Book Review: John (EGGNT)

25102444Murray J. Harris is professor emeritus of New Testament exegesis and theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and formerly served as warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge University in England. Harris has a Ph.D. from the University of Manchester, where he studied under F. F. Bruce, and is the author of numerous books, including, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus, Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians from the acclaimed New International Greek Testament Commentary series (NIGTC), Colossians and Philemon in the growing Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series (EGGNT), and many more. Most recently, Harris has released his second contributing volume to the EGGNT series, a volume on the Fourth Gospel that certain to make its residence on the bookshelves of many.

The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series was birthed out of a desire to function as a type of middle-ground resource that seeks to narrow the gap between the text of the Greek New Testament (UBS5) and the available lexical and grammatical tool being used by pastors and teachers today. In this present volume, Harris has delivered a goldmine of exegetical wisdom and theological insight into one of the most important New Testament books. The book begins with a very brief introduction focused on authorship, purpose, audience, setting, and date, as well as an extremely helpful and necessary section of John’s style of Greek and the overall structure of the book. The introduction concludes with a short discussion surrounding the pros and cons of five recommended commentaries and additional resources. This section is useful for the detailed reader as these resources become imperative in further investigating the exegesis that follows. However, if you are looking for an up-to-date bibliography on the Fourth Gospel this is not going to be a helpful section. Still, the abbreviations section just prior to the introduction does provide a wealth of resources mentioned throughout the book that may be of use.

As the reader enters into the commentary of the gospel, Harris has skillfully utilized a similar format and layout as the other volumes in the EGGNT series. Some accommodations have been made given the nature of the gospels themselves, as opposed to that of epistles. For example, the reader is not going to find as much sentence diagraming in this volume as the others, and the layout centers primarily around the verse level as opposed to the clause level in the other volumes. Personally, I found this to be somewhat of a disappointment because of the helpfulness of the clause level interaction for the task of exegesis. But, then again, this is primarily helpful because the other volumes are structured around the epistolary genre and not gospel narrative. Nevertheless, I think the reader will find that the verse-by-verse discussion is executed extremely well, and Harris, as anticipated, is successful in guiding the reader through the gospel of John with a fine tooth comb. Finally, after each section of the text is thoroughly examined, Harris has provided the reader with a “For Further Study” section, as well as “Homiletical Suggestions” that aid the pastor or teacher in constructing a communicational roadmap based on the previous sections.

As each volume of the EGGNT series is released the bar of exegetical example is visibly raised. Murray J. Harris has demonstrated what it looks like to provide faithful text-centered exegesis, and to do so with communication to the people of God as the primary goal. Harris has provided the reader with a detailed analysis of the lexical and grammatical style and structure of the Fourth Gospel, and he has done so in a clear and understandable way. Not only is this the best volume in the EGGNT series, but this is likely the best resource available on the market for those looking to walk through the Greek text of the Fourth Gospel. If you are a pastor, teacher, or learned laymen this resource will prove itself invaluable to your library. If you are a professor and looking for a faithful guide to send home with your students, who else would you rather have by their side than Murray J. Harris? For these reasons and many, I couldn’t recommend this resource more!

I received an advance 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.   

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Book Review: I & II Thessalonians

220990_1_ftcM. Eugene Boring is I. Wylie Briscoe Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University. He is the author or editor of numerous books relating to New Testament Studies, including, An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology, as well as Mark: A Commentary from the acclaimed New Testament Library series, and Revelation: A commentary for Teaching and Preaching from the best-selling Interpretation Commentary series. Most recently, Boring has offered this present contribution, another advantageous volume added to the New Testament Library series: I & II Thessalonians: A Commentary.

Boring is a well-respected scholar and this volume on I & II Thessalonians displays that very clearly. The commentary begins with a substantial bibliography of up-to-date commentaries, monographs, books, and essays related to I & II Thessalonians. At 22 pages, one could easily call it comprehensive and complete, but Boring himself points readers to An Annotated Bibliography of 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Brill, 1998) by Jeffery A. D. Weima and Stanley E. Porter for a more complete list up to 1998. Subsequently, Boring provides an engaging introduction, bring the reader into the word the Thessalonians. Boring describes in length the historical setting, such as the city, religious life in Thessalonica, Paul’s ministry to the Thessalonians, and the conflicts, troubles, distresses, and persecutions.

