Review: Biblical Covenantalism

hres.9781625646606.jpgDouglas W. Kennard is Professor of New Testament at Houston Graduate School of Theology, Houston, Texas. Formerly, Kennard was Chair of Biblical Studies at Bryan College and Professor of Bible, Theology, and Philosophy at Moody Bible Institute. He has a M.A. from Trinity Evangelical Seminary, as well as a Th.M. and Th.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary. Kennard is the author of A Critical Realist’s Theological Method: Returning the Bible and Biblical Theology to be the Framer for Theology and Science (Wipf & Stock, 2013), and the present three-volume work, Biblical Covenantalism (Wipf & Stock, 2015).

Biblical Covenantalism reposes in the reality that, “the covenants for Israel are intrinsically linked together and telescope out of each other . . . [and] Israel’s eschatology is framed by these covenants. The Church is already blessed by a number of these same covenants and her eschatology joins with some of Israel’s blessings, especially fostered by the Spirit and Messiah Jesus” (vol. I, p. 53). In other words, for Kennard, the eschatology of both Israel and the Church climax in the Kingdom of Christ on earth through a series of covenants link together by idea of Covenant Nomism, and Kennard is here that he seeks to bring his readers.

Volume one of Kennard’s work (Biblical Covenantalism: Engagement with Judaism, Law, Atonement, the New Perspective, and Kingdome Hope) seeks to construct a foundation for the framework of observing God’s work among his people throughout history in the form of covenants. Kennard walks the reader through the Noahic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, and the Deuteronomistic and Levitical contribution to a Priestly Covenant. Together these covenants build and encourage the seedlings of the eschatological idea of a Messianic Priest to ultimately realizes the aspects of this Priestly Covenant (vol. I, p. 319).

Volume two of Kennard’s work (Biblical Covenantalism: In the Prophets, Psalms, Early Judaism, Gospels, and Acts) seeks to build upon the previous foundation of biblical covenants in Torah by directing attention to the Davidic Covenant and the New Covenant. Kennard traces the theme of the Davidic Covenant through the Psalms, Daniel, and Second Temple Judaism, all the way through the Gospels and into Revelation. As attention is shifted to the New Covenant, Kennard spends a good deal of time in Jeremiah before addressing the New Covenant in the Second Temple period and beyond. Kennard firmly positions the idea of Covenant Nomism in Second Temple Judaism and uses this conclusion to explore the Gospels and Acts. Kennard sees the New Covenant as the reaffirmation of the previous Covenants, namely the Priestly Covenant developed in volume one, and thus, the theme of Covenant Nomism is carried throughout (vol. II, p. 254).

Volume three of Kennard’s work (Biblical Covenantalism: Engaging the New Perspective and New Covenant Atonement) seeks to nuance the previously developed conclusions concerning Biblical Covenantalism through the New Testament epistles. Kennard begins with James and concludes that, “James sees Messianic Jews as needing to keep the Law because God has given the Law to Israel to be obeyed, and God will act as their Judge” (vol. III, p. 29). In other words, Kennard observes that same Covenant Nomism previously witnessed in the Second Temple period in James. Subsequently, Kennard similarly directs attention to Paul, Hebrews, 1 & 2 Peter, 1 John, and Revelation. Kennard finally brings the volume to a close by putting all the pieces of the puzzle together in a skillful manner that the reader of the three volumes will appreciate. For Kennard, it is within this covenant program that God is gracious and obtains all the glory.

Biblical Covenantalism by Douglas W. Kennard is rich with helpful and thought-provoking insight. It is evident that Kennard has spent a significant amount time within the material presented, and for good reason. Kennard’s work is easy to read and meticulously detailed. It is well-organized and self-establishing as Kennard guides readers through a covenant program that brings continuity and consistency to the work of God among his people. Regardless of one’s stance on issues that surround the various New Perspective conversations, Kennard has provided an excellent work that deserves significant attention and interaction. It comes recommended with enthusiasm.

 

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.

Advertisements

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.

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.