Leviticus (Interpretation) by Balentine

book lev I.jpg

From what I can see, this book is one of the more decorated in the Interpretation Bible Commentary series. Samuel Balentine is held up as an expert on Leviticus. To be clear, it comes clearly from a critical perspective. As is true with some of the better volumes of the series, it excels in theology even if you don’t agree with its critical outlook. There’s no way I could agree with its overemphasis on ritual, but I can appreciate his desire to see Leviticus as something that a listing of weird, arbitrary laws.

The Introduction begins with discussing the unique design of Leviticus before making his case as its being ritual texts. There are helpful discussions on structure and theme. Too much of sources are found, but that is not the emphasis. Further, he traces the worship value of the book and draws out helpful theology. Check out the chart on page 17 too.

The commentary proper has the best of critical commentary with theological perception. It will vie for the best of critical commentaries on Leviticus without a doubt.

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 Gracious and Compassionate God (NSBT) by Timmer

 

book jon nsbt.jpg

The New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) tackles the beloved Book of Jonah in this entry by Daniel Timmer. There’s really not a dud that I’ve seen in this series. Many attribute this consistent quality to the editorship of revered scholar D. A. Carson. I suspect that along with careful selection of contributors is responsible for the prestige of the series. If you value D. A. Carson as many do, you should know that he calls this volume by Timmer “a book to cherish”.

The subtitle accurately outlines what you will find between these covers: “mission, salvation, and spirituality in the book of Jonah”. In fact, chapters one and two take mission and conversion/spirituality in Jonah and relates it to the entire biblical corpus.

Chapters 3-6 take Jonah chapter by chapter drawing out its theology and again tracing the themes mentioned earlier. At times, the author is quite strict about the theology that can legitimately be mined here, perhaps overly so. Still, there are loads of great theological introspection for this familiar story. The concluding chapter effectively ties it all together.

Mark this down as another entry in this winning 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.

Finding Favour in the Sight of God (NSBT) by Belcher

book fin nsbt.jpg

This latest entry in the New Studies In Biblical Theology (NSBT) by Richard Belcher and edited by D. A. Carson presents a theology of wisdom literature. Since this series has already provided Hear My Son by Daniel Estes and Five Festal Garments by Barry Webb, I opened this volume with something of a here-we-go-again attitude. I was in that fog for a few pages before I realized that this book was a really good one. Think of a field laden with nuggets. Often, I would catch myself saying, yes, that is what that wisdom book is about!

Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes make up the bulk of this volume. Since they each provide their own difficulties, help is appreciated. Theology and structural concerns shine throughout this volume.

The opening chapter explains why wisdom literature is such a challenge in the formulation of Old Testament theology. Making Creation its foundation was a reasonable hermeneutic. Chapter 2 discusses the theology of Proverbs 1-9. The structure outlined made sense to me. That’s followed by a brief chapter on the hermeneutics of Proverbs. Chapter 4 rounds out the study of Proverbs by concluding its main theological themes.

The next three chapters look at Job. For my money, this section is the richest in the book. In these chapters, I was amazed at how much he could impart to us. The chapters divide the Book of Job into three parts, but it’s so much more than that! The speeches, the structure, the theology–all so perceptive!

Ecclesiastes gets three chapters as well. If they aren’t quite as good as the ones on Job, they still are fine specimens of drawing theology out of a wisdom book. The final chapter on Jesus and wisdom makes the perfect conclusion to this book.

This book provides perfectly what you would want in this type of volume. Let’s rate it highly 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.

Reading Mark’s Christology Under Caesar by Winn

book read mark

Mark’s Gospel has intrigued scholars for years. Or maybe it has confounded them. There’s a general consensus that Jesus is Messiah and that Mark is written against a Roman backdrop, but paths diverge from there. Adam Winn takes a stab at it arguing that Jesus as Lord directly counters Roman propaganda. He further posits that Christians would have read it as such in those days. Winn explains in his acknowledgments that this is his second pass on this subject. He wrote on the Christology of Mark in his doctoral dissertation and has since imbibed the contributions of his critics. To me, this work benefits from that mature reflection.

The Introduction possesses great value as a reflection on what’s been believed along with a perceptive analysis of trends found in the text of Mark itself. The secrecy motive, redaction studies, and other criticisms good and bad are well explained too. Fortunately, he unpacks his own approach, which gives you a good basis to take in what he will share over the course of the book.

In chapter one, he reconstructs the historical setting. That analysis is foundational as he sees Roman influence as a driving force in Mark. Chapter two develops the equally essential element of his approach as he explains Christological titles in Mark. You don’t have to agree with his conclusions about the individual titles to glean from the chapter.

