Philippians (TNTC) by Jeannine Brown

Philippians is the latest new release in the rapidly unfolding complete revision of the time-honored Tyndale New Testament Commentary series. Brown replaces the somewhat controversial Ralph Martin volume that was itself a revision of his earlier work. Without doubt, that Martin volume took the most criticism in the series. For that reason, this is a welcome replacement.

This work, fortunately, is not going to be as controversial. I wouldn’t call this book riveting as it aims slightly more toward scholars than is typical of this series. At times, what Bible students or pastors would want takes a back seat to more scholarly interests. The author seemed quite knowledgeable, but took, perhaps, too academic an outlook for this series.

I also saw something, too, in this volume that I had not seen in any other I could remember. When I said it had an academic tone, it seemed as though she wrote for younger seminary students. She would explain what she was talking about as if it were the reader’s first encounter with the subject. For example, when discussing reconstructing the situation of the Philippians she had two full paragraphs on how to have a balanced approach in historical reconstruction. That would be helpful to a new student but perhaps others wouldn’t like it. She sounded like a professor teaching at many points.

I’m not suggesting this is a bad commentary just that it might not be for all tastes. She is an accomplished scholar and has written and edited major works. Perhaps that is more her forte than a work for Bible students and pastors or the typical TNTC user.

Still, she handled Philippians 2 far better than Martin did and has for sure superseded his work. I wouldn’t want this volume to be my only one for Philippians, but it one be fine as one of a few I’d consult.

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

FDR by Jean Edward Smith (Presidential Bio. Series)

FDR is clearly one of our most consequential presidents. Smith is one of the best presidential biographers. I knew, then, this would be a good read and I was not disappointed.

Admittedly, I started this biography with some negative impressions of him. Since Smith is an ardent admirer of Roosevelt (and a near worshipper of Eleanor), I felt I’d be giving my best shot at not viewing all through the lens of my bias. Where did I land when I finished this book? As I thought, the New Deal did a few short term positives (CCC) but I am even more convinced of it being a long term disaster. In a sense, WWII bailed it out from full exposure. On a positive note, he was, I readily admit, an effective war time leader. This book raised my grade substantially on his war leadership.

This biography showed his being raised in privilege, his tight relationship with his mother, his charming nature, his ambition, and his pride. He was a master politician who perfected the art of propaganda and was a user of people. For example, early in his political career he aligned with the Prohibition wing of his party while being famous for loving to drink and mix martinis for guests. He often fought for progressive policies for the disadvantaged while never living a moment of his life in their shoes. He was vengeful and if you ever really crossed him he never forgot. Just before the war and after unprecedented legislative success, he had a period of political missteps that even Smith admitted were born of his hubris.

The book didn’t cover up his sham of a marriage, at least after having several kids. He carried on an obvious affair that he little tried to hide. Finally, it put his career in jeopardy and he stepped back though he kept her in his life at times and she was with him when he died. Strangely, Smith praises them for sticking together in a completely loveless marriage to remain a powerful political couple.

In my presidential biography reviews, I always try to notice the religious side of the man. Had you asked FDR, he would have quickly said he was a Christian . Perhaps he helped create a Christianity that is pervasive in our day. More than a matter of faith reaching the heart, his was more tied up in his heritage. It’s what the Roosevelts and Delanos were much like they were New Yorkers. It really didn’t affect his life in any meaningful way except being against the more grotesque atrocities. Though you might could argue that he took what Woodrow Wilson started and put it over the top, he in no way had the deep religious feelings that Wilson had. I think Wilson was off base, but he thought he was following the Bible. FDR would be more likely to quote the Bible when it was politically expedient.

This book also showed me that he should be commended for how he had the grit to face the crippling affects of polio. He also likely would not have run for a third and fourth term had not the events leading up to World War II started happening. Also, everyone knew around him that he would never survive his fourth term though everyone kept it quiet. Finally, despite all the glaring character flaws I’ve mentioned, he was eminently likable.

