Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (NICOT) by Renz

The latest in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT) series covers three exceptionally interesting Minor Prophets. The term “under appreciated” comes to mind. Apparently, Thomas Renz appreciates them because he delivers here what must be one of the most thorough exegetical commentaries available on them. He almost doubles the page count of the O. Palmer Robertson volume he replaces. It’s not a matter of verbosity either as masses of content abound.

He gives both an Introduction to the three collectively and to each alone. He doesn’t see the unity of the Twelve Minor Prophets as scholars like Paul House do. That doesn’t materially affect the commentary, but in a similar vein, structure is by far the weakest attribute of this volume. It wasn’t a matter of laziness, but a genuine belief on his part that these big-picture structures are overdeveloped by many. I don’t agree with him, but with his belief what other choice did he have?

His conclusions otherwise are good and generally conservative. He tips his hat to form critics but gently admits that their contributions are unverifiable. To my mind, form critics are like the man who escaped an asylum, stole a nice suit, and entered the boardroom and sat down among the executives and miraculously convinced them he was part of the team. It worked so well that you could say the asylum merely changed addresses and expanded. In any event, you have to appreciate the masterful diplomacy that Renz displays as he deals with them as if they, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, really belonged.

The weaknesses on structure and occasional scholarly capitulation notwithstanding, this book is an exceptional scholarly exegetical commentary. That is clearly the trend of the series from its earlier expositional days, and Renz can hold his head high among his fellow contributors. In fact, it matches the quality of several recent titles covering various Minor Prophets that have appeared in this series.

The work on grammar and words as well as history is all you could want. That means the commentary provides solid value. At first, you might ask, where is the theology? You will find it immediately after commentary in each passage in a section called “Reflections”. When you look there you will find that theology is a strength of this book as well. I was impressed.

Maybe we will see this series completed eventually, but for now this is a winning contribution.

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.

Judges, Ruth (NIVAC) [Revised] by Younger

The original edition of this book was already one of my favorites in the NIVAC series, but this revision distinctly raises its value. It doesn’t appear that many conclusions were changed, but those conclusions were bolstered. The writing was elevated. Just because this is a work with an academic bent don’t dare undervalue better writing or care with the big picture . It makes a difference. Some commentary writers think there’s a binding mandate to use five words when one will do and feel a call to plant more trees so the forest is more obscured for the common people . Apparently, such writers think that will impress other people though for the life of me I have no idea who those people are.


Want to know where the clear writing and big picture prowess are most on display? In the Introduction on structure and theology. You abuse yourself if you skip reading it. “Profound” is an overused word in reviews, but you can safely throw it out here. Some say this volume is more scholarly than others in the series, but I don’t personally think readability was sacrificed. Still, only a disingenuous scholar would rank it low.
Everything I mentioned positively in the review of the original edition remains, but there’s more. I surprised myself in how many lines I underlined. I’ll return to this book I assure you. Even those who feel this series isn’t their cup of tea better boil some water and grab a tea cup. Can you tell I like this 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.

Biblical Theology According to the Apostles (NSBT)

You’ve got to admit it. Sometimes the venerable New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series finds a niche in theology that you at once hadn’t thought of before and after reading wonder why we hadn’t already. There’s a case in point here. The New Testament is rife with passages that review Israel’s provocative story. So it must be profitable to weigh how the Apostles handled the use of that story, don’t you think?


Three scholars (Chris Bruno, Jared Compton and Kevin McFadden) joined hands to produce this work. Rather than a disjointed work arising from too many cooks in the kitchen this book succeeds as drawing on the the fact the authors have been buddies since elementary school. I guess they traded the former discussions of school, sports and games for those of the Apostles thundering on the Old Testament. Maybe it’s just me but thinking about the non-typical evolution of that circle of friends brings a smile.

To maximize their contribution, the authors offer a introductory chapter that lays out a case for the importance of their idea with their criteria for inclusion and methodologies for presentation. It made sense to me.


They begin quite naturally with Matthew and his obvious connection to the Old Testament with emphasis on his genealogy and the parable of the tenants. Next, they present Luke and Acts as the climax of the Apostles telling Israel’s story with Stephen and Paul’s masterful presentation of the story in Acts 7 and 13 respectively.


Chapters on what is found in Galatians, Romans and Hebrews follow in turn. Hebrews 11 is surely a favorite of many of us. There’s a fine conclusion that sews up this unique study. Mark this work down as one of the more imaginative ones in the series that also manages to add something tangible for us.

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.

