Dr. Benjamin Rush–A New Biography by Unger

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Dr. Benjamin Rush is a Founding Father that I’m happy to finally get to know. Famed historian, Harlow Giles Unger, delivers Rush from his inexplicable obscurity in this fine biography. The subtitle “The Founding Father who healed a wounded nation” is in no way hyperbole. If you love biography, you’re in for some pleasant reading. If you love early American history, you’re going to wonder how you’ve missed Dr. Rush for so long.

What an incredible person was Dr. Rush! He signed the Declaration of Independence, was dear friends with many of the more famous Founders and faced personal danger for favoring independence from Britain. He loved medicine and people and continually damaged his own finances to help the less fortunate. He was “first” in so many categories—humane treatment of wounded soldiers, medical treatment for the poor, prison reform, and psychiatry. He stood up to anyone it took, including Washington, to push these things he felt were right. Every chapter of this biography makes you admire him more.

Beyond just providing great biography, Unger skillfully handled the medical aspects of Rush’s life story. That Unger comes from a long line of doctors was a big help. Rush was involved in a few medical conflicts and was a proponent of “bleeding” patients. This biography will show that though bleeding was a mistaken treatment, it was based on the best medical science available. Rush studied hard and accumulated research that was a great help to later researchers. He was slandered unmercifully, yet never abandoned his medical calling.

Unger also relates Rush’s Christianity. He doesn’t probe it or determine it’s influence on who Rush was, but he doesn’t obscure the fact of it either. The reader can do his or her own analysis. I was fascinated at Rush’s efforts to get to the bottom of Jefferson’s beliefs. It almost amounted to witnessing. Jefferson respected him so much that he opened up to Rush when he usually preferred to keep his religious views to himself. Since Jefferson’s views were not too orthodox, Rush suggested they agree to disagree.

Another nugget of this biography is the relating of how Rush reached out to both Adams and Jefferson to mend their differences and reestablish their friendship. That healing was as profound as his medical work in the young nation. It appears that he was the only man both so respected that he could have pulled this off.

This biography is a treat. If you love early American history, it’s a must-have book. I loved it!

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.

Psalms Volume 2 (NIVAC) by Tucker and Grant

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We have waited for this commentary for a long time. Gerald Wilson’s volume 1 on Psalms 1-72 has been out for years and has been the most-decorated volume in the entire NIVAC series. His untimely death necessitated others produce this commentary and Dennis Tucker and Jamie Grant have filled that lacuna. They have the credentials in scholarship to write this commentary that is, perhaps, unfairly in the spotlight and will face more scrutiny than usual. Wilson was like the guru on the Psalms, and as these authors admit in the preface, he singlehandedly defined the direction the scholarly world has taken since the 1980s on the Psalms. Such influence casts deep shadows, yet these authors acquitted themselves nicely. Beyond the scholarly world, pastors and Bible students will see and love it for what it’s meant to be–thorough commentary that bridges to contemporary life.

Two things become obvious in the Introduction. They are only going to write on what Wilson left undone and intended for volume 2. Since most who purchase this volume will likely have volume 1, that approach makes sense. They also will write with profound respect for Wilson, yet not be afraid to gently disagree on any point. I’m impressed by that style.

The Introduction, then, is taken up with two main concerns: the shape of the Psalter and the theological themes of the book. I don’t buy into the idea of editors changing the Psalms, but I do believe these scholarly discussions uncover intent. The Psalms aren’t haphazardly thrown together. There is purpose. As for theology, the Psalms are both so unique and precious that theological understanding is paramount. I enjoyed what I read here.

The commentary is fine as well. It follows the NIVAC pattern and uses it to advantage. As would be the case with any commentary, I might not agree with their slant on certain psalms, but they give real help. Just think, over 1000 pages on Psalms 73-150!

This commentary exceeded what I expected, accomplished all of its goals, and would make a fine addition to your library. I highly recommend it!

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.

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

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Mark this down as one of the best books around on the Trinity. Don’t let the fact that it’s written in a popular style cause you to believe that it’s inferior to more scholarly volumes either. Michael Reeves has put the Doctrine of the Trinity on the high perch it deserves and uses it as a springboard to comprehend our faith. If you don’t go into the reading of this book with Mr. Reeves’ conclusions, you will likely leave it that way. Along with all that academic value, you will have your heart warmed too. This book succeeds at every level.

Instead of giving a chapter-by-chapter overview, let me tell you some of the things that jumped off the page for me. He reminded me how persuasive the concept of God as Father is all across Scripture. He demonstrated that because the Father loved the Son, creation is about Him sharing His love! He explained how our triune God “is the sort of God who will make room for another to have real existence”. That observation even explains the presence of evil in our world.

There’s more! He reveled in the explanation of grace being more than God giving out of what He had—He gives Himself. The Lord created familial relationships, he said, to extend the fellowship He loves. Isn’t this enough to hook you? If not, check out his discussion of holiness. I saw in the Trinity more than ever that God loves me.

