2 Peter and Jude (IVPNT) by Harvey and Towner

book ivp pet jude

Robert Harvey and Philip Towner joined forces to contribute this commentary on the similar letters of 2 Peter and Jude in the IVP New Testament Commentary (IVPNT) series. Mr. Towner has also written the commentary on the Pastoral Epistles in this series while Mr. Harvey was a pastor of many years. You could tell which one was the pastor and which one was the scholar, though in both cases the pastor was scholarly and the scholar was pastoral. Maybe my bias as a pastor causes me to enjoy Mr. Harvey’s commentary on 2 Peter more, but we can appreciate Mr. Towner stepping in after the untimely death of Mr. Harvey.

Mr. Harvey begins his Introduction to 2 Peter by jumping into the background of the book, including authorship. I appreciate that he has no trouble believing Peter wrote this work, and even to trace Peter’s marveling at being forgiven throughout the letter. He dispenses with some of the stranger features of genre study, and moves on into the style and vocabulary of Peter. He gives further discussion of topics in 2 Peter, canonicity, date (A.D. 65 to 68), and origin and destination. In discussing Peter’s purpose, he talks about strengthening the brothers and seeing God’s actions in our lives. Next, he tackles the historical background of Peter’s world before he concludes and gives an outline of the book. The commentary was thoughtful, helpful, and seemed to find the heart of every passage.

Mr. Towner begins his Introduction to Jude by explaining the book’s neglect today. He explains the historical background of Jude’s time before he discusses questions of authorship and date. He seems at least open that Jude could have been the writer, yet is uncertain about the date. Next, he discusses the theological character of this book. In it he sees a redemptive story and a Trinitarian outlook. He sees Jude’s technique as working through apocalyptic too. Further, he discusses eschatology, the church, and faith as seen in the Book of Jude. As is common in most commentaries on Jude, when he gets into the literary character of Jude he talks about Jude’s use of Midrash and the similarities with 2 Peter. He closes by explaining the opponents that Jude faces in the writing and some thoughts on our reading Jude today. As we said before, the commentary itself has more of a scholarly feel.

This commentary is a fine, economical choice if you are entering into a study of these two books that receive less attention than most. You will find good help 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.

2 Great Books on the Doctrine of Christ

book mess christ

The Message of the Person of Christ by Robert Letham

This book by Robert Letham on the message and Person of Christ is in the well -received Bible Speaks Today (BST) series edited by Derek Tidball. I found the book to be pitched at just the right level for the aims of this series and helpful for Christians new and old. It was thoroughly accessible and even included a nice study guide at the end.

There’s 24 chapters in five sections entitled Christ promised, Christ incarnate, Christ crucified, Christ risen, and Christ ascended. The book begins with a quite lengthy bibliography followed by a short introduction of what the author hopes to accomplish in this book. There’s also a prologue explaining man as being in the image of God.

The section on “Christ promised” explains Christ as the offspring of the woman, and then tackles the important subjects of Jesus being of the seed of Abraham and the son of David. Further, he sees Jesus as King as related to us in the Old Testament, followed by two chapters that cover the Servant of the Lord passages in the Book of Isaiah that are about Jesus Christ.

In the next section, the author begins by describing the birth of Christ. I would have expected a lengthier section on the Virgin Birth of Christ, but what we have is very good here. Jesus is followed through His ministry and His humanity before we finally come to the deity of Christ in chapters 11 through 14. There’s much to learn here.

The balance of the book from various angles covers the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. The author relates many wonderful thoughts here. In fact, I’d call this a great overview. There is an appendix studying church history on this important doctrine.

This book is the perfect first in-depth book to study on the doctrine of Christ for any Christian. I warmly 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.


book person christ

The Person of Christ by Donald MacLeod

Here’s the book on the doctrine of Christ you need if you really want to dig deep, both about the doctrine itself and its historical development. Frankly, it taught me so much. It’s part of the respected Contours of Christian Theology series edited by Gerald Bray and published by IVP.