The next two chapters trace this theme through the traditional lens of the powerful Jesus in Mark 1-8:21 and the suffering Jesus in Mark 8:22-10:52. In chapter five he returns to the secrecy motif through his Roman lens followed by one on Christology.

If you are familiar with volumes that attempt to provide a thematic analysis of a biblical book, you will find this book to be a good representative of the type. It may be a specialized subject, but it is one well done.

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 Revelation to John by Stephen Smalley

book rev small.jpg

Somehow, I missed this large work on Revelation. Stephen Smalley was familiar to me particularly in his WBC commentary on the Epistles of John. As the subtitle suggests, this commentary is aimed at the Greek text. Revelation has been the subject of such approaches more so than some books of the Bible. There were Charles and Swete of another generation as well as Beale and Aune of recent times. Smalley is up to the task of being mentioned in their rank. Still, English readers can work around the Greek and follow the flow of the argument. In most cases, the English and Greek are side by side.

The Introduction begins by examining the text. He explains his approach as “literary and theological, rather than simply critical and historical. Though critical to some degree, he sees a “basic unity” in the book and accepts the authorship of John. He traces what he sees as the situation behind the book. As many scholars love to do, he takes a stab at constructing the “Johannine Community”. Genre is probed as well. He surveys John’s use of the OT before slowing down for theology. He rightfully sees the role of Christology in the book. When he turns to symbolism and interpretation, we learn his view is that of a “modified idealist”. His section on structure needs expansion.

There are almost 600 pages loaded with exegesis. If you lay aside your prophetic outlook and come here just for exegesis, you won’t be disappointed. I get more from the trees than the forest with this one. Not being part of a series may cause this one to be overlooked, but it stands in the major exegetical 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. 

Reformation Commentary on Scripture (OT VII) on Psalms 1-72

book rcs ps 1

Having a commentary series taken from the best of Reformation writers is incredibly intriguing in itself. You don’t have to hold to all of the Reformers’ beliefs to see how captivating it really is. Within that series, Psalms holds the most enchantment. Those Reformers throbbed with the personal wrestlings of Christianity as found in the Psalms. Editor Herman Selderhuis has done us all a favor by sifting through all the extant writings of the era to bring us the cream of the crop.

This volume, then, is a great representative of this attractive series. From the cover design to the layout, this book looks beautiful on either the shelf or open on the desk as you are studying. It’s a large volume whose weight in your hand will remind you of the force its pages hold.

After the guide for using the series and a general introduction, we get a rich introduction on the Psalms from the Reformers’ point of view.  The most prevalent feature is their tracing Christ in the Psalms. That why this series holds value–something as apropos as Christ in the Psalms is grossly undervalued in many modern works. Not here!

The commentary proper doesn’t cover every word or phrase, but what it does explain is often as warm as the sun. That’s a great compliment to your exegetical commentaries.

Don’t miss the extras at the end of the volume: a map of Europe during the Reformation, a timeline, a broad review of the people of the Reformation, and a bibliography. They are well done.

This book is both helpful and enjoyable. (As of this writing in October 2018 we know that the followup volume on Psalm 73-150 is coming soon). This one 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. 

A Commentary on the Revelation of John by Ladd

book ladd rev.jpg

Here’s a time-tested commentary that’s rightfully being republished. Eerdmans has realized the value of several great commentaries that were subsequently replaced in some of their stellar commentary series (NICOT, NICNT, NIGTC) as well as some standout independent commentaries. There are commentators like F. F. Bruce, John Murray, Leon Morris, Merrill Tenney, and Herman Ridderbos among others. These newly-released reprints are published in matching styles in paperback as The Eerdmans Classic Biblical Commentaries series. This volume by the late George Eldon Ladd is an influential commentary on Revelation.

The Introduction is more direct than most in modern commentaries, but the information gets to the heart of the study of Revelation. Since I just recently reviewed a modern critical commentary on Revelation, this work was like a breath of fresh air. He covers authorship, date, and setting including historical background. He gives a fine overview of methods of interpretation. He categorizes them as Preterist, Historical, Idealist, and Futurist. He’s a Futurist himself with a little Preterist thrown in but sees dispensationalism as excessive. I don’t follow him in all his conclusions, but really appreciate reading them. His view of structure is simple, divided around visions, and is also presented in an outline.

The commentary is in that straightforward style that can sometimes be missed in these days. It gets to the point but is never careless or superficial. He renders complexities with simple clarity. It’s a little jewel and I’m glad to see it reprinted!

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. 

An Introduction to the New Testament (2nd ed.) by DeSilva

book nt 2nd.jpg

This widely-used New Testament Introduction by David DeSilva has earned a Second Edition. Every major Christian publisher puts out an NT Introduction (IVP also has Donald Guthrie) because there’s such a demand for Christian college students as well as most every pastor will want one at hand. Without a doubt, this book has been one of the major ones.

DeSilva’s reputation has been hued from his many works. He’s known as a great scholar. His specialty of rhetoric is equally well known. If you find the idea of rhetoric overblown in importance, you might discount his work to some degree. If you love rhetoric, no one else will touch what he will do. Some have criticized what he attempts to do in this volume, but that criticism is a little too harsh. He does cover the typical NT Introduction issues at a depth that compares with most other works of its type.

If you read the preface, you will see exactly where the revision took place. Yes, some paragraphs are little changed from the previous edition while others are extensively rewritten. The print size is a little smaller, but the book has clearly been upgraded in eye appeal. That’s a trend in the industry that was successfully implemented here. The visuals including maps, tables, and pictures are not borrowed from any other work I’ve seen and are quite effective.

If you are in the market for a major New Testament Introduction, you will owe it to yourself to make sure this one is on your list for consideration. I predict this new edition will extend the life of this work for several years to come.

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 (NTL) by Blount

book rev ntl.png

Brian Blount has given us this commentary on Revelation in the New Testament Library (NTL) series. Perhaps no other book of the Bible would find a shelf full of commentaries on it to so diverge as does Revelation, so we enter any such commentary with our seat belts tightly fastened. As you would expect with the NTL series, you will also get a critical outlook. That being said, this volume was pleasantly a little more moderate in places than I expected. For comparison, it has far more value than the OTL volume on Daniel, which is the most prophetic book of the Old Testament. It doesn’t match my views on prophecy at all, but there is some real exegetical help for words and phrases, some fine background material, and some thoughtful theology. He delves deeply into the idea of persecution so you will have what you need to formulate your ideas on that angle as well.

The Introduction begins with the theological focus. His saying “John writes in anger” might be a little much, but his discussion of justice, judgment, and anger has real insight. When he discusses authorship, he can accept that a “John” probably wrote, though he isn’t sure which one. He dates the book at the year 95. His section on social setting was quite thorough and helpful. If you enjoy studying genre, he goes into much detail here as well. There are an outline and a brief overview of structure. He concludes his Introduction with a cursory glance at the text of Revelation.

There are almost 400 pages of commentary on Revelation that follows in the strengths (exegesis, background, and theology) and weaknesses (too critical in places) mentioned above. Still, if you asked me to recommend the best critical commentary on Revelation, I’d likely choose this substantial 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.\

 

Defending Your Marriage by Tim Muehlhoff

book def marr.jpg

Here’s a marriage book that takes a fresh, new approach. Tim Muehlhoff looks at our marriage problems in light of the possibility of spiritual warfare. I hadn’t really given that possibility consideration, though I would have said: “the Devil sure fights us”.  My problem (among others) would be never probing what the Bible says about spiritual warfare in this practical way. The author works with Dennis Rainey at Family Life and writes with the graciousness and insight that belies a compassionate, experienced marriage speaker and counselor.

His introduction reminds us that our marriages are targeted by the Devil and that our job is for our marriages to showcase Christ in this world. That’s startling on both counts. Because our culture, including many Christians, is too spooked to entertain the possibility of spiritual warfare, he spends the first chapter making a clear case for it. There’s solid doctrine there. Next, he addresses why Satan cares about our marriages. Along the way, he exposes the failure of the prevalent contractual, or you-do-your-part-and-I’ll-do-mine, view of marriage. Since we all tend to overestimate our contributions while underestimating others, this approach has no hope. As you might guess, marriage as a covenant and as “an outpost for God’s Kingdom” is more appropriate. Covenant says I love like Jesus and not based on what my spouse does.

He discusses how to tell if it’s spiritual warfare rather than normal aggravations. He goes through open doors for spiritual warfare in 4 main categories of 1) sexual sin, 2) religious sins like idolatry, 3) relational sin against others, and 4) public sin. He further explains the 5 top indicators of spiritual warfare: 1) inappropriate anger, 2) sense of impending doom, 3) violent dreams, 4) no longer believing the best about God, and 5) no longer believing the best about you (your self-talk). He also probes how intimacy might play into all of this.

He has a thoughtful look at Adam and Eve and their temptation with great insights. There’s a chapter on using the armor of a Christian that gave real help (the best was the belt of truth). You wouldn’t have guessed it, but he makes great use of the Lord’s Prayer as well.

All in all, this is a fine book that covers a missing niche. I pray I will use many of its sage counsels.

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.