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.

Hearing the Message of Daniel by Christopher Wright

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Christopher J. H. Wright has turned out some terrific commentaries on Old Testament books in the past, and now provides us with a little jewel on the Book of Daniel. This time out he does not provide us a commentary, but a book of expository preaching. As he explains in his preface, he does not get into critical questions, but intends the book to be “an encouragement to God’s people in the midst of hostile and threatening cultures, and to affirm God’s sovereign control of all that happens….” In my estimation, he fulfills his intention.

His introduction is brief, but encourages us to view Daniel from so long ago in a proper way for our day. He scolds what he calls the “end- times prediction industry” with criticism that is warranted. I say that as a premillennialist who would differ with Mr. Wright on several points involving prophecy. Books on Daniel tend to be judged on the prophetic views of the author rather than what he or she actually says about Daniel. It’s what Mr. Wright has to say about Daniel and his times that I find so compelling.

The historical background provided is superb. To my mind, he is at his best when the text is historical narrative. His theological observations are astute and helpful. Leaving out the issue of prophetic interpretation, this is what preaching should look like.

This book is one of those volumes that attempts to hit two targets at once – pastors and devotional readers. Most books in this category can’t quite pull off that feat, but Mr. Wright did with the best such effort that I’ve seen in a while.

The book reads well and yet is never superficial. I’m glad to have it on my shelves now and I predict 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.

Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt

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Mr. Vanderstelt is on to something. We are not fluent with the Gospel. As he strives hard to point out, a lack of gospel fluency is far worse than a little broken English. The stakes are so much higher. Getting the directions wrong to a tourist site because of ineffective language is of so much less consequence than getting wrong the directions to God because we don’t know how to talk about the Gospel.

This book is written for broad appeal among Christians. In other words, the net is cast all the way to the edge where the newest Christian lives, and yet is still meant to reach longtime Christians on the other side. Though that means some pages might seem to be on an elementary level, all Christians can be challenged.

The book is in five main parts. The first part explains what gospel fluency is and how so much of our attempts to speak to others lacks the Gospel. In a nutshell, if we don’t give them Jesus, we don’t give them the Gospel. I loved how he explained that even as Christians we like to speak the gospel to ourselves and really deal often with unbelief. He says a few shocking things like: “I have met too many people who love their Bibles yet have no genuine relationship with Jesus Christ”.

The second section is about the Gospel itself. In three chapters, he reminds us of what the Gospel is and how powerful it really is. Some of that is basic as many of his readers may not even have a fundamental understanding of the Gospel, but anyone will enjoy when he illustrates how wonderful it is. Part three covers the Gospel in me in three chapters. Don’t miss the chapter “Fruit to Root” as it had outstanding insights.

Parts four and five covered in six chapters attempts to take what we have learned and make it practical. His discussion of the importance of listening is a great reminder.

The book is easy to read. The only fault I found with it, and it is only a personal preference on my part, is that he illustrates too often with discussions that he had with people where he gave them great answers. While that strikes me as a little too self-promoting, we might remember that, in his defense, he might feel the need for us to know that he practices what he preaches.

The book is a success in the sense that it makes me remember that I need to put the Gospel so much more into my conversations with people. I pray the Lord will help me to do much better.

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: A Publishing Event!

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This book is a call for celebration for any Spurgeon lovers or any who appreciate great preaching in general. If you are like me, you already read often from the pool of sermons available in either the New Park Street Pulpit or the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit sermon sets. Perhaps you would agree with me as well in saying that Spurgeon is one of the greatest preachers who ever lived. This gorgeous volume is the first in what will be an indispensable set.

Spurgeon himself meant to publish these sermons from his earliest ministry, but it never worked out. His notes have languished in storage for these many years. Now Christian T. George has rescued the sermons and B & H Publishing has blessed us all by committing to print them in quality, beautiful editions. What will be obvious the minute you pick up these volumes is that both Mr. George and the publishers have treated the sermons as a labor of love.

