Job (NIVAC) by Walton

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When I think of John Walton, I tend to think of Genesis as it seems those titles have received more press. He is a widely-published, influential author, and I felt it would be interesting to check out this work on Job in the NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC) series. What I found upon opening this work was exceptional writing, clear statement of scholarly options, and no fear to reach his own conclusions. On the other hand, I found as I often have before with him, that he reaches many conclusions that I couldn’t agree with. I’m not suggesting that agreement with me is a benchmark you need to consider in evaluating a book, but I wonder if many pastors will find his conclusions too far afield even if he is technically a “conservative” scholar.

In the Introduction, he states that Job is not on trial in the book. I’ve never thought that was the purpose of Job. Perhaps Walton is too hard on Job and God. Job won’t stand as a role model in his mind even if many of us have drawn great inspiration from him. He lets his conclusions on genre determine his thoughts of the trustworthiness of Job’s history and finds it lacking. He doesn’t see Satan as the Devil. Several of these conclusions will make it impossible to traverse the territory we normally do in Job.

The book gives much better help in individual passages. Perhaps he will serve as a foil to help you not carelessly reach old conclusions, or at least force you to think them out more carefully. The personal insights of “Kelly’s Story”, a student of his whose disability entails much suffering, do remind us how challenging the story of Job is. Walton has written extensively on OT theology and that shows up in some helpful ways as well.

This volume isn’t my favorite NIVAC one, but the set including this one is worth obtaining.

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.

Sermons on 2 Timothy by Calvin

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The trifecta is complete! With this edition of sermons on 2 Timothy, Banner of Truth carries the day by now having in print all of Calvin’s sermons on the Pastoral Epistles. Their coup stands more pronounced by the masterful translation Robert White accomplished in these volumes. There has been a volume of select sermons in an older translation, but all these sermons on the Pastorals in a quality English translation were unobtainable until now. The triumph concludes with these volumes being printed in lovely, quality editions that will last for generations.

The quality and set up mirror the previous two releases. Mr. White provides sermons titles and, mercifully, uses modern punctuation. (A comparison of other Calvin sermons translated by others proves how vital translation is to older sermons).  There’s a brief introduction that places these sermons in Calvin’s career. Calvin’s own difficulty in ministry, as Mr. White well explains, makes these sermons passionate. He provides a few more paragraphs to explain how Calvin approaches this epistle. As before, the book ends with “prayers before and after the sermon” giving more insight into Calvin’s practice in preaching.

Also as before, you need not think this volume is only for someone who subscribes to the theological system that bears Calvin’s name. Calvin is a master preacher who handles the text in a way that instructs on how to preach as well as it informs on the passage the sermon addresses. In that sense, it’s a double success that demands a place on every pastor’s shelves. Whether you agree with every line or not, these sermons are pure gold!

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.

Understanding the Creation–Another New Carta Release!

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You will not have encountered a work on Creation like this new title by Menashe Har-El before! It’s not a polemic on Creation, but a look at the landscape of Israel fashioned by the hands of the Creator. He has already co-authored the outstanding Understanding the Geography of the Bible in this same lavish photogenic series of unique books (9 X 12 inches) that wonderfully supplement your atlas library.

After an Introduction that overviews the physical aspects of Israel, there’s a section based on “who laid the foundations of the earth” from Psalm 104 that describes how the land formed the way it did. Several Scriptures are marshaled to make the case. Next, there is a section on volcanic activity and how it shaped Israel. Earthquakes and waves are also reviewed. The Book of Job is mined thoroughly in putting this incredible picture together.

He looks at stone, rock, and flint (zur), as well as gold. From there, he surveys iron, copper, and other raw materials. The book turns toward early craftsmen in Israel before looking at trees and other vegetation. You will be surprised by all the author uncovers.

As you would expect, the Carta maps, graphs, and other pictorial treasures are featured to advantage throughout. All these specialty atlases are a treat and this one is no exception!

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.

Knowing God Through the Old Testament by Christopher J. H. Wright

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Having three titles by Christopher J. H. Wright between the covers of one attractive hardback is a treat indeed. I’ve found all his writings to be theologically perceptive, devotionally warm, and personally helpful. He reminds me much of his mentor, John Stott, only that the Old Testament is his specialty while Stott’s was the New Testament. That’s not to say that he mimics him in any way, just that he writes with that same spiritual penetration. The scholarship is always topnotch, but the spiritual concerns just rank a little higher—as of course they should.

These three titles deserve to be together. You can figure that out by the titles alone. Knowing God the Father Through the Old Testament, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, and Knowing the Holy Spirit Through the Old Testament weave together perfectly to take the role of each member of the Trinity as revealed in the Old Testament in this compilation.

