Review: Luke: A Commentary

Fowl_Ephesians_NTL CoverJohn T. Carroll is the Harriet Robertson Fitts Memorial Professor of New Testament and Director of the Program for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Union Presbyterian Seminary. Carrol received an M.Div. and Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from Princeton Theological Seminary, and has since spent the bulk of his academic career primarily within the arena of Lukan studies. Carroll authored and/or edited a number of books, including, Response to the End of History: Eschatology and Situation in Luke-Acts (1998), The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity (1995), The Return of Jesus in Early Christianity (2000), and The Word in This World: Essays in New Testament Exegesis and Theology (2004). Carroll has also published a long list of articles on Luke-Acts and various topics within New Testament Studies. Most recently, Carroll has contributed this present commentary, a good-sized volume on the Gospel of Luke, released as part of the critically acclaimed New Testament Library series: Luke: A Commentary 

Carroll is a fairly well-known scholarly voice within the world of New Testament and Lukan studies, and this commentary visibly parades his expertise. The commentary begins with a bibliography of up-to-date commentaries, monographs, books, and essays related to the Gospel of Luke. If you enjoy these sections, peruse them often, and are well acquainted with Luke-Acts material this section will be reviewable and up-to-date, but far from comprehensive. If none of the above describes your interest, then you can rest assured that Carroll has at least provided a solid and current bibliography of the Third Gospel to catapult your studies. Subsequently, Carroll provides the reader with a useful introduction. Carroll briefly surveys the traditional introductory categories (i.e. authorship, date, purpose, etc.), and addresses how to approach the reading of the Third Gospel and previews the central theological and ethical concerns and commitments therein. The reader will find the introductory section to be a goldmine of helpful information for interacting with Carroll in the commentary ahead. It is an essential and recommended first stop.

The commentary itself is wrought with exegetical and theological insight. Carroll is excellent when it understanding the literary themes and intertextuality within the Gospel of Luke. Each section in the commentary is based on the authors original translation of the Greek text and littered with textual notes. Carroll follows closely with the textual basis of the NA28 and notes clearly when he favors alternative readings. Interestingly, in a number of sections in the commentary Carroll favors the shorter readings attested by the Western text, especially Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis (D). This is seen in his commentary and translation of several verses within Luke 22 and 24. For example, Carroll does not find Luke 22:43-44 original, but provides a lengthy textual note detailing his decision (p. 444). Because of the flexible text choice within the commentary, many readers will be reluctant to engage Carroll’s work. But this would be an unwarranted endeavor. If anything this should provide added value to your library.

Still the textual decisions may not be the only hindrance for the conservative reader. Carroll affirms “Luke” as the author, but neglects to affirm traditional Lukan authorship. In other words, Carroll names “Luke” as the author but is unwilling to tell affirm that the “Luke” writing the gospel is the individual traditionally understood to be the author (p. 2). Moreover, Carroll is comfortable dating the Third Gospel well into the early second century (75-125 CE). This assertion is largely based on his assumption that Luke consulted the Gospel of Mark (a fair assumption), and that Mark is dated around 70 CE. Therefore, Luke would have had to consult Mark sometime after 70 CE. The problem most will recognize is that there is no real difficulty dating Mark in the mid-50’s. In other words, Luke could have still consulted Mark and completed his gospel account by the early 60’s. Many conservative scholars have argued this point well and in much more depth. But, similar to the textual issue in the prior paragraph, to overlook interaction with Carroll because of these disagreements would be naïve and unwarranted.

Luke: A Commentary is an up-to-date examination of one of the most significant accounts of the person and work of Jesus Christ in all of Scripture. John T. Carroll has provided a well-researched presentation of the current conversation among New Testament scholars, and added additional ground with his sensitivity to literary themes and intertextuality. Carroll’s translation and textual notes are indispensable, and his selective favoritism of Codex Bezae is interesting and helpful for the trained reader. If you are looking for a strong commentary on the Gospel of Luke from a critical perspective, then John T. Carroll has provided you with a commentary that cannot be overlooked. It will be off my bookshelf 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: 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.

Book Review: Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?

8103566James D. G. Dunn is no stranger to the world of Early Christianity. In fact, it has been said of Dunn, “Anyone who is interested in the rigorous study of early Christianity and who has not engaged with the works of James D. G. Dunn is not really interested in the rigorous study of early Christianity” (The Holy Spirit and Christian Origins, 2004). Dunn is Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham. He received an M.A. and B.D. from the University of Glasgow and a Ph.D. and D.D. from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of numerous books, including, The Evidence for Jesus (1985), Romans 1-8 & 9-16 in the Word Biblical Commentary series (1988), Jesus Remembered, Christianity in the Making, vol. 1 (2003), Beginning from Jerusalem, Christianity in the Making, vol. 2 (2009), as well as the present volume and the subject of this review: Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence (2010).