If I could only have one book to explain the importance and practicality of the Trinity, this book would be it. Call it indispensable!

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.

Hebrews (Interpretation) by Thomas Long

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Thomas Long contributes this volume to the Interpretation Bible Commentary Series on Hebrews. On the plus side, it’s lively and theologically sharp. On the negative side, it’s too brief. In line with the series, it gives a cogent rendition of the critical position. Out of line with the series, it’s too short for the size and importance of the book of Hebrews.

The Introduction is merely a teaser. He succeeds in wheting your appetite for Hebrews, but little more. No common topic addressed in the introduction of a commentary is sufficiently addressed here. The bibliography at the end is equally as meager. Turn on to the commentary proper.

Here there is value. He writes well. Even if you don’t agree with him, which was often the case for me, your gray matter will be activated. I got what I wanted out of this book. I could see where critical scholarship stands on Hebrews. As a bonus, there was some theology that you could take and run with. It should have been longer, but we will still label it a solid critical effort.

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 Triune God by Fred Sanders

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Fred Sanders does a fine job explaining our Triune God in this volume that’s part of the New Studies in Dogmatics series published by Zondervan. You may have heard about this series being in the tradition of Berkouwer’s Studies in Dogmatics. It’s fair to label it a success as it excels in theological penetration and is at times dogmatic! Scholars have lined up to praise it and it’s easily one of the better volumes on the subject of the Trinity.

He doesn’t consume himself with the historical development of the doctrine but approaches the doctrine head on instead. That is, to my mind, a great approach. Many books drown in the history and make little contribution to actual understanding so this book will be more effective for most readers.

He begins with doxology which is the perfect approach for such a far-reaching doctrinal subject about our God. He describes trinitarian doctrine as “a doctrine about God, spoken in the presence of God, to the end of praising God.”

Next, he looks at the revelation of this doctrine. He probes deeply, interacts with other scholars, and explains “mystery”. The following chapter on the communicative mission of Each Person of the Trinity is key to his overall argument. There’s plenty of help here.

Chapters 4 and 5 look at the Incarnation and gets into procession within the Trinity. As you will see, there are plenty of ways to go off the rails here. Chapters 7 and 8 look at each Testament and its contribution to trinitarian doctrine separately. Chapter 9 is a wonderful summary of what we learned.

You will want at least two or three books in your library on the Trinity. Make this one of them!

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.

I & II Peter and Jude (NTL) by Donelson

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Lewis Donelson contributes this volume on the Epistles of Peter and Jude in the New Testament Library (NTL) series. As with other volumes in the series, this commentary takes a critical approach in its exegesis. With these epistles being some of the more challenged in the New Testament, that critical outlook protrudes more distinctly.

After a wide-ranging bibliography, we are served a brief introduction to the three letters together. The author sees a connection as Christians in conflict, which is a reasonable proposition.

Next, 1 Peter gets its own introduction. He denies Petrine authorship completely. More helpful are sections on the letter’s recipients and the theme of persecution.  After a discussion of date, he returns again to authorship this time suggesting pseudonymity. He doesn’t see much literary structure before offering his outline. There’s more theology before some brief comments on text and translation.

Each periscope in the commentary proper gives an overview of the passage, his translation, detailed exegetical notes, commentary on each verse, and a few concluding paragraphs. The exegesis is always on the critical side while there is robust theology.

Jude and 2 Peter follow a similar pattern for both Introduction and commentary. Both the critical outlook and commentary quality remain throughout.

Of the critical commentaries I’ve seen on these letters, this is the most in-depth, clear, and theologically helpful. For that perspective, this commentary is the one I’d recommend!

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.

Hebrews (NTL) by Johnson

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Prolific New Testament commentator Luke Timothy Johnson tackles Hebrews in this volume in the New Testament Library (NTL) series. He’s written in other major series such as the Anchor Bible commentary series, and from what I can tell, this has been one of the more popular titles in the NTL series. In my view, it’s one of the more rigorously done scholarly work in the series.

After a substantial bibliography, the author jumps into what turns out to be a longer, more in-depth introduction than found in several other volumes in the series. After some opening observations, the author explains Hebrews in the Christian tradition as he delves into the historical background. Next, he tackles literary concerns including language and form. There’s a cultural and social overview that considers Roman as well as elements of Judaism and Christianity in the text. From there, we read of what the author calls the circumstances of composition. He delves into the rhetorical situation and finally addresses the issue of date. As you would imagine, the conclusions are of a more critical nature as is usual in the NTL series. There’s a survey of the always-controversial subject of authorship for the book of Hebrews. Finally, we have some good probing of the theology of the book. The author’s conclusion that we have here the mature teaching of Christ was well done. Much of the conclusions in this section would match that found in more conservative commentary series. The same would hold true for the theological discussion of discipleship.

