Review:NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

27840547Properly understanding the context of a historical document such as the Bible is necessary to unlock a meaning that leads to application. Context changes everything in the arena of biblical interpretation and it is near impossible to do serious study of the Bible without a sufficient understanding of the context. As is frequently repeated, the golden rule of biblical interpretation is “context, context, context.” It is here that the recently released NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible edited by John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener provides a much needed resource for pastors, students, and laity.

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is both beautifully illustrated and rich with content. The full-color layout immerses the reader into the Bible like never before. There are plenty of high-quality photographs and illustrations throughout, as well as numerous maps, charts, and diagrams. Still, one of the most fascinating aspects of this Study Bible is the extent to which the publisher has sought to bring the reader into the cultural background beyond mere written content. The reader will encounter extensive high-resolution photographs of various artifacts, written documents, biblical manuscripts, and more. The experience of the Study Bible alone is well worth the cover price. It is truly as close to a total immersion into the biblical world as many readers will get in this lifetime.

As the title suggests, the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is based on the updated 2011 NIV translation. The content of the study notes are above expectation. First, and probably foremost, the sheer amount of notes packed into this Study Bible is amazing—much, much more than a typical niche Study Bible. In fact, I would say the amount of notes is similar in number to that of any of the major Study Bibles released in recent years. Moreover, throughout the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible there are various sidebar topical discussions on cultural themes that arise with each book of the Old Testament and the New. These discussions vary in length—from a paragraph to a couple pages—and cover a ton of important subjects. For example, in Genesis the reader will discover conversation surrounding the historical setting of Genesis, ziggurats, cosmic history and mythology, patriarchal religion, covenant, and much more. Almost every other page has a significant entry relevant to the culture and background of a given book of the Bible.

There is much to be celebrated about the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. As stated above, I think that one of the most impressive aspects of this volume is the intentionality to bring the reader into the biblical world. The combination of visual and written content is paired with a unified mission like no other Study Bible I’ve ever seen or used. The closest comparison is the HCSB Study Bible, which succeeds in part visually, but lacks the depth of cultural interaction and content seen here. I also found the layout and organization of the Bible to be incredibly useful and well-executed. There is a ton of content on every page, but reading through it doesn’t feel as cumbersome as one might think. It is visually pleasing and the print quality is excellent. The font may be difficult for aged-eyes, especially in the study notes, but the print quality itself is akin to all previous Zondervan full-color Study Bible publications. It is currently available in hardcover, Italian duo-tone imitation leather, and black bonded leather. Premium ebony leather would be preferred (specifically the same build and quality of the Zondervan NIV Study Bible), but the options available at this time are more than sufficient.

The newly released and highly anticipated NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible edited by John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener is a phenomenal resource and deserves a spot on the shelf of all serious students of the Bible. This is a resource that will be consulted often and be used for many years to come. It is a resource that will drag the reader into the biblical world and illuminate the text like never before. If you are looking for a Study Bible that will uniquely compliment others in your library, the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is one that could not be recommended more. It’s an instant classic that will quickly make its way to the top of your most used resources list. 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.

Advertisements

Review: The Complete Jewish Study Bible

29844595The number of Study Bibles available on the market today is breathtaking. There seems to be a Study Bible themed for almost any occasion or reason one could imagine. In recent years, several major Study Bible projects surfaced and released with mixed reception. One of the latest additions to this Study Bible market, and one that promises a wealth of useful insight into the Scriptures is the newly published The Complete Jewish Study Bible (CJSB).

The CJSB is a unique Study Bible experience that seeks to submerge the reader into the Jewishness of both Testaments through fresh and relevant study notes and articles selected to accomplish this mission. The CJSB is based on the widely used Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) by David A. Stern. Those familiar with the CJB will know what to expect. Stern has translated the Bible with a particular sensitivity to the Jewish tradition and thus has retained Jewish names and words with theological significance. For example, the reader will discover thousands of occurrences in both the Old and New Testament of Adonai where the Hebrew and Greek would not warrant such translation, but the Hebraic tradition would (xlii-xliii). Readers will surely have a personal preference and opinion towards this decision and others like it, and further comment is beyond the scope of this review.

