Review: Ephesians (NTL)

13746539Stephen E. Fowl is Professor and Chair of Theology in the Department of Theology at Loyola University, Maryland. Fowl received his MA from Wheaton Graduate School and PhD from the University of Sheffield, where he completed his dissertation on the Christ-Hymn material in the Pauline corpus. Fowl is the author of numerous books and articles, including a commentary on Philippians in the Two Horizons New Testament Commentary series. Most recently, Fowl joined the ranks of the top contributors in the New Testament Library series with his excellent volume on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians: A Commentary is confidently positioned as one of the most useful volumes to arise out of the New Testament Library (NTL) series in recent years. The commentary begins with a quick introduction that tackles all of the expected introductory matters with precision. Fowl is fairly conservative in his approach, but he hesitates to take a firm position on Pauline authorship. Fowl explains, “I find the arguments so finely balanced that my decision about this could vary from day to day” (p. 28). One of the more interesting angles Fowl takes to discuss the authorship of the letter is the use of the Old Testament and its relationship to the undisputed letters of Paul. Fowl concludes the introduction with a section on the recipients and occasion of the letter, and again, he remains largely agnostic after evaluating the evidence.

The commentary proper is judiciously presented. Two features deserve mention here. First and foremost, like the other volumes in the NTL series, Fowl provides the reader with an original translation and textual notes. I’ve continually found this to be one of the most helpful features of the NTL series, and Fowl does not disappoint. Fowl’s textual notes are lengthy and well positioned to provide the keen reader with the information needed to establish the sometimes difficult text. Second, the exegetical handling of the text is brief and pointed, and Fowl quickly moves towards theological exposition. This shift in focus will be predictable for those familiar with Fowl’s work within the theological interpretation of Scripture movement.

There is no shortage in sight when it comes to choosing a commentary on the book of Ephesians. Still, with the market as saturated as it is, Ephesians: A Commentary by Stephen E. Fowl is an option well worth exploring. Fowl is both clear and to-the-point in his exegesis of the text, and his presentation is one of the more balanced critical approaches to the letter. While I don’t see this volume superseding Hoehner (2002), Lincoln (1990), or Thielman (2010) in its usefulness, I foresee its use being well-positioned for the busy pastor looking for theological application that is rooted exegetically within the text. If you are in the market for a well-written commentary that will get you into the text and theological insights quickly, Fowl’s work will outfit you well. It comes highly recommended!

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Review: I & II Timothy and Titus (NTL)

14876101Raymond F. Collins is a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Providence and Professor Emeritus of New Testament at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Collins has authored numerous books, including several New Testament commentaries, such as First Corinthians in the Sacra Pagina series (2007) and Second Corinthians in the Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament series (2013). Collins has written broadly in the field of New Testament and Pauline Studies, and thus the present commentary on the Pastoral Epistles is situated firmly within his academic wheelhouse.

As part of the highly acclaimed New Testament Library series, indeed the inaugural volume of the series, I & II Timothy and Titus: A Commentary is exemplar in almost every respect. Collins opens with a brief introduction to the Pastoral Epistles before treating each epistle individually. Unsurprisingly, Collins assumes the so-called “scholarly consensus” concerning the authorship of the epistles as occurring sometime after the death of Paul. Thus, for Collins, the composition of the Pastoral Epistles is pseudepigraphical in nature and the author is appropriately designated by the title “the Pastor.” Those that touchdown outside of this critical consensus concerning the Pauline authorship will appreciate Collins’ survey of the issue, but likely find his conclusions lacking in argumentative substance. Collins likewise discusses the nature of the Pastorals and their difference from other epistles, the literary from of the epistles, etc. Again, the introduction is brief, but Collins does well to cover some of the necessary grounds.