Salvation to the Ends of the Earth [Second Ed.] (NSBT)

Andreas Kostenberger gives us a second edition of this 20-year old work in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT). This time there is no co-author other than T. Desmond Alexander contributing a chapter on mission in the Old Testament.
Though I hadn’t used the first edition, the preface explains how he organized his discussion of the theology of mission in such a way as to recast the material even if ultimate conclusions remain the same. Gone are chapters on Paul and the General Epistles and hello to one like, say, Matthew, James and Hebrews. The strikes me as merely shuffling the deck and re-dealing the same 52 cards, but if that helps crystallize the material for him to present it to us there’s no harm in it. There’s a Scripture index too so you can get when you need.
Two things stand out about this book. First, it is thorough and thoughtfully presented. I can’t think of anything he left out or any place he wasn’t clear and helpful. Perhaps you will find more or less (more likely) of mission in the passage he discusses, but I doubt you will find omissions of passages themselves. There’s also the passion that you would expect to find in a missional work.
Second, this book does not take a narrow focus on one aspect of a doctrine as is often the case in the NSBT series, but instead takes in the broad horizon of a grand biblical subject. For that reason, it will be an asset to a broader swath of Bible students too.
Kostenberger needs no recommendation from me as his scholarly work speaks for itself. I’m sure you already have some of his works around you. Add this good work to the pile!

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.

Wonderfully Made by John W. Kleinig

Here’s a book of theology that is at once timely for our days and provocative to the mind. He delves deeply in Scripture to formulate a theology of the body. With a world that’s lost its way in viewing our own bodies and a church that in some sectors has gone wobbly, such guidance as found in this book is nothing short of a tonic.

Don’t start imaging some sort of political plea, nor even much of a cultural critique. The author assumes that you know that we are culturally in a different time (though some similarities with ancient periods exist). Further, he beautifully assumes the Bible is where truth is found. He never argues how the Bible has the better blueprint. Of course it does! Let’s just find out what it says. He writes, too, with Christian love yet without fear or apology for truth. Most authors can’t score that balance.

To be sure, he writes with a Lutheran perspective that I do not share. If you are like me and don’t share his background, don’t sweat it. It was little distraction to me. He would often speak of something like, say, baptism that would make me momentarily bristle, but it was easy to keep focused on his theme and find so much that helped and even challenged me.

After a chapter on “body matters” to orient us he divides his subject into the created body, the redeemed body, the spiritual, the sexual body, the spousal body, and the living body. The chapter on the created body was top notch on issues that we used to call “the doctrine of man” (anthropology). The two chapters on the redeemed and spiritual bodies are where you most might run into his Lutheran sensibilities on salvation issues, but good things to process still abound. The chapters on the sexual and spousal bodies (this is more than you think) are interconnected as well and address burning current issues. As started earlier, it’s not presented so much as a harbinger of the end as that of what is true, what has always been true, and what will always be true. The last chapter on the living body is really a conclusion.

The world is falling apart for sure, so it’s especially nice to read a book that keeps its head as this one does. By the way, it can hold up as a solid work of theology as well. This book is theology as it should 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.

John 13-21 (RCS), edited by Christopher Boyd Brown

This unique series continues with this latest entry covering John 13-21. In contrast with the earlier volume covering John 1-12, Christopher Boyd Brown edits. His background as a professor of church history makes him a natural for this commentary that thrives on history rather than exegesis. The quality that was found in the earlier volumes I’ve seen remains constant.

After a General Introduction given to describe the series and its historical parameters, there is a specific Introduction to Reformation history regarding John 13-21. As you can guess, that is a review of what the Reformers focused on in these chapters. While there are distinct overlaps with our day, you quickly see that some burning issues burn out and are replaced with new ones in subsequent generations. To my mind, that is instructive in and of itself.

You will find numerous fascinating observations along with some that lack punch. As for me, I was only surprised that there was not as much offered on the Trinity, particularly in John 17, as I expected. I can’t necessarily fault the editor because I have never dug into the source materials he had available. I just assumed there would be more.

For that matter, that’s the biggest challenge for the whole series. Did the editors really collect the best passages? Who knows. The value, then, is what you can get out of their labors. On that level, they clearly scored. There are both interesting contributions for individual passages as well as help when taken in aggregate for what the Reformers thought. Help for study of passages and historical evaluation—what more could you ask for in a Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS) 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.

Daniel (EBTC) by Joe Sprinkle

Joe Sprinkle gives us the latest entry in the Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary (EBTC) covering the much-loved Book of Daniel. You will notice a new publisher and a sharp, attractive new look for the volume and the series as a whole.


One of the first things I found in this commentary emphasizing theology was the exceptional exegetical work done on the text. Another strength is the way it presents the traditional view of Daniel against the prevalent attacks lobbed at it from much of the scholarly world. If you are looking for a prophecy emphasis, you will need to look somewhere else, but if you are after theology, history, and lessons we might learn from Daniel, you will enjoy this book.


At first I misunderstood the approach in the introduction. It seemed to be at first a standard introduction like you might find in any exegetical work, but then it stopped without addressing things like structure and even theology at large. It’s emphasis was on genre, authorship, and historicity. Finally, I figured out what the design. The author is suggesting that your conclusions about these things will dramatically impact how you look at this Book of Daniel. If you do not, for example, believe that Daniel is a real person or that the history can be trusted, then even the theology is meaningless. The case for the early date and historicity of Daniel gets the largest chunk of the introduction and it really is foundational to study theology in Daniel. The information is well presented and holds up against whole books on the subject.


