Review: Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box

527176Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box is the result of the intentional gathering of some of today’s leading theologians and biblical scholars for the purpose of training and equipping the church with expert guidance. This collection includes four introductory books that will provide the reader with everything needed to understand the Bible and apply its teachings to everyday life—Christian Beliefs (Zondervan, 2005), Journey into God’s Word (Zondervan, 2008), Introducing the Old Testament (Zondervan, 2012), and Introducing the New Testament (Zondervan, 2010). Each of these four books are abridgments of larger works that have functioned as standard seminary textbooks for years. While Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box is certainly no substitute for a seminary education, it does present itself as a useful product to be used within in the context of adult education. However, before I speak to the usefulness of the product, I would first like to summarize the four books included.


283692Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know
by Wayne A. Grudem (edited by Elliot Grudem) is an abridged version of Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith (Zondervan, 1999), which is itself an abridgment of Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Zondervan, 1994). Both earlier editions remain bestselling textbooks for both undergraduate and seminary courses. In essence, Christian Beliefs is a refined collection of the twenty most need-to-know beliefs of the Christian faith. Elliot Grudem has done a fantastic job synthesizing the larger work of his father, making it more accessible for the target audience. The book also includes two helpful appendices. The first includes historic confessions of faith (i.e. Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Chalcedonian Creed, and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy), and the second includes an annotated bibliography of various systematic theologies for further study.

Journey-Into-God-s-Word-Duvall-J-Scott-9780310275138Journey Into God’s Word: Your Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays is an abridgment of Grasping God’s Word, 2nd ed. (Zondervan, 2005; third edition in 2012). Duvall and Hays are both excellent teachers and their textbook is used at the college and seminary level around the English-speaking world. Journey Into God’s Word is the product of a frequent request of the authors by pastors and leaders for something more accessible to the local church (p. 9). Consequently, Journey Into God’s Word was created with for the adult education setting, and the content therein displays such consistently. It is both accessible and practical for the average reader. Moreover, for the leader or teacher, Duvall and Hays have a suggested 8-week teaching schedule for optimal use.

51THcwHobLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Introducing the Old Testament: A Short Guide to its History and Message by Tremper Longman III is based on the bestselling textbook An Introduction to the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Zondervan, 2006). Longman uniquely and individually covers all the Old Testament books, discussing each book’s content, authorship and date, genre, and connection to the gospel. This last section, connection, creates a helpful and unique reading experience for the reader. Helpful in the sense that Longman guides the reader to the immediate benefits of studying the Old Testament, unique in the sense that few Old Testament introductions provide this information with the precision of Introducing the Old Testament. This makes comprehension and enjoyment an immediate benefit for the reader.

Introducing_the_New_Testament-_A_Short_Guide_to_Its_History_and_MessageIntroducing the New Testament: A Short Guide to its History and Message by D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo (edited by Andrew David Naselli) is based on the widely used textbook An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. (Zondervan, 2005). Similar to the companion volume on the Old Testament, Carson and Moo guide the reader through the New Testament as they individually discuss all of the New Testament books, including, content, authorship, genre, date, place of composition, audience, purpose, and contribution to faith. This last section, contribution, like the volume on the Old Testament, brings immediate application and benefit to the study of the New Testament. Each chapter closes with a helpful bibliography to guide the reader into further study.

As director of adult education at my local church, I was immediately intrigued by Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box. I had previously used Christian Beliefs for a course that I taught but never required the students to purchase the book. It functioned more as a personal guide for gauging the appropriate level of content for the course rather than a textbook. Still, after the course was finished I wished that my students had something that could catapult them in the right direction for further engagement. In other words, I wish that I used the book more immediately in class and had the students purchase a copy for themselves. The other volumes in this collection display an equal level of usefulness, and at approximately 160 pages each is easily digestible in an 8-week course.

More recently, I have taken up the task of developing a sturdier foundation for our adult education program. This has involved writing new course curriculum, worksheets, PowerPoint presentations, etc. The goal has been to build out 3-4 foundational course to function as the framework of our adult education effort, and Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box just made that task a whole lot easier. Churches and members will now have the option to purchase the box set, including all four volumes, and the students will have then bought the course material for the foundational classes being offered. This would work extremely well accompanied with a certificate of completion for each course or the entire core program.

Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box includes everything the reader will need to learn the basics of Christian theology, biblical interpretation, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. This collection brings together four introductory books by some of today’s leading theologians and biblical scholars. Each of the four books is an abridgment of a larger and more technical work, and each of them remains widely used in colleges and seminaries around the world. While Zondervan’s Seminary in a Box is certainly no substitute for a seminary education, it is an ideal collection of core resources for the context of Christian adult education. Still, even if you are not a teacher or pastor looking to bring substance to your adult education program, this collection will provide you a sure foothold for understanding the Bible and applying its teachings to your life.

 

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.

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Review: Introducing World Religions

22504659Charles E. Farhadian is professor of world religions and Christian Mission at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. Farhadian has studied at Seattle Pacific University (BA), Yale University (MDIV), and Boston University (PhD). He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Christianity, Islam, and Nationalism in Indonesia (Routledge, 2005), Christian Worship Worldwide: Expanding Horizons, Deepening Practices (Eerdmans, 2007), The Testimony Project: Papua (Deiyai Press, 2007), Introducing World Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), and the Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion (Oxford University Press, 2014). Most recently, Farhadian has released what is sure to be the standard undergraduate-level introduction to world religions from the Christian perspective—Introducing World Religions: A Christian Engagement (Baker Academic, 2015).

Introducing World Religions begins with an excellent introduction to prepare the reader for the forthcoming journey into the religious landscape of the contemporary world. This initial section, the persistence of religion, appropriately positions the reader and introduces the study of religion as an academic discipline. First, Farhadian acknowledges the difficulty that arises when one seeks to definitively define “religion.”  Consequently, Farhadian follows the eight characteristics of religion articulated by Watson King (Encyclopedia of Religion, “Religion,” 12:284): (1) traditionalism, (2) myth and symbols, (3) ideas of salvation, (4) sacred objects and places, (5) sacred actions, (6) sacred writings, (7) sacred community, and (8) sacred experience. Second, Farhadian briefly explores the numerous contexts in which the study of religion is discussed (psychological, social, cultural, historical, and environmental), as well as the various theories of religion (psychological, sociological, anthropological, and economical) articulated and affected by figures such as Sigmund Freud, Emile Durkheim, and Karl Marx.

Introducing World Religion covers eight major world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism and Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and dedicates an entire chapter to new religious movements (i.e. Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, etc.). Each chapter has four dedicated sections (contemporary snapshot, origins and concepts, worship and practice, and modern movements) and closes with an annotated timeline, key terms, and a further reading bibliography. Throughout each individual chapter, the reader will encounter a number of important terms that Farhadian has highlighted and defined. These terms are also listed at the end of each chapter and included in the glossary with a brief definition for quick reference. Also, as the subtitle alludes, the reader will encounter frequent “Christian Reflection” sections in which Farhadian helps aid the reader to think through various issues from a Christian worldview. These sections are brief and differ in usefulness, but the reader is sure to appreciate the sensitivity of their inclusion for the overall purpose of the book.

There are always limitations with the amount of content that can be included in an introductory work such as Introducing World Religions. This is especially the case when an author is looking to engage with other religious systems from a specific worldview. Still, I believe that Farhadian has maintained the needed balance between introduction and reflection with precision, and the reader will benefit greatly from his attention to detail. Furthermore, consistently Farhadian exhibits a clear desire to engage the landscape of world religions from a Christian worldview, and do so in such a way that the reader is encouraged to think critically as they interact with other religious systems near and far. The content within the book is clear and well organized for this task. Add a whole host of full-color illustrations, photographs, tables, maps, and sidebar discussions, and you have the recipe for a world-class textbook.