The commentary proper handles each epistle individually and includes a condensed introduction on each epistle, an outline of the content, and the treatment of the text. Collins has also included ten excursus sections scattered throughout the volume. The excursus sections cover topics such as Christians in the world, faith, church order, the Pastor’s perspective on women, etc. Much of Collins’ treatment is flavored with a reliance upon an underlying presence of Hellenistic motifs within the Pastorals. This is brought out several times in the commentary, including the notorious passage on women in 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Collins approach is unique, and the reader will likely benefit from the vantage point that he presents. However, one of the more disappointing aspects of the volume is the lack of an author translation (NRSV is used) and the accompanied textual notes that are present in the subsequent volumes of the series. This is particularly evident with passages such as Titus 2:13, which typically should have provided an alternative translation and commentary around the reasoning of such. Both are unfortunately lacking here.

I & II Timothy and Titus: A Commentary by Raymond F. Collins is an excellent commentary. It provides a clear and consistent treatment of the Pastorals from a critical, Catholic perspective. In any case, the reader should appreciate Collins’ approach, as it will compliment other volumes on the Pastorals extremely well. I don’t see this volume replacing Mounce (2000), Knight (1992), or Towner (2006), but it is certainly worth the investment for those interested in the Pastorals, It comes highly recommended!

Reveiw: Mark (NTL)

1246889M. Eugene Boring is I. Wylie Briscoe Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University. Boring is an accomplished New Testament scholar and the author of numerous books, including, An Introduction to the New Testament: History, Literature, Theology (WJK, 2012), Revelation: A commentary for Teaching and Preaching (WJK, 2011), The People’s New Testament Commentary (with Fred B. Craddock; WJK, 2010), The Continuing Voice of Jesus: Christian Prophecy and the Gospel Tradition (WJK, 1991), as well as Mark (WJK, 2006) and I & II Thessalonians (WJK, 2015) from the highly acclaimed New Testament Library series—the former of which being the focus of the present review.

Mark: A Commentary opens with a fairly healthy bibliography and introduction to orient the reader towards the intended direction. Boring covers all the standard introductory matters the reader would expect (i.e. authorship, date, provenance, purpose, genre, text and transmission, etc.), however, most of the technical details have been delegated to the footnotes, resulting in a much briefer introduction than some would expect. The organization of the commentary will be familiar for those acquainted with the New Testament Library series. Boring includes within each section the translation and translation notes, and the commentary proper, which tends to begin with an examination of the unit before the translation and then the verse or multiple verse-units.

Boring’s approach to the Gospel of Mark as a whole is quite unique. For Boring, the Second Gospel is primarily shaped by the creative storytelling of the Evangelist rather than history. In other words, for Boring, the author of Mark is far more concerned with presenting a portrait of Jesus that will resonate with his community than recounting the life events of a historical figure. Thus, a chasm exists between the Markan and Historical Jesus. Of course, the keen reader will recognize that some level of such characterized presentation of Jesus is inevitable for the Gospel writers, indeed for any New Testament writer, but such does not necessarily require a divorce from the Jesus of history. Still, despite the reluctance that some may have to his approach, it is clear that there is much insight to be gained if sifted with the appropriate balance.

The reader will appreciate the attention to detail offered in this volume. Boring has clearly done his homework and does the reader a service by allocating much of the technical details to the bottom of the page. Indeed, Boring properly utilizes the footnotes throughout the volume, and the attentive reader will do well in mining such riches. The translation notes are also full of important information. Interestingly, however, Boring follows the reading of Codex Bezae in 1:41, explaining, “Most MSS read . . . ‘having compassion’ and the reading is followed by most English translations . . . Most commentators, however, regard . . . ‘having become angry’ as original” (p. 70). This is simply not the case, as even his preceding statement attests. The former reading is found in virtually all English translations, critical editions of the Greek New Testament, and extant manuscript support for the Second Gospel.

M. Eugene Boring is a respected New Testament scholar who has consistently provided well-researched and well-written academic work for a broad ranging audience. Mark: A Commentary is no different. Boring offers a unique approach to the conversation that is certain to complement other Mark commentaries on the market. Moreover, the translation and translation notes Boring has provided are indispensable for any serious study of the Second Gospel, and his bibliography is thorough as always. In sum, if you are looking for a commentary on the Gospel of Mark that is both readable and informative, this is a volume you will enjoy and use often. Still, as has been briefly noted above, the emphasis that is taken therein may be cause enough for some readers to reconsider.  