The book on Jesus was the first title written back before it became apparent that he would pen the trilogy. It has been popular enough to call for the second edition in 2014, which is the edition here. The latter two books were originally published by publishers other than IVP. This edition will the one you will want for all three titles.

Since I happened to be studying the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, I really dug into that title for this review. What the Old Testament has to say on the Spirit is somewhat more obscure than the later revelation of the New Testament and help is appreciated. Wright masterfully found the Spirit on the pages of the Old Testament in five chapters on the Creating Spirit, the Empowering Spirit, the Prophetic Spirit, the Anointing Spirit, and the Coming Spirit. He really helped me crystallize my thinking in places where I really needed the help. Glancing through the other two, I what the same clear thinking and good writing throughout.

This book is a treasure that you simply must have at hand. I love it and highly 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.

Understanding the Gospels as Ancient Jewish Literature–a New Carta Title!

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Carta continues its line of interesting, creative, and colorful titles that address something that you will be hard pressed to find somewhere else here in this lovely volume. Though only 40 pages, they are 40 large (9 x 12inches) eye-appealing pages. In every case, Carta’s unparalleled Bible atlas resources fill out the work of a text prepared by an accomplished scholar. In this title, Jeffrey Garcia, takes the Gospels and looks for what they reveal about ancient Judaism. Really, it’s a look at how the Gospels and Judaism shed light on each other.

The introductory section covers the journey of scholarship on these issues. He works his way through a succession of what he calls sources for understanding the Gospels including the Hebrew Bible, other Jewish literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, rabbinic literature, and Philo.

Even better is the section that delves into the geography of Israel in the times of the Gospels. The pictures and maps here are superb. From there, he takes us through Jewish political history. Be sure to check out the chart on the family of Herod the Great. Then, as you might have predicted, he looks at Jewish life in those days in a helpful, detailed section that covers several pages.

In the section on Jewish styles of teaching that exams Jesus’ use of parables as well as Halakhah. Along the way, you get a penetrating overview of Jewish methods of Bible interpretation. The final section looks at some unique elements of what Jesus shared with insights from Judaism.

I’ve you’ve had the privilege to use some of these titles from Carta, you know what to expect. Mark this down as another title worthy of the reputation that Carta has developed over the years.

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.

Psalms 73-150 (NAC) by Daniel Estes

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Well, we’ve been waiting for this one for a long time! The New American Commentary (NAC) series came out in a fairly timely manner, but the Psalms had to be reassigned for undisclosed reasons. In any event, the editors secured Daniel Estes to cover Psalms 73-150 in this volume and redeemed the lost time by securing this greater firepower of a seasoned commentator. He has already made his mark in the Wisdom books by writing a handbook on the Wisdom books and Psalms as well as commentaries on Job and Solomon’s Song. He’s the kind of scholar you need for a commentary like this NAC volume and he delivers!

Since this volume will be the second on the Psalms in the NAC series, the overall introduction to Psalms will appear in the forthcoming volume. I’ve just heard that Mr. Estes has signed on to do the volume on Psalms 1-72. It likely will take a few years, but I’m excited that he will get to give us a complete work on the Psalms now. Still, in this volume there is for now an introduction for how Mr. Estes approaches Psalms 73-150.

Pastors, especially, will appreciate his approach (though I imagine scholars will be pleased as well). For each psalm, he provides a look at form, structure, and setting, quality commentary, a succinct summary of theme, a brief look at intertextuality, the main theology, and a section on response to help a believer use the psalm to advantage.

I evaluated this commentary by reviewing some psalms that I had recently studied and that were more freshly on my mind. I liked what I found in this book! This volume will be much help to a wide variety of users. I’ve said for years that this series is the best overall for pastors because it balances so well all the goals you might have for thoughtful but not overly voluminous commentary. In addition, it doesn’t hurt that it will only cost about two-thirds to half of what you will pay for most commentaries. 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.

The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson

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There’s no doubt that Sinclair Ferguson is a savvy theological writer. There’s no doubt that the Contours of Christian Theology series by IVP is a theological heavyweight either. While I couldn’t exactly call this my favorite Ferguson title, it did dig deep as the series is known to do. Books in this series don’t merely regurgitate the main tenets of a doctrine but linger where it makes sense to look under stones where treasure might be found. I always reach for this series when I’m starting a detailed study of a particular doctrine.

