Review: The Fourfold Gospel

26266705The Fourfold Gospel: A Theological Reading of the New Testament Portraits of Jesus by Francis Watson is a similarly exciting, and yet abbreviated exploration of Watson’s previous tome, Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective (Eerdmans, 2013). According to Watson, “The present attempt at a theological reading focuses throughout on the texts within that boundary [previously established in Gospel Writing] and on the theological questions they put to their interpreter, both individually and in their relation to one another” (p. viii). Much of this groundwork is established and revisited in the Prolegomena section that opens the book. It is here that the reader becomes thoroughly equipped for the fascinating journey ahead.

The Fourfold Gospel is divided into two major sections. The initial section seeks to establish each of the four Gospel accounts within the portrait of Jesus offered by the author. These turn out to be perspectives that are not only different in nature, but also complementary. Watson’s care and attentiveness to the overall framework of each Gospel is admirable, and without losing focus of the whole, Watson is able to seamlessly equip readers with the proper lenses needed to observe the major convergences discussed in the second section. It is here that Watson applauds the formative work of Eusebius’ Canon Tables in the establishment of a fourfold Gospel book and further delineates his thesis by examining the shared narrative across all four Gospels.

Overall, I found Watson’s work to be extremely beneficial and informative for reading and understanding the canonical gospels. I appreciated the unified approach that Watson embodied as he wrestled with their similarities and differences, as well as the challenges that have been created by a “gospel harmonies” reading of the narratives. As Watson rightly notes, “gospel harmonies created far more problems than they solved. It seems that the fourfold gospel is not intended to provide a singular “life of Jesus” in which each incident and saying is assigned to its original historical context. Its relation to reality is more complex—and more interesting—than that” (p. 88). This observation alone helps reconcile more internal problems than most other attempts traditionally seen combined, and this is only one of many nuggets to be unearthed in this study.

The Fourfold Gospel: A Theological Reading of the New Testament Portraits of Jesus by Francis Watson is a significant contribution to the ongoing exploration of contemporary Gospel Studies. It is a welcome companion, and, in many ways an extended appendix to Watson’s previous book Gospel Writing: A Canonical Perspective. Watson has invited the reader into a world that had been plagued by the displeasure of recurring academic dust and has effectively breathed within it a newfound sense of vibrancy and life. Watson’s undeniable expertise and his ability to communicate to a broad readership had already position this book for success, even prior to its publication. However, what was previously expected now looks petty compared to what Watson actually delivered. The Fourfold Gospel is a book that you will want to read, and do so more than once. 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: Women’s Bible Commentary

066423707XThe Women’s Bible Commentary has continued to provide a unique opportunity for students of the Bible to observe the hermeneutical outcome of feminist scholarship for over two decades. It has brought together some the best feminist scholars in the field, which has resulted in a timely and lasting volume that has demonstrated itself as beneficial for a many. The present twentieth anniversary edition features a number of brand new or thoroughly revised essays that reflect newer thinking in feminist interpretation and hermeneutics. The scope of this volume is comprehensive and its significance is evident, regardless of an individual’s gender or theological persuasion. It covers every book of the Old Testament and the New, as well as the Old Testament Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books.

The book opens with two important essays to position the reader with the understanding needed to discover value in the volume. The reader will find Carol A Newson’s essay on women as biblical interpreters prior to the twentieth century well-written and intriguing given the task of the present volume. As the reader enters into the commentary proper, he or she will find traditional introductory material for each book, comments on various passages in each book, and a number of brief excursuses on female figures (such as Eve, Ruth, Rahab, etc.) and their interpreters. Each chapter helpfully concludes with a bibliography to orient the reader properly for further study.

The commentary and treatment of the text therein was met with a variegated presentation of its usefulness. Some of the books are handled more judiciously than others, and some of the essays are certainly more useful than others. Moreover, there was little consistency throughout by way of interaction with opposing positions. Not that this negates the value of the resource, but I find interaction more helpful than blanket assertions, and I assume other readers do as well. Also, given the nature and focus of the volume itself, the conservative evangelical reader should anticipate disagreement. But, again, this should not negate the value of the resource. In fact, if anything, it should ultimately encourage the value of the resource as the reader should seek to interact with and dialog alongside the material and arguments that it seeks to present.