I wasn’t expecting such a good linguistic work as this volume might vie with others even on that score. The theology that this series promises is given in a bridge at the end of each passage. Again, the emphasis is not on prophecy but the spiritual help and biblical theology that you will find. The commentary is weighty and you never feel it is being shortchanged to get to theology as some of these type of books do.


As for prophecy, when you come to famous prophetic passages like Daniel 9:24-27, you will find that the author is gentle with varying viewpoints. He boils down the three main views of the passage as the Antiochus view, the Classic Dispensational view, and the Roman view. He shares the strengths and weaknesses of each view and is quite evenhanded. I don’t agree with his final conclusion, but I appreciate the work he presented here.


I believe this commentary is as valuable as any that has been released in this series so far. This is a nice commentary that can be a real asset in your study of the pivotal, controversial book of Daniel.

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.

Signs of the Messiah by Andreas Kostenberger

Andreas Kostenberger has been writing on John’s Gospel for years. I’ve used all of his titles on John to advantage. While this volume may never be as well-known as his commentary on John, nor his upcoming major new commentary on John, I think this book is something of a little jewel that Bible students ought not to overlook. To be sure, it is a perfect example of where a scholar writes some of the best the profession can give pastors or those doing intense study of Scripture. Or what is even better is that there is little jargon or extraneous material to have to wade through to get to the good stuff! When scholars take the details of a book and formulate its structure they present to us something that is truly helpful. That is what you will find here!


The introduction is not a complete introduction to the gospel of John, but rather an explanation of what this book is trying to accomplish. It takes the signs (you will learn what they are if you don’t already know) and break the gospel of John down into units. Within the unit, he explains the sign that was given and what Jesus was accomplishing and the Book of John particularly. There are riches in every chapter.

I thought the several charts throughout the book were a wonderful aid to what you were learning and crystallized in one visual what you were trying to grasp.


I disagreed with a few fine points of detail, many of which were only in the footnotes, but overall I agreed with his conclusions and thought the work was awesome. This book will probably never be the most famous one written by this author, but it will do you as much good as any of them.

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.

Ezra-Nehemiah (NIVAC)

There is always cause for celebration when a major commentary series reaches completion. That is the case with this final volume in the NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC) series covering Ezra and Nehemiah. Some series never reach that milestone, or if they still will, we can at least say that multiple decades have not been long enough yet. As I understand it, this series has also been widely used, so reaching completion is even more praiseworthy.

This last volume, not counting revisions that may come in the years ahead, is up to the level that you usually get in this series. I can’t recall a case where I’ve seen an important commentary being written by a married couple like this one written by Donna and Thomas Petter. It is almost comical to imagine what this entry entailed to produce. In the preface, you can even tell that they are a little self-conscious about it. After a little chuckle, you will see, though, that the finished product is one where the authors pulled off what they set out to do.

There is a solid introduction to both Ezra and Nehemiah that addresses literary and historical setting, political background, authorship and date, intended audience, structure, and theological themes. The scholarship is mostly conservative. That is followed by some nice maps and charts, a detailed outline, and a select bibliography.

The commentary proper follows the typical NIVAC style of translation, original meaning, bridging contexts, and contemporary significance. I found the original meaning section to be outstanding. The application is more hit than miss. I don’t think I’m being harsh in reviewing it in those terms because I ultimately see most such attempts at contemporary application that way. To be fair, what we have here is better than most.

Most people don’t study Nehemiah and Ezra as often as they do many other biblical books, so this commentary may suffice as the only resource for many Bible students for those neglected books. For pastors and those doing deeper studies, this will be a worthwhile volume to have at hand with other key titles. I 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.

Handbook of Evangelical Theology by Robert Lightner

Here is a nice book to introduce biblical doctrine to someone. Whether that be an introductory class Bible college class, or maybe for even a more valuables use, for someone alone or in a small group making a serious jab at understanding Bible doctrine, this book will fill a real need. Saying that this book is good for an introductory work by no means implies that it is shallow. There is real depth but the communication is helpful for someone who would be new at Bible study. I suppose the author’s many years of teaching made him ideal to write such a work.


The work is thoroughly conservative with no concessions to nonsense. In case you were wondering, the author subscribes to a dispensational outlook in prophecy and is committed to inerrancy of scripture throughout.


The sections of the book correspond to the great doctrines of the Bible. Near the beginning of each chapter there is historical perspective to help orient the reader but that does not dominate the discussion. Then after a careful laying out of the doctrine itself he concludes each section with a discussion of major areas of difference among evangelicals. I think that section has real value. It can come as a surprise to those studying theology for the first time that there are such differences. To my mind, it is better to go ahead and allow the reader to know that upfront. Plus, while there is not value in arguing, sometimes hearing different viewpoints can help one formulate their own more strongly.


This is a fine book. I might disagree on some little point, but how could that not be the case in any detailed work in systematic theology or Bible doctrine? I happily recommend this book to anyone interested in studying the great doctrines of the Bible.

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.