A Biblical History of Israel (Second Edition)

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Iain Provan, V. Philips Long, and Tremper Longman, well-respected scholars all, have extensively updated this book for its second edition. Apparently, the first edition raised the dander of the extreme left side of scholarship. There’s even an appendix that you might want to read first called “In Praise of Critical Thought” that addresses the misunderstandings and over-the-top criticisms leveled at the first edition. To my mind, some of these criticisms were so absurd that trying to answer them was tantamount to killing those you have already slain.

Part one covering five chapters and 150 pages tackles history, historiography, and the Bible. That section can best be summarized as explaining and refuting the worst that extreme, radical scholarship has thrown at the credibility of Bible history. For the scholar who needs that interpretive history outlined and answered, you will love that section. Others may already feel a complete confidence in the credibility of biblical history.

I found Part Two, which covers the different phases of Old Testament history in order, to be much more beneficial. In fact, these pages will make a nice reference when studying the various passages. Again, the authors laid out the scholarly attacks against the history in each of these epochs clearly and answers them. Archaeology, historical detail, the biblical text, and logic are all brought to bear to prove the point that Old Testament narratives are historically trustworthy.

The detail presented is incredible. For example, when studying the historical time period of the days of Joshua, some great detail on Jericho, Bethel, and Ai was brought out that showed some scholarly conclusions that are often crammed down our throats are not all they’re cracked up to be. Again, you will find here some fine material to reference in your studies. The book just goes through the Exile and after, meaning this history just covers the Old Testament.

This book is a more advanced biblical history of Israel than many on the market. Many other volumes just go through the material almost as a historical survey and ignores the broadsides from the critical camp. This volume respects those scholars enough to interact with their views. To handle its goal, the material is more challenging than some others. Without a doubt, though, scholars will love it.

Despite the circuitous route it must take, this volume lands at many conclusions where a more conservative student of the Scriptures would agree. It succeeds in what it sets out to do, and so is a voice to be reckoned with in the scholarly world.

 

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.

KJV Word Study Bible

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Are you looking for a Bible that in addition to the text can teach you how to do word study? Do you use the KJV? I think you’re really going to like this new Bible by Thomas Nelson. (You can get it in hardback or in imitation leather). The Bible is a book of words. Our understanding of the Bible boils down to an understanding of the words. Every Bible student should be particular about understanding the words, especially the keywords. This new Bible will greatly help you in that endeavor.

Each book of the Bible is given a short overview in a few paragraphs with some especially important keywords to watch for. Then, in the KJV text every word that is especially studied in their added notes is underlined. Some of the discussions will take place on the page you are on while others require you to look at a list in the lower right corner of the page and go to another passage where that word is discussed. While what words are discussed may strike you as arbitrary, many words in the text get covered.

You can expand your studies by the indexes provided in the back. There’s an English word index which will guide you to the passage and Strong’s number where you can do further study of the word. Next, there’s a Scripture passage index that takes Scriptures in order from Genesis to Revelation to let you see what words will be discussed. Finally, there is a separate Hebrew and Greek index tied to the Strong’s numbers to open yet another way for further study. In addition, there’s an abbreviated concordance followed by some attractive, full-color maps.

This Bible is not a reference Bible. A reference Bible aids study by providing background information or brief commentary. This Bible is exclusively to help you develop your word study skills and get more out of your Bible reading. I consider it an awesome tool for all Bible readers out there.

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 Acts of The Apostles by Osvaldo Padilla

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Mr. Padilla provides an extensive introduction to the Book of Acts. It doesn’t cover all issues traditional to an introduction, such as structure or canonicity, but focuses specifically on interpretation, history, and theology. The book is geared toward a more advanced audience that is deeply concerned about scholarly issues. The author explains that he is attempting to update Howard Marshall’s Luke: Historian and Theologian for our generation.  I would not be surprised if this book is as widely quoted in the future as Marshall’s title has been in the past.

The first chapter is about who wrote the book of Acts. He arrives at the traditional conclusion of Luke after he deals with all the other views and criticisms of the traditional view. When he writes on the genre of acts, he concludes that it is a Hellenistic historical monograph the Jewish tradition. Along the way, he surveys a lot of scholarly nonsense that has been believed. On the subject of how Luke writes history, he deals with a lot of negative scholarship that has concluded bizarre things. Still, he concludes that Luke is a trustworthy historian.

The next two chapters on the speeches in Acts were the best in the entire book. He is known as a specialist in the speeches and it shows. His working through each of the speeches provided many amazing insights. A great deal of theology is also revealed. The final chapter on the justification of truth-claims in Acts is merely answering postliberalism’s attack on Acts that has been relentless.