Once you open this beautiful volume you will find a treasure trove. You will read a history of how the project came together, an interesting timeline that puts Spurgeon in historical context, and introduction, two interesting essays on Spurgeon, and an essay about the sermons themselves. Mr. George then describes his sources and methods and even gives a sermon analysis that reviews the number of words in his sermon notes and other interesting facts. I must confess that I found every page of the introductory material to be interesting reading. Don’t miss the incredible amount of information in the footnotes as well.

Then there’s the sermons. Many of them are only an outline, but Mr. George has put such incredible research of interesting tidbits both historical and personal that are loads of fun for Spurgeon fans. Who would’ve thought that Spurgeon’s first outline mostly came from John Gill! As I read the sermon outlines, I could tell that these were, perhaps, before Spurgeon completely hit his stride, but they still showed the homiletic genius that he was. It also demonstrated how Spurgeon can teach us all to find great sermons in unlikely texts.

I look forward to getting each volume as they come out and can’t wait to have the set completed. If you are a book lover, this is the release of the year. I pray this series has great success and mark me down as its first admirer.

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 World’s Oldest Alphabet by Douglas Petrovich

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This book is one paradigm-shifting title. Douglas Petrovich is a diligent scholar who is considered an expert in “epigraphy, palaeography, lexicography, and comparative linguistics and literature”. The scholarly world has been in an ongoing debate for many years over what language has the world’s first alphabetic script. Mr. Petrovich has worked through the ancient specimens that we have with their proto-consonantal script and has proven conclusively that it is Hebrew. He has even translated these previously untranslated specimens. That the highly-respected scholar Eugene Merrill has studied his work and given it the highest recommendation proves its trustworthiness.

The beautiful thing about this new book is the boon this it is to those of us who believe in the complete veracity of the Bible. I don’t mean it’s a substitute for faith, but that it is another help to doubters. A quick Google search will show you that several major news organizations have already carried stories on Mr. Petrovich’s work. While many of us so appreciate this book, it will probably be something like a bomb going off in the scholarly world where so many do not believe the Bible they study. Going forward, all doubters should be sent to this book.

Though this book has all the necessary minute data to prove its thesis, non-specialists like me can still follow the argument. He well presents the history of what has been thought over the years and carefully outlines what he went through to reach his conclusions. He is not just pulling his conclusions out of the sky. No, he put an incredible amount of work into solving this long-standing puzzle.

The book itself is attractive and has the design of other fine Carta Jerusalem titles. The maps and illustrations are outstanding and really help you to follow what Mr. Petrovich is saying. This book will be discussed for many years and will likely reach the status of one of the most important volumes ever in its field. 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.

2 Helpful Commentaries in the IVPNT Series

I haven’t reviewed any volumes in this series, so I have two books here that I have heard good things about and here’s my review:

Romans by Grant Osborne

I looked forward to reviewing this book. I’d heard several complementary things said about it, but I wanted to see for myself. Just like is advertised about the IVPNT series, this book is aimed at the church instead of the seminary. There’s plenty of scholarly information given, but great care is taken in the accessibility of the presentation. Pastors, Sunday School teachers, and anyone doing in-depth studies will benefit from using this book. The author, Grant Osborne, is also the editor of this series and produced a well thought out volume here himself.

The Introduction given here on Romans is short, but is not superficial. In discussing authorship, he agrees with the scholarly consensus that it was written by Paul somewhere between A.D. 54 and 58. He does not believe that Peter or Paul founded the church at Rome, but that it originated when Claudius expelled the Jews and Christians and A.D. 49 during a time of conflict between the Jews and Christians. In his section, Genre, Purposes and Themes of the Letter, he succinctly summarizes what has been thought about the point the book of Romans is trying to make. He feels that Paul saw the church at Rome as the ideal sending church to reach that area much too far from Antioch. He states that Paul is not writing a systematic theology in the book of Romans, but that questions raised required much theological discussion.

