Review: Hebrews

0664221181Luke Timothy Johnson (Ph.D., Yale University) is R. W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Chandler School of Theology, Emory University. Johnson is a notable scholar whose research concerns have been the literary, moral, and religious dimensions of the New Testament, including the Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts of early Christianity, Luke-Acts, the Pastoral Letters, and the Letter of James. Johnson is also the author of numerous books, many of which, nowadays, are still widely used in academic and ecclesiastical settings around the world—the present volume on Hebrews being one of those contributions.

Hebrews: A Commentary is firmly positioned as one of the most notable volumes within the acclaimed New Testament Library (NTL) series. The commentary begins with a 60-page introduction that is well-worth the price of the volume. Johnson, of course, tackles all the introductory matters with precision. Johnson dates the composition of the book between AD 50-70 and provides a rather convincing case for the authorship by the hand of Apollo—although Johnson concludes the anonymity of the author being the only known reality. Moreover, Johnson provides an excellent discussion about the use of the book of Hebrews within Christian tradition and rightly concludes that it was the usefulness/ truthfulness of its content, rather than apostolic authorship, that resulted in its widespread acceptance.

The commentary proper is likewise excellent throughout and judiciously presented. First and foremost, like the other volumes in the NTL series, Johnson provides the reader with an original translation and textual notes. I have continually found this to be one of the most helpful features of the NTL series, and Johnson does not disappoint. He is meticulous and careful in his translation and presents the evidence and and textual issues well. In fact, compared to the other volumes that I have interacted with in the series I think Johnson has been the most helpful in this section. Second, Johnson has presented a good case for LXX priority in Hebrews and does an excellent job presenting that reality throughout. Third, while Hebrews is certainly rich with Christological significance on the surface, Johnson does a tremendous job bringing this reality to bare at almost every corner of the document.

There are no shortages in sight when it comes to the task of choosing a commentary on the book of Hebrews. Still, only the most inexperienced of readers would assume that all such commentaries are made equal—or even close to equal. While I don’t see Johnson coming off of my bookshelf before Lane (WBC) or Ellingworth (NICGT), or even Bruce (NICNT), I did find the volume extremely helpful and I am happy to have it in my library. Johnson is continually careful in his presentation of the text, and his explanation and interaction with the major themes of Hebrews and the LXX are indispensable. If you are in the market for a well-written work by a well-known and notable scholarly voice, Hebrews: A Commentary by Luke Timothy Johnson will not bring disappointment. It comes highly recommended.

 

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 Biblical Hermeneutics

9780801039775Craig G. Bartholomew (Ph.D, Bristol University) is an engaging and articulate scholarly mind whose work has visibly reached across interdisciplinary lines. Bartholomew is the H. Evan Runner Professor of Philosophy and Religion & Theology at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario. He is the founder of the internationally recognized Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar and is the author or co-author of several books, The Drama of Scripture: Finding our Place in the Biblical Story, Old Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological Introduction, Ecclesiastes in the acclaimed Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms, and many more. Most recently, Bartholomew has released what can only be described as the culmination of his longstanding efforts within the Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar, a massive introduction to biblical interpretation centered firmly within the context and service of the church.

Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture is divided into five major sections: (1) approaching biblical interpretation, (2) biblical interpretation and biblical theology, (3) the story of biblical interpretation, (4) biblical interpretation and the academic disciplines, and (5) the goal of biblical interpretation. As the subtitle states quite clearly, Bartholomew has provided a comprehensive framework, and each of these major sections are judiciously presented. The book opens by positioning the conversation amid the Trinitarian frame that will ultimately function as the confines for the pages ahead. Bartholomew explains, “. . . our understanding of the world must take as its starting point the God revealed in Scripture and articulated tradition. This means that any biblical hermeneutic worth its salt must be Christocentric . . . [thus] precisely because such a hermeneutic is Christocentric, it will be Trinitarian” (p. 5-6).

According to Bartholomew, a Trinitarian hermeneutic as such approaches the Bible as (1) authoritative Scripture, (2) a whole, (3) for the ecclesiastical body, (4) exalts and humbles academic interpretation, (5) a discrete witness of the testaments, (6) discerns the goal of reading the Bible, (7) does not close down but opens up interpretation of the Bible, and (8) takes God’s address for all life seriously (p. 8-15). It is here that Bartholomew is able to conclude we hear from God in our efforts of seeking to understand and interpret the biblical text, and it is here that the book unfolds in its discussion on biblical theology and hermeneutics, the history of hermeneutics from biblical antiquity to modernity, the intersection between the academic disciplines of philosophy, history, literature, and theology with hermeneutics, and lastly the overarching goal of biblical hermeneutics—hearing God’s address in the Scriptures.

Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics provides a plethora of important insights. Bartholomew is well-read (to run the risk of an understatement) and the reader will quickly identify the familiarity that he brings with almost any subject under the hermeneutical sun and beyond. Moreover, as one firmly planted in the Theological Interpretation of Scripture movement, Bartholomew has provided the reader with a unique perspective and contribution that will complement other hermeneutics texts well—especially given the detail and length of this volume. The first two chapters are among the best for those seeking to grasp the aim of Bartholomew’s hermeneutical vision. I found that as Bartholomew positioned the task of hermeneutics into the expectancy of listening and hearing God in the Scriptures, the trenches that follow became much easier to digest. Thus, by spending intentional time in the initial section of the book, the reader is able to better recognize the framework that was being built, and thus, interact with the content thereafter.

Still, the most helpful chapters of the book are discovered under the fourth major section. It is here that Bartholomew presents for the reader the disciplinary intersection between biblical interpretation and various academic disciplines. Not only does this section display Bartholomew’s ability to interact with other fields of academic study, but it shows the level of competency that he exhibits for the task of biblical hermeneutics, as well as the scope of this discipline’s reach beyond the confines of its own intentions. Another section that was helpful was the second section. Here Bartholomew developed a place for biblical theology within the task of hermeneutics. This is an important peripheral observation for the reader to grasp if he or she is to function within the Trinitarian approach presented in the preceding chapters. In other words, it is here that Bartholomew rightly places the whole of Scripture into the conversation and helpfully articulates with such as important if we are going to seek to hear from God therein.

Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture is an excellent introduction to the task of biblical interpretation. Craig G. Bartholomew has brought a host of interesting insights and observations from decades of experience. Bartholomew has produced a volume that is both comprehensive and readable, and his hermeneutical vision captures the essence of biblical revelation well. Bartholomew has bypassed the traditional approach of the task of biblical hermeneutics by intentionally developing a place for the interpreter to encounter God, rather than merely cultivating an understanding of a book. Bartholomew is comprehensive, judicious, and generous in his interaction. His vision is centered firmly within the context and service of the church, and the payoff for the reader is immediate. This is a monumental achievement in the field of biblical interpretation and the pastor, teacher or student would do well in referring to it 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.

Review: Reflecting the Eternal

25578619Marsha Daigle-Williamson is Professor Emerita at Spring Arbor University where she taught English for over two decades and won numerous teaching awards. Daigle-Williamson has a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. She has served as translator for the Preacher to the Papal Household and has translated sixteen books from Italian as well as published dozens of articles and reviews. She has also presented at the International Congress on Medieval Studies eight times over the past decade and has been a prominent member of The Dante Society of America for over fifteen years. Most recently, Daigle-Williamson has published a captivating examination into the fiction literature of the beloved C. S. Lewis and his dependence upon the medieval mind of Dante degli Alighieri.

Reflecting the Eternal: Dante’s Divine Comedy in the Novels of C. S. Lewis appropriately opens by building a framework for the reader to rightly recognize Lewis’s permissible usage of his literary forerunners. Daigle-Williamson argues that Lewis saw such usage as not only permissible but utterly appropriate, and quickly brings attention to Lewis’s lifelong appreciation for the work of Dante. The opening chapter concludes with a helpful summation of the plot of Dante’s Divine Comedy—the plot that stands as a scarlet thread interwoven throughout Lewis’s fictional lifework. As the book unfolds, Daigle-Williamson examines each of Lewis’s fiction works in light of this reality, including The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933), Out of the Silent Planet (1938), The Screwtape Letters (1942), Perelandra (1943), That Hideous Strength (1945), The Great Divorce (1946), The Chronicles of Narnia series (1950-1956), and Lewis’s final novel, Till We Have Faces (1956). Daigle-Williamson concludes her exploration with a summary chapter that brings Lewis’s usage of Dante’s Divine Comedy to a threefold pattern: (1) construction of fictional worlds, (2) journey narratives, and (3) Beatrice figures.