This book will delight scholars. Some parts of it will be less interesting to pastors, but it is clear in what it discusses and will be considered a very important contribution in the study of the book of Acts.

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.

Acts (NTL) by Holladay

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Carl Holladay has produced the latest volume in the New Testament Library series. The Book of Acts has had several major commentaries in the last few years, but this one shoots more at being a midsized commentary. There’s a little over 500 pages for the entire Book of Acts. Though NTL is known for being more from the critical camp, I found it more conservative than I expected. In addition, I found it helpful.

Though the commentary as a whole is midsized, he provided a major introduction in 70 pages. Frankly, it was a joy to read. Even if I didn’t agree on every point, I appreciated the clear writing. He is not antagonistic to Luke being the author and he can accept a more conservative date though he would only be nailed down to a rather large range of dates. For sure, I was more confident of the historical trustworthiness of the history Luke provided than Mr. Holladay was.

Scholars will love his detailed description of the textual history of Acts that covered several pages, though that will be the least interesting part of the Introduction to most pastors. I became very interested again when he discussed the literary structure. His discussion of the speeches in the Book of Acts was outstanding including theology and purpose of the speeches. His explanation of the use of “witness” and use of the Old Testament was helpful. The final section of the narrative unity of Luke-Acts was thought-provoking. Again, I found much food for thought about what the Book of Acts seeks to accomplish.

The commentary proper was briefer than some of the other major commentaries I use, but still included several creative thoughts and every passage I reviewed.

This book might not be the first commentary I turn to when studying Acts, but it is one I will be checking in future studies. I predict this may become one of the more respected volumes in the series.

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.

Following the Party Line

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Are you a faithful follower of the Word of God or are you a supporter of the party line? In the first case, you’re a pursuer of Christ, and in the other you’re a partisan following the group. I suppose I’ve never met a Christian who didn’t believe he or she followed was the former rather than the latter. But the far-ranging views out there today proves more are a hanger-on of a particular religious group than they would like to admit.

Though my background is in the Baptist world, I’ve seen this plague many denominations and groups. To make the problem even worse, many groups splinter into several smaller groups with their own unique set of beliefs. While we might find the presence of sin in our world as the cause of this problem, we should still pull ourselves away from it and go ever back to the Bible.

This problem begins innocently enough. At some point, we try to draw our beliefs from the Bible. Because the Lord has designed that we live in the local church setting as a group, we will also at some point decide what we believe together. So far, so good. But something changes after a time. We fall into the lazy habit of just believing what the group does. We reason that since they sought the Bible in the beginning they can always be trusted to follow the Bible now. Then, another problem arises. New issues arise that we hadn’t thought of, or at least hadn’t thought of how to make an application of the Scriptures to it, and so we specify exactly what we mean to keep our original set of beliefs.

Again, the whole process is one of well-intentioned purposes, and yet we get off track. Our current set of beliefs have been revised several times since our original digging into God’s Word. We now are 2 to 3 steps away from the Bible while thinking we are still firmly in its boundaries.

I’m quite the inferior carpenter, but have been around the process enough to know one mistake we shouldn’t make. If we are going to need several boards of the exact same dimension, we should carefully measure out the first one and cut from it. When I was a boy, I can recall my Daddy taking a pencil and making a mark on the carefully measured board to distinguish it from the others. I can remember from way back then that he told me not to pick up the boards cut from the original to cut other boards. Though it technically should have been the same dimension, he told me it’s easy to get off more and more by that process. I believe this is what we have done in our Christianity.

As you may have noticed, groups tend to get defined by their unique differences rather than what they have in common. That perspective incurs great cost for Christianity. If the error was not bad enough, the Christian divisiveness is catastrophic. Because of our warped egos and general depravity, we fight for those differences, at times, even more than we do for the great trues that we hold in common, such as, the death, the burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As is often the case, we judge each other by the wrong board. We become quite bombastic, cry separation, and criticize our brothers or sisters in Christ relentlessly. In many cases, we are convinced that we are standing for the Word of God. Our motives likely began as a desire to faithfully follow the Bible, but now the results are far below the motives.

We would all do well to stop and ask ourselves when was the last time we checked the Bible for our deeply held beliefs. To be sure, we must carefully check those Bibles as our casual reading just regurgitates without thought was someone else decided we believe the long time ago. If you haven’t carefully verified the beliefs you loudly proclaim, then put yourself down in the category of one who spouts the party line. When you spout that party line, you are saying that where the belief came from doesn’t matter as long as the party says it is correct. Why does what scares us in politics not even phase us in our own Christianity?