How he rose to the heights he did in WW2 is beyond me. I agree with most of his decisions throughout. The friendship he forged with Churchhill was both real and prudent. I even see his wisdom regarding Stalin. He stretched the rules at times, and though I despise his sometimes blatant disregard for the Constitution, I can begrudgingly agree with a few wartime choices, kind of like a few things Lincoln did. Can you imagine our country today had Hitler won? Those are the only cases where the lines can be legitimately fudged I would cautiously argue.

FDR deserves some credit for saving the republic in WW2 while he set in motion actions that may still destroy it. How’s that for consequential?

For the biography itself, it’s top notch. A step below Chernow and McCullough, but not below many others. It’s only failure was its ending. You’re reading along and FDR dies and the book abruptly ends. No funeral, no postscript, no nothing. Still, I so enjoyed reading it.

Ezra and Nehemiah (NICOT) by Harrington

This book replaces the thirty-year-old Charles Fensham volume that had been widely used. This new entry is much more geared to scholarly types than the more pastor-friendly earlier work. Most new NICOT volumes lean that direction, but this one seems to especially answer the detailed questions that scholars ask. I imagine scholars would rank it highly while pastors might only marshal information from it that would require them to put it together themselves. There is a place for such works, but make your expectations in that direction.

If you are after introductory issues, you’ll get over 90 detailed pages here. Some subjects will be more illuminating than others, but I can’t think of any omissions. The sections on the text and date cover many ideas with mostly conservative conclusions at until a discussion of the final compilation of the books. The discussion of setting covers some themes and structure clearly in the latest parlance. The final 2/3 of the Introduction covers historical background and is the best work here. With that information you can reconstruct the times with distinct advantage. As I understand it, themes of Second Temple Judaism are a specialty of the author. It shows. I thought it was good except when she put how Ezra and Nehemiah dealt with mixed marriages as harsher than, and perhaps a departure from, the Pentateuch. Could not the Lord for His Own purposes have led them to take a stronger stand during times of the acute stress of a seventy year captivity? Our scholarship can collapse under its own weight if we disconnect it from Whose word it is.

The commentary proper exhibits what we found in the Introduction. Expert scholarship that outranks its theology. The bibliography and copious footnotes show the author’s scholarly prowess. Application is not really in view. Take the mass of quality scholarship and make your own application . Then you will be able to squeeze out all this book has to offer.

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon: Volume 5 (Collector’s Edition)

Volume 5 continues this set of exquisite volumes of Spurgeon’s early, previously unreleased sermon notes. Though there is a more economical release of this book, I personally love these collector’s editions. If you love an heirloom volume, you will love this volume with its beautiful cover with marbled paper.

Don’t miss the Introduction that answers the question, who is Charles Spurgeon? Really it tells the story in a few pages leading up to the story of the notebooks where these sermons were found.

Beyond the lovely volume are the sermon notes themselves. Spurgeon had a gift, a gift directly from the Lord. He could stretch the text or spiritualize it on occasion but the warmth is always there. The Gospel always soars in his stuff as well. When he speaks of the Lord he speaks of a friend he knows and adores. His sermons could easily be identified among others. They are different, but good and often profound.

When you see these notes you will immediately be amazed that his gift came at a young age. Maybe they were better later, but they are excellent even here. He even tackles Ezekiel 1 here! As always, his texts are from all of Scripture. I especially enjoyed his take on a favorite of mine, Ezekiel 47. I’m fact, his sermons from the prophets are the best in this particular volume.

It’s hard to find words for how wonderful this book truly is!

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

How Do We Reason? by Forrest Baird

Here’s a fine, accessible resource to help us in getting a handle on reasoning logically. Since we live in an age where shouting louder has replaced clear reasoning as a way to propel arguments, this is especially needed today. It’s fair also to observe that Christians don’t always hold logic in as a high regard as should be as we live in the created world of our reasonable God. To be sure, a lot of good theology is based on the fact that we have a reasonable God Who is never illogical. What He does might be counterintuitive to us, but the more you delve into His ways they never violate clear principles of logic. In this book, don’t miss the preface that fully develops what I said above.