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: From the Maccabees to the Mishnah

24920714Shaye J. D. Cohen is the Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of Harvard University—one of the oldest and most distinguished professorships of Jewish studies in the United States. Prior to Harvard, Cohen was the Samuel Ungerleider Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University, as well as the Dean of the Graduate School and Shenkman Professor of Jewish History at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Cohen has written numerous scholarly articles and authored several important books, which include, The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, and Uncertainties (University of California Press, 2001), Why Aren’t Jewish Women Circumcised?: Gender and Covenant in Judaism (University of California Press, 2005), and perhaps his most widely known book, now in its third edition and the subject of the present review, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah (Westminster John Knox, 2014).

From the Maccabees to the Mishnah is a calculated exploration into the history and development of Judaism between roughly164 BCE to 300 CE. It is here that Cohen carefully guides readers through a variegated landscape of transition, both before and after the rise of Christianity. However, Cohen does far more here than provide a mere historical survey of Judaism and its development into the rabbinic period. Rather, Cohen seeks to usher readers into the very heart of the social, cultural, and religious environment of Judaism as it was shaped and molded by the world and events around it.

Those familiar with the two previous editions of From the Maccabees to the Mishnah should welcome the revisions made to this third edition. Cohen has revised and updated the content for clarity and usability, and updated/added footnotes as needed. However, the most significant contribution to this third edition is the addition of a new chapter, titled, “Ways That Parted: Jews, Christians, and Jewish Christians (ca. 100-150).” This new chapter is a shortened and revised version of an essay Cohen wrote, “In Between: Jewish-Christians and the Curse of the Heretics,” in Partings: How Judaism and Christianity Became Two, edited by Hershel Shanks.

The strength of this volume are many, but the weaknesses are equally as numerous. For many readers, the approach to the topic brought by Cohen will be a breath of fresh air. He is lucid and judicious in his treatment of the period and its development, and the scope of material covered therein is well-organized, easily understandable, and presented with clarity. However, Cohen writes from a predominantly liberal Jewish perspective and his presuppositions can be seen on almost every page—especially the material on canonization and its implications. Still, apart from the content proper, the “Suggestions for Further Reading” section that has been included at the end of the book is alone worth the price of admission.

For some readers, Cohen’s approach and perspective will be value-added to their library even if they disagree with many of his conclusions. Others will find it to be rubbish. I am of the former persuasion. I found much of Cohen’s material extremely helpful and I appreciate the enduring nature of his work. But, like any book, this was only realized after understanding and evaluating the presuppositions therein. If you are looking for an informative guide into the social, cultural, and religious development of the Judaism underlying the New Testament, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah by Shaye J. D. Cohen is indispensable. Read it closely and carefully, and interact with it rigorously. 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: Q, The Earliest Gospel

5014957John S. Kloppenborg is Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department of Religion at the University of Toronto. He received both an M.A. and Ph.D. in New Testament and Early Christian Literature from the University of St. Michael’s College, where he completed his doctoral work under Heinz O. Guenther on the literary genre of the synoptic sayings source. Kloppenborg has since authored numerous books, including Q Parallels: Synopsis, Critical Notes & Concordance (Polebridge Press, 1988), The Formation of Q: Trajectories in Ancient Wisdom Collections (Fortress Press, 1987), Excavating Q: The History and Setting of the Sayings Gospel (Fortress Press, 2000), A Critical Edition of Q (with James M. Robinson and Paul Hoffman; Fortress Press, 2000), and the focus of the present review, Q, The Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Stories and Sayings of Jesus (Westminster John Knox, 2010).

Today, Kloppenborg is considered by many in the field to be one of the world’s leading experts on the Q source. The issues surrounding Q can be especially complex for the average reader who is unfamiliar with the synoptic problem and the conversations therein. Of course, this makes the task of creating a widely accessible introduction particularly challenging, as it requires beyond average familiarity with practically every corner of this scholarly discussion. It is here, I believe, that Q, The Earliest Gospel has provided something special for readers of all interest levels to engage. Kloppenborg attentively guides the reader through four fundamental questions—why should we think there was a Q? What did Q look like? What difference does Q make? And what happened to Q?—and provides the reader with ample interaction and examples to evaluate therein. This latter aspect of the book is invaluable for those who are newer to the Q conversation and provides a basis with which to weigh much of  Kloppenborg’s conclusions. Lastly, to the benefit of the reader, Kloppenborg closes the book with an English translation of the Critical Edition of Q that has been slightly modified in translation and noted where he differs with the editors.