After an interesting outline, Osborne is off and running on the commentary itself by page 27. I found his commentary at once thoughtful and helpful. I had read some Calvinistic reviewers say that he was the fairest writer against their position out there, and his respectful tone is clearly evident. In fact, he faithfully shares their arguments and then raises some great ones of his own that might be difficult for them to answer.

This book will give you much help while providing deep reflection for your studies without some of the more esoteric discussions that major exegetical commentaries can at times drown in. I highly recommend this volume.

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.

1-2 Thessalonians by G. K. Beale

Scholar G.K. Beale fulfills the designs of the IVPNT series and writes for preachers, teachers, and Bible students rather than scholars. That is not to say that there isn’t careful scholarship behind what he says, but that great care is given in being accessible for readers.

In his Introduction of the Thessalonian letters he explains the historical context of Paul establishing churches at Thessalonica around A.D. 49 or 50. While he feels it’s hard to explain “the exact composition of the Thessalonian congregation”, he is much more certain about why he feels Paul wrote the epistle. Paul defends his apostleship in order that they may follow the Christian teaching he shares. With that apostleship defended, he can branch out into other areas where they are struggling as Christians.

He explains in a few paragraphs the scholarly debate on the sequence of First and Second Thessalonians. He even provides what strikes me as the silly arguments of scholars who think Second Thessalonians should come first. He follows the traditional viewpoint. When he discusses the theological context of these letters, he rightly sees the eschatological emphasis that is given. Both here and in the commentary proper, your evaluation of this commentary will likely be influenced by your own prophetic viewpoint. Frankly, I do not subscribe to Mr. Beale’s viewpoint, but I don’t want to review the work based on agreement with myself. The truth is, there was still much insight to be gained by reading here. His opinion that the “last days” encompasses all the New Testament age, and not only the last few years of it, is one that I agree with. Beale loves to write on the prophetic parts of New Testament and I always gain something from him even if I find much to disagree with.

The commentary itself is quite helpful. Before I received my copy for review, I had read where some other reviewers said this work didn’t live up to other volumes in the series, but I personally don’t see how that could be true. Again, you may disagree with him on the prophetic passages, but at least he will give me something to think about and you will be a better Bible student for it. This book is worth having.

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.

John (ZECNT) by Edward Klink

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Edward Klink has provided us with a major commentary on the beloved Gospel of John. It’s the latest title in the emerging Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (ZECNT) series. Though Mr. Klink has been a successful scholar, he has broadened his outlook for we pastors who use this commentary by himself going into a pastoral ministry. He is very conservative in his viewpoint and strives to be true to the Scriptures. I believe his orthodoxy and vibrant faith will be apparent to any reader. It immediately gives me a greater sense of trust than I find in many commentaries today.

When I began reading the Introduction in this commentary, I at first began wondering exactly where he was going. His approach did not seem the standard fare of most commentaries. By page 25 it all came into focus and I loved it. In short, he says, “Scripture becomes its own kind of genre”. So many modern commentators miss this obvious fact. His arguments were unanswerable, and as he showed, this fact must define all interpretation. He continued making brilliant hermeneutical observations. For example, he said, “the meaning is derived from the event about which the text speaks” rather than the other way around. This volume not only gives good coverage of typical introductory issues, but also suggests several needed interpretive corrections. He covered most all the questions you will have. In my view, only the structure section was a little meager.

Then there’s the outstanding commentary he gave. Though there is some Greek in this commentary, the English is always there making this volume accessible to all. Every passage is given a concise main idea, a literary context section to tie into big picture, an outline of the passage, a synopsis of the structure and literary form, an explanation of the text (regular commentary), and ends with a fine section on theology and application. In my estimation, the commentary given is of excellent quality.

The Gospel of John is greatly loved by most Christians. We are blessed to have a particularly high number of outstanding exegetical commentaries on it. Though the competition is fierce, this new volume will have to be in the discussion of the best exegetical commentary on John available today. I 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.