The CJSB prepares the reader for “extensive bottom-of-page study notes to help readers understand the deeper meanings behind the Jewish text” (xix). However, for most readers (and especially those familiar with other Study Bibles on the market) this statement will over promise and under deliver. Many pages lack any presence of study notes. The notes are certainly helpful and useful for understanding the deeper meaning of the text, but they are not “extensive” by any meaningful definition of the word. I do not say this to discourage the reader away from the benefit of the CJSB, but rather to prepare them for the content therein. Still, the benefit of the CJSB is found in the numerous, and I mean numerous topical and themed articles. The topical articles cover a wide range of topics in both the Old Testament and the New, including the nature of covenant, millennialism and the future Israel, Satan in Jewish thought, a Jewish understanding of Hell, and much, much more. The themed articles are abundant and sorted under twelve major themes: (1) anti-Jewish scriptural interpretation, (2) covenants, (3) Jewish customs, (4) Jewish-Gentile relations, (5) messianic prophecy, (6) the names of God, (7) Sabbath, (8) salvation and atonement, (9) the holy days of Israel, (10) the land of Israel, (11) Torah, and (12) the tabernacle. The CJSB opens with a lengthy introduction the CJB and closes with a number of appendix material (e.g. glossary of Hebrew words, topical and theme article index, biographies of rabbis and sages, etc.) and eight full-color maps.

The CJSB is a unique Study Bible and a valuable investment for anyone interested in better understanding the Jewishness of the Old and New Testament. The articles are useful and many, and the CJB is an excellent supplemental translation to your Bible of choice. However, while I was honestly pleased by content that the CJSB offered, for some reason, I continued to feel as though something was missing. It could be the lack of “extensive” notes that I was anticipating or that they were paired with the CJB—a supplemental translation choice, in my honest opinion. Despite this, I was surprised at how often I was reaching for the CJSB to see what the contributors had to say about a passage or topic and I was pleased by the content and number of articles.

The Complete Jewish Study Bible is a welcomed addition to the Study Bible market. The CJSB offers an unparalleled experience that will truly enrich the reader’s understanding of the Scriptures. If anything, I think that it is safe to assume that the CJSB will provide another perspective for the reader to weigh as they seek to resemble and serve Jesus in the twenty-first century. I said it before, and I will say it again, the CJSB is a unique Study Bible and a valuable investment for anyone interested in better understanding the Jewishness of the Old and New Testament. It deserves a place on the shelf of every Christian!

 

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 Brief Introduction to the Old Testament

9780190238599Michael D. Coogan is Lecturer of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at Harvard Divinity School, Director of Publications for the Harvard Semitic Museum, Editor-in-Chief of Oxford Biblical Studies Online, and Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Stonehill College. Coogan is a respected and accomplished author of numerous scholarly publications and General Editor of The New Oxford Annotated Bible (4th ed.). Most recently, Coogan released an updated and revised edition of his well-known Old Testament textbook—an introductory textbook that is commonplace among undergraduate classrooms.

A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in Its Context (3rd ed.) is largely a more condensed rendering of The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures (3rd ed.). The latter being more technical and detail than the former. For this updated and revised edition Coogan invited a collaborator, Cynthia R. Chapman of Oberlin College, to provide fresh insight and perspective. However, as Coogan explains in the preface, “She brought to the revision not just a fresh perspective, but also expertise in gender theory and anthropological approaches to the study of the Bible” (xix).

Coogan and Chapman have sought to provide updates and revisions throughout the volume that present the most recent scholarship with clarity, accuracy, and accessibility (xx). Moreover, the sections of the volume that deal with women have been more fully integrated into the context of the specific section rather than marginalized into subsections. Likewise, many interested readers will celebrate Coogan’s decision to decrease previous emphasis on the Documentary Hypothesis, and increase discussion of other interpretive strategies and methodologies of the Torah. These changes alone make this edition a welcomed and more balanced experienced.

Those familiar with the previous editions will recognize and rejoice in the overall layout of the volume. Each chapter begins with a short introduction that connects the previous section to the coming material, and closes with a summary section to review the material discussed. Within this framework Coogan has highlighted important names and terms, provided a list of curated review questions, and offered the readers a brief bibliography for further study. At the end of the book the reader will find a general bibliography organized topically for ease of use, a glossary of all the highlighted words for quick reference, and an index for ease of navigation.

A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in Its Context (3rd ed.) by Michael D. Coogan and Cynthia R. Chapman provides a welcomed revision to an already well-known and well-received classic. Everything previously praised about this volume remains, and what has changed should only warrant additional adoration. While much of the content in this volume will come with criticism and disagreement from more conservative readers, Coogan has offered an introduction worth engaging for readers with a keen awareness of the underlying issues. This is an Old Testament introduction that you will want on your shelf. Who knows you may even need it for class one day. 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: Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity

173611Paul Barnett (Ph.D., London University) is recognized by many in the field of New Testament studies as one of the most respected historical scholars on the origins of Christianity. As well as being an Emeritus Faculty member of Moore Theological College, Barnett is currently a fellow in ancient history at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia and a teaching fellow at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada. Barnett has authored numerous books, including a number of commentaries and monographs related to the various aspects of New Testament studies.

Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times has been long acknowledged as a quintessential classic at the top of Barnett’s lengthy literary corpus. Barnett guides the reader through the complexities of the Hellenistic backdrop that characterized much of the culture during the ministry of Jesus—from the incarnation to the resurrection—and the development of the New Testament Church. The approach is both comprehensive and readable, and Barnett firmly roots his research in primary source material. This affords the reader a better grasp of the New Testament from within its historical context, and thus, allows for a better recognition of the significance of the early Jesus movement within the first century world.

The scope of this volume is quite impressive. Not only is the reader exposed to the historical landscape of the New Testament, but Barnett has likewise interwoven detailed interaction with contemporary critical scholarship concerning the Historical Jesus and other related issues. It is here that Barnett does well in demonstrating the historical shortcomings of the critical attempt to construct a chasm between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. Moreover, the reader will certainly appreciate the emphasis Barnett places on the Christological motivation that underlined the missionary effort of the early Christian community, as well as the imperative nature of a bodily resurrection in early Christian worship. This is by any measure a breath of fresh air brought to a table that is far too often plagued with canonical discontinuity and confusion, and for this readers everywhere should rejoice!

Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity: A History of New Testament Times by Paul Barnett is an invaluable resource that should be read and re-read by anyone interested in the origins of early Christianity. Barnett is judicious and clear as usual, and his treatment therein is nothing short of comprehensive. Barnett leaves the eager reader with nearly no stones left to turn. This is a volume that should be consulted by many and done so often, both in the church and in the academy. 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: Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period

9780830826780Larry R. Helyer (Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary) is Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies at Taylor University, Upland, Indiana. Helyer has published numerous articles and reviews and has authored several books, including, Yesterday, Today and Forever: The Continuing Relevance of the Old Testament (Sheffield, 2004), The Witness of Jesus, Paul and John: An Exploration in Biblical Theology (IVP, 2008), and The Life and Witness of Peter (IVP, 2012). Still, it is within the present volume, Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students (IVP, 2002), that Helyer has offered the reader his most notable investment and contribution to the study of the New Testament.

Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period begins with a brief introduction outlining the history and importance of the Second Temple period for NT studies. While the information in this section may be considered foundational for the incoming reader, it is quite brief and could easily be ignored without consequence. However, the content that follows this section exhibits a much different story. Helyer systematically introduces the reader to the wealth of literature produced between the Babylonian exile and the rise of rabbinic Judaism. It is here that Helyer examines literary works generally categorized within groups such as the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, Philo, Dead Sea Scrolls, Mishnah, Targums, etc. Within each of the sections, the reader is carefully guided through various literary pieces, including information such as genre, sources, purpose, date, composition, structure and outline, content and characteristics, as well as a section devoted to the significance of the particular book to NT studies.

The examination of literature in this volume is impressive and includes such works as Tobit, Enoch, 2 Enoch, 4 Ezra, Thanksgiving Hymns, Damascus Document, Testament of Moses, Jubilees, and much, much more. Each major section of the book ends with helpful discussion questions for small groups or personal reflection, as well as a select bibliography for further study. One of the most impressive aspects of this volume is the sheer number of footnotes that accompany each section. This volume is both comprehensive and well-informed in its examination and research, and Helyer’s familiarity with the literature and context is evident with the turn of every page. Additionally, while the thoroughness of this volume will be enough to warrant its inclusion in your library, the readability will guarantee that it is met with equally good use.

If you are someone with even a remote interest in the study of the New Testament, Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students by Larry R. Helyer is an indispensable resource. I recommend a cover-to-cover read the first time around for familiarization with the content, and then the consultation of the various indexes for future reference. Regardless, this will be a volume you will use often. 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: Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Review: An Introduction to the New Testament

0664255922An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology by M. Eugene Boring is a unique achievement in the field of New Testament studies. It is the fruit of a lifelong pursuit into the world and literature of the New Testament, and the result of decades of thorough research by a well-respected New Testament scholar.

An Introduction to the New Testament begins with a substantial introduction at over 200-pages. It is here that the New Testament is introduced to the reader as the Church’s book. For Boring, the Church wrote it, selected it, edited it, preserved and transmitted it, translated it, and interpreted it (p. 12). It is within this persuasion that Boring is able to comprehensively guide the reader through issues of New Testament composition, transmission, translation, interpretation, etc.

Following the establishment of the New Testament as the Church’s book, Boring positions the conversation historically as he guides the reader through the Hellenistic World and into the various facets of Palestinian Judaism and early Christianity. This section provides a helpful overview of the historical context of the New Testament literature and better prepares the reader for the investigation that follows.

As the introductory material comes to a close the reader encounters roughly 80-pages of discussion on Jesus and Paul. Boring provides a well-written, but brief summary of the quest for the historical Jesus, and a more substantial overview of the earthly ministry of Jesus and its overlap with that of Paul. Lastly, Boring sketches a more detailed portrait of the life and ministry of Paul and prepares the reader for his unconventional approach in the following chapters with an introduction to the epistles.