At the risk of losing many friends, I have to (reluctantly) admit at the offset of my overall impression of this book that I have not read a single fictional work by Lewis. This may come as a shock to some given this review and the nature of the present volume. However, in many ways, because of this lack of exposure, I am able to represent a unique perspective of Daigle-Williamson’s work and attest to the usefulness therein. It is evident that Daigle-Williamson is well-acquainted with both Lewis and Dante. Her keen ability to grasp the overall themes that transcend both authors, especially Lewis’s fictional corpus, is admirable and well-displayed for the reader. One of thing that I appreciated most about Daigle-Williamson’s work is that she appears to assume that her readers will possess minimal exposure to all of Lewis’s fictional work, and thus each chapter opens with a brief introduction to the specific book in question, including an overview of the content, plot, and themes. This positions the novice reader to better understand the exploration ahead. As one of those novice readers, I can attest that I had absolutely no issue following behind Daigle-Williamson as she carefully guided me through each of Lewis’s books. Now, on the backend of that journey, I have to also admit that Daigle-Williamson has aroused an excitement for Lewis’s fictional work that was not previously there—and for that I anticipate a longstanding indebtedness.

Reflecting the Eternal: Dante’s Divine Comedy in the Novels of C. S. Lewis by Marsha Daigle-Williamson is a fascinating exploration into the fictional corpus of one of modern Christendom’s most beloved figures. Daigle-Williamson has provided a well-researched and thoroughly documented investigation into the thematic underpinning of C. S. Lewis’s dependence upon Dante’s Divine Comedy. By surveying Lewis’s novels chronologically Daigle-Williamson is able to carefully guide the reader into the riches of Lewis and his lifelong appreciation for the work of Dante. She is clear and persuasive in her evaluation of Lewis and sensitive to readers of all levels of exposure to his work, and the same could be said of Dante. Daigle-Williamson has produced an exceptional volume that is certain to excite readers of all interests—both literary critics and Lewis fans alike. Regardless of your acquaintance with or interest in C. S. Lewis and his fictional work, Reflecting the Eternal is a significant volume in the field of Lewis studies, and its influence is sure to reach far beyond this unique academic circle.

 

 

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 Gospel of St. John

9780830829453This second installment in the highly anticipated The Lightfoot Legacy Set—The Gospel of St. John: A Newly Discovered Commentary—brings together previously unpublished and important Lightfoot material on the Fourth Gospel. This is an exciting and refreshing moment in history for Johannine scholars and Lightfoot enthusiasts alike.

Similar to the previous volume, the commentary opens with a brief recounting of the story behind the discovery and an editors’ introduction to the person of Lightfoot as a biblical commentator. If the reader is unfamiliar with Lightfoot, which would be hard to believe, this is an appropriate starting point. The commentary itself covers John 1-12, and includes various topical excursuses and appendices.

The competency of Lightfoot’s understanding of the original languages is astounding, and his ability to quickly draw upon and interact with textual information is simply ahead of his time. Moreover, the comprehensive scope of his literary understanding and interaction therein is amazing. For example, as he interacts with John 8:5, Lightfoot makes mention of a possible Qur’anic parallel, and also makes mention of Mohammed’s utilization of the Apocryphal Gospels (p. 172).

The introduction and two appendices (Appendix A & B) that address the authenticity and genuineness of the Fourth Gospel should prove to be worth the price of the book alone. When one considers the historical landscape of biblical scholarship in the 19th century, specifically concerning the Gospel of John, Lightfoot’s proclamation was quite unique. Remember, this was prior to the discovery of P52 and the various challenges that important finding had upon biblical scholarship.

Furthermore, as testimony of the usefulness of Lightfoot for today, the editors have included an essay by Martin Hengel (originally presented at Durham University in 1989, titled, Bishop Lightfoot and the Tübingen School on the Gospel of John and the Second Century) as “Appendix C: Lightfoot and German Scholarship on John’s Gospel.” It is here that Hengel concludes in light of the historical milieu, “Joseph Barber Lightfoot, historian and theologian, Christian and bishop, can still become our tutor today” (p. 358).