I thought the author’s approach was unique and ideal. He took most of the main concepts of the doctrine and traced the debate that formalized them in church history. In fact, he took these concepts in the order that they were debated. Along the way, he fully explained each doctrine, the viewpoints that fall short of an accurate Christology, and a wonderful definition of some of the more obscure theological terms. Though he covered concepts that are barely mentioned in many theological works, I found him easy-to-read and follow. In short, I loved this book.

He divides the book into two sections. Part one goes from the Gospels to Nicea, which he calls “very God of very God” and traces out the deity of Christ. In this section, he will cover the virgin birth, the preexistence of Christ, Christ as the Son of God, and the Jesus of history and the faith.  Those last two chapters of that section I found to be profound and so helpful to me.

Part two goes from Chalcedon on through most major theological questions on the doctrine of Christ, which he calls “very God, very man”. In this section, he discussed the Incarnation, the fact of Jesus being perfect both as God and man. He beautifully explained the Kenosis of Christ, as well as the sinlessness of Christ. I have several pages with a multitude of underlined sentences that were greatly illuminating for me.

I wouldn’t necessarily call this the first book to pick up if you were studying the doctrine of Christ, especially if it was your first time to do so; but if you really want to dig out this doctrine, you cannot pass by this great book. I’ll put it in the must-by category for sure!

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.

Exodus (EEC) by Eugene Carpenter–Two Great Volumes

book exodus eec

Volume 1

Volume 1 in Eugene Carpenter’s two-volume set on Exodus in the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (EEC) series covers Exodus 1 – 18. I heard discussion as far back as 2003 of a coming, major commentary on Exodus by Mr. Carpenter as one to be highly anticipated. As it turns out, and as the acknowledgment explained, Mr. Carpenter completed the work just days before his accidental death in 2012. It is a blessing that the work was finished before his death.

Since the EEC began as a digital commentary series, it’s exciting to see these two volumes available as a hardback for a wider audience. I imagine this commentary will continue to raise the reputation of this budding commentary series.

Mr. Carpenter begins the Introduction with a discussion of textual issues. He concludes that the text is well preserved. He further explains the significance of the title as well as the canonicity of Exodus, which has not been majorly challenged. When he discusses authorship, he concludes: “Moses was most likely the focal inspired author-editor and originator of the Pentateuch and thus of Exodus, with the gifted Joshua and possibly Eleazer serving as important early inspired editors or contributors.” While my beliefs would be even more conservative than that, it’s clear he’s more conservative than most of the major Old Testament commentaries on Exodus we have today. He’s a little more nebulous on date and gives too much credence to some of the critical theories out there. Still, I was pleased when he discussed the history of the book that he said, “the events in Exodus are real history; it is accurate history as intended by the author”.

Next, he goes into the theological elements of the book. In that section, he discusses the God who speaks and acts, the people of God, and Exodus: a lasting paradigm. After a brief discussion of structure, he gives a detailed outline and a select bibliography.

The commentary section is very full. For each passage he gives an introduction, a translation, textual notes, and very detailed commentary verse by verse, all followed by biblical theology, application and devotional implications, and a selected bibliography for the passage itself.

This commentary by Eugene Carpenter is clearly a top-three commentary for what we have available today. I imagine it will be used for many years to come and I highly recommend.

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.

Volume 2

The second volume by Eugene Carpenter in the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (EEC) series covers Exodus 19 through 40. The commentary maintains the high standards set in volume 1. Without a doubt, this is a major exegetical commentary on Exodus. Mr. Carpenter has clearly done a great deal of work that he shares here.

The Introduction that Mr. Carpenter writes for Exodus is in volume 1. This volume picks up at 19:1 with the same type of commentary we saw in the earlier volume. He has an introduction for each passage, followed by a translation, verse by verse commentary, biblical theology comments, application and devotional implications, and a selected bibliography for that passage.