In the shadows of the introductory material Boring directs the attention of the reader to the literature of the New Testament. The reader may be surprised to discover that Boring begins with the Pauline epistles—specifically 1 Thessalonians, Philippians, and Philemon—before discussing other New Testament epistles and the gospels. This approach is intentional and appropriate for the critical mindset that Boring is seeking to cultivate. Boring is thus able to construct critical thought around Paul and the other epistles in a way that better positions for the reader, his critical approach to the gospels and Jesus.

I found Boring to be both clear and comprehensive throughout. Aside from the usefulness of the content found within the book, I also found the layout and organization of the book to be extremely helpful and easy to use. I especially enjoyed the inclusion of a “For Further Reading” section at the end of each chapter. Boring provides a number of excellent suggestions for the interested reader looking to investigate more deeply. However, I did notice that his suggestions are typically, and more often than not, those that align with his own critical approach.

I often found myself in contention with the conclusions and assumptions that Boring propagates throughout the book. However, with that said, I greatly appreciate Boring’s scholarship, and his willingness and desire to cultivate a mindset within the reader that looks to think through the issues rather than simply be told what to believe is admirable. It is here that Boring has truly provided the Church and academy something special and unique.

An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology by M. Eugene Boring is a comprehensive engagement into the deepest corners of the New Testament and New Testament studies. While this is not the first New Testament introduction that I will pull from my bookshelf, nor the first New Testament introduction that I will recommend, it will be off my bookshelf often and I would certainly recommend it to others. If you are a serious student of the New Testament looking for a critical engagement therein that is easy to read and useful for reference, this present volume is an excellent resource that will fulfill your needs well.

 

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: The Chosen People

9780830840830The Chosen People: Election, Paul and Second Temple Judaism by A. Chadwick Thornhill (PhD, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary) is an exploration assigned the task of carefully guiding the reader through the early Jewish literature of the Second Temple period, specifically to examine how it discusses the concept of election in relation to the people of God. Thornhill seeks to answer two foundational questions: (1) How did Jews during the Second Temple period understand the nature of their election? And (2) how does one’s understanding of Jewish idea(s) of election influence how one might understand the key Pauline texts that address election? (p. 20-21).

For Thornhill, the early Jewish literature of the Second Temple period (namely the Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocryphal, and Pseudepigraphal works) predominantly display an understanding of the concept of election that is firmly positioned both corporately and conditionally. Still, when the concept of election explicitly relates to the individual, Thornhill argues that the literature of the Second Temple period predictably emphasizes the character or role of the individual, rather than the salvation. Although Thornhill rightly acknowledges the artificial nature of distinguishing between “individual” and “collective” from the text itself (p. 28).

Thornhill does an outstanding job systematically walking the reader through the literature of the Second Temple period in relation to the concepts of election. The reader will certainly learn a lot as the framework is being built to discuss Paul. Nevertheless, as someone who is not well-read in Second Temple literature, I often found myself wondering if any literature of the period actually disagreed with the central premise of the book. Of course, this may be the very point that Thornhill is seeking to bring to light. Still, the reader does not encounter much by the way of interaction with Jewish texts that seemingly oppose the argued concepts of election, nor is much attention given to opposing interpretive positions of the literature.

Following the construction of the framework of the Second Temple period, Thornhill directs his attention towards a number of important Pauline “election” passages. If the reader is familiar with the soteriological debate that stands in the foreground of these passages, then Thornhill’s exegetical conclusions will be nothing new—how he gets there may be a different story. For example, Thornhill argues for a corporate election view “in Christ” of Ephesians 1-2 based largely on the verbal forms in vv. 1:3-12 (p. 180), as well as a corporate election view of Romans 9. Thornhill functions extremely well within the framework of first-century Jewish thought as he exegetes the Pauline passages, and argues quite persuasively for his intended position.

To be honest, I was a bit surprised not to find any references or interaction with The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23 by John Piper (Baker Academic, second edition, 1993). This was one of the main disappointments for me. The judicious exegesis of Romans 9:1-23 presented by Piper in The Justification of God is in many ways definitive in the theological community Thornhill is arguing against. Thomas Schreiner is well-represented and engaged, and to Thornhill’s credit, but not a word is given about the important work by Piper. Nevertheless, Thornhill’s work is very well-documented and his interaction is admirable.

The Chosen People has offered the scholarly community a unique and important contribution to the conversation within Pauline studies. Thornhill has effectively probed through the forest of an old theological debate with fresh and exciting lenses. Even someone, like myself, who disagrees with the many of the conclusions that Thornhill advocates will find great benefit in this book. It has helped me re-engage a seemingly stagnant discussion with a renewed perspective and desire to invest more time in the understanding of early Jewish literature of the Second Temple period for New Testament studies. Those interested in a similar fate will embrace this book with open arms. The Chosen People 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: 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.