Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels

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I call this book a discovery. What is uncovered is the fact of how much we need this book though I had no idea of its importance until I saw it. There’s an incredible amount of geographic information in the Gospels that affect the understanding of passages. This attractive volume will be a handy reference to answer every question about geography, questions that even major commentaries often overlook, that you will encounter as you read the Gospels.

A fine team has been assembled to put this book together. Barry Beitzel, who has already produced well-received Bible Atlas materials, is the editor and head writer in a group that includes Paul Wright, Todd Bolan, J. Carl Laney, and John Beck among others. You might call that something of a dream team.

A quick scan of the contents page will show you the Scriptures addressed in the commentary. Once you peruse these chapters you will quickly see how central geography’s role was in each one of them. In addition to the fine writing, there’s plenty of helpful maps, diagrams or illustrations, and pictures. As one who owns most every Bible Atlas in print today, I’m pleased to report that the maps and pictures are not just repeats from other works. In other words, it will truly give you an additional benefit beyond your favorite outstanding Bible Atlas. I especially appreciated some of the pictures of modern archaeological dig sites too.

The book achieves quality scholarship, copious footnotes, and real theological development of the geographic material. The first thing I thought when I picked it up was – this volume looks nice! Using it only strengthened that assessment. I suspect that this will become a greatly-loved and widely-used resource.

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.

A Mentor’s Wisdom by Moyer

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This is a special kind of book. It’s not hard to read. In fact, you may find it relaxing. By that I don’t mean it’s fluffy in any way, but that it’s reflective. Larry Moyer reflects on things he picked up from his mentor, Haddon Robinson, and it’s a journey that will likely help you reflect on your own life. If you happen to be a preacher like both the author and his subject, the scope of your ponderings will be even greater.

Admittedly, a book of this design would have little hope of success unless it had what this one does – a full-orbed life with Christ where both a deep immersion into the Bible and a life of trying with all its trial and error. Mr. Robinson is just such a man. Mr. Moyer had decades of interaction with Mr. Robinson and he was able to strike the perfect balance between admiration and reality.

Mr. Robinson has written some of the most influential books on preaching in print today. For that reason, he has an automatic respect by many preachers who will pick this book up and hear what he had to say. I suspect that even those who are not familiar with his writings will find respect easy to grant on these pages.

The book contains 45 statements that the author heard Mr. Robinson say at different points of their relationship. They range from the author’s school days all the way to Mr. Robertson’s last days. Mr. Moyer gives the background for when the statement was made and with additional insights that he had from their frequent association brings the statement alive. None of the statements or explanations ever came across as forced, trite, or corny. There’s even a Bible verse with every saying that matches what it’s trying to say. In a way, these sayings and their explanations were like devotionals throwing light back on the Bible.

The statements are arranged in categories with life lessons, work counsel, spiritual advice, public speaking and preaching, leadership, and evangelism. The advice ranges from broad help for life to detailed counsel. A preacher will carry away a few extra gems, but any Christian will receive thoughtful help. There were a few that I’ve heard people say that I now know they got from Mr. Robinson!

The author was real on these pages. At times he would describe how he initially struggled to accept what Dr. Robinson had said. There was inside to be gained and how his own wrestling’s brought him around to see things the same way Dr. Robinson did.

I liked all the sayings, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be number 9 (“time is your enemy. You must work to make it your friend”).  The Bible verse was Ecclesiastes 3:1. As I read that section, the thought struck me that there is enough time to do what God wants me to do.

This is not an academic book. This will be a book for you – your life, your spirituality, your heart. If you are like me, you know you need a few books like that along the way, and A Mentor’s Wisdom: Lessons I Learned from Haddon Robinson is just such a 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.

BibleWhere: An Exciting New Online Resource

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Here’s one of the best digital tools that has ever come down the pike for Bible study. Not only for your own Bible study, this resource is also an extraordinary tool to add visual content to your teaching. Biblewhere is Carta’s Browser to the Scriptures. If you are like me, you have been using Carta atlases, maps, and publications for years and are aware of their sterling quality. I’m a Bible Atlas junkie, I own most that are on the market, and I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Carta has the best Bible maps in existence. Now their treasure trove of resources is available in a searchable online collection.