If you are a teacher or professor looking for an engaging textbook that will help you students shape a Christian worldview while engaging world religions, then Introducing Word Religions by Charles E. Farhadian is certain to be a welcomed addition to your course curriculum. If you are a student, pastor, or interested layman who is looking for a solid introduction to the religious landscape of the contemporary world, then Farhadian has provided a top-contender. Introducing World Religions is clear, stimulating, and bursting with useful information for readers of all backgrounds. 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.

Review: A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament

22522806Philip W. Comfort is a noted scholar, author, and editor. Comfort has a Master’s degree in English Literature/Greek from Ohio State University and Ph.D. in Theology from Fairfax University. More recently, Comfort completed his second doctorate under noted textual critic Jacobus H. Petzer at the University of South Africa. He has taught at several academic institutions, including, Wheaton College, Trinity Episcopal Seminary, Columbia International University, and Coastal Carolina University. Currently, Comfort is senior editor of Bible reference at Tyndale House Publishers. He is author or co-author of numerous books, including The Origins of the Bible (Tyndale, 2003), The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Tyndale, 2001), New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Tyndale, 2008), and Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (B&H Academic, 2005). Most recently, Comfort released the much needed and highly appreciated, A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament (Kregel Academic, 2015).

A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament seeks to bring the reader behind the underlying text of the Greek New Testament. It is here that Comfort carefully guides the reader through the ever-changing landscape of manuscript evidence that presently make up the critical editions of the Greek New Testament. The book opens with a canonical listing of early New Testament manuscripts. The list is sorted in canonical order and provides a helpful up-to-date glance at the earliest papyri and codices discussed within the commentary section of the book. In Chapter one, Comfort provides a brief introduction to the manuscripts and text of the New Testament, as well as a detailed discussion regarding the use of the nomina sacra (also see the Appendix article). If the reader has previously read Comfort’s former book, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography & Textual Criticism (B&H Academic, 2005), much of this section will be a review. But, if this is the first interaction with this material it is an essential starting point. This is especially true with the section on nomina sacra, as the commentary that follows interacts with this phenomenon often.

In Chapter two, Comfort provides a lengthy annotated list of New Testament manuscripts. This chapter will prove to be an excellent reference guide for the student and teacher. Comfort provides the reader with an up-to-date bullet pointed list for each significant New Testament manuscript and details the location of discovery, text found in the manuscript, the present location of the manuscript, date and explanation of dating method, as well as the textual character of the manuscript itself. At 83 pages, the annotated list alone is well worth the price of the book. The remainder of the commentary focuses on the relevant passages of the New Testament and comments on characteristics of the manuscripts themselves—where they agree and disagree, where the scribe uses the nomina sacra if significant and what manuscripts used it, where textual expansion or interpolations may have been involved and why, etc. This section is why most of the reader will have purchased the book, and for good reason. The commentary itself is brief, judicious, and well-informed.

I have read and enjoyed almost everything that Comfort has written. I appreciate the intentionality behind his work to bring the complexities of textual criticism to an understandable level. This is important for readers of all background and occupation. A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament continues this legacy well and the reader is certain to appreciate the care taken to make this a reality. Also, as stated above, I think the annotated list of New Testament manuscripts is a welcomed addition to the commentary. This is assuredly not the only place such list could be found if the reader is interested, but Comfort’s list is up-to-date and extensive in its discussion. Not to mention, it makes a quick reference much more beneficial as the reader works through the commentary for any particular passage being studied. On the other hand, I was disappointed by the use of endnotes rather than footnotes. Of course, this is a personal preference and will not hinder the continual use of the commentary, but I know that I am not alone in this preference. Footnotes are much easier to consult and make the reading experience more enjoyable for the attentive reader. Nevertheless, at least the endnotes are located to the rear of the chapter rather than the book.

A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament by Philip W. Comfort is an excellent commentary that was birthed out of a noble desire. It brings the reader into unchartered territory for most commentaries and unearths a goldmine of riches within the New Testament manuscripts themselves. This is a much needed and highly appreciated work. If you are a student, pastor, teacher, or interested laity, Comfort has yet again delivered an essential resource for your growing library. It will no doubt be off my bookshelf often.

 

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 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.

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.