scripture and the response of the people of God to such have been unanimously opposed to the current revolutionary trend that is sweeping the nation, and Fortson and Grams have displayed this fact with undeniable precision. The Christian would do well in reading this book with careful and attentive eyes of compassion for the ever-changing world around them. 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: Ruth (ZECOT)

9780310282983.jpg_2Daniel I. Block is a household name in the field of Old Testament studies. He is the Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College where he has served for over a decade, and is author, co-author, and/or editor of numerous books, including the two-volume commentary on The Book of Ezekiel in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series, Deuteronomy in the NIV Application Commentary series, Judges & Ruth in the New American Commentary series, and much more. Most recently, functioning as the general editor of the series and the author of this volume on Ruth, Block has produced a captivating analysis into the theological corners of one of the most important narratives of the Hebrew Bible.

Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament: Ruth opens with an up-to-date selected bibliography of some the most important works related to the book of Ruth, as well as Block’s own translation of the Hebrew text. Block’s translation is exceptional. It was easy-to-read, faithful to the text, and true to the narratival genre as a whole. Following the translation, the reader will encounter a firmly situated introduction that addresses standard introductory matters, such as date, authorship, the providence of composition, major theological themes, style, structure, etc. The commentary proper is organized under six sections that guide the reader through the text: (1) The Main Idea of the Passage, (2) Literary Context, (3) Translation and Exegetical Outline, (4) Structure and Literary Form, (5) Explanation of the Text, (6) Canonical and Practical Significance. This format is extremely helpful in that it allows the reader to narrow in on the details of the text with a broader sense of the passage and book at large.

The high points of this commentary are overflowing. As mentioned above, the format and structure of the book is intentionally sensitive to the task of the end user. This means that the pastor and/or teacher will be more than pleased with the content and organization of the book as they seek to preach or teach through this important story. Block helpfully recognizes the importance of the narrative genre and does an excellent job bringing this feature to the surface throughout. For example, the outline of the book (p. 58) has been presented thematically as a type of narrative drama, and thus Block labels the sections and subsections accordingly (i.e. Act I, Act II, Act III, Act IV, Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, etc.). Moreover, Block has also included a dramatized reading of the narrative to be used within an ecclesiastical setting, and thus mimic the original hearing of the story (p. 263). This narratival emphasis alone warrants a home for this volume on your bookshelf. I also found Block’s interaction with the text to be consistently helpful in recognizing the larger picture and significance of the book as a whole. Finally, it is worth mentioning, unlike the New Testament volumes in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series, this Old Testament volume include Hebrew and English in the presentation of the diagramed text. This is especially useful for those that know the original language, but those do may not will still find great benefit.

Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament: Ruth by Daniel I. Block is, in many ways, representative of how a commentary should be executed if the end goal is to be the faithful proclamation of a biblical narrative. Block has intentionally brought together helpful features that are rarely found between a single binding, and has thus done an outstanding job guiding the reader on both a macro and micro level. Moreover, his consistent narratival emphasis allows the reader to remain focused on the broader picture being painted throughout the story, as well as the main theological themes therein. While the commentary is certainly detailed in exegetical riches, I am confident that even those with little or no understanding of the biblical languages will be able to use this volume with tremendous benefit. If you are preparing to preach or teach through the book of Ruth, or simply interested in a detailed investigation into this important biblical story, this will be a volume that you cannot afford to be without.

 

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: Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity

704602_1_ftcThe landscape of specialized biblical and theological dictionaries produces continual growth year-by-year. These dictionaries generally boast a more focused intention on content and tend to provide a more unique product as an end goal. The level of usefulness of these dictionaries can vary greatly depending on the academic or personal interest of the individual. However, because of the unique quality of such works the price-point is generally out of reach for the average consumer—especially for a multi-volume work like that being reviewed here. The intersection of such usefulness and availability is tellingly rare in this distinctive reference genre, and thus when it is clearly observed attention should be widely merited.

The Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity (DDL) edited by Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson is a recent multi-volume dictionary series that is certain to offer itself as a benefit to many. At present, two of the four projected volumes of DDL have been produced with the remaining two volumes set to be released by the end of 2016. DDL is one of those unique cases, like that mentioned above, where the usefulness and availability of the resource intersect at almost every point. The present two volumes are jam-packed with both valuable and vital information for understanding the biblical world, and the forthcoming volumes are likewise projected to benefit a wide array of readership. Furthermore, the sheer affordability of DDL should almost guarantee that the intentions of the contributors can be enjoyed by both scholar and laity alike.

DDL contains a number of important and unique articles related to the domestic life, technology, culture, laws, and religious practices of the ancient world. While other top-tier multi-volume dictionaries (Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (AYBD), International Standard Encyclopedia of the Bible (ISBE), etc.) may make reference to similar topics as DDL, it would be incredibly rare to observe them interacting with the same level of detail as DDL, and certainly not in the same format. For example, volume one opens with a thorough article on abortion that is near twice the length of that found in AYBD. Moreover, it also closes with an equally thorough discussion on dancing that is nearly seven times the length of that found in ISBE—an article not even mentioned in AYBD. Other articles found in volume one include adoption, alcoholic beverages, banks and loans, beggars and alms, camels, childbirth and children, clothing, and much more.

706408_1_ftcVolume two likewise has a number of unique articles related to the everyday life of the ancient world. It opens with a 20-page article on death and afterlife and concludes with a 23-page article on human sacrifice. By comparison, ISBE has an article on human sacrifice that is roughly 3-pages, and AYBD doesn’t have a dedicated article at all. Other articles in volume two include divorce, dreams, education, eunuchs, hair, heating and lighting, and much more.

I found the highpoints of DDL to overflow with at least three major benefits. First, as displayed above, the scope and comprehensiveness of each of the articles are unique even among some of the other top-tier dictionaries. Thus, while other works may occasionally have similar articles as DDL, they are generally much briefer and narrower in scope than that offered in DDL. Second, the organization of each article cultivates a much broader comprehension of the subject that is being discussed. Each article opens with a brief summary, followed by six major sections: (1) The Old Testament, (2) The New Testament, (3) The Ancient New Eastern World, (4) The Greco-Roman World, (5) The Jewish World, and (6) The Christian World. Thus, DDL tends to trace the topic of discussion much further (approximately 2000 BC to AD 600) and across a broader scope of cultural boundaries. Third, each article concludes with a healthy and up-to-date bibliography that is intentionally curated to catapult the curious reader in the right direction—and this is something that is certain to awaken excitement in my fellow bibliography-enthusiasts.

The Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity is a phenomenal achievement in the field of biblical studies. Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson have helpfully gathered together some of the most important information about the ancient world and packaged it in such a way to make it accessible and understandable to the average reader. From the far-reaching scope of the articles to the comprehensive exploration therein, DDL is a useful and affordable resource that merits immediate attention from any serious students of the Bible. In fact, with the coming anticipation of the final two volumes appearing just over the horizon, I couldn’t think of a better reason to skip a few lattes to pick up the present two volumes today. Trust me, this is a resource you will want to consult often.

 

I received a review copy of these books 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.