The Gospel of St. John: A Newly Discovered Commentary is an exciting window into the mind of one of the most brilliant biblical commentators of the past two centuries. Readers of all backgrounds and interests will benefit greatly from the wisdom and judicious historical and exegetical care of J. B. Lightfoot. This was true for his previously published work, and evidently, it remains true for these newly discovered ones as well. This is an important publication that I would not want to be without, and thus 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: Theology and the Mirror of Scripture

9780830840762The term “evangelical” is an increasingly diverse expression that is often tossed around in Christian circles today with little meaning or understanding. What does it mean to be “evangelical” from a theological perspective? Can we actually accomplish a purely “evangelical” theology? Moreover, is “evangelical(ism)” even an appropriate label to be lobbying around today? Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Daniel J. Terier argue that it most certainly is, and their new book, Theology and the Mirror of Scripture: A Mere Evangelical Account seeks to present this reality in an engaging and persuasive package.

Theology and the Mirror of Scripture rightly understand the importance of the Scripture and its relation to the discipline of theology—specifically evangelical theology. Vanhoozer and Terier argue, a “mere” evangelical theology should encompass a “Protestant ecumenical range of motion while anchored to the biblical, Trinitarian and crucicentric gospel” (p. 20). This anchor is held in place by two theological foundations: (1) ecclesiology—the church as the representative household of God, and (2) bibliology—the Scriptures as a mirror reflecting the form and content of the Bible on our teaching.

For Vanhoozer and Terier, evangelical theology can be effectively distilled down to the pursuit of wisdom, via “theological interpretation of Scripture,” actively amid the drama of the church’s worship and witness (p. 40). The first part of the book, chapters one and two, seek to frame the discussion ontologically in an investigation into the gospel of God and the God of the gospel—specifically the reality that exists behind the mirror of Scripture in the triune Godhead—and epistemologically in the testimony of Scriptural knowledge, and the way that biblical truth is preserved as doctrines come into focus through time and across cultural space (p. 41).

This first section provides the reader with a working framework for understanding evangelical theology, and the second part seeks to helpfully furnish the empty house that was previously built. The second part of the book, chapters three to six, defines and defends theology as the wisdom of the people of God collectively—a wisdom that is ultimately dependent on a proper theological interpretation of Scripture. Moreover, the wisdom that arises out of a theological interpretation of Scripture has a primary goal of serving the people of God as they live on mission corporately.

Theology and the Mirror of Scripture concludes with a strong and appropriate call for the reader to live theologically within the context of the community of God’s people. It is here that theology, that is “mere” evangelical theology, finds its ultimate purpose—to help the church glorify and enjoy God forever (p. 255). Thus, the local church is the mirror of the evangel, proclaiming the gospel of the Triune God, and embodying a visible sign of the invisible grace of our transdenominational, multiethnic fellowship in Christ (p. 262).

Theology and the Mirror of Scripture puts forth a noble and admirable task. In a day where it may be easier to peg Jell-O to a wall than articulate an evangelical theology, Vanhoozer and Terier have produced a clear and compelling volume. Theology and the Mirror of Scripture has cleared much of the mud that once saturated the uncertain waters of evangelicalism. If you are looking for a careful engagement on the bedrock of evangelical theology Theology and the Mirror of Scripture is an indispensable introduction that you cannot ignore. It comes highly recommended!

 

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.

Review: Mark (NCCS)

27131107Kim Huat Tan is Academic Dean and Chen Su Lan Professor of New Testament at Trinity Theological College in Singapore. Tan has a Ph.D. from the University of London and is the author of The Zion Tradition and the aims of Jesus (Cambridge University Press, 2005). Most recently, Tan has contributed and excellent volume on the Second Gospel in the acclaimed New Covenant Commentary series, Mark: A New Covenant Commentary.

Mark: A New Covenant Commentary is an exegetically informed exposition that provides much to embraced. It is important to recognize that Tan is in no way looking to overturn the many valuable commentaries now available on the Gospel of Mark. In fact, he states this explicitly in the preface (p. xi). Nevertheless, Tan has delivered an exceptional and unique contribution that is sure to be enjoyed by many. First, this volume is well-informed with much of the contemporary trends within Markan scholarship. However, Tan has removed the scholarly jargon and targeted an audience that would benefit most from the summation of such material. Second, as with the previous volumes in the series, this volume looks to display the interconnectedness of the Gospel of Mark and the Hebrew Scriptures. Those familiar with the success and usefulness of the other volumes will applauded the level of detail Tan provides. Third, and possibly the most important reason for those already boasting a larger collection of commentaries on the Gospel of Mark, this volume brings with it a fresh and important set of Asian insights (p. xi).

