Life in Biblical Israel by King and Stager

book life isr

I love this type of book. Though this book has been around for a while and often receives glowing recommendations, somehow I had overlooked it. I’m glad that’s no longer the case. I don’t subscribe to the authors’ chronology or critical assumptions, but there’s much treasure to be found in what they’ve put together here.

The authors provide a fine introduction that explains the importance of everyday life, what must be worked with to arrive at an understanding of that everyday life, and an overview of archaeology and other things. The next extensive chapter covers an Israelite house and household. Homes, family members, meals, and medical information are all addressed. The next chapter looks at farming, climate, vegetation, water sources, arts and crafts, travel, transport, and trade. From there, there’s a chapter that looks at the city, water systems, and warfare and armies. There’s a helpful chapter on culture that looks at dress and adornments, music, literacy, and education. The last chapter covers religious institutions including temples, shrines, objects associated with these places, religious practices, death, burial, and the afterlife.

The maps section is a little weak, but the bibliography, the indices, and the photography and illustration throughout the work are superb. This is a fine resource where you will find many opportunities in your studies to consult. Warmly 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.

II Corinthians (NTL) by Matera

book ii cor ntl

Frank Matera, a well-known New Testament scholar, contributes this volume on II Corinthians in the New Testament Library (NTL) series. Though this volume would be labeled critical in its approach, he took a surprising number of positions that you might find in a less critical work. For that reason, I thought this volume one of the better in this series. You will still be made aware of some of the critical outlook that this series usually provides, yet you might appreciate his opinion on the unity of the letter and his exegetical work too.

After a bibliography, the author begins the introduction by addressing ministry and conflict in the letter. He labels II Corinthians as “perhaps the most personal and revealing of Paul’s letters”. He sees it as “an intensely personal writing it which the apostle speaks more extensively and intimately than in any of his other letters”.

Next, he dives into the argument and structure of the letter. He divides the letter into three parts and explains his reasoning for the division as well as for the subdivisions. He summarizes his position in a list of four things that Paul is defending. His reasoning and the subsequent outline give good food for thought. From there, he tackles the theology of the letter. He sees the theology as rich and it would be hard to disagree with the importance of the six things he lists as the key theology of the letter.

In the next section, when he considers the time between I and II Corinthians, he wades into the morass that often entangles the scholarly world. The next few sections of the introduction continue to look at this subject from various angles. Along the way, you get a good overview of where the scholarly world has twisted and turned on this issue. Pleasantly, he argues for the unity of the letter.

In the commentary proper, I thought the exegetical work to be some of the best I’ve seen in this series. There are many good insights to be found.  This book could profitably be added to the list of those you consult when studying II Corinthians.

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.

Everlasting Dominion by Eugene Merrill

book ever dom

I’ve used the works of Eugene Merrill throughout my entire ministry. He’s known for quality conservative academic work. Somehow I had overlooked this work for a long time. I’ve used several of his commentaries to great advantage, so my curiosity was piqued when I saw this volume described as his “magnum opus”. At least we can say that a major work of biblical theology requires more interdisciplinary mastery than most other theological work. Mr. Merrill’s humility is such that he almost sheepishly approaches this work in the preface. To my mind, however, he has the skills to tackle this task.

In chapter 1 he overviews what Old Testament theology is. That chapter includes a look at the winding path scholarship has taken on Old Testament theology. Much of it has been so absurd that we welcome this conservative effort. In chapter 2 he discusses the Old Testament as the autobiography of God and covers a wide range of theological concepts that you might find in a systematic theological approach. Chapter 3 upholds that the Old Testament is the revelation of God. Chapter 4 looks at what the works of God are as found in the Old Testament. Chapter 5 concludes part one with a discussion of the purposes of God.

Part two backs up and approaches the Old Testament from the perspective of mankind, who is made in the image of God. That will include chapters on the fall, redemption, and the creation of Israel.

Chapter 3 discusses the kingdom of God and in this section, we began seeing work on the individual books of the Old Testament. You may find his order of approaching Old Testament books a little unusual, but all are covered beautifully. We reach the wisdom literature of the Old Testament in chapters 18 and 19 before we find one concluding chapter that returns us to the big picture and anticipates the New Testament.

I don’t see how you could do serious work on Old Testament theology and not consult this book. It’s clearly one of the top volumes on the subject and I highly recommended 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.

Understanding Biblical Archaeology by Wright

book und bib arch

At this point, Carta has several introductory atlases that could serve as a personal class on some important topics of Bible study. Paul Wright has contributed several of these outstanding introductory atlases covering the New Testament, geography, biblical kingdoms, important people groups mentioned in the Bible, as well as writing a well-received major Bible Atlas. This title gives an excellent overview of biblical archaeology. When you finish this book, you will have a working knowledge of what biblical archaeology is and what has been discovered in Israel from various archaeological periods.