Q, The Earliest Gospel: An Introduction to the Original Stories and Sayings of Jesus by John S. Kloppenborg is still one of the best introductions to Q on the market. Kloppenborg is well-qualified for the task and the fruit of his labor shows on nearly every page. Personally, I entered this review with an open mind but largely unconvinced by previous attempts at positing the existence of Q within the synoptic problem. Kloppenborg’s presentation was much better than the past attempts and I think that he may have even moved me forward towards his conclusion, but I am still largely unconvinced upon exit. Maybe I will give it another read with a keener ear towards evaluation. Nevertheless, if you are interested in investigating the various questions related to Q, for the first time or thirty-first time, Kloppenborg’s volume is the best entry point on the market and well worth the investment. 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 as a Figure in History

066423447XMark Allan Powell is Robert and Phyllis Leatherman Professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio. Powell has a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary and is the Chair of the Historical Jesus division of the Society of Biblical Literature. Powell is the author of numerous books related to New Testament and Historical Jesus studies, including Introduction to the New Testament (Baker Academic, 2008) and the well-received survey, and focus of the present review, Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee, second edition (WJK Books, 2013).

Jesus as a Figure in History has been long praised for its balanced and unbiased approach to the study of the Historical Jesus. Now thoroughly revised and expanded, the second edition of this best-selling textbook brings the conversation up-to-date with the current trends within Historical Jesus scholarship. The book opens with a brief exploration of the conversation up to the present and provides strategic focus on some of the key players, contributions, criteria, and sources that have largely defined the discipline. For those unfamiliar with the issues and individuals surrounding the quest for the Historical Jesus, Powell has provided an excellent entry point into the conversation, and function as a type of prerequisite for the remaining chapters.

The substance of the book is spent unpacking (1) the method and approach used, (2) summary of the results, and (3) criticisms therein of major players in Historical Jesus studies. These players include Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, E.P. Sanders, John Meier, and N.T. Wright. However, before these in-depth treatments, Powell provides what he calls “snapshots” of some of the more peripheral players and the images of Jesus that have arose therein, including, Jesus the social prophet (Richard Horsley), Jesus the charismatic Jew (Geza Vermes), Jesus the magician (Morton Smith), Jesus the sage (Ben Witherington III), Jesus the Cynic philosopher (F. Gerald Downing), Jesus the itinerant radical (Gerd Theissen), Jesus the millenarian prophet (Dale Allison), Jesus the mamzer rabbi (Bruce Chilton), and Jesus the purported Messiah (Paula Fredriksen).

The book concludes with summary and cross-referencing of key issues that remain within the scholarly conversation, both agreements and disagreements concerning method and context. Finally, Powell has included additional appendix material not found in the first edition, including, Did Jesus Exist?, Historical Jesus Studies and Christian Apologetics, and Psychological Studies of the Historical Jesus. Each of the appendixes are a welcomed addition to Powell’s overall treatment, especially the attention given to the marginalization of Christian apologists within the conversation, namely Darrel Bock and Craig Keener.

Jesus as a Figure in History is skilled in its investigation and presentation of the Historical Jesus material, and it remains surprisingly unbiased throughout. The reader will find that the content and organization of the volume is well oriented and intentionally curated for all background types and interest levels. In other words, Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee by Mark Allan Powell has provided nearly everything the interested reader would need to enter into or keep current on the developments of the discipline both past and present, and for this reason 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: Hidden Riches

17384428Christopher B. Hays is D. Wilson Moore Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. Hays has received a M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Emory University. He is the author of Death in the Iron Age II and in First Isaiah and is currently working on the Isaiah commentary for the Old Testament Library series. Most recently, Hays has released an excitingly useful volume for students and enthusiasts of the Old Testament: Hidden Riches: A Sourcebook for the Comparative Study of the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East (WJK Books, 2014)