On the homepage, you can access their most popular content. Even better, you can select any passage in the Old or New Testament and pull up all their content at one time. As a bonus, you can even access references to the works of Josephus. There’s also the option to do a keyword search if you are doing more of a topical study. It’s even possible to filter your results by content or historical epochs.

The content, which is clearly identified with icons, comes up as articles, photos, videos, and maps. The articles are excellent for your own personal study and understanding. The photos and videos are visually stunning and can be easily pulled into your own visual presentations. The program’s designers anticipated the need of those using in church settings, lectures, or meetings. Carta intends for subscribers to be able to use this resource in a wide array of situations, pretty much anything short of copying or pirating. The videos were well done and of documentary quality. Some were only 30 seconds long and could be easily worked into your presentation. And then there are the maps! As I sit in my office, I’ve used Carta resources so extensively that I can easily remember where to find the best Carta map. Now with the Biblewhere you will be as proficient as me with one quick search. You will love these maps! Be sure to check out the map of the Sea of Galilee from the ministry of Jesus (it’s my favorite Carta map).

The best way to check out this amazing resource is to go directly to their site: www.biblewhere.com.

I’ve been told that they have an Affiliate Program too if that would be of interest to you. As for me, I am not compensated for this review beyond the use of the resource itself. I sincerely just wanted to make this fine resource known for pastors and Bible students like me!

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The Gospel of John by Frederick Dale Bruner

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Here’s a commentary that’s just a little different. The author, Frederick Dale Bruner, who was well known for his earlier two-volume commentary on Matthew, has a writing style that is at once thoroughly academic and personally chatty. How else could I describe this commentary of over 1200 pages where Mr. Bruner seems to be having such fun? I’ve reviewed a lot of commentaries and I don’t think I’ve ever before described the author as having fun. But that is my distinct impression in this case.

The label I’ve heard (“mildly critical”) seems accurate. He follows a few critical theories that I couldn’t accept, yet in other instances he writes beautifully about the deity of Jesus Christ. His preface, again the most personal that I’ve read in a major academic commentary, almost reads like a stream of consciousness flowing happily along. You’ll read about his family and what must be an unusually large social network. He apparently loves people, and with all the interesting people that Christ will encounter in the Gospel of John, that probably makes him an ideal commentator.

There is no introduction to the Gospel of John, which is quite surprising for a major commentary. In any event, the publishers gave him all the room he wanted in the commentary itself. I don’t feel that the more academic subjects that are usually found in an introduction would be his strength anyway, as interesting theology is his forte. I’ve even read that some major reviewer’s think that he misfires occasionally on the exegetical level, but I believe that some well-done theological commentaries are excellent to use on the second pass after we’ve already used our exegetical ones. Maybe it would be fair to call him a modern, mildly critical Herman Ridderbos.

I’ll still reach for D. A. Carson, Leon Morris, and Edward Klink first on the Gospel of John, but I am genuinely happy to have Mr. Bruner on hand to draw out theological reflection and to give me something that the others will not. I found unique angles in every passage I surveyed. Eerdmans went all out with a nice hardback in a very attractive dust jacket. You should check out this lively, bubbling commentary!

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.

A W. Tozer: Three Spiritual Classics in One Volume

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It’s hard for me to find the words for how outstanding this volume is! Count me as one of those people who finds A. W. Tozer as one of the most penetrating, spiritual writers of all time. This beautiful, hardback collection of three of his spiritual classics can’t be missed. These titles have mostly been available as paperbacks in the past, but now we have something a little more worthy of these treasures. I wouldn’t be surprised if people call this one of the great publishing events of the year.

The first title, The Knowledge of the Holy, must be included in any list of the greatest Christian books of all time. It is, out of an impressive list, Tozer’s greatest work. This book impacted me several years ago, and it was a joy to go through it again. In conversational language he presents God Almighty in a way few ever have before. The theology is incredibly deep yet perfectly accessible. He astutely feels that so much of what’s wrong with Christianity today is our misunderstandings of God Himself. The attributes of God are shorn of any sort of dry, academic language and are presented in a way that makes you love, respect, and be in awe of God more.