The commentary itself is wrought with exegetical and theological insight. Each section of text in the commentary is based on Boring’s original translation of the Greek—a textual basis of which he describes thoroughly in the introduction. Moreover, the reader will be excited and surprised by the lengthy exegetical and explanatory footnotes that accompany Boring’s translation. Personally, I found Boring’s translation to be extremely helpful in light of the commentary that followed. The commentary itself is thoroughly researched and seasoned with Boring’s awareness of the cultural context of the Thessalonians and Paul’s engagement therein.

Boring’s commentary on II Thessalonians may come as a shock to some readers not familiar with the underlying discussions surrounding Pauline authorship. Boring writes under the conviction that Paul did not write II Thessalonians, and his introduction to II Thessalonians provides the reader with one of the most concise and comprehensive summaries from this position available. This presupposition is carried consistently throughout the commentary. Many will undoubtedly find Boring’s critical approach to the letter unsettling and lacking support, but this should not differ the reader from engagement. Rather the opposite. Boring presents some the most complete and up-to-date critical engagement with II Thessalonians, and because of this he rightly deserves a place on everyone’s shelf.

I & II Thessalonians: A Commentary is an up-to-date examination of two very important Pauline epistles. M. Eugene Boring has provided a well-researched presentation of the current conversation among New Testament scholars. Boring’s translation and translation notes are indispensable and his bibliography is thorough. The introductory engagement is superb and the textual commentary is consistently strong throughout. If you are looking for a strong commentary on I & II Thessalonians from a critical perspective, then Boring has provided you with a commentary that cannot be overlooked.

Book Review: What They Don’t Tell You

235949_1_ftcMichael Joseph Brown is Academic Dean, Interim President, and Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Payne Theological Seminary. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Vanderbilt University, as well as a Master of Divinity degree and Doctor of Philosophy degree from University of Chicago.  Brown has authored a number of books, including, Blackening of the Bible: The Aims of African American Biblical Scholarship, The Lord’s Prayer through North African Eyes: A Window into Early Christianity, and What They Don’t Tell You: A Survivor’s Guide to Biblical Studies.

Originally published in August 2000, What They Don’t Tell You has sought from the beginning to equip and prepare incoming students with a general survey and exposure to the underbelly of biblical studies. Now, 15 years later, an up-to-date second edition has entered into the marketplace with a fine-tuned appearance and revised content. Brown rightly acknowledges that the milieu of biblical scholarship has shifted slightly since the original publication of the book, and sought to address accordingly. Consequently, Brown has added additional “rules of thumb” and an appendix that the reader is sure to find helpful.

What They Don’t Tell You remains organized in a logical manner to best cultivate the needs to the student or interested reader. The book opens with a brief introduction to the world of biblical studies, juxtaposing the aims of devotional bible study with that of an academic study of the bible. Here Brown offers an excellent survey of the history of biblical scholarship, as well as an overview of the various methods of biblical interpretation. The remainder of the book presents 29 “rules of thumb” that are thematically ordered around: (1) reading and interpreting the Bible, (2) understanding biblical scholarship, and (3) surviving the newfound understanding presented by Brown.

The list of “rules” comprising this book, according to Brown, are “not [meant to be taken as] exhaustive, nor are they meant to be taken as hard-and-fast rules that can never be broken” (xii). This explains Brown’s choice to label them “rules of thumb” rather than merely “rules.” But, this also displays a potential shortcoming of the book as a rule of thumb is somewhat subject and largely variegated in nature depending on who you ask. In other words, the book should be understood as more of a list of Brown’s personal rules of thumb when approaching the topics, rather than a list of concrete list for biblical studies in general.  Still, I think Brown has brought together a thorough list of important considerations when approaching the subject of biblical studies. His effort is surely not aimless.

What They Don’t Tell You is a wonderful primer to the world of biblical studies. Brown has provided an engaging and timely revision to a well-received book. Be prepared for occasional disagreement with Brown’s “rules of thumb,” but don’t be too quick to through the baby out with the bathwater. If you are interested in entering the arena of biblical studies, Brown will certainly get your feet wet with the right kind of water. It comes recommended from this reader.