The Women’s Bible Commentary is a unique resource. It provides readers of all theological persuasion and backgrounds an opportunity to interact with and observe the best that the feminist movement has to offer by way of biblical scholarship. The volume itself is helpful in many respects, but it will also provide serious concern for some readers. Regardless, it provides a hermeneutical perspective unavailable in other resources on the market, and I am more than happy to have it on my bookshelf and look forward to consulting it often. It brings much to the table for discussion and comes highly recommended for any serious student of the Bible seeking to engage the world around them.

 

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: The Hermeneutical Spiral

9780830828265Well-established as the standard evangelical work in the field of biblical hermeneutics since first being published in 1991, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation by Grant R. Osborne has been revised and expanded to meet the changing needs of the next generation. New chapters on the Old Testament law and use of the Old Testament in the New have been added, and general revisions have been undertaken throughout the volume. While the original work was well-situated to provide the reader with a longstanding example of usefulness in its presentation, this revised and expanded edition proves itself to be a much more refined demonstration of scholarly and practical engagement with the biblical text.

The Hermeneutical Spiral is a massive volume boasting over 600-pages. Osborne appropriately begins the investigation with an introduction to situate the reader for the task ahead. It is here that Osborne rightly understands the task of hermeneutics as the means of accomplishing an ecclesiastical end. For Osborne, “the final goal of hermeneutics is not systematic theology but the sermon. The actual purpose of Scripture is not explanation but exposition, not description but proclamation” (p. 29). This proves to be more than a mere statement of conviction for Osborne, as the outline of the book will effectively bring the reader from the examination of the biblical text in their original languages to the homiletical execution of a Sunday morning sermon.

As The Hermeneutical Spiral unfolds, Osborne helpfully directs the attention of the reader to the biblical text. It is here that the reader is introduced to the importance of context, grammar, semantics, syntax, and historical and cultural backgrounds. This section is imperative to the task of biblical hermeneutics and Osborne does an excellent job at guiding the reader through each. A high point from this section was Osborne’s discussion on semantic fallacies, including the root fallacy, misuse of etymology, the one-meaning fallacy, and much more. The careful reader will know and understand the importance of this section well, as most modern pulpit crimes are the result of semantic negligence and the proclamation of semantic fallacies.

Next, Osborne directs the attention of the reader towards an analysis of the various biblical genres. For Osborne, “Genre functions as a valuable link between the text and the reader” (p. 182). It is here that the hermeneutical groundwork that was laid in the prior section is applied to specific types of literature—Old Testament Law, Narrative, Poetry, Wisdom, Prophecy, Apocalyptic, Parable, and Epistle. This section also concludes with a helpful chapter on the use of the Old Testament in the New. A high point in this section was Osborne’s discussion surrounding the genre of biblical narrative. Specifically, the various aspects use to study biblical narrative—source, form, redaction, and narrative criticism. The latter being among the most helpful.

Lastly, Osborne appropriately closes the volume with a section dedicated to the application of the hermeneutical investigation undertaken in the previous sections. It is here that the reader is able to identify and interact with three applicationary aspects of biblical exegesis—biblical theology, systematic theology, and homiletics. Each of the three applications are discussed in detail, and the connection to the previous sections is unmistakable. However, the clear high point of this section was Osborne’s interaction and application of hermeneutics to the task of homiletics—both contextualization and sermon delivery. Osborne effectively lands the plane after a 600-page round trip flight from biblical text to target audience.

The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation by Grant R. Osborne is a massive volume that leaves no hermeneutical-stone unturned. Osborne recognizes the task of hermeneutics as the primary means of a homiletical end and rightly equips the reader to function out of this recognition. In other words, as the reader continues to move between text and context on the hermeneutical spiral, sound exegesis brings the reader closer and closer to the intended meaning of the text and its significance for today. While The Hermeneutical Spiral is likely more detailed than the average reader is looking to digest, Osborne has provided a volume that cannot be overlooked by any serious Student of the Bible, especially that of the Pastor or Teacher.

 

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: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Review: 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.