Paul And His Letters by John Polhill

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Are you looking for a book that digs into who Paul is and then naturally works its way to the 13 books conservative scholarship attributes to Paul’s hand? You will want to check out this accessible volume that is widely used by seminarians and pastors alike. Polhill is a highly respected Pauline scholar, having also produced a commentary on Acts, who is the perfect choice for this volume.

He first fleshes out Paul with penetrating insight. You get an idea of the key elements of Paul’s early history that molded him for the work God had for him. Roman citizen, Jew, and Pharisee, Paul was a complex person. His zeal was legendary, first for the bad and then the good. His meeting with Christ, which Polhill devotes a whole chapter, changed everything.

As the book develops, Polhill traces Paul through Acts and begins tying his letters to the narrative. Some reviewers, who feel that he offers too brief a commentary of these books, miss the point entirely. It is not a commentary at all, but a description of introductory and background issues from Paul’s life. The point is showing the essence of each letter, and what, humanly speaking, brought about the need of the letter. For its actual goal, the volume wonderfully succeeded. It occasionally traced rabbit trails of more eccentric scholarship, but usually sided on the conservative side.

This book will find its home next to F.F. Bruce and Conybeare and Howson on my shelves. Plus, it is the most recent of the three. 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.

Dictionary Of Daily Life: Volume 2–A Review

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Here is volume 2 in the planned three-volume set (correction: now planned four-volume set) from Hendrickson that continues the promising start we found in volume one. This volume continues to live up to its stated aim of giving us insight into the daily life of Bible times with articles that cover what is often missed in other Bible dictionary or reference volumes. As one who owns several Bible Dictionary or Bible Encyclopedia sets, I found things covered well here that were little covered in larger volumes.

Written on a level that any Bible student could comprehend, this book is still backed by impeccable scholarship. Looking at every subject in the chronological order of OT, NT, the Near Eastern World, the Greco-Roman, the Jewish World, and the Christian World is especially ideal and enlightening.

Some of the most fascinating subjects in this volume include dentistry and teeth, divorce, dwellings, hair, and heating and lighting. In the article on divorce, for example, you will find information that may not match everything that you have heard. In the one on dentistry and teeth, you will simply be glad you did not live in Bible times!

There are even a handful of color pictures at the end. This practical resource will be a blessing to any Bible student or pastor, and I highly recommend it and eagerly anticipate the final 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.

John Adams by David McCullough (Presidential Bio Series)

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Here is a superb presidential biography by master writer David McCullough. Mr. McCullough could not be dull if he tried and this is one of his most popular books. This volume brought him his second Pulitzer Prize and I can see why. This biography has the distinction of rescuing a stalwart founding father from the oblivion he was sinking into. It was an undeserved retreat, which McCullough likely realized, and Adams has a 200-year history of competing with Jefferson and coming up a little short. It took McCullough to put Jefferson on the defense!

McCullough did not create something from nothing. Adams is the real deal. He is no Washington, but who is? He need not feel inferior to any other of our Founders. Perhaps a better Founder than a President, but he did as well as any one could following Washington. He had a few blunders, but some successes too.

He could be quite crusty, but he had an honest foundation that never let him down. He was far more moral in his private life than Jefferson. He was not into intrigue or political maneuvers, even to the detriment of his career, but I found myself appreciating it as I read. He wouldn’t just lie when he hit a rough spot either. That it is not to say he didn’t have his flaws. Vanity, and at times ambition, damaged his career. In his defense he realized it to some degree and even made a few attempts to improve.

This volume does a particularly good job at tracing the ups and downs of his relationship with Jefferson. As you read, you will actually rejoice to see the two improve the relationship in old age.

This volume also well explains that the seeds of the Civil War were sown at the very beginning. Adams hated slavery.

It is clear too that Adams was a believing Christian. He is not one of the Founders like Jefferson or Franklin who can be put in the Deist camp. Seeing him as a father was instructive too. Two of his children did not turn out well and his neglect was probably a contributing factor. He put much more input into John Quincy Adams’ life to better results.

This book is simply one of the great ones.

Find all articles in the series here.