Esther (EEC) by Tomasino

book eec esther

This commentary on Esther is my first foray into the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (EEC) series. I don’t, therefore, know how this volume compares to others in the series, but I can assure you that this volume by Anthony Tomasino is outstanding. It’s my understanding that this series is produced by Logos Bible Software in digital form for readers. For guys like me who simply must have a hard copy in their hands and can’t quite put up with digital volumes of anything, I’m glad Lexham was produced to release these volumes in print. The good news, then, is that this fine commentary is now available to tech savvy readers and dinosaurs like me.

The Introduction to Esther runs to 130 pages! Don’t let that scare you away. All the pages are put to good use and the layout is such that you can easily skip areas that are not of particular interest to you. After opening with proof that this story has incredible relevance by the repeated attempts at Jewish extermination across the years, he gives a thoughtful synopsis and historical background to Esther and her times. He covers textual issues, sources, date and provenance from every angle. While I could not agree with all the author sees in sources and redaction, this commentary falls firmly into the conservative category. He further explains canonicity. All scholars obsess over genre and historicity when it comes to Esther. I appreciate that when he lists the historical difficulties that most every Esther commentary mentions, he at least doesn’t deny that they could have happened.

If the aforementioned subjects are not that important to you, please pick up reading again on page 70 with the purpose of the book of Esther. Purim, resistance, and all kinds of other literary features are discussed. The characterization is fully developed and well done. I underlined many sentences in the section on motifs, and for the record, I’ve never seen that better done. That takes him through structure and then he dives into theology. When he is finished, it’s clear that he is written the best Introduction in a commentary on the book of Esther that we have today.

The commentary proper includes his own translation, textual notes, commentary biblical theology comments, application and devotional implications, and a selected bibliography. Though it is a scholarly heavyweight, pastors can jump right in and enjoy this commentary thoroughly. At least, I know I did. Mark this down as holding the number one position in major exegetical commentaries on the book of Esther. 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 Unexpected President by Scott Greenberger (Presidential Bio. Series)

book arthur

Scott Greenberger brings Pres. Chester Arthur, one of our more obscure presidents, to life in this well-written biography. Though Greenberger could never redeem Arthur, he at least managed to make you appreciate Arthur’s attempt to rise above his sordid career and even feel sorry for him. Arthur was a product of his time, was nothing of a visionary, had no agenda but himself for most of his life, but gave the presidency his best shot when it literally fell into his lap.

Though hidden from the public, Arthur developed Bright’s disease during his single term that would take his life barely a year after he left office. Greenberger found the springs of Arthur’s life in the earlier chapters that provided great context for Arthur’s career. It appeared to me that Mr. Greenberger was somewhat harsh on Elder Arthur, the president’s father, but was correct, perhaps, in seeing Arthur’s life as one of running from his father’s Christianity. Though Mr. Greenberger wasn’t sympathetic to Elder Arthur, there’s no doubt that he was a committed, conservative Christian. President Arthur’s life never really followed in his father’s footsteps.

Arthur was blessed with a wonderful wife whom he seemed to love, but clearly he neglected her. When Arthur became a leader in the corrupt New York political machine, it appears he partied while she stated home with the family. Greenberger suggests there is evidence that he wasn’t faithful to her.

After Arthur moved to New York City, a different man became the father figure in his life– Sen. Conkling. Greenberger beautifully traces how that Arthur might never have had a political career without Sen. Conkling while also seeing Conkling’s fingerprints all over what is tragic about Arthur’s career. Chester Arthur became the Vice President of the United States as a pawn in a game, but surprised the game’s players when Pres. Garfield was shot and killed and Chester Arthur became the President.

Greenberger vividly describes the unexpected emotional life of Pres. Arthur. Whether it be the appropriate guilt upon the death of his wife, or the shocked sadness at the death of Pres. Garfield against the backdrop that mistakenly made it appear to the public that Arthur wanted the presidency.

Greenberger knows how to build suspense. He will introduce a preacher without telling you his name until much later, as well as a lady who wrote letters to the president that appeared to have an effect on him to the good while withholding her significance to later as well. I’ll not provide spoilers here, but you will enjoy Mr. Greenberger’s biographical skill and ability to grab our attention.

Mr. Greenberger appears to have a cautious, almost reluctant, appreciation of Chester Arthur. If you read Mr. Greenberger’s biographic blurb, you will see his own political affiliations, but I was pleasantly surprised at how he stuck to his task and left his own politics out of it.

This book is a home run. If you enjoy presidential biographies, I’d advise you to consider this book as your choice for Chester Arthur. In lesser hands, a biography on Chester Arthur might have easily sunk. I genuinely enjoyed this book and 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.

 

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Rev. Ed.)-Volume 4: Chronicles-Job

book ebc 4

Volume 4 of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary EBC) series continues the winning record this revision has had of the popular, much beloved original EBC series. In the revised set, volume 4 covers from Chronicles to Job. In this case, we have two new authors (on Chronicles and Esther) creating completely new works along with two authors (on Ezra and Nehemiah and Job) doing a revision.