The work is deep, full, and yet accessible. He succeeds on the exegetical and the theological level. He interacts with some scholarly opinions that I find little value in, but he does provide much that is of great help.

This volume covers the 10 Commandments as well as the ceremonial laws in the later chapters of Exodus. Scholars will find a treasure trove of footnotes for further study.

This work is well done and it is well worth adding to your library. 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.

Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges

book grace

Jerry Bridges has a way of writing that requires you to deeply search your heart. While this volume might not be as famous as a few others he has written, it’s still a bestseller with good reason. He strives to make sure we don’t miss the amazing in grace. I preferred reading it one chapter at a time and then dwelling on what he had to say.

His first chapter on the performance treadmill pulls you in. So much of Christianity has degenerated to this unscriptural performance Christianity. He reminds us that we are so bankrupt, so spiritually bankrupt, that no amount of performance could ever get us anywhere anyway. He explains how we are legalistic by nature and how that warps our thinking. He also begins a discussion of what grace is that carries into the next chapter. There he explains who needs it. If you don’t already know, he makes it clear that you and I do. Chapter 3 discusses how amazing Grace is and chapter 4 uses a well-known parable of Jesus that Mr. Bridges entitles “the generous landowner” to further illustrate grace. That discussion continues in chapter 5 when he asked the question: does God have a right? He explains that we can never obligate God. This was one of my favorite chapters in the book.

Chapter 6 explains how we are compelled by love, not a list of “oughts”. Chapter 7 well explains how the proof of love is obeying Christ’s commandments. Chapter 8 is where Mr. Bridges connects one of the subjects he is most famous for writing on, holiness, with grace. Note the chart on page 121 too. Chapter 9 explains what true freedom is and that it springs from grace. Chapter 10 beautifully describes the sufficiency of grace while chapter 11 proceeds to remind us of the humility we should take on that subject.

Chapter 12 turns even more practical as he describes how to appropriate God’s grace. In that chapter, he describes how we must “die” to produce fruit. There’s more discussion of submitting to God in humility as well. He concludes with a chapter on the garments of grace.

There’s a nice, lengthy discussion guide added to this edition. You will want to check it out.

Reading this book just helped me decide that I need to read everything that Jerry Bridges has written. These newest editions are rather attractive, quality paperback volumes. I began this book wondering if he was even going to go too far, but he beautifully described grace and guided us between legalism and licentiousness. I don’t see how a Christian couldn’t be helped by reading this wonderful book. In fact, we would all be better off if we did.

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 7: Jeremiah-Ezekiel

book ebc 7

Volume 7 of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC), Revised Edition, covers from Jeremiah through Ezekiel, and is another successful updating in the beloved series. This volume contains two brand-new authors with new works and one revision by an author from the original series. It uses the helpful format found in the other volumes of the series.

The Book of Jeremiah is tackled by Michael Brown, replacing the respected Charles Feinberg. He begins the Introduction by describing the world of Jeremiah’s day. Next, he describes the uniqueness of the book of Jeremiah, both in its length and in its contrast between despair and hope. He describes how he comments on the final, canonical form rather than drowning in the nebulous world of sources. After that, he discusses date and authorship, stylistic differences, and his own opinions about editorial activity and sources. I found that to be of little value. When he gets back to historical background he is much more effective. The discussion of background is followed by one of literary style where he discusses issues of structure. He ends with a section on texts and versions, followed by a bibliography and outline. The commentary itself follows the normal style of overview, translation, commentary, and notes. He gives solid exegetical help with commentary of sufficient length for the aims of this series.

Lamentations is done by Paul Farris, Jr., replacing H. L. Ellison. I’ve seen some good press on this commentary, and it appears to be well earned. He begins the Outline discussing title, authorship, date, and historical setting. From there he gets into literary setting where he describes the alphabetic acrostic poetry, the voice, the dirge meter, and city laments in the Ancient Near East. After a brief section on liturgy, he has one on theology. Even including the bibliography and outline this is rather brief. The commentary itself follows the same style mentioned above, but is very detailed and helpful.

The work on Ezekiel has been updated by Ralph Alexander. The Introduction has not been majorly updated, but has a much better appearance. It still covers background, unity and authorship, date, place of origin and destination, occasion and purpose, literary form and structure, and theological values. Some reviewers downgrade Mr. Alexander’s commentary merely because he has a pre-millennial viewpoint. Don’t listen to them. This is a commentary of value.

This is another fine volume that bolsters the status of the EBC, revised edition, and 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.

Guns, Mass Killings, and an Article that Makes Sense of It

We live on the superficial edges of the debate about what conclusions we should draw for the increasingly common disasters like occurred in Las Vegas. Within  hours of the heartbreaking tragedy the discussion turned to guns. First, may God help the grieving people of that evil act!

Some of us have wondered about inconsistencies that have made their way around the web. Were there more shooters? Is information being held back? My conclusion? Who knows. I’ve heard good arguments both ways. My gut is that some things still don’t exactly add up, but I suspect we’ll never really know. I’m not in a place to get answers, and neither are any who read this. 

I’ve been thinking about this whole gun debate ( I’m for honoring the Second Ammendment, but only own old guns handed down to me–I could shoot an intruder, but couldn’t wage a small war). I am a student of history and know that all the atrocious dictatorships, especially of the Twentieth Century, took the guns away before they brutalized and slaughtered millions. I also know that a gun law could never stop someone who already intends to commit a more heinous crime. If I intended to break the law and mass kill people, would a gun law give me even a momentary pause?

On the other hand, I realize that when something terrible, and even senseless, happens, our first reaction is to do something. Unfortunately, human nature is more satisfied in doing something quickly that doing something helpful. Let’s all take a breath and remember there’s no easy answer or quick solution. Even worse, I assure you our problems are much too deep for the superficial, self-sustaining politicians of our day. 

I also know the citizens of our country are going to dismiss with a roll of their eyes my first solution: we need a major turning to God. We need Jesus Christ. Forgive my pessimism, but I suspect things will have to get worse–much worse–before it’s even considered. 

In the meanwhile, there’s some societal trends worth noting. I came across an article that’s so good I wish I had written it. It’s by a master of political writing, Peggy Noonan. I share it below. Don’t haggle over ever sentence, but interact with what she says. I hear truth in her words.

The article 
God bless!

Evangelical Theology by Michael Bird

book bird theo

Michael Bird has found a niche in the world of systematic theologies. His title explains where he’s coming from. He is striving to provide a “genuinely evangelical theology textbook”. While he doesn’t trace out every side path as some of the larger systematic theologies do, he still makes a grand presentation of what the Bible teaches about theology for those who fall in the evangelical category. Mr. Bird writes in a pleasant way that communicates deep subjects for easy understanding.

He divides this theology into eight parts. Prolegomena, the triune God, the kingdom, Jesus Christ, salvation, the Holy Spirit, the Gospel and humanity, and the community (church) are the order in which he approaches the subject of systematic theology. He begins the book with an essay entitled “why an evangelical theology?”. He presents six key factors that have defined where modern evangelicalism is today that really all centers around great debates over the last several centuries. In this essay, he, in his own words, lays his “ecclesial and theological cards on the table”. After discussing his own denominational journey, he describes himself as a follower of Jesus, an evangelical, reformed, broadly Calvinistic, yet I must praise him for his ability not to be boxed in. His confession that he has more background in biblical studies than systematic theology is clear throughout the text, but in my view, makes this a great secondary resource to go along with your favorite major systematic theology.

For purposes of this review, though I scanned the whole book, I carefully interacted what he shared about Christology. It is in this reading I did that I came to really respect this book as a great asset to have for theological study. He covered all the main points of the doctrine, he included a few extras of the unusual questions that sometimes pop up in these studies (like “did Jesus descend into hell?). Most importantly, in places where I didn’t agree with his conclusions, I still learned from him. To my mind, that makes for the ideal theological reading.