Book Review: The World of the New Testament

15863581Joel B. Green is the Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary. Green has written or edited more than 40 books, including several award winners. Lee Martin McDonald is President Emeritus and Professor of New Testament Studies at Acadia Divinity College, Acadia University, Nova Scotia. McDonald has written or edited 20 books and over 100 articles and essays on various New Testament topics. Together these two individuals have impacted, and continue to impact for that matter, the arena of New Testament studies far beyond many colleagues in the field. In The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts, edited by Green and McDonald, the boundaries have been pushed once again.

The World of the New Testament brings together household names from within the field of biblical and New Testament studies to guide the reader through the cultural, social and historical milieu of the New Testament. The World of the New Testament has brought together scholars such as, Ben Witherington III, David A. DeSilva, Micheal F. Bird, James H. Charlesworth, James G. D. Dunn, Bruce Chilton, and many more, to address vital topics relating to the New Testament. The articles are vast and variegated in scope, aligned under five sections: (1) Setting the Context: Exile and the Jewish Heritage, (2) Setting the Context: Roman Hellenism, (3) Jewish People in the Context of Roman Hellenism, (4) The Literary Context of Early Christianity, and (5) The Geographical Context of the New Testament. Within these major sections, the reader is skillfully guided through the backdrop of the New Testament world chronologically from the exile to the early Church. The articles are largely summaries of broader conversations within the field, and include such topics as, “The Hasmoneans and the Hasmonean Era” (pp. 38-53), “Greek Religion” (pp. 105-123), “Women, Children, and Families in the Greco-Roman World” (pp. 179-187), “Jews in the Diaspora” (pp. 272-290), “Josephus and the New Testament” (pp. 398- 404), and much, much more.

I found The World of the New Testament to be one of the most helpful resources that I have ever interacted with on New Testament backgrounds—both in the breadth and scope of the articles and the overall layout of the book. In regards to the former, I really enjoyed the vast array of topics this book discusses. Each article was well written, well documented, and authoritatively addressed. Some of the standout articles will include, “Healing and Healthcare” by Joel B. Green (pp. 330-341), “Noncanonical Jewish Writings” by Daniel M. Gurtner (pp. 291-309), and the entire section on the literary context of early Christianity (pp. 343-435). Also, many will enjoy the chapter, “Jesus Research and Archaeology” by James H. Charlesworth (pp. 439-466), which provides an up-to-date summary and collation of two independent, and yet imperative fields of study. In regards to the latter, the overall layout of the book, I found the chronological arrangement of the material well-structured and thoughtfully executed. I also enjoyed the various photographs, maps, tables and diagrams. At some points, the photographs are difficult to discern due the lack of color, but this is to be expected with a black and white image. Lastly, each article concludes with an annotated bibliography that is certain to point the curious reader in the right direction (I followed a few rabbit trails, I mean research trails myself).

The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts brings together some of the leading voices of biblical and New Testament studies into a single volume. The articles are clear, concise, and comprehensive. The scope of the book is exhaustive and the layout strategically structured with the reader in mind. If you are a pastor, teacher, or student of the New Testament you will need this resource. It is hands down one of the best starting points for all things related to the cultural, social, and historical context of the New Testament. If none of that describes you, and you are simply interested in the world behind the pages of the New Testament you will still benefit greatly from this volume. I couldn’t recommend it more!

I received this book for free from Baker Academic 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.

Book Review: The Historical Jesus: Five Views

The-Historical-JesusThe Historical Jesus: Five Views, edited by James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, brings together a wide spectrum of opinions from today’s leading voices in the quest for the historical Jesus. Beilby is the professor of systematic and philosophical theology, and Eddy is the professor of biblical and theological studies at Bethel University. Together they have written and/or edited numerous books, including, Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views and The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views. Beilby and Eddy bring both expertise and direction to the conversation as they continue to exhibit a growing track record of healthy discussion across various theological spectrums. It is largely the work of these two men that brings together an otherwise disconnected array of scholarship. Consequently, The Historical Jesus: Five Views exhibits a breath of fresh air amid a rapidly growing and diverse conversation that is certain to engage and enlighten readers of all backgrounds.