Hidden Riches opens with a brief introduction to the history and methods of comparative studies. Hays does the reader a service by immediately establishing his efforts within the overall context of the discipline, and rightly positions the reader for the coming investigation. The book is arranged canonically (Pentateuch, Former Prophets, Latter Prophets, and Writings), and thus is ideal for the task of comparative studies. Each chapter begins with introductory or composition information for both the biblical and ancient Near Eastern literature, including date, location, language, and more, followed by a readable and up-to-date translation of the comparative source (translations are done by Hays and others scholars, and footnotes are provided therein). Each chapter concludes with discussion around the sources, reflection questions, and a brief bibliography for additional study.

Hidden Riches is an excellent resource for serious study of the Hebrew Bible, and I think that there are a number of qualities that make this volume appropriate for the average reader but especially for academic use. First, Hays’ interaction when seeking to provide discussion around the biblical and ancient Near Eastern text is accessible and easy to understand for the average reader, although it does assume some prior knowledge in various sections. Second, the inclusion of a separate bibliography at the end of each chapter is fitting for additional study, but I think that the work cited will be largely inaccessible to the average reader. There are certainly gems buried, but this section will find its primary use in the work of graduate students and beyond. Third, Hays covers a wide range of comparative genres and the scope of the volume is quite impressive. There is certain to be something for every reader to ponder regardless of academic experience and background.

The comparative study of the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near Easter literature is strangely neglected in the arena of popular thought concerning the Old Testament. While the reader is certain to walk away with some level of disagreement with Hays, the importance of the study should not be overshadowed by intellectual conflict. The Hebrew Bible did not develop in a vacuum. What I appreciated most about Hays’ treatment of the study in Hidden Riches was his keen ability to bring high-level scholarly conversations down to a level in which even an interested undergraduate student could interact. This is a volume that will both make you think and challenge your thinking. Hays is clear, informative, fair, judicious, and well-positioned for the task of this book. It will be used often and 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: An Introduction to the Old Testament

13746569Walter Brueggemann is William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary. Brueggemann has authored over a hundred books and several scholarly peer-reviewed articles. Co-author Tod Linafelt is a former student of Brueggemann at Columbia and is currently Professor of Biblical Literature in the Theology Department of Georgetown University and the author and co-author of a number of books and articles. Together, Brueggeman and Linafelt have revised and expanded Brueggemann’s best-selling Old Testament introduction and brought new life to a critical classic.

This revised and expanded second edition of An Introduction to the Old Testament has several new features that build on the success of the previous edition. First, Brueggeman and Linafelt have included a substantial new chapter on the literary art of the Old Testament. The focus of the new chapter rests on the differing literary resources of biblical narrative and biblical poetry—the two largest genres of the Old Testament. Second, Brueggeman and Linafelt have included a number of textboxes throughout, which take the following two forms: (1) close readings and (2) Midrashic moments—the former focusing on interesting and illuminating details, and the latter focusing on specific examples of the biblical text being put into interpretive use. Finally, each of the chapters has been revised and updated accordingly, and the bibliography has likewise been updated with works published since the first edition.

Brueggeman and Linafelt have provided an excellent introduction the Old Testament. The hermeneutical focus of the book invites the reader into the world of the Old Testament, allowing them to exit with a renewed a sense of literary understanding. Moreover, the scope of the volume is quite impressive and the reader is certain to benefit greatly. Still, much of the criticism that plagued the previous edition remains within the second edition—particularly for the conservative evangelical readers. There are a number of unsettling statements that permeate this volume and many readers will undoubtedly find Brueggeman and Linafelt to be disconnected with their traditional Christian convictions concerning the Old Testament. For example, only a few pages into the volume, Brueggeman and Linafelt seem to affirm that the majority position within biblical scholarship views the Old Testament as historical fiction—at least that it is unreliable in an effort to provide guidance concerning historical facts (p. 6). Similar assertions are found throughout. Still, this should not hinder the reader from taking hold of the wisdom and insight that can be gleaned as he sifts through the mounds of chaff.