Other works may probe more deeply the broader assumptions of archaeological work while this one focuses more on what we have found. These findings are presented through clear text, gorgeous pictures, and effectively chosen Bible maps. This book could have a secondary use as a guide to what archaeological sites might be worth visiting on your next trip to the holy land too. For example, on a trip, I did I enjoyed immensely visiting biblical Shechem of which there’s a fine picture on page 15.

The diagram on page 9 is worth pages of text in describing how we have such levels of archaeological finds available at many sites in Israel. We also find there an overview of archaeological periods.

The balance of the book takes us from the Early Bronze Age through the Early Roman or Herodian Era. Fortunately, there have been many wonderful archaeological finds in every major era between those two and none are given short shrift here.

This book is worth your time and 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.

The God Who Gives by Kelly Kapic

book god who gives.jpg

The more I read by Kelly Kapic the more I like him. I had earlier read Embodied Hope and found it an inspiring overview of the doctrine of suffering. This work takes a much wider theological swath. The subtitle proclaims that this book explains how the Trinity shapes the Christian story. As I read this book, I often thought that Mr. Kapic took his theme of the God who gives on a walk across the entire landscape of systematic theology. It’s hard to grasp the terrain he covered in only 260 pages, yet this book is nothing of a superficial overview. Every doctrine traipsed over finds vibrant interaction.

This book is a revised edition of an earlier work entitled God So Loved, He Gave. Somehow I had missed that work, and so can’t speak to the extent of the revision. I can say, however, that this is a theological work not to be missed.

The first few chapters make such a brilliant contribution to the doctrine of God that I think I’ll file this book in that section of my library near other works on the Trinity. His initial premise that we belong to God is persuasively portrayed and gives at once a foundation for this book and an explanation for our lives. The discussion of creation and how it springs out of the Triune love of God tells us much about the purposes of God. Immediately we are told that God owns by giving as well as by creation.

The book continues to describe the calamity of sin, the evil of our world, creation’s bondage, and how all these things cry for our need of God. We learn how Jesus filled that role in his coming as our King to round out part one of this work.

Part two containing chapters 5-10 outlines how God reclaims all by giving all. In the chapter on the gift of the Son, don’t miss the discussion on pages 100-101. There’s further excellent discussion on belief, faith, and their differences. The gift is also traced to the Holy Spirit. There’s further discussion on how we receive the gift, what the gift of the kingdom is, and how to live within that gift.

Part three takes us through the cross, the resurrection, and the church itself to fully grasp the depths to which God gives to us.

This is one of the best theological works that I’ve come across. It provided me with several lightbulb moments. It’s accessible despite its depth. I’d recommend that any Christian give it a try. Whatever you glean can only enrich you. Mark this one down firmly in the “highly recommended” category.

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 Bible and Archaeology by Richelle

book bib arch.jpg

Here’s the perfect book for either pastors or Bible students to get a clear overview of the connection between Bible and archaeology. This book succeeds because it strikes the perfect balance between archaeological detail and basic understanding. In other words, you will not drown in the minutia of archaeology, but you will have an informed grasp of both the value and limitations of archaeology in your Bible studies.

Matthieu Richelle, a respected professor of Old Testament, has a nice list of credentials to be able to produce this work on archaeology. I appreciated his respect of the Bible, his academic integrity, and his civility toward other archaeologists with whom he might disagree. In the same vein, while I might disagree with him on a few points myself, I respect greatly what he has produced here. To take something as complex as archaeological methodology and make it accessible to a popular audience is a gift. It’s a gift that’s present in this book. He will walk you through some subjects you might normally dodge, but he will guide you in a way that you can both learn and easily comprehend.

In the introduction, he describes his disdain for sensationalists and his desire to give us the tools to understand the clearly divisive controversies of biblical archaeology. Chapter 1 explains what archaeologists are looking for, or at least what they usually find. He guides us through archaeological sites, he explains what a “Tell” is, and uses some popular Bible sites to explain. He explains why these “Tells” have developed the way that they have and why they make it possible for archaeological discoveries. He explains the important difference between relative and absolute chronology and commonly accepted archaeological periods. He describes the main tools that archaeologists use to make their conclusions. Further, he explains what they tell us about the people, the architecture of the time, and what can be learned about life in ancient Israel.

Since chapter 1 only took us through what can be learned about life in general, the rest of the book must take us into the things that archaeologists discover that help with the more critical subjects of dating and verification of historical information. You will learn about the principal types of inscriptions and the difficulties of epigraphy. He doesn’t hide the dark side of the archaeological world that includes things like forgeries and other unscrupulous behavior.