The second title, The Pursuit of God, is another of his best-known works. He disdains our resting on the laurels of our conversion and pushes us to go hard after really knowing God. This book makes us thirst after our Lord and is a true masterpiece.

The third title, God’s Pursuit of Man, might fall slightly below the two mountain peak titles above, but it is a true sequel to The Pursuit of God. It moved me as well.

Not only is this volume with its three incredible titles worthy of the reading time of every Christian, I imagine it would change Christianity itself if it were widely read.

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.

Righteous by Promise by Karl Deenick

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If you are like me, this book may shatter your confidence about your understanding of circumcision in the Bible. While I might have glibly thought I knew all about the subject, this book exposed the shallowness of my thinking. Karl Deenick has contributed a worthy volume to the multifaceted, highly-respected New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series, edited by D. A. Carson. Every volume I peruse in this series raises my overall impression of it, and this volume is no exception.

Even though this book strives to produce a systematic theological understanding of circumcision, its strength lies in the exegesis of a multitude of passages about circumcision. In other words, the author makes conclusions based on what biblical passages actually say. Whether you would agree with every conclusion or not, he has done all the necessary spadework for you to make your exegetical and theological conclusions.

The design of this book was a good one to broach the subject of circumcision throughout the Bible. Circumcision clearly is used in different ways, yet the author will take you to a feasible big-picture conclusion at the end.

He begins with an introduction that defines the dimensions of scholarly debate on the subject. As you will see, scholars have not been unified in their conclusions. The next chapter looks at circumcision in Genesis and sees the sign of the promise established. The following chapter looks at circumcision throughout the Old Testament as the sign is developed. We are taken through Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and a few other references. Chapter 4 enters the New Testament and entails a discussion of blamelessness and walking in the New Testament. Passages in Philippians, Colossians, and Ephesians are addressed. Chapter 5 is dedicated to the major discussion of circumcision in Romans 2-4. Chapter 6 does the same for Galatians. Chapter 7 is the aforementioned conclusion that looks at righteousness by promise, righteousness by faith, and righteousness through the promised seed. In this approach, the Old Testament is tied to the New Testament and the big picture view of circumcision emerges.

This book is valuable. You can use it for your own careful study of circumcision, or keep it on hand as a reference anytime a biblical passage mentions circumcision. In that case, you’ll have a fine exegetical tool. This book is well 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.

Apologetics at the Cross by Chatraw and Allen

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Every chapter deeper I got into this book the more it exceeded my expectations. Perhaps I expected that since this book is a textbook it would be a little stale, but I would now rate it as valuable as a read as it is a textbook. One reviewer said this book uses the template of Jesus crucified and risen in setting out to defend the faith rather than the Gospel which is used in most cases. That struck me as a non-distinction, which also lowered my anticipation, yet this book has effectively surveyed the past, brought us to the present, and stayed true to the Word of God.

The first section laid the foundation for apologetics in four chapters. That includes definitions, proof texts, examination of various approaches, and a fine review of the history of apologetics. These chapters teach us much, start the ball rolling on our grasping apologetics, and enlighten us on the successes and failures of apologists in the past. There’s also much to learn about how the culture at the time affected how apologetics was done.

The next section digs into theology in relation to apologetics in five chapters. Another pass is taken on the various approaches of apologetics so that we might glean what is good from each one. You will learn how far various methods can go, and where they might let you down in dealing with another person. I felt the chapters were ideal in helping pull out what was best from what apologists of the past have done. There’s also much emphasis on our living out our faith as a key in apologetics. I fear that is too often missed. In this theological section, apologetics are brought to the foot of the cross. Important information like how our sin nature corrupts human reason, our unrealistic expectations, and the absolute necessity of humility in apologetics. We are also taught to look at the whole person which will use reason to aim at the mind but will also look at the heart, or the whole of the person.

The final section looks at the practice of apologetics in four chapters. These chapters had brilliant insights into our age. What we call postmodernism, they call late modernism, but in any event, our times create new challenges in apologetics. The incredible amount of spin that goes on in our culture makes people think that our presentation of the Gospel is but our attempt to spin the facts to gain something from them. The authors give wonderful suggestions on how to deal with that difficulty in the most effective way. Kindness and humility are still essential.