The commentary proper includes some rigorous exegetical work. If you are familiar with either the author or the series, you will know what to expect. As a bonus, you will find 7 top-notch excurses. Again, it is helpful and effective. I can’t think of a better commentary on Hebrews from the critical camp.

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.

God the Trinity by Yarnell

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This book takes a unique approach in presenting God the Trinity. There are several outstanding conservative volumes on the Trinity in print today, but Malcolm Yarnell gives us one that’s organized unlike any other. The conclusions found in this volume are conservative, baptistic, and supported by some of the finest theologians today.

On the downside, I had trouble following the logic of the flow of the presentation of the material. At times, it seemed random, conversational, and something of a flow of consciousness. Finally, I figured out that he was just addressing some of the most important biblical texts on the Trinity. All the arguments given showed scholarly depth and theological perception, it’s just at times they didn’t always seem the most persuasive tracks to prove the author’s point. In fairness to Mr. Yarnell, it could have been that I just didn’t personally connect with his design. Probably it’s best for you to check it out as it might be just what the doctor ordered for you.

The key Scriptures discussed are Matthew 28:19, 2 Corinthians 13:14, Deuteronomy 6:4-7, John 1:18, John 16:14-15, John 17:21-22, Ephesians 1:9-10 and Revelation 5:6. Without doubt, these are crucial texts in grasping what the Bible has to say about the Trinity.

The glowing recommendations that come with this book mean that despite my personal tastes about it, you will want to check it out if you’re trying to collect a study library for the Trinity.

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.

1 Corinthians: a Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary by Thiselton

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Anthony Thiselton has a revered name in the scholarly world. Among his many works, he is, perhaps, best known for his well-received NIGTC on 1 Corinthians. At first glance, you would assume this newer work on 1 Corinthians, described as “a shorter exegetical and pastoral commentary”, would merely be an abbreviation of the earlier, massive commentary. It’s not. In the preface, he carefully describes what this book is. He wrote it after five additional years of reflection and has written the work here with less scholarly interaction and more straightforward delineation of his own thoughts with additional pastoral and practical help. Neither work precludes the value of the other and this would be one of the rare cases where you really need two works by the same author on the same book of the Bible.

If you, like me, have used his earlier commentary and remember it’s thorough introduction, you will be impressed that he could also write something as accessible, clear, and helpful as he did in this 27-page introduction. Many writers could do one or the other, but few could pull off both with such success. The first section of the introduction covers the city and the culture of Corinth, which succinctly reviews what would be found in any introduction. The second section on the ethos that permeated the church was particularly enlightening. From there, he got into rhetoric and archaeological information and finished with a discussion of the writing of the epistle itself. A few helpful pictures were thrown in as well.

The commentary proper was to the point yet distilled the heart of the matter nicely. In the preface, he described how difficult the section on suggestions for possible reflection for every passage was to put together. While, perhaps, not as valuable as the commentary itself, these reflections are worth scanning for the pastor preparing messages. The tone is not that of heavy scholarly interaction, but it’s clear great scholarship stands behind what’s presented.

This book isn’t part of a series and might be easily overlooked. Look it up. You won’t be disappointed.

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.

Conformed to the Image of His Son by Jacob

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I’m convinced we will be hearing about this book that probes what being “conformed to the image of His Son” means for many years to come. It’s clearly a scholarly work, but anyone who has an interest in theology will see that it projects itself as paradigm shifting. Whether you agree with all the conclusions found in this volume or not, you will almost without fail find yourself thinking some thoughts you’ve never thought before. Right off the bat, you will notice in the forward by N. T. Wright that even major scholars will wrestle with it and some may be convinced.

In the introduction, we are introduced to the author’s premise. The six common viewpoints on Romans 8:29b are set forth along with an explanation of why the author finds them wanting. There’s also a brief outline and an overview of what you will find in each section of the book.

Part one of the book redefines the meaning of “glory” as found in Romans 5-8. There’s a look at Jewish literature, further probing of usage in Romans, and an explanation of what participation in Christ’s glory means. For me, I was fairly well convinced of the conclusions found in these first chapters.

Part two digs deeper into the text of Romans 8:29. There are three chapters that look at what the image of the Son means, what participation in the firstborn Son’s glory entails, and why we are purposed for conformity to Jesus Christ. I was less convinced of the conclusions found here, though I’m not sure I fully made up my mind. In any event, there’s plenty here to think about.

The criticism that I might offer for this volume was that the author made it sound like every scholar had failed by carelessness in their dealings with this passage and phrase. Further, some of the previously offered explanations that can be found in print are not quite as threadbare as Jacob would have us believe. Maybe we can overlook these negatives by seeing them more as passion than censure.

I’ll recommend this book for its importance. If you love theology, you’ll want to see this book and decide for yourself.

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.