The first chapter introducing logic is worth the price of the book. Since formally, logic is about making arguments, that chapter so carefully lays out what kinds of arguments there are as it also establishes what is legitimate. That chapter alone would make you reason better.

Chapter 3 is one of the most important in the book and would revolutionize logical discussion were it grasped. Particularly, notice the discussion of fallacies of ambiguity and relevance. This section might help you not embarrass yourself!

The book moves from sentences to syllogisms to symbols. Since this book could be used as a textbook (fortunately without textbook pricing!), it is true that the complexity grows. If you want a basic understanding and be able to be reasonable in your logic you will need roughly the first half of the book. If you want to really master the subject, the whole book will be a godsend to you.

Though I said it could be a textbook, this book is still perfectly designed for the individual reader. The exercises throughout the book will easily help you see if you are catching on or need to re-read. Some of the examples will raise a smile, but will still help you get it.

This book is written by a Christian. Though he writes mostly about the subject itself, that Christian background makes you feel in trusty hands. I’ve long wanted a book like this and am glad to have this one!

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

Transfiguration and Transformation by Hywel Jones

Linking the Transfiguration of Christ to our transformation as believers in Christ is intriguing to say the least. I’ll confess that I never thought of the connection before I came across this book. The connection isn’t fabricated as both spring from the same word in the New Testament.

In a Preface entitled “A Biblical ‘Metamorphosis’”, Jones takes the time to prove linguistic connection and explains why it might be a rich vein to mine. Then the book divides into two main parts taking the Transfiguration and our transformation in turn. At first, I thought his presentation of the Transfiguration began slowly. As I came to realize, he was laying a solid foundation. Perhaps some issues he addresses are not ones you’d ever be concerned with, but he seems determined to counter all criticisms and restore what should have always been a lofty status. As he proceeds, the discussion grows much richer.

When he switches to transformation, rather than addressing critical challenges he reorients to theological challenges. Again he builds his foundation slowly, but really builds on the framework of regeneration, sanctification, and glorification. Whether you’d agree with his theological viewpoint or not, it’s the discussion of individual passages that address transformation that renders the most aid to our contemplation of transformation.

This book addresses more scholarly concerns than I am used to seeing in a BOT volume, but it is an interesting study. I always appreciate someone who can open the Bible and show me something I have never put together before. That is what happens here.

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

The Concise New International Dictionary of NT Theology & Exegesis

Here is a really fine resource for Bible study. In the past I have used the original NIDNTT set edited by Colin Brown and I always got the most out of it if such tools available. I never used Silvia’s updated set from a few years ago as I wondered if it my old set might be sufficient. When I heard about the release of this volume, I thought it worth checking out as a 1-volume condensed set sure would be handy. I was presently surprised and this book will always be kept within arm’s reach going forward for me.

The Introduction carefully explains the design. Every word in the larger set is included but the more scholarly or esoteric information information including bibliographies that probably wouldn’t appeal to most Bible students anyway is omitted. The heart of the discussion that the Bible student is after remains. It’s rich too. That is not to say that you might not disagree ( like “agape” versus the other words for “love” which scholars are convinced that are little more than synonyms), and so this resource can’t be the only opinion you consult, but it should be a prominent one.

There are fine indexes for subject and Scripture references that allow your studies to land in this volume from different directions. The book uses Goodrick-Kohlenberger numbers but fortunately it contains what many others lack: a conversion chart for Strong’s numbers. that means you can get where you need in mere moments.

You will want this one!

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

Hearing God by Dallas Willard

In my many years of reviewing books, this book is easily one of the best. In fact, it’s probably Top-10 for my whole life. I pray the Lord will help me retain the treasure that popped up page after page in this, strangely, under appreciated masterpiece. ( I’m sometimes an overly generous reviewer but I try to be frugal with the word “masterpiece”—it’s been 4 years since I used as a label for a book as a whole).