Chapter 3 is outstanding and proves his balance. In this chapter, he discusses the limits of archaeology. He confesses the lack of certainty that exists, how that sometimes we can only say what is possible and not what is proven, and that there is much interpretation of the findings that can truly be biased. He talks about other natural limitations like the fact that what is excavated is ruins in the first place.

Chapter 4 finally broaches the subject of the Bible and archaeology. He is very gentle in this chapter and explains some of what I would call the more radical beliefs in the archaeological world. Those radical theories show a true bias to the Bible. He’s almost fair to them than seems reasonable, but he lays out the information so kindly that you will be able to come to the right conclusion. Chapter 5 is a case study involving David and Solomon. Because of their centrality to the story of Israel, their historicity is commonly attacked. Chapter 6 is a little more technical in that it describes writing in the times of David and Solomon and how that might help arrive at dating. The conclusion is short and to the point yet is reasonable. There’s a final listing for further reading if you’re interested in extending your studies.

This book is a complete success in what it sets out to do. Not only is it a perfect book for pastors and Bible students, but I imagine for most of them it will be all they want or need.

 

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.

Some Great John Stott Commentaries!

MVIMG_20180624_150656_exported_3451528252453627044.jpg

 

Mr. John Stott remains one of the more beloved writers of Christianity today even though he’s been passed away for a few years now. He was widely published and has books carried by several publishers, but he had a special relationship with IVP and they carry all his great commentaries. In this blog post we will review a sampling of four of these great commentaries. In addition to these reviewed below, he has some equally fine commentaries on the Sermon on the Mount, Acts, Romans, Galatians, and Thessalonians.

  1. The Letters of John (TNTC)

This commentary is, perhaps, his most well-known. At the least, I’ve seen it quoted time and again in later major exegetical commentaries on the Epistles of John. It’s his only commentary in the wildly popular Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TNTC) series. I imagine this series has been one of the best-selling of all time because of its broad usefulness. Despite its age, I still see it widely recommended and even called the best in this series by many reviewers.

The thorough introduction is wisely divided into three parts: authorship, occasion, and message. He reasons beautifully for the authorship of the letters by John. He has wonderful things to say about occasion and message. There is much learning there. He seems to conclude much as the earlier commentator Robert Law did, though he’s far easier to follow in my opinion. I don’t exactly agree with Law’s premise, but it’s well explained here.

The commentary proper is model commentating. The introduction and commentary on II and III John are equally compelling. This book lives up to all its hype.

The TNTC is currently going through its second major revision. That means this title will likely be replaced by a new author. I’m confident that IVP will not allow this book to go out-of-print and if you ever can’t find it in the TNTC look for it is as a classic reprint by them. Get 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.

  1. The Message of Ephesians (BST)

You could never accuse the beloved Mr. John Stott of shying away from the more difficult books of the New Testament. I mean he’s written on Romans and Galatians and has also tackled the sublime Book of Ephesians here in the Bible Speaks Today (BST) series. In fact, as the editor for the New Testament volumes of this series, it appears the whole series was a labor of love for him. For the record, he produced its best volumes in the eight he contributed. This series has a different design than the TNTC and he excelled in both.

He allows the introduction to the letter to be handled in his commentary on Ephesians 1:1-2. I personally don’t see any loss in that design. With skill he argues for the authorship of Paul even though the scholarly world has mostly gone in the ditch on the subject. He covers the recipients and the message of the letter here as well.

The commentary is wonderful. It has the positive aspects of both good commentary with all the requisite background information as well as the warmth of an outstanding sermon. Whether this book is in the BST series or not, it has no shame on the shelves among the big boys. It would be a mistake to not own 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.

  1. The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus (BST)

This fine commentary by the late John Stott is a two-for-one special as you get commentary on both I Timothy and Titus. It’s another of Mr. Stott’s outstanding commentaries in the exposition – friendly Bible Speaks Today (BST) series. I consider this volume one of his more underrated commentaries. His pastoral heart made him the ideal commentator for these two New Testament books.

This book begins with a special section discussing the authenticity of the Pastoral Epistles. I’ll never understand why the scholarly world is so preoccupied with denying Paul authorship of a handful of his letters, but I wish scholars would punt the ball and make what Mr. Stott says here the 20-yard line.

The commentary on both these letters is warm, accessible, yet in no way shallow. Perhaps the comments are shorter, yet they say more than many commentaries twice the length. Mr. Stott has lived up to his own subtitle of “guard the truth” in this fine volume that you need in your 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.

  1. The Message of 2 Timothy

The quality of Mr. Stott’s commentating never wavers as you can see in what is, perhaps, one of his lesser-known works in this commentary on II Timothy in the valuable Bible Speaks Today (BST) series. Until this whole series is revised and replaced, I won’t be able to think of it in any other way than Mr. Stott’s baby.