I enjoyed this work. I’m happy to have it on my shelf beside several other old standbys. The subject of systematic theology is one where one or two works are simply not enough. I suggest you add this fine work to those you consult on systematic theology.

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.

Faith and Reason by Henri Blocher

book faith reason

Henri Blocher is a respected theologian who delivers here what he calls “a primer on apologetics”. Though I would disagree with him on a few points, he gives much wonderful fodder for the tension between faith and reason. His style reminds me in some degree of C. S. Lewis. He has a knack for making some deep concepts understandable. This is my first encounter with Mr. Blocher, but rank him as a voice worth considering in the area of practical apologetics.

Chapter 1 is something of a historical survey that describes where we’ve come from and where we are today. He makes clear how reason has become in conflict with Scripture. He even explains that many of us feel fatigue because we are required to use reason every day. In chapter 2 he exposes rationalism to the light of Scripture. That entails explaining what rationalism is and how its use can never be free of assumptions. He ends the chapter with explicit explanation of what the Bible teaches on the subject.

Chapter 3 is outstanding as he tackles the rationalistic belief that the Bible is a nebulous book twisted to say whatever the current user wants it to say. That leads to a discussion of the biblical text itself and its trustworthiness. The middle of this chapter is extraordinary in its explanation of the rationalist’s presuppositions that are brought into their conclusions. They see redaction and other things that undermine the trustworthiness of the text because of their own presupposition to reject it. In other words, they present a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Chapter 4 discusses what modern science is, and how a misunderstanding of what it is partly explains why it is so antagonistic to faith. In chapter 5 he disallows the conclusion that scientific research has positively concluded the Bible to be in error. I can’t follow him in what appears to be his belief in theistic evolution, or in his explanation of the reality of miracles in how he still downplays a few of them himself, but still there is much food for thought even in that discussion. I can agree, though, with him and his conclusion that the believer is not to press for miracles because the Lord only uses them on occasion to confirm his message.

At only a little over 100 pages, I imagine this is just right for what many people may want to ponder the dilemma that divides faith and reason. I think everyone would be helped by interacting with what is said here, so I recommend this volume warmly.

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.

Satellite Bible Atlas by Schlegel

book sat b atlas

This Bible Atlas is extraordinary. I’m a Bible Atlas nut, and own most all Bible atlases in print today. Somehow, I had missed this one until now. I’m so impressed with this volume, that if I were forced to have only two Bible atlases in my library I would pick The Carta Bible Atlas for its scholarship and coverage of many Bible events, and this volume by William Schlegel for its conservative viewpoint and typography as well is its coverage.

I’ve seen some other satellite maps of Bible lands, but they are much inferior to this volume. The author here has a much better grasp of what you really need in a Bible Atlas map. The satellite imagery allows you to see at a glance the typography that plays such a part in many Bible episodes. A majority of the maps take up a full-page, which makes them the perfect size. Color, information overlays like direction of movement, and good labeling make these maps ideal.

The text follows the Bible in chronological order and gives all kinds of wonderful information. There is information about the Bible story itself in some cases, plus other topographical information, as well as some discussion of where the Bible site is located and can be found today. Because the author “takes a conservative view of biblical chronology, accepting chronological numbers given in the Bible at face value”, I’d label this volume refreshing.

In addition to the maps and text, several photographs are interspersed throughout the text. Most of the photos are by Todd Bolen, who is one of the best photographers of Bible sites today. There are so many fine maps in this book, and several of them stand out. I especially enjoyed the maps of Jerusalem overlaid upon a topographical map. Don’t miss the regional map on page 148, nor the index to major sites that will be really helpful for more in-depth study.

This Atlas succeeds on all levels! It will make for pleasurable hours and effective study. I give it the highest recommendation!

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.