Everything that I have read by Dunn has been well-written and thoroughly engaging. He is consistently both scholarly and accessible to the average reader, and Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? displays the marriage of these two realities well. Though it must be said that the content within may not be easily welcomed by conservative evangelicals. The book begins with a brief introduction where Dunn reveals his conversation partners—Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado—and builds the case for his investigation with a number of sub-questions that become the focus of the subsequent chapters. The thesis of the book is also laid on the table twofold: (1) for the first Christians worship of Jesus was a way of worshiping YHWH, and (2) the contemporary worship of Jesus now witnessed is only possible or acceptable within what is now understood as a Trinitarian framework (p. 6).  In Chapter one Dunn examines the language of worship in the New Testament as applied to Jesus. He concludes that there is no real concrete evidence that worship language, as applied to God, was ever directly applied to Jesus. According to Dunn the worship language found within the New Testament was never explicitly directed at Jesus, rather it was directed at God for Jesus (p. 27-28). Chapter two carries much of the same theme of ambiguity as Dunn examines at the practice of worship in relation to the person of Jesus (i.e. prayer and sacrifice). Dunn writes, “in earliest Christianity, Christ was never understood as the one to whom sacrifice was offered, even when the imagery of sacrifice was used symbolically for Christian service” (p. 56).

As Dunn moves toward the topic in closer detail, chapter three addresses the topic of monotheism, heavenly mediators, and divine agents. This was an interesting chapter and most readers will likely find it to be a highpoint in the book. Dunn examines Paul’s reframing of the Shema, the divine personification of Spirit, Wisdom, and Word in light of the early Christian claims about Jesus, as well as exalted human beings such as Moses, Elijah, and Enoch. Dunn historically concludes that none of these entities were treated as a rightful recipient of worship, and thus either was Jesus to the first Christians. The final chapter is the heartbeat of the book and crucial to Dunn’s thesis. If the reader is able to read only a single chapter from the book this is the chapter to read. In chapter four Dunn address a number of stimulating topics related to the proposed question of the book, such as Jesus’s view of monotheism, the New Testament texts that appear to refer to Jesus as YHWH (i.e. 1 Corinthians 8:6; 15:24-28), as well as related issues within the Fourth Gospel and Revelation. As the book concludes Dunn warns the reader of the dangers of an oversimplified answer to the question. It’s not that simple according to Dunn. So, did the first Christians worship Jesus? Dunn concludes, “No, by and large the first Christians did not worship Jesus as such . . . so our central question can indeed be answered negatively, and perhaps it should be” (p. 150-151).
As stated above, everything that I have read by Dunn has been well-written and thoroughly engaging. He is consistently scholarly and accessible to the average reader, and Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? displays the union of these two realities well. Nonetheless, the content within this book may not be as easily welcomed by conservative evangelicals. Still, Dunn will make you think long and hard about your reading of Scripture and history. While I would largely align myself in opposition to Dunn’s conclusion, and in full disclosure did so prior to reading the book, I personally discovered many benefits in his contribution to this ongoing conversation. Consequently, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence is a commendable book, and I am certain that it will be enjoyed and discussed often by the interested reader.

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.

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.   

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.

Commentaries: The Gospels and Acts

As a Biblical Studies major and a current seminarian I find myself occupied with the biblical text on daily basis. Consequently biblical commentaries have become a welcomed extension of my everyday life. A recent count of my library displayed over 1300 individual commentaries! To be sure not all commentaries are made equal, and navigating through such a mountain of information can be daunting task. I personally enjoy reading about the tools others use in their studies and thought if would be mutually exciting to provide a list of my own favorites. Therefore, in the next several posts we will take a journey through the canon of New Testament, highlighting what I have found to be some of the most helpful commentaries for each of the New Testament books—starting today with the Gospels and Acts.

At the offset it is important to note that I don’t particularly agree with the conclusion of every commentary listed, and there are a number of excellent commentaries that I have not included because I do not own them. This is not intended to be exhaustive. But, rather a concise list of commentaries that I have and continue to find helpful both in my graduate and personal studies.

I hope that you found these next several posts helpful. If you have any questions or would like a more detailed opinion on a book mentioned (or not mentioned), please feel free to comment below.


 

Matthew

There is definitely no shortage of commentaries when it comes to the gospel of Matthew. While the options are many and the quality is varied, the commentaries that I typically run to for the gospel of Matthew are as follows:

More recent commentaries on Matthew that I have personally enjoyed and found helpful, and thus deserve mention here are:


Mark

The Gospel of Mark has a history of great commentaries—some are excellent, and some not so much. The following are some of my preferred “go to” commentaries on Mark:

Another honorable mention that is a little less technical, but boasts some helpful gems of information is:


Luke

The size of most the commentaries published on the gospel of Luke are massive, and in multi-volume. Like the others mentioned about there are a plethora of options for Luke. The following are some of my personal favorites:

Another massive (3 volume) work that I have consulted on occasion and found helpful, but have yet to finish in its entirety:


John

The gospel of John is likely the hardest of the gospels to decide ones top commentaries because so much has been published on John, and a lot of it is surprisingly very helpful to the reader. My personal favorites are as follows:


 

Acts

Similar to that of Luke there are a number of massive commentaries on the book of Acts, and several are excellent reference resources for the Greco-Roman background of early Christian missions. The following are some of the commentaries that I have found helpful: