Genesis (TOTC) by Andrew Steinmann

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Prolific commentator Andrew Steinmann has produced this replacement volume on Genesis in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series. As with several of these replacement volumes, they are a little thicker than those they replaced. In this case, Steinmann has replaced Derek Kidner, who is the master of the briefer commentary. That being said, Steinmann has proven to be more conservative and dependable at key points even if Kidner’s pithiness may never be matched. As great as Kidner was, I’m not sure if I ever liked him on Genesis as much as I did on other books that he wrote on anyway. As for Steinmann, this is my first foray into his works. Though he has written massive commentaries on Ezra and Nehemiah, Proverbs, and Daniel, they were part of the Concordia Commentary series of which I am not familiar. In any event, Steinmann did prove adept at matching the TOTC style.

He begins his Introduction describing the foundational place of Genesis in the Old Testament. He well explains the traditional view of the Pentateuch as being the work of Moses including his marshaling of the witness of the New Testament. To meet scholarly demands, he well describes the Documentary Hypothesis too. Though he was gentle, it’s so easy to see that that hypothesis should be relegated to the trash heap of history. He does a fine job discussing literary features and addressing the historical and archaeological issues that so often plague studies of the Book of Genesis. He uses a few helpful tables and charts before he gets into the theological themes of the book. Fortunately, he doesn’t hesitate to highlight the messianic promise of Christ. He provides a lengthy outline for analysis as well.

The commentary was conservative and wonderful. He knew how to succinctly overview scholarly thoughts before giving some guidance without pushing the book beyond reasonable length requirements. I worked through his commentary on the creation of man and the Fall and felt his comments were ideal for what this series is trying to accomplish. Pastors will love this book and it could easily be the best volume now to put in the hands of the serious Bible students in our congregations.

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 Pastor of Kilsyth by Islay Burns–A Nice Biography

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So you’re never heard of W. H. Burns? Neither had I. Before I began reading this lovely biography, I noticed that the publishers put out an advertising blurb about this being a great biography for our celebrity-driven age. It’s clear what they meant. I can be challenged by a biography of a Christian celebrity to some degree, but not in the sense that I can ever do what they have done or will be what they have been. This biography is of a simple believer who was a pastor whose faithful life though unknown to the world gave off a glory that redounds unto the Lord Jesus Christ. That you and I can do. And that is why this biography is of the stripe that is especially needed today.

W. H. Burns was a pastor from the heralded Scottish orbit of outstanding preachers. That Iain Murray called this one of the best Scottish ministerial biographies we have carries much weight as his own biographies that are so often unassuming still have more impact than so many modern biographies.

Not only will you trace faithful ministry, but this volume can also be placed in your revival literature. God blessed Kilsyth with revival. I don’t know about you, but I always am blessed by that type of reading. Later chapters even give insight on what is needed for revival, though the perspective that revivals come from God is never denied. There are descriptions of how the revivals were carried out as well that can be insightful. The book even ends with four sermons that are imbibed with a revival atmosphere.

Banner of Truth is one of the modern Christian publishers that most takes publishing books seriously. Their hardbacks are of a quality that has surpassed most others and their dust jackets are always attractive. They still produce books that your grandchildren can own. I’m glad not everyone has caved to the idea that digital will own the future. I believe there still is a market and a future for books like this one. This book is a great biography for pastors and Christian families!

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.

Romans [Second Edition] (BECNT) by Thomas Schreiner

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Thomas Schreiner’s volume on Romans in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (BECNT) series has been one of the top-rated commentaries on this pivotal doctrinal book of the New Testament since its release in 1998. That the publishers would ask for a second edition rather than a new contribution is of no surprise at all. Don’t miss his preface to the second edition as he explains the major contributions that have come out since his original work and the passages (Romans 2:14-15, 5:12, 7:13-25) where he has altered his conclusions. He describes these changes as “a different direction in defining the righteousness of God”. Works he has released during the intervening 20 years between these two editions have already revealed that he has moved to an even stronger reformed position, particularly on the subject of justification. Most second editions don’t kindly point out where to expect changes as he has done in this preface, so I believe he should be congratulated. As for these changes themselves, those of a more reformed persuasion will only like this new edition better while those who are not as much of that persuasion will not find enough passages involved to downgrade the commentary. At the end of the day, no matter where you fall on that spectrum, this is still an outstanding work in a respected series by a major scholar.

Since I had the first edition on hand to compare, I can let you know that the Introduction is not majorly changed. The layout is better, there’s occasional editing, and most of the new content is near the end on rhetoric and structure. Still, it doesn’t seem dated, especially as he adds new references to more recent scholarly works, and because he tackles the key issues that introductions ought to address rather than esoteric scholarly preoccupations that often sound ridiculous 20 years later. Without question, this commentary would still be one of the places I would turn to consult introductory issues.

The commentary is clear and helpful, up to anyone’s scholarly requirements, and insightful where needed. He does better than most at putting what should be in footnotes in their proper place so the commentary itself flows better. Even if you aren’t as reformed as he is, you can get a clear explanation of those viewpoints in those passages where it’s most debated. The BECNT format is helpful to the reader and he follows it well. Without being overly verbose, he gives Romans the meaty treatment it deserves.

This second edition is so well done that I predict it will easily remain near the top for another 20 years.

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.

Original Sin (NSBT) by Henri Blocher

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The New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series covers such a wide array of fascinating theological subjects. Of those I’ve read so far, I would see them as indispensable on the theological subject they address. This volume considering Original Sin by Henry Blocher is no exception. Blocher has turned out several penetrating works by this point and always strikes me as an original thinker. I don’t always agree with his ideas about Creation, but he really knows how to jazz up your thinking and make you see other sides of issues. While I wouldn’t call this title exhaustive in its coverage, what it does address is as insightful as any I’ve read recently while doing an extended study of the doctrine of sin.

Chapter 1 lays out the parameters of the extent of Original Sin. Chapter 2 steps back to the place of the arrival of sin in Adam’s day. You will not have to agree with his take on Creation to find this information intriguing. Chapter 3 tackles the most prominent New Testament passage on the subject in Romans 5. There is fine exegesis here, outstanding representation of varying viewpoints, all followed by his own suggestion. Once again, you will not have to agree with his final conclusion to be greatly enriched by this chapter. The last two chapters look more broadly at the relation of Original Sin to human experience and evil and pain in our world. As for a recommendation, since I have been deeply in the study of sin recently, I’m sure glad I found this little jewel. What better recommendation could I give 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.

Galatians: a Commentary by Craig Keener

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Craig Keener turns out massive scholarly books at a rate unmatched by anyone I can think of. More impressive, they tend to be quite highly rated. Though I haven’t personally used it, his recent multivolume commentary on Acts is already legendary for its scope. To be honest, I wondered if this commentary on Galatians would be dry or overly padded. It wasn’t. I was pleasantly surprised at the engaging quality of the writing. Though there are some paragraphs that pastors can afford to overlook and copious footnotes, bibliography, and indices, I felt the commentary itself was the perfect length for a true in-depth exegetical commentary. He has a knack for surveying scholarly opinion and providing clarity in telling you what he concludes that is truly helpful whether you agree with him or not.

The Introduction for Galatians that followed his translation and outline for the book could fairly be labeled to-the-point. He began by sharing insights on how Galatians has been interpreted historically including a nod to Luther. From there, he addressed whether Galatians is an apocalyptic letter. He tackled author, provenance, and date with a skillful thoroughness. Without a doubt, you will have all the information you need to conclude on Galatian’s date after you read here. He defined Paul’s audience and laid out the well-known North Galatia versus South Galatia hypotheses that scholars have been debating for years before landing on the North Galatian side himself. Next, he gets into another debatable area, this time that of Paul’s opponents in Galatians. He gives, perhaps, his most detailed attention to this subject in his introduction. I found it really enlightening as that was not a debate I had deeply considered before. Finally, he looked at structure, rhetoric, polemic, before he gave a short summary of the effectiveness of Paul’s letter.

The commentary proper runs from page 47 to 588. I’m, again, impressed at his balance between thoroughness and effectiveness. No doubt, he will address some topics that only scholars will find interesting, but I fail to see how anyone couldn’t get help in understanding what each passage is addressing. You could be like me, and not agree with his conclusions as much as you might with some other commentators, but it is his laying out the issues, explanations of word meanings, and stellar historic and scholarly background that makes this book such an asset. Though it’s not in one of the major series, I suspect it will be as influential as if it were. If you are a scholar, I imagine his footnotes and bibliography will be a gold mine for you. Perhaps the book could have used a few pages of conclusion for the letter as a whole after the commentary, but I certainly can’t think of anything else that you will find lacking here. Like the best of commentaries, he will share his conclusions, but his real help is giving you the information to draw your own. That always wins for me.

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 Second Book of Samuel (NICOT) by David Tsumura

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David Toshio Tsumura has finally completed the second volume in his now two-volume set covering the books of Samuel. It’s great to see that the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT) series now has both books of Samuel covered. After I’ve carefully looked this book over, I feel that maybe his first volume was not fairly evaluated. Even when I reviewed the first volume myself, I think I missed how high of quality this book really is. Most have said that the author is a fine philologist, but perhaps the overall impact of this commentary is not as keen as others. Since I took more time with this second volume to understand his approach, I want to greatly upgrade the ranking I would give to it and now label it as totally top-notch. I fear that some have graded him more for his opinion about MT texts over the LXX and other variants than for his actual work. What we really have here is a superior approach linguistically to most commentaries on the market today as well as solid commentary for readers.

He begins his introduction by explaining his approach to textual criticism. I found it to be totally refreshing. Most textual critics today butcher the text, even lord over it trying to tell us what we can receive or not receive, but his approach allows the Scripture to speak for itself. What is brilliant about it is how he proves it at a linguistic level. I don’t possess that specialty but found him easy to follow as I read. He gets into the genre, style, discourse, and structure, before he gets into the message of the book. His section on themes and theology is not long, but good as far as it goes. His outline is as good as anyone’s and his bibliography is quite extensive.

I dug into his commentary for my favorite II Samuel passages, passages that I was most familiar with and have studied before. I found that he continued to make his brilliant linguistic points while truly contributing thoughtful reflection on what the text was saying. He also always stayed close to the text which is what we are really looking for in a commentary, wouldn’t you agree?

Some may be influenced by the reviews given for his first commentary, but I recommend you check it out for yourself. As for me, it is a five-star volume all the way.

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.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: The Marvel of Bearing God’s Image (Updated Edition) by Brand and Yancy

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This book is special. It could only have been written by a man deeply in love with Jesus and with medicine. If you read the preface you will discover how Philip Yancey met Dr. Paul Brand and how they came to be co-authors. It appears to me that the joint production worked this way: Dr. Brand provided the substance of medicine and spiritual insight while Mr. Yancey with his journalistic background cast it in beautiful words. Mr. Yancey seems in awe of Dr. Brand and I can see why. Don’t misunderstand me. This book doesn’t elevate any person other than the Lord. Besides your own personal edification, this book will also supply you with a host of exquisite illustrations for teaching and preaching.

Dr. Brand is one of those doctors that you would dream of having. A doctor who sees the big picture of so many things and yet can perform tasks that in our day are usually only done by specialists. That he has spent much of his career in dispensing his considerable talents to those afflicted with leprosy tells you so much about the person he is. He proves to be a reflective Christian as well and his first two chapters on being image-bearers are nothing to sneeze at. In part two, he does a commendable job in four chapters of highlighting diversity and unity. Part three brings out many observations of the spiritual nature from his areas of specialty including the skin and bones and other such things. The fourth part that he calls proof of life looks at blood and breath. His section on pain, and his work among the suffering helps you realize that we are listening to an expert, is spiritually rich. The final section on the brain is profound as well.

I don’t want to steal his thunder in this review because you will want to discover these things as you read it yourself, but there is not one chapter where he didn’t take something I didn’t know medically and illustrate a spiritual truth that I was aware of but could now see better. I never felt he stretched anything in making his spiritual points. In fact, in every chapter, I was more amazed by my God.

This new edition that is described as “updated and combined” is an attractive hardback with a beautiful dust cover. 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.

The Doctrine of Humanity by Charles Sherlock

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At this point, I’ve been blessed to use several volumes in this too-little-known Contours of Christian Theology series. This one on the doctrine of humanity by Charles Sherlock compares to the best volumes in the series. It dives into the doctrine yet not in such an esoteric way that you are left with little contribution to your thinking. Mr. Sherlock hits on most of the main components in the study of Christian anthropology. He even relates beautifully to the corresponding doctrine of sin in helpful ways. He occasionally relates a viewpoint that you might find subversive (he is not in my opinion as conservative, for example, as Sinclair Ferguson on the Holy Spirit in this series), but his contribution to the big picture of understanding this doctrine is greatly enriched by the arguments and detail he brings to bear.

His first focus, as he calls the divisions of the book, is our being made in the image of God. He looks at that in terms of ancient Israel, our being renewed in Christ, and in a variety of contexts in Christian thought. This section is truly foundational and well done. The next focuses on the human race. He takes a broad view, he reveals his political stance along the way, yet he still offers wonderful food for thought. The final section is on the human person. There’s a chapter on the unique person that covers things like human dignity, freedom, indignity, rights and the sanctity of life and an introduction to thinking about gender roles. He had a chapter each for being a woman and being a man that ran back and forth between fascinating and making you raise an eyebrow. His chapter on the whole person where he got into the body, soul, spirit, and heart was the best in the whole book. After the conclusion, he has two appendices that relate the doctrine of sin to humanity as well as some additional material on gender roles and issues.

Though you may have picked up on my few caveats, the book is still totally engrossing on many levels. Again, it’s one of my favorites in the series and is a must-have in your doctrine of humanity section.

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.

Joshua (NIVAC) by Hubbard

book josh nivac

The word on the street was that this commentary by Robert Hubbard in the NIVAC series was one of the best that the series had to offer and with it now in my hands, I can understand why. That is no small accomplishment when you consider that Joshua has never been thought of as the easiest book of the Bible from which to draw present-day application. That’s not to criticize that wonderful book of Scripture, but to admit that there are many issues in it that do not exactly line up with modern sensibilities. This commentary is full of keen observations and thoughtful application. I really can’t agree with all its historical and textual conclusions, but if you will look past those things what is left is of much value.

The introduction, quite frankly, is a little spotty. He is pretty good at explaining the tension between the viewpoints of Joshua’s day and our own. His brief summary of the contents of the book was fair but not deep. His explanation of Joshua himself brought out some fine points. Again, though he was fair to mention that there is an early date viewpoint out there, I don’t personally agree with his dating. If you do, you’ll like the book even more. He can be quite speculative when he talks about the Deuteronomic influence in the book. His thoughts on the theological themes in the book are much better and a chart demonstrating the echoes of Moses’ life in Joshua’s life was outstanding. After a brief outline, he gives a select bibliography that’s quite lengthy for one of these volumes.

It’s in the challenging passages of Joshua where this commentary comes alive. It takes the NIVAC format of original meaning, bridging contexts, and contemporary significance and uses that template to advantage. The depth of description in the original meaning section was impressive throughout. No one can offer applications that will ring true for every reader in every passage, but this one does a fine job for us.

I would check other volumes for historical matters, but this one delivers explanation and application with the best of them. Highly recommended.

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.

Now My Eyes Have Seen You (NSBT) by Robert Fyall

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The wide-ranging, impressive New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series here jumps into the Book of Job. Perhaps the editorship of D. A. Carson keeps this series running at a high pace, but in any event, I’ve seen this book by Robert S. Fyall often favorably mentioned. The author understands that Job has been subjected to widely differing interpretations. Fyall sees creation and evil as the key to understanding Job.

You may not agree with his total outlook, but the book’s value stands out most of all in its ability to highlight the masterful Hebrew poetry involved while also doing detailed exegesis on several passages that bring to light the key thinking behind the book of Job. What he has to say about the Behemoth and Leviathan was certainly new territory for me. I couldn’t agree with all his conclusions, but they are worth wrestling with. Make sure you take in his concluding chapter on “the vision glorious” as he ties together much of the detail he collects throughout the book.

There’s not a dud in this series and this book has caught the eye of all who write on Job. You had better check it out!

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.