An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination by Walter Brueggemann and Tod Linafelt is an excellent introduction into the literary world of the Old Testament. Brueggeman and Linafelt will make you think critically about the traditional understanding of the Old Testament, and for the trained mind, such interaction will only work to strengthen convictions. There is a lot that I personally disagree with in this book, both in methodology and interpretation. Nevertheless, the benefit of interacting with two sharp-minded scholars in the field of Old Testament studies is an indispensable opportunity—and this volume is perfect for that occasion. The revisions and expansions to this volume are welcomed and I trust that it will continue to yield similar success as the previous edition. If you are looking for an introduction to the Old Testament that will function as a critical companion to many of the standard works in the field, An Introduction to the Old Testament is likely the best volume on the market. It comes highly recommended for the careful reader!

 

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: Forgotten Scriptures

McDonaldForgotten Scriptures: The Selection and Rejection of Early Religious Writing by Lee Martin McDonald seeks to guide the reader through the complexity of early Christianity in relation to the development of a sacred canon of religious writings. McDonald begins his investigation with a brief discussion surrounding the terms and language commonly used in conversation concerning the biblical “canon.” It is here that McDonald compounds the complexity of the issue at hand for the uninformed reader—not only is there supposed disagreement about the writings, but there is also disagreement about how to discuss the matters. Still, McDonald provides an excellent overview of this preliminary point that will orient the reader in the right direction despite some inevitable disagreement (i.e. the idea that the canon wasn’t fixed until the fourth century).

With the introductory matters in the rearview mirror, McDonald guides the reader through the Old Testament writings and the lost Scriptures of early Judaism. McDonald references roughly 26 lost writings mentioned in the Old Testament but not included (i.e. The Book of the Wars of the Lord, The Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah, The Records of the seer Gad, etc.), as well discusses the Jewish apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writings, the sacred literature of the Essenes, and the biblical, nonbiblical, and sectarian text of the Qumran community. McDonald subsequently walks the reader through the manuscripts, ancient translations of the Jewish Scriptures, and the Scriptures of Jesus and the Early Church. The reader is likely to find McDonald’s treatment of the Old Testament informative, especially in regards to his discussion on the Essenes and the Qumran literature. Though, as he constructed at the offset of his book, disagreement concerning conclusions and observations should be anticipated by the learned reader (i.e. McDonald seems to assume because a work was used by a group it was considered sacred, rather than useful).

As attention is directed towards the New Testament, McDonald is clearly more familiar with the landscape of early Christianity and the development of the New Testament, and the attentive reader will notice such immediately. Interestingly, and I think that it is important to note, McDonald spends less than half the time dealing with the New Testament as opposed to the Old—discussion being primarily centered on the manuscripts and the transmission of the New Testament Scriptures. In other words, if you are expecting a weighty defense of the New Testament canon, in terms of page count, you will likely be disappointed. McDonald’s treatment is a little longer than a journal article. Still, given the foundation that has been constructed in the previous sections, the reader should not feel short-changed, as the content surely outweighs the page count. The material that McDonald presents is sure to be received with opposition, but his perspective and experience in the conversation deserves a keen ear and thoughtful interaction.

Forgotten Scriptures: The Selection and Rejection of Early Religious Writing by Lee Martin McDonald is an excellent book on the historical landscape of the early Jewish and Christian writings. With roughly 43-pages of endnotes and a 21-page bibliography, it would be safe to conclude that McDonald has done his homework. Not to mention, McDonald has been a key-player immersed in this conversation for decades. Thus, while the learned reader may disagree with McDonald in favor another contributor(s) to the conversation, only the naïve would dismiss his work as rubbish. Still, for those unfamiliar with the discussion surrounding these issues detailed in this book, it is important to know that McDonald isn’t the only voice or even the best voice in the conversation. Nevertheless, he is a voice that deserves to be heard, pondered, and interacted with often—and for that reason, this book would be a good supplemental read alongside other works of equal or better quality.

 

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.