The book begins with a healthy introduction to the historical landscape surrounding the quest for the historical Jesus. The reader already familiar with the ongoing discussion concerning the issues of the book will find this opening chapter to be a solid refresher to an increasingly complex conversation. The reader largely unfamiliar with the conversation will appreciate the breadth of detail overflowing from these 45 pages, and should be able to confidently place the coming chapter within the broader discussion. Because the aim of the book is to highlight and examine the various methods used to unearth the historical Jesus, the methodological survey in the introduction is invaluable. Personally, I found the introduction among the most helpful chapters in the entire book and anticipate most readers will as well—especially considering the wide spectrum of opinions that follow.

The layout seems to move from left to right across the evangelical spectrum, with ample room for interaction following each contributing article. First, the reader will encounter a self-attested “controversial essay” by Robert M. Price. Price is among the few scholars today who still maintains the notion that Jesus “probably” didn’t exist. I found myself disagreeing with Price on almost every page, but I appreciated his contribution and anticipated his interaction with the other contributors more than any of the other contributors. Second, the reader will encounter an important essay by John Dominic Crossan. Crossan has been a voice within the conversation for some time now and his interaction is valuable, but the interaction against Crossan from the other contributors was even more valuable—especially from Dunn and Bock. Third, the reader will meet a stimulating article by Luke Timothy Johnson. The reader will appreciate the brevity of Johnson’s methodological approach. However, despite my agreement with many of his points, I found his contribution mediocre at best. Fourth, the reader will encounter the contribution of James D. G. Dunn. Dunn largely summarizes and synthesizes his more detailed work on the subject. This is helpful for those unfamiliar with Dunn, or those who simply don’t have the time to read his fuller work. Finally, the reader will encounter the contribution of Darrel L. Bock. Similar to Price, Bock’s contribution will be controversial for many. Not because he is a sceptic but because he is a conservative evangelical.

The Historical Jesus: Five Views is has brought together the most prominent contemporary voices in the current quest for the historical Jesus. As stated above, and, as is the case with all the books within the Spectrum: Multiview Books series published by IVP Academic, the present volume is a goldmine for familiarizing oneself with the broader conversational voices. Still, The Historical Jesus: Five Views is among the most helpful of this type of resource and comes highly recommended to anyone interested in embarking on the quest for the historical Jesus.

I received this book for free from IVP Academic 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.

Book Review: Urban Legends of the New Testament

UL of NTDavid Croteau is the professor of New Testament & Greek at Columbia International University. Croteau holds a Th.M. and Ph.D. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the editor and contributor to a number of books, including You Mean I don’t have to Tithe? A Biblical and Theological Analysis of Tithing (Wipf & Stock, 2010), Perspectives on Tithing (B&H Academic, 2011), and Which Bible Translation Should I Use? Leading Experts Discuss 4 Major Versions (B&H Academic, 2012). Croteau has also published several articles in Bulletin of Biblical Research and Master’s Seminary Journal. Most recently, Croteau rattles cages with the release of a challenging and yet helpful volume, Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions (B&H Academic, 2015).

In Urban Legends of the New Testament, Croteau seeks to deconstruct 40 interpretive myths, or “urban legends,” encountered in the New Testament text. An urban legend, according to Croteau, is “a commonly circulated myth, repeated throughout the culture as common knowledge, but which isn’t true” (p. xiii). Croteau continues, “interpretations of certain passages in the New Testament have fallen victim to this. Somehow something false is stated, and it gets heard and passed down without someone checking all the facts” (p. xiii). Today many such “urban legends” exists within both the pulpit and the pews, and continue to be circulated without hesitation. It is here that Croteau embodies a clear voice of reason as he calls the reader to set aside tradition for the sake of exegesis and interpretation.

Urban Legends of the New Testament tackles a number of well-known urban legends. But, Croteau also addresses some that may be less familiar to the average reader. For example, some of the urban legends include, the “Eye of a Needle” being a gate in Jerusalem (pp. 61–66) and Hell being a reference to a First-Century garbage dump near Jerusalem (pp. 49–54). Each chapter is titled after the urban legend itself, “not the correct interpretation of the text(s) at hand”(p. xiv), followed by a brief explanation. Subsequently, Croteau deconstructs each of the legends and provides a positive exegesis for his understanding of the correct interpretation. Finally, Croteau concludes each chapter with a section devoted to the application of his presentation, as well as an annotated bibliography divided by resource type (i.e. books, journals, websites, etc.) for further study.

Personally I found Croteau to be both a model of integrity and a true exemplar of compassion in his handling of each of the 40 urban legends. He is engaging and consistent across the board in his treatment of these misunderstanding, and his tone is truly something to be admired. I also found the application section to be extremely helpful in processing the specific legends, especially for the pastor or teacher who would take on the responsibility of exposing such myths. Still, the reader must be fully prepared for the possibility of a challenge when picking up this book, because Urban Legends of the New Testament is sure to expose the presence of some urban legends in their own thought. Of course, if this breaks down the wall of bad hermeneutic and re-shapes a more faithful understanding of the text, who could be opposed to such challenge? In the end, if you still find yourself at ends with Croteau’s conclusion, I am confident that you will still walk away encouraged by the carefulness he exemplifies as he handles the biblical text. This book comes highly recommended!

I received this book for free from B&H  Academic 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.

Book Review: The Professor’s Puzzle

PPMichael S. Lawson is the Senior Professor of Educational Ministries and Leadership, as well as coordinator of the Doctor of Educational Ministries degree at Dallas Theological Seminary. Lawson holds a BBA from the University of North Texas, ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary, and PhD from Oklahoma University. He is the author and contributor to a number of books devoted to Christian education, including, The Christian Educator’s Handbook on Children’s Ministry (Baker, 1998), The Christian Educator’s Handbook on Teaching (Baker, 2000), and the Evangelical Dictionary of Christian Education (Baker Academic, 2001). Lawson has also written numerous articles in Christian Educators of the 20th Century, Christian Education Journal, and Christian Education Today. Most recently, in The Professor’s Puzzle: Teaching in Christain Academics, Lawson has brought together several decades of his experience and practice within the realm of Christian higher education, and has yielded a handbook that is accessible and trustworthy for the new and aspiring educator.

The Professor’s Puzzle appropriately recognizes the initial shock that tends to accompany the transition from PhD student to “professorhood.” Lawson helpfully bridges this gap with expert precision and provides the reader with a “need-to-know” guide for the new and forthcoming adventures. Lawson begins by placing the foundation for a philosophy of Christian academic education, and quickly transitions into the necessary task of integrating the Christian worldview into ever corner of learning. These two opening chapters really function to lay the groundwork for the entire book. Next the reader is accompanied through the land of learning theories where Lawson helpfully selects and expands upon his “top ten” learning theories. I found Lawson’s list to be insightful and accurately placed. The remainder of the book focuses on planning and executing a course syllabus, mastering content, the classroom experience, evaluation, instruction within the classroom, and relational skills necessary to provide a learning environment where students flourish. The final chapter of the book is devoted to exposing the reader to the underlying realities of the institution. It clearly and concisely brings the reader behind the scenes of their new and/or aspired calling of “professorhood.”

As a current educator within the local church and an aspiring professor within the walls of the seminary, I greatly appreciate the wisdom discovered in The Professor’s Puzzle. Lawson is clear and articulate in his explanation and expectation of the reader. He knows his targeted audience well and this reality saturates every page. I am also extremely grateful for the candor Lawson brings to the discussion as he addresses difficult and pressing issues within the future/present situation of the reader. It would be difficult for me within the space provided to highlight all that I found valuable within The Professor’s Puzzle, but two things must be mentioned for the sake of this review. First, the opening chapter “A Philosophy for Christian Academic Education” is likely the most comprehensive and concise articulation of the necessity of Christian higher education I have ever read. If you could only read one chapter, please, read this one. Second, while mastery of all the chapters would be recommended with time, I was particularly challenged within my current role as a Director of Adult Education to focus upon and master my relating skills (ch. 9). The guidance given to the reader in this section is truly seasoned with salt and will beneficial to all Christian educators.

The Professor’s Puzzle is the closest most will get to having a seasoned expert guide them through the difficult waters of all things “professorhood.” Lawson provides the reader with a lifetime of experience teaching within the arena of Christian academic circles. If you are a new and/or aspiring professor like myself, this book is an indispensable tool that will be referenced often. Still, I wouldn’t limit the usefulness of this book to the aspiring academics alone. If you are a Christian educator of any kind this book will prove itself beneficial over and over again. I couldn’t recommend it more.

I received this book for free from B&H  Academic 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.