Joshua (EBTC) by David Firth

The EBTC series has picked up speed since Lexham took it over and this latest release by David Firth is another quality commentary. The historical books of the Old Testament are clearly the forte of Mr. Firth as he has already produced a major commentary on 1 & 2 Samuel, shorter commentaries on Joshua and Esther, and a volume in the NSBT on Ruth. All were successful. In this, his second stab at Joshua, he got the chance to take a deeper dive.

The first 30 pages have a somewhat traditional introduction that you might find in any major commentary. To be honest, this was not especially the strength of this work. Sometimes he only addressed a few viewpoints and even said there wasn’t space to address them further. Perhaps that had something to do with the constraints of the series, but I am not sure. As he had done in his earlier work, he argued that the violence in Joshua is not as extensive as most think. The rest of the introductory material was somewhat pedestrian.

It was in the next section where this commentary truly flourished. Here he addressed biblical and theological themes and showed his ability to write a commentary with a theological focus. He covered faithfulness and obedience, identity of the people of God, Joshua and Jesus, land as God’s gift, leadership, power and government, rest, and the promise of God. It was in this section that you had a real introduction to what Joshua is about. I can’t imagine a better overview for the theology you’re going to encounter for the whole book.

In the commentary proper, it only got better. His skills as an exegete joined with his newly discovered trait as a theologian made for some awesome commentary. What was impressive to me was the depth of observation. In each passage he had a section entitled “context”that truly set the stage for what you were reading before he broke out into his detailed exegesis. Next, in a section entitled “bridge”, he tied all the loose ends together and brought the theology out into the brightest day. Along the way, he succeeded in delivering the goods on the stated objective of this series.

There might be a few commentaries that outdo this one in some categories, but this is the work for theology in Joshua.

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.

Welcome, Holy Spirit by Gordon Smith

Hardly any theological subject has such diverse writings than those addressing the Holy Spirit. Pick up the first five or six books on the Holy Spirit that you come across and as you peruse them you may wonder if they are even talking about the same subject! Who the Holy Spirit is, what His importance is, how we should view Him, how we might imbibe Him into our lives, apparently, finds little agreement among Christian people. If nothing else, that suggests that there is need of thoughtful works on the Holy Spirit. Enter here Gordon T. Smith as he throws his hat into the ring.

To be honest, I had more trouble than usual in deciding how to rate this book. My trouble is that on some pages there is the most remarkable theological insight while on others I found myself asking the question, are you kidding? Though I had trouble, I think I might suggest how you can know in advance whether you will like this book or not. I’ll assume that you want good theology, so the whole thing hinges on how ecumenical you are. Are you convinced that being ecumenical is the most important thing in this day? You will love this book. If you are skeptical of being too ecumenical, then, perhaps, not so much.

I wasn’t very far into the book as I was enjoying some of his theological insights before I was thinking in the back of my mind, wow, this guy is really ecumenical. To be honest, he went fullbore in the last two chapters. Let me give an example. In the last chapter he commends the Presbyterian Church of Canada for coming up with “an extensive theological framework for engaging expressions of aboriginal spirituality including especially those that were typically of indigenous prairie belief systems.” He listed things like “the pipe ceremony, the sun dance, the powwow, the sweat lodge, the medicine wheel, and the smudge ceremony.” A little later on he made a wonderful statement that, “we must, of course, be radically Christocentric and orthodox – intentionally Trinitarian.” I love that last statement! But how could the earlier statement not be a direct contradiction to it? To be fair, he gives a detailed explanation of his reasoning. It didn’t add up to me. In my view, he went a field too far, or maybe two or three fields too far. Again, if you think being broadly ecumenical is the best way to advance the gospel in our day, you may find this riveting.

To try to give the full picture, he does write with an engaging style and comes across as likable. He doesn’t overly talk about himself, but there are a few clues that give you insight to him as a person. He grew up in a charismatic setting. He currently is part of the Christian Missionary Alliance. Along the way, he came to value liturgy too. Maybe that explains why he has more than average desire for everyone to respect each other, but I diverge with him when he says to fit their practices into orthodoxy. Respect is one thing. Syncretism is another.

Though his ecumenicalism was a glaring fault in my view that even weakened the book, I must admit still enjoying some of his theological observations. I usually read with a pencil in my hand and in the front of the book I will write the page number of special pages that really spoke to me. I just checked and I had 14 such pages notated and that is a little above average for an 180-page book. The aforementioned faults notwithstanding, this isn’t the usual fluff that clutters bookstore shelves on the Holy Spirit.

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.

Galatians (CSC) by Timothy George

As the NAC starts morphing into the CSC series, it appears there might be a trend of the editors coaxing the authors of the best volumes of the NAC series to revise their work for the first releases in the new series. Timothy George’s work on Galatians consistently ranked high and is worthy of making the jump to the CSC. By the way, I think that is a winning strategy as it extends the life of splendid works and it gets the new series off to a quality start.

I’m the past, I’ve used the first edition by George in specific passages to advantage, but hadn’t really surveyed the whole work. I had, however, noticed it said in multiple places that George was an exceptional church historian and that he gave something that no other work on Galatians could boast of. Now that I’ve taken the time to thoroughly check it out myself, I must concur.

His speciality, I’m told, is Reformation history and you will find it meaningfully interspersed throughout. Can you imagine how that might be useful in Galatians? In any event, his historical prowess isn’t limited to to the Reformation to be sure. For example, notice how thoroughly he traces the historical development of the scholarly viewpoints about who exactly Paul’s opponents were. Or notice his excursus on Luther and Calvin on Peter and Paul. He even mentions Spurgeon standing firm in the Downgrade Controversy of how standing for the gospel being a “lonely business”. I told you it was different. But good.

His Introduction was thorough and addressed all the right questions. He laid out the North and South Galatia viewpoints clearly. As you probably know, Galatians is even more debated at several points than most Pauline Epistles are. He laid out different viewpoints and gave judicious conclusions.

His commentary is fine as well. His excursuses were meaningful. I read a major reviewer say of the earlier edition that it didn’t interact enough with current scholarship. That is not really the case, but he addresses the most influential scholarship on the matter at hand no matter the time period. I prefer that. Fascination with the latest novelty has been the Achilles heel of scholarship and robbed it and us of all it could be.

You will want to have 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.