There’s no doubt that this book beautifully succeeds in its advertised goal of being a quality textbook. To my mind, it too would win out as one of the best possible books for us to have to use in our own study of apologetics. I guarantee you it will be one of the first ones that I will reach for!

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.

Colossians (NTL) by Sumney

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Jerry Sumney, a scholar who has written widely on various Pauline Epistles, gives us this commentary on Colossians in the New Testament Library (NTL) series. I had heard from some well-known reviewers that this volume was “thorough” in its presentation while its outlook was “moderately critical”. Now that I have this book in my hand, I find those designations perfectly accurate.

The author provides a shorter introduction to Colossians, but one that fits with several others I’ve seen in this series. The bibliography, though, was longer than some others. In the Introduction, he jumps first into authorship and date. He reviews many factors to be found in Colossians, such as Colossians being the first New Testament letter that discusses the household code. He thinks that Colossian’s theology is different than the New Testament letters that he feels are undisputed to have Paul as the author. He feels that the Holy Spirit is little mentioned while the approach to Christology goes farther than any other letter. He says that is the key to understanding the book. No doubt, he is right as Colossians teaches us about the preeminence of Christ. The author falls on the side of pseudonymity regarding Colossians but says that authorship has no determination on a New Testament letter being authoritative. Surprisingly, he dates the letter rather early.

Next, he discusses destination, followed by the false teaching present in Colossae, though that is briefer than I would have thought. He covers all he has to say on the textual history in two paragraphs. From there, he dives into theological themes including soteriology, Christology, eschatology, and spirituality.

The conclusions presented in the Introduction helps you to anticipate the direction he will go in the commentary itself. He introduces each text, prints the text, gives copious exegetical notes, and then provides detailed commentary on each verse. Again, whether you agree with every conclusion or not his work is quite thorough and written clearly.

I really can’t think of a better commentary on Colossians from the critical side. It’s up-to-date, not as extreme as some, and you can leave its pages with a clear understanding of how critical scholarship approaches Colossians today. This volume totally lives up to what we have come to expect from the NTL series.

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.

Deuteronomy (OTL) by Nelson

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Prolific commentator Richard Nelson has given us this volume on Deuteronomy in the Old Testament Library (OTL) series replacing the earlier work by Gerhard von Rad. Though he is without doubt from the critical side, his work here is widely considered one of the most mature from that viewpoint. In fact, I’ve seen several scholars rank it highly. Its critical analyses are much more up-to-date than the von Rad work it replaced. We have Jack Lundbom for an exhaustive, huge exegetical work and Patrick Miller with a briefer homiletic approach from the critical camp, and that leaves Nelson standing in the middle with the more typical exegetical commentary. Though I clash with the critical viewpoint in many ways, I found Nelson clear and able to provide me a solid understanding of how critical scholarship both looks at and affects the study of the Book of Deuteronomy.

After a brief bibliography, Nelson gives us 12 pages of introduction on Deuteronomy. While that is a little short, he made use of every word in some paragraphs that contained an incredible amount of information that could be mined. After a huge paragraph that opens the discussion of what Deuteronomy is, he enters into a section he calls “shapes and structures”. In this section, he pulls out many nuggets to help you approach your own study of Deuteronomy. He talks about the linguistics of the book and all kinds of structural information. He addresses the final form of the book and while admitting the structure is complex, he makes many astute comments. As you might guess, I couldn’t agree with much of what he said about the composition of the book, but he’s no more extreme than many other writings on Deuteronomy that I’ve seen. He really shined on the section called “theological themes”. I can easily agree that he has suggested many of the main themes found in Deuteronomy while giving insights and references to help.

The commentary proper is a positive representative of the OTL style. He gives the text, a lot of exegetical footnotes, some opening comments on the passage that discusses theme and structure, and then commentary on the text itself. Depending on your theological background, you might be looking for different things in this commentary than other readers. If you know what you’re looking for in an OTL volume, there’s no doubt you will find it here.

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.