I have no idea why II Timothy has its own volume while I Timothy and Titus are put together, but since you need all these commentaries anyway it’s better to have to buy two instead of three! Don’t be surprised if someday when this series is revised that all three Pastoral Epistles found in these two of Mr. Stott’s commentaries end up in a classic reprint by IVP.

He gives an introduction that champions Paul as author and explains the contents in regards to his life and work with Timothy. While the commentary is not especially long (only 127 pages), there’s not a wasted word. I’ll always consult it no matter how many thick volumes sit beside it on my shelves. For pastors, this book is 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.

Revelation (TNTC) by Ian Paul

book rev tntc

Here we are in the early stages of the second full revision of the venerable Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TNTC) series and we have a new entry on the Book of Revelation. This replaces the volume by the second series editor, Leon Morris. As much as I love the works of Mr. Morris, I’ve never heard his commentary on Revelation being talked up as his best. This new volume by Ian Paul is a substantial entry at 370 pages. I feel that Mr. Paul fully grasped the parameters of this series and put it to good use.

I’m going to rate this commentary highly even though I subscribe to a different theological perspective on prophecy than is entertained here. In my judgment, this book has these key superlatives: incredible background information of the time John wrote, profound but sane discussion of numerology, a fairness in mentioning other viewpoints since Revelation is one of the most debated books of the Bible, and solid exegesis. Even as one who takes a pre-millennial outlook, I think every pastor or Bible student needs a book from this viewpoint, especially since it dominates current scholarship. The beautiful thing about this volume is that it covers the same ground well and much more succinctly. Osborne, Beale, or Aune would take much more of your time while Paul here can give you all you need.

Even with my differing viewpoint, I found his introduction filled with good things worth pursuing. No matter your theological perspective, you will find much to mine here. The commentary itself, though if you’re of a different theological persuasion you may broadly disagree, is still filled with great insights into the words of the text and other parallels. You won’t regret consulting this book!

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 and II Thessalonians (NTL) by Boring

book thess ntl.jpg

Prolific writer Eugene Boring gives us this thorough commentary on I & II Thessalonians in the New Testament Library (NTL) series. A decade earlier he produced the commentary on Mark’s Gospel in this same series. That shows that he has far-ranging interests in New Testament scholarship. You will find that the same areas that he received praise for in the Mark commentary are true here. In short, he excels in historical scholarship and background information.

The book is designed with an introduction to I Thessalonians followed by commentary on it, and then an introduction to II Thessalonians followed by its commentary. I enjoyed the introduction to I Thessalonians much more than that for II Thessalonians because I just can’t agree that the second letter came from some hand other than Paul’s.

He begins the introduction by explaining what it is to read in varying contexts including the reader, the canonical context, the mediating context that reviews church tradition and academic research. He also has some insight on recent scholarship. What follows is the highlight of the introduction: his description of the historical context of I Thessalonians. That includes a look at Paul’s life, the city of Thessalonica, and the church therein. He has a few words on the genre and rhetoric of the letter. After an outline and a brief discussion of structure, he gives his theological perspectives on the book. The commentary proper is quite helpful and teems with great historical information.

The introduction to II Thessalonians is consumed with it being Deuteropauline. Though that is a common thought modern scholarship, I find the arguments particularly weak and circular. The commentary, however, is equal to that in the first letter.

Mr. Boring is one of the most respected writers in this series and I can understand why. This is a fine commentary.

I received this map 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.

On Pastoring by H.B. Charles Jr.

book on pastoring

This book is real. It doesn’t sound academic but is more of the I’ve-done-it-and-lived-to-talk-about-it variety. H. B. Charles Jr. has pastored for 25 years and has been through battles and crises, so you feel that he understands as you reflect on your own in the ministry. The spiritual temperature of this book is high, its God-honoring viewpoint is apparent, its proclamation of the primacy of the Word in preaching is clear, and its general encouragement to stay at it is unwavering.

Mr. Charles covered every topic that you’ve come to expect in these type volumes, but here you find more heart. There’s a rawness that says the author has learned through both success and failure. There are things he’s been taught by others as well as things he’s learned the hard way. In some cases, his main benefit is the affirmation of your own conclusions that have also developed in the turbulence of ministry. He will encourage you to never lose the awe of your call, nor the wonder of your work, even if you are inflicted with the occasional scar.

The book is divided into three main parts: the pastor’s heart, the pastor’s leadership, and the pastor’s public ministry. Each part gets 10 down-to-earth chapters. I agreed with his conclusions again and again. I appreciated the needed reminders of what I already knew. All in all, this book left me encouraged. What could be higher praise for a book on pastoring?

I received this map 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.