This isn’t a book where one fabulous idea is recycled repeatedly over the length of the book, but one that ascends until it crescendos at the very end. If this book can’t help you learn to hear God, you’re not listening…to the book or to God. I can only assume you have no interest in hearing what the Lord has to say. In that case, don’t even buy this book. It will be too dangerous for you to having lying around.

I’m amazed at how methodically he works through his subject. Every time you came to the end of a chapter, you’d think, well, that’s all that can be said and then the next chapter would be better. It may seem silly for a Christian life/theological/ Bible study title to make me decide not to give spoilers, but that is the case with this wonderful book. I want you to be able to be surprised by the depth, the enlightenment, the heart reaching, the soul piercing that confronts you page by page. I want you to be able to grow as you read desiring to be in a relationship with the Lord that transcends all you’ve known before, to want to hear Him for no other reason than it is Him.

There were a few places I couldn’t fully agree with something he said, but the book was so good that I suspect the fault lay with me.

A word of friendly advice: if you get to a place you think that he is leaving the subject and think about jumping ahead, don’t do it. Every page is essential to what you’re learning. There isn’t one superfluous idea in the book.

Every Christian ought to read this book. That most won’t is a strong, singular proof the world is broken. If Christians did read it, things would be different. We would be different. Christianity would be different. That won’t happen, but you can read it. Then you will be different.

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

2 Corinthians (RCS), edited by Scott Manetsch

We are far enough along now to see a consistent quality in the volumes of this RCS series even though each one is edited by a different individual. I suppose that redounds to the general editor, but I’ve not seen an inferior one yet. The design is perfectly consistent across the releases as well. Each volume in fact carries the same general introduction in case this particular volume is your first. So you see it hardly needs saying that this latest release on 2 Corinthians is good, but it is.

It’s worth noting, too, that this series is more attractive than many out there today. I’m no bookbinder but these large hardbacks look like they will hold up for years and the dust jackets are beautiful.

The best place where history meets commentary in this book is in the introduction to 2 Corinthians that Manetsch provides. It’s fascinating really. It allows you to see who wrote on 2 Corinthians in the Reformation period as well as what issues and disagreements arose. Apparently, the “presence” at the Lord’s Supper was the thorny issue between Luther and his cohorts and other Reformation personalities.

I always say that in the commentary proper there is unavoidable value judgments in this series. We would have no way of knowing what good selections he omitted, but at least we can say that he doesn’t put any duds in there. One thing I did notice, though, was more names of Reformation characters that I hadn’t heard of than usual. They were still good. Don’t worry—the usual suspects are here too.

Whether you are building a set or just interested in 2 Corinthians, you can’t go wrong with this one.

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.

Matthew (NTL) by Culpepper

It took a few years for this latest volume to arrive, but this commentary on Matthew brings nearer to completing coverage of the New Testament for this NTL series. We can wish them well in light of all the series that never quite made it to the finish line. To be sure, this series is firmly on the critical side that collides with conservative readers like me and this volume is right in line with those expectations.

Still, I’ve often thought that consulting one from the other side of the fence has distinct benefits. Primarily those benefits come from unique observations on the text and sage theological insights. (My trusted conservative commentators, as helpful as they are, sometimes trip over each other carving out the same analysis). On that score, this series has had more hits than misses compared to other critical series. Label this volume on Matthew as a success on that specific criteria. For the record, people with more of a critical mindset will likely rate in highly across the board.

The Introduction with its discussion of sources and other such distinctively critical ideas is not to my taste, but it clearly presented. He also compares the voice of Matthew with Paul, James, and John though he imagines them in conflict at times. In a discussion of themes he suggests Christology, Scripture, and Eschatology. His synthesis of all he discussed seems off the mark to me, but offers some wry observations.

The commentary proper is as I described above where the best value is in suggestiveness and theological input. Fortunately, he isn’t so anti-miracle as many critical writers are. On several passages I checked I enjoyed what he had to say though I had to work around the critical perspective.

Mark this one down as a nice secondary resource!

I received this book free from the publisher. 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.