If we allow ourselves to follow the party line, we are only sycophants carrying someone else’s opinions. Even worse, if we attack and criticize where they tell us to, we are their henchmen. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a mere follower of the party line when I have the opportunity to be a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit by Wright

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Christopher Wright is a scholar with a pastoral heart who is a joy to read. With faithfulness to the text he gives you something for your soul. Having loved his Old Testament commentaries in the past, I just recently learned what a great expositor he is. He knows how to pull out what is transforming from the text. In this case, we learn so much about life in the Spirit.

This volume can be approached from two points. First, it can be captivating devotional reading. In fact, that’s how I approached it as I read it from cover to cover. Second, it’s a fine volume to put on the Galatians section of your shelves for its study on the fruit of the spirit. I intend to keep it there for the second use as well.

His quotation of a lovely prayer of John Stott in his Introduction gets your mind in the right spiritual frame. He explained beautifully the opposite errors of moral license and legalism and how a proper study of the fruit of the spirit will keep you between those two extremes. He further explains that this list is not just a list of virtues corresponding and contrasting with the works of the flesh. As he says, if that is all this list was, it would be no more than a list of rules. He says, “a tree does not bear fruit by keeping the laws of nature, but simply because it is a living tree, being and doing what a tree is and does when it is alive”.

Chapters 1-9 cover in turn each of the items that make up the fruit of the spirit. In every chapter, he well defines what Paul meant by the word and illustrates it from all parts of the Bible. Every chapter was outstanding, but for some reason I especially loved chapter 9 on faithfulness. Faithfulness, he says, means being trustworthy and dependable. That’s a great thought to read back into faithfulness in the Christian life.

This book is perfect for any Christian, from the pastor to the newest Christian. 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.

Knots Untied by J. C. Ryle

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Banner of Truth has brought most of J. C. Ryle’s works back into print. Though Mr. Ryle is from another century, his works still have something to say to our generation. Not only have they brought these works back into print, but they have done so with nice bindings and attractive covers that will make these works last for years. This title, Knots Untied, is made with the same design as several others that they print to make a beautiful collection. For the record, they have also recently published an outstanding biography as well as Mr. Ryle’s autobiography.

Mr. Ryle did not write this volume for scholars. You could tell that he aimed at regular Christians, and perhaps, even new Christians. Since almost everyone in his generation attended church, he did write with the assumption that people knew about the churches in England at least. Still, there is at once no superficiality and clear, accessible guidance.

Unlike some of his volumes, this is not a book of sermons. Or at least if they are, they are of the topical nature. He never wavers in loving Scripture, being conservative, and clearly and logically laying out his case.

A few of the chapters were not especially interesting to me as they were too tied to the Church of England. I’m referring to things like the Thirty-Nine Articles and the chapter on prayer book statements about regeneration. In a few other chapters I did not completely agree with him, particularly on the mode of baptism, but don’t let a few disagreements keep you away from this fine book.

And in so many other places he wrote the things we so badly need to hear today. I rejoice in the clarity of his teaching on there being only one way of salvation, or in the help he brings to the subject of private judgment. I assumed I would not like his chapter on the church, but found it a great encouragement. My favorite chapter of all was on the fallibility of ministers. It was the tonic needed in our days.

This is a fine book and I warmly 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.

Mark (ZECNT) by Mark Strauss

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Mark Strauss has provided another winner in the ZECNT series. As with other volumes in the series, scholarly information is provided for the studious pastor. As it turns out, I imagine scholars will love it too. Mr. Strauss writes as one in love with the Gospel of Mark. To me, that is often the most important element in producing a successful commentary.

His Introduction of Mark really provokes the reader’s understanding of what the Gospel of Mark seeks to accomplish. As is a key focus with this series, he begins by explaining Mark’s story of Jesus. In describing Mark’s fast-paced story, he says, “this is a gospel narrative on steroids!” He explains that Jesus is both the mighty Messiah and the Son of God. He sees the book of Mark as having two distinct halves, which includes the time where the people were amazed at Christ followed by a time of opposition. He traces out the suffering servant motif with good effect too. Next, he explains Mark’s place in scholarly history, and well defines the various criticisms that have been in vogue over the years. He sees narrative criticism as the most significant of our day and then includes a section explaining his approach in this commentary. He says it is “eclectic, drawing insights from historical-critical, social-scientific, and narrative methodologies”.

He goes on to discuss genre, authorship, audience, and date with conservative conclusions in each. I enjoyed it even more when he got into occasion and purpose and brought out what was, in my view, some of the most interesting features of Mark. In literary features, he discusses Mark’s structure and a few other unique details that I found extremely helpful.

The commentary proper is in the fine ZECNT style that I’m growing to appreciate more each day. He puts each passage and literary context, provides a main idea, explains the structure, provides an outline, and then jumps into detailed explanatory commentary of the text. Though Greek words are used in the text, the English words are nearby and are easy to follow. In both the Introduction and in the commentary itself, this volume is theologically rich.

I recently had the privilege to review the volume on John in this same series and am amazed by the consistent quality. When it comes to an up-to-date, quality exegetical commentary, these volumes cannot be beat. I give this book the highest recommendation!

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.

Obadiah (ZECOT) by Daniel Block

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This book is the first in the exciting new Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament series. Likely the short length of Obadiah brought it to press first. It is written by the general editor of the entire series, Daniel Block. Mr. Block has a sterling reputation in producing commentaries on books of the Old Testament. I personally use to great benefit his two-volume set on Ezekiel in NICOT and his volume on Judges and Ruth in NAC. This ZECOT series provides a discourse analysis approach in its commentaries. That means basically that it makes the primary emphasis on following the flow of the narrative. This volume succeeds in that aim.

The Introduction to Obadiah is enlightening. Since there is a greater variety of opinions about the date of Obadiah compared to the other Minor Prophets, all the known options are laid out clearly. I fully agree with his conclusion that Obadiah is best dated 586 BC when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. He well surveys the archaeological evidence to support his conclusions as well. In his section on Obadiah’s rhetorical aims and strategy, he surveys the speaker and audience of the book. He describes the message of Obadiah as: a) divine justice will prevail, and b) divine fidelity will prevail. When he discusses the rhetorical strategy, he works through a few of the more unlikely possibilities and argues against them before he draws out what he believes. Personally, like most scholars, I feel he overplays the significance of the similarities between Obadiah and Jeremiah. He ends the Introduction with a fine discussion on the structure of Obadiah including an exceptional chart to help you visualize his conclusions.

The commentary itself is ideal. Every unit is given a main idea of the passage, a discussion of literary context, a discussion of structure and literary form, followed by explanatory commentary. As you read the commentary you will see that you are in the hands of a seasoned commentator. Anywhere you find Hebrew in the commentary you will find English beside it making this commentary accessible to all. Don’t miss the final chapter, which in most books would have been in the Introduction, on the canonical and practical significance.

I’ve had opportunity to do very in-depth study of the book of Obadiah and have read almost all the major commentaries on it. As an exegetical commentary, Mr. Block has surpassed them all with this book. I highly recommend it as the definitive exegetical commentary on Obadiah.

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’ve written an expositional work on Obadiah that you can check out here.

I Corinthians (NIGTC) by Anthony Thiselton

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Anthony Thiselton’s influential, important tome on First Corinthians is now made available in paperback. This more economical version will make it more widely available for Bible students. Before I received my review copy, I had heard several reports of how impressive it scholarship was. With it now in my hand, how would I best describe it? Scholarly, encyclopedic, exhaustive, theological, and comprehensive are the words that come to mind.

The Introduction demonstrates what you’re going to get in the whole commentary. There’s 52 pages, but it seems like enough information for twice that amount. In other words, there’s never any fluff, only more and more material for insight. Further, you see its value for both pastors and scholars. It begins with setting the stage in the most vivid way imaginable for Corinth. You immediately see that understanding the cultural milieu is critical to understanding the book of First Corinthians. He proves his conclusions with historical and archaeological evidence. He even hints at a few cultural peculiarities of Corinth that will affect interpreting later passages in this discussion. He also describes how important Corinth is to the overall ministry Paul.

When he gets into other issues common to an Introduction he slides beyond what most pastors would need or want and gives the scholars everything they could ever want; for example, when he discusses argument and rhetoric. His conclusions on Paul and dating are mostly conservative.

His thoroughness continues in the commentary proper. Even though there’s a good bit of Greek in his text, there’s usually the English in the same sentence that makes following his argument easy. There might be some paragraphs that a pastor would skip, but plenty of others that so thoroughly explains what is at stake that would still make it an incredible asset to them. I know I look forward to using it in the years ahead. It’s place in the scholarly world is set too. No scholar writing in the future on First Corinthians will dare to skip Thiselton. I warmly recommend this volume to anyone trying to build a first-class exegetical library.

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.