Chapter 1 introduces the Holy Spirit in an effort to shorten the distance that stands between Him and most believers while explaining all kinds of theological perspectives. Chapter 2 looks at the Spirit of Christ by explaining “Paraclete” and scoping out the relationship between Christ and the Spirit. Chapter 3 looks at the gift of the Spirit by examining Pentecost. Chapter 4 tackles the ongoing aspects of Pentecost. Chapters 5 through 7 wades through the Spirit’s role in salvation. I felt the author bogged down in a pet subject here. His theological positions are well known, and whether you agree or not, perhaps some of this would have fit better in a different book. Chapter 8 looks at other issues involving the Spirit and salvation like first fruits and sealing. Chapter 9 reviews the relationship between the Spirit and the body before chapter 10 dives into the explosive territory of gifts. The final chapter on the “Cosmic Spirit” serves as a great conclusion.

Ferguson always stretches my mind. Whether I agree with him or not, I always find a warmness of one who loves Christ as he writes. There’s no way I’d study the Spirit and not see what he has to say.

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.

Romans (ZEC) by Frank Thielman

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The Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (ZECNT) continues its sustained excellence in this latest release on Romans by Frank Thielman. Thielman has already proven his commentary writing skills by writing a well-received work on that other deep Pauline Epistle of Ephesians. In addition, he’s written on Paul as well as New Testament theology. Writing a commentary on Romans would be, I would guess, one of the toughest assignments, but as you can see, he is up to the task. Besides the necessary credentials to predict a winning commentary, Thielman’s actual results live up to expectations.

The Introduction was not as full as in some such works, but what he did tackle met with superb results. The historical background came alive as he took us back to the Rome of Paul’s day. The way he transported us to those days was far more captivating than the normal sterile approach that we commonly meet. When he transitioned into Christianity in Rome it only got better as was the section where he brought Paul’s life into the equation. There’s a little on the text of Romans before we get an outline and bibliography.

I’m a fan of the unique approach to every passage. It’s far superior to others that have tried to make its own way like, say, WBC. You get literary context, main idea, diagrammed translation, structure, exegetical outline, all followed by a quality explanation of the text and concluded with theology in application. In my view, that covers all the right bases. Thielman uses that design to advantage here in one of the most important epistles of the New Testament.

The competition is fierce on Romans but mark this down as a winner all the way.

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 Marriage Knot by Ron and Jody Zappia

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The marriage knot shared in this book ultimately ties the couple to Christ in a “cord of three strands”. Along the way we dig into the seven areas the authors feel are essential to a marriage successfully staying together. Authors Ron and Jody Zappia themselves almost lost their marriage early on because of Ron’s infidelity. Meeting a pastor who introduced them to Christ at that pivotal time avoided the complete shipwreck even if there were gashes in the hull of their relationship. The seven principles are presented as what was slowly learned the hard way, yet still, the revelations that led to a beautiful relationship these many years later.

They teach on these pages with the accurate assumption that we all come to marriage clueless of the most important things that make it work. I found some comfort in that approach as I’m 20 years in and am still learning and am still shocked about how far I have to go. If you are like me, you will appreciate the tone of this book. It’s not heavy-handed, doesn’t talk down to you, and presents its contents with a you-can-do-it attitude.

The book reads as if you were at a marriage conference. While that means it may not have the polish of some marriage books, it communicates personally and clearly.

At this point of a review, I usually discuss the contents of the book but think it better, in this case, to make you wait until you read it to get their 7 principles. You’ll probably think as you read that you could have guessed some of them yourself. It’s not that they present things you’ve never read in other marriage books but that they present them collectively. I’m no expert but they seem to be arguing that you could do several of the seven wonderfully and still loosen your marriage knot by overlooking a few of them. Succeeding in marriage is so challenging that you’ll likely need a lot of good marriage books. I know I do. This book is a fine one to add to your 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.

Foundations of the Christian Faith by Boice

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Here’s a book that deserves to slide not only onto your shelves among your important systematic theologies, but also to be open on your desk. James Montgomery Boice was the quintessential pastor-scholar. In other words, there’s real scholarly depth in what he shares to go along with a full-orbed real-life outlook. I’ve used several of his volumes that cover books of the Bible to real profit. I’ve seen glowing recommendations in book review sources printed in the 1980s of the original four volumes that later turned into this volume as well as the current reviews that suggest the luster hasn’t faded as is often the case in many academic titles. It’s nice to finally get my own crack at it.

What, then, is my own opinion of its value? Strangely enough, I opened it first to the section on the Spirit of God because I had been doing some in-depth study on that doctrine. I noticed two things quickly: a) he had something to say that was worth wrestling with, and b) it was not a regurgitation of what I just recently read in the well-known systematic theologies I consulted.  As I looked further into the book, I then saw that the section on the Spirit wasn’t even the best one in the book!

The book is an attractive hardback that also now has a study guide. I don’t agree with every conclusion he arrives at, but this is a quality resource. Better still, for pastors, it will help you see how to take deep theological concepts and make them palpable to those in the pew without devolving into watered-down, calorie-free doctrine trying to pass itself off as a real theological meal.

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.