The new work on Chronicles was handled by Frederick Mabie. By all accounts this is a thorough, conservative improvement over the older series. He provides a succinct, interesting Introduction to First and Second Chronicles. In addition to great text, he provides a few charts and graphs that greatly enhance the work. He deviates from the usual synoptic approach to Chronicles with Samuel and Kings. That makes this a stronger commentary on the Chronicles itself. I’m particularly glad to have this work.

Edwin Yamauchi revises his work on Ezra and Nehemiah. Immediately I noticed substantial updating in the Introduction in some places. He’s clearly an expert in history and packs an incredible amount of great information into the Introduction. The maps were much improved as well. This is a helpful commentary including textual notes after each commentary.

Elaine Phillips writes on Esther. Not only is this a substantial improvement over the older set, it superior to many other commentaries on Esther available today. For one reason she’s not so skeptical of Esther’s history! She admits the problems, but doesn’t find them insurmountable. The Introduction is brief, but good. I consider this a real asset.

Tremper Longman revised Elmer Smick’s well-received commentary on Job with the goal of updating the scholarship but keeping Smick’s conclusions intact. Since this commentary was well received in the past I think this was an outstanding way to handle Job in this series. There’s conservative conclusions, a fine chart on page 682, followed by good explanation on parallelism. There is good description of the characters and language before we get into the commentary. Again, it’s very helpful.

This would be a great volume for pastors, especially if you consider its great value in covering from Chronicles through Job for a fair price. Don’t miss 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.

John (TNTC) (Revised) by Kruse

book john tyn

Colin Kruse has revised his popular commentary in the beloved Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TNTC) series to extend its life for another generation. It was one of the last releases in the older set and has proven to be one of the most popular. I’ve never seen anything but positive reviews for the older edition. While we could not call this a major revision, the series editors were wise to secure Mr. Kruse for this revised edition. Aimed at pastors and Bible students, this book strikes a great balance between scholarly information and helpful exegesis and exposition.

This volume continues to have a major Introduction for a mid-level series. Some sections are little revised while others have additional paragraphs that brings the discussion up-to-date. The author’s love of the Gospel of John is clearly displayed from the earliest pages. He begins by explaining the significance of John’s Gospel followed by an overview, a brief discussion of distinctive features, and a scenario for both the Gospel of John and the Epistles of John. Next, he briefly addresses sources.

He explains John’s purpose as well as the likely readership. He’s very favorable to the Apostle John being the author and examines both external and internal evidence. He summarizes reasons found in the scholarly world for the frequent rejection of John’s authorship before concluding with his comfort in seeing John as the author. From there he goes into the date and place of writing and speaks favorably of the historical reliability of John’s Gospel.

One of the most enhanced sections is entitled “recent trends in the interpretation of the gospel of John”. As before, he discusses it as a Gospel of signs, a two-level drama, and explains the narrative criticism scholars see in John. He adds, though, discussion of structural exegesis, reader-response approaches, feminist approaches, and postcolonial approaches. There’s a great section on the theology of the Gospel of John covering all the important elements that are even found in larger exegetical works. He ends the Introduction with a brief discussion of the structure of the Gospel of John.

The commentary itself is also unchanged in places while others receive substantial upgrading. I don’t know how you couldn’t rank it as one of the very best of the mid-level commentaries on the Gospel of John. Factor in its economical price, and this is a volume pastors and Bible students must consider.

 

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.

Esther (Interpretation) by Bechtel

book i esther

This commentary in the Interpretation Bible Commentary series by Carol Bechtel is another option for those looking for a critical commentary on the Book of Esther. Strangely enough, it’s strongest competition is another book by the same publisher, WJK, in the OTL series by John Levenson. While not as astute or lengthy as the OTL volume, it does in some ways build upon it.

Bechtel begins her Introduction by examining what she calls the vital statistics of Esther. In that section, she discusses versions of Esther, date and historicity to which she is hostile, followed by discussion of form and structure. She summarizes well other scholar’s opinions and even shares Levenson’s fine chart on structure. She decides Esther is a work of historical fiction, and turns to theological themes without really developing her own exact structure. Her points on theological things are unique and interesting. She sees a discussion of “a healthy sense of proportion” as the main theological thrust of Esther. Next, she discusses the theological implications of the challenge of living a faithful life in an unfaithful culture, followed by one on the power of the written word. I found these insights to make a real contribution to our thinking about Esther. I didn’t, however, get as much out of her final section on reading, preaching, and teaching the book of Esther.

The commentary proper was well written. Though it didn’t have the theological punch of the Levenson volume, it would still serve as a fine backup volume to it if you are studying the point of view of the critical camp of scholarship.

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.

Esther (OTL) by Levenson

book otl esther

Jon Levenson has written in the Old Testament Library (OTL) series one of the very best commentaries available from the critical camp on the exciting Book of Esther. As a conservative reviewer, any critical commentary on Esther grates on my nerves more than usual because of critical scholar’s disdain for Esther’s history, but if you are like me and want at least one of the better critical commentaries in your library on every book of the Bible, you should probably consider this one.

There’s no doubt that Mr. Levenson writes with skill. When he says in the first paragraph, “it is also a tale of the ascent of an orphan in exile to the rank of the most powerful woman – and perhaps even the most powerful person – in the Empire and, arguably, the world”, his writing prowess becomes clear.

He begins his discussion in the Introduction on the plot of the Book of Esther. I thought his comment that there’s more narration than quoted speech as compared to similar biblical stories as perceptive. He gives a great overview of the plot. Next, he tackles structure and style and after surveying various scholarly opinions, he gives an outstanding visual representation of his thought of the structure of the Book of Esther. I can’t follow him in all his thoughts about the messages of the book of Esther, but he does give much food for thought. I totally disagree with his discussion of historicity. He gives a fine summary of the textual history of the book of Esther, though he could be disagreed with at points.

Though it has some of the same critical conclusions as the Introduction, the commentary proper is illuminating and thought-provoking. Let’s just say that he provides what I’m looking for in this type of commentary. You might want to 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.

 

Matthew (NIGTC) by Nolland

nigtc matt

John Nolland delivered this major, massive commentary on Matthew in the highly-respected New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC) series. I’ve had his three-volume commentary on Luke in WBC for several years, and had heard that most scholars found this volume on Matthew more energetic and robust than the earlier one on Luke. After my own interaction with this commentary, I fully agree with that assessment. Further, though this is a Greek series, those who do not read Greek will find no problem as most every Greek phrase has its English counterpart nearby. For that reason, a wider range of readers than you might expect can check out this thoroughly scholarly volume.

The bibliographies in this book are gigantic. On the other hand, the Introduction is shorter than I expected. The commentary proper is the perfect length for the important Book of Matthew. If you want to know the author’s viewpoint, he defines it himself in the preface as a “redaction-critical” work that also uses narrative criticism.

He begins the Introduction with a discussion of the authorship of Matthew. Unfortunately, he finds it unlikely that Matthew wrote the book. In the next section, he wrote about the sources of Matthew with a grating certainty that I could not follow at all. In fairness, however, he’s no worse than many other scholars who write the major exegetical commentaries. In a surprising twist for one who doubts the authorship of Matthew as being Matthew, he still finds the book written fairly early, at least before 70 A.D. The Introduction became much more helpful when he wrote about the provenance of Matthew and other structural and unique features of Matthew. He managed to dip back into the unproductive conversation of sources at other points of the introduction, but was much more productive when he discussed the theology of Matthew. What you don’t want to miss his annotated structural outline of Matthew. That was an awesome way to present an outline!

In the commentary proper, each passage has his translation, brief textual notes, a bibliography for just that passage, and clearly marked off commentary of each verse. He is very thorough in what he addresses. While there are plenty of examples of some esoteric features that only appeals to scholars, there’s much productive, interesting, and helpful information to be gleaned from what he has written.

The competition is fierce among major exegetical commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew, but this volume cannot be overlooked because of the important contribution it makes to scholarship.

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.

Sermons for the Sunday after Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Epiphany by Luther

book luther

Only recently have I been exposed to the sermons of Martin Luther, though I am well aware of his importance in church history. Hendrickson Publishers follows up their successful “Sermons for Advent and Christmas Day” with this fine book of sermons that picks up on the calendar exactly where the first volume ended. In three texts, we look at the Sunday after Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Epiphany. The only downside is that there is one less sermon in this book than the earlier one. The style and quality, however, remain the same.

The first sermon that is for the Sunday after Christmas is from Luke 2:33-40. In the first section of the sermon, Luther considers Simeon. Clearly, Luther is impressed with Simeon’s spiritual reaction. In the sermon, he next moves to the significance of the blessing that Simeon gave in the passage. Next, he looks at Anna, and probes her words for the same spiritual insights. Finally, he takes time with the return of Mary and Joseph to Nazareth, coupled with the little we know about the childhood of Christ. This sermon runs through page 40. It seems to me as if it would’ve been three sermons for most of us who preach today. I can’t fathom either Luther’s time for preparation or delivery for this sermon!

The second sermon is much shorter and only on one verse, Luke 2:21. With this text, he discusses the circumcision of Jesus. He approaches circumcision from its Old Testament origins, to what it meant in Jesus’ day,  and to the significance of how we should consider it today. In the second part of the sermon, he focuses on the naming of Jesus, which took place at the circumcision. I can’t recall ever seeing a sermon on this text alone, so it was particularly interesting.

The final sermon is on the visit of the Magi and takes Matthew 2:1-12 as its text. He begins this sermon by recalling the history of this story and drawing out its lessons. Under the second head, he examines Herod’s attitude. At times, he travels widely in Scripture even developing a section on Moses discussing knowledge. He also highlights the prophecy of Micah. The next two sections discuss the faith of the Wise Men that is quite beautiful in this passage. The fifth section covers the spiritual significance of the passage. There’s a final section on the true and false worship of God that could easily be its own sermon.

Luther’s sermons contain many points. For example, the last sermon has 344 points! That is handy for the reader, though, as you can bail on a point that you feel is irrelevant and jump onto the next one. No one would be wise to preach a sermon today just like Luther did here, but we can all learn from what he says. This is an attractive volume that is well worth adding to 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.