The commentary itself is excellent and the reader is sure to utilize it often. It is well-written and appropriately oriented for the targeted audience, and Tan has certainly done the reader a service throughout. Moreover, the reader is likely to appreciate the plethora, and I mean a plethora of excursus material scattered around the commentary. Much more than the previous volumes that I have seen. These excursus sections include topics such as the famous textual variant in Mark 1:41, Mark and Josephus on John the Baptist, Mark and the hour of crucifixion, and much, much more. Also, similar to the other volumes in the series, Tan has provided a number of “Fusing the Horizons” sections on topics such as marriage, social inequality, and wealth, as well as a fascinating, and yet, practically helpful discussion on the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Lastly, the commentary concludes with a short section on the theology of the Gospel of Mark, including Markan themes of Christology, the Kingdom of God, and Discipleship.

Like previous volumes in the New Covenant Commentary series, Mark: A New Covenant Commentary by Kim Huat Tan is destined for useful acquisition into the hands of the busy pastor and student. Tan is clear and thoughtful throughout, and his familiarity with Markan scholarship, both old and new is evident. Still, even for those of us who own an overabundance of commentaries on the Second Gospel, Tan has provided a pair of fresh and unique non-western lenses that will benefit all. In short, if you are looking for a well-documented and up-to-date engagement with the Gospel of Mark, one that provides a unique perspective with clear and accessible language, this present volume is a perfect addition to your growing library. It comes highly recommended!

 

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.

Review: Jesus and the Remains of His Day

707054_1_ftcJesus and the Remains of His Day: Studies in Jesus and the Evidence of Material Culture by Craig A. Evans is a captivating collection of up-to-date essays on a number of archaeological discoveries related to the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. In this book, Evans helpfully exposes the misuse of archaeology in relation to claims about Jesus and early Christianity, and rightly seeks to demonstrate the usefulness of archaeology within the discipline of biblical studies. Evans is an accomplished scholar and his work here is consistently well-documented and easy to read—the latter being one of the most surprising aspects of the book given the typical flavor of similar works.

Jesus and the Remains of His Day begins with an excellent discussion surrounding some of the most recent archaeological work at Bethsaida and Magdala. The reader will find the discussion both engaging and enlightening, and it sets the stage well for how the book will function throughout. For example, speaking of Peter’s hometown of Bethsaida, Evans writes, “The heights of Bethsaida rests on a rocky ridge of volcanic basalt . . . Indeed, the original name of Bethsaida may have been Zer (“rocks”) . . . Simon the disciple of Jesus was named the “Rock,” for Jesus planned to build his new community on rock” (p. 13-14). It is here that Evans guides the reader through the archaeological discoveries, detailing and engaging with various sources and opinions, only to eventually land within a sphere of immediate application—something the reader is able to recognize and remember from the ministry of Jesus.

As the book unfolds and each essay independently testifies to the world of the New Testament, the reader is continually confronted with a host of relevant material insight and application as mentioned above. While it would be beyond the scope of the present review to detail everything that I found to be helpful in the book, there are a few essays that I found especially interesting, and thus, will be worth mentioning here. First, in chapter 3, Evans provides a compelling and up-to-date engagement with the ossuary that has been attributed to Caiaphas, the High Priest during the time of Jesus. The evidence points to the authenticity of such claims, and the implications of such prove to be colossal. It is also here that Evans discusses the historicity of Pontius Pilate and Simon of Cyrene, both verifiable through recent archaeological discoveries. Second, in chapters 6-8, Evans provides fascinating insight into the practice of crucifixion, burial, and specifically the execution of Jesus. All three chapters, accompanied by chapter 9, are well-worth the price of the book alone.

It is hard to put into words the usefulness of this volume. As one familiar with the work of Craig A. Evans I thought that this volume would be worth the read. But, admittedly, and I assume like many readers, the world of archaeology is unfortunately a bit foreign and characterized as somewhat dry and unhelpful. I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading this volume, and it was difficult to set down. In fact, the above review doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, but I trust the usefulness of this volume is transparent. If you are in the market for an up-to-date engagement with the archaeological work being done in the Middle East, specifically in relation to the world of the New Testament and the person of Jesus of Nazareth, then Jesus and the Remains of His Day: Studies in Jesus and the Evidence of Material Culture by Craig A. Evans is a must read. It comes highly recommended!

 

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.