Ecclesiastes: Life in a Fallen World by Benjamin Shaw

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Benjamin Shaw finds a helpful message in Ecclesiastes that he delivers in this book. Since most modern works on Ecclesiastes tell us that we can find nothing more than a dark, depressing diatribe on its pages, this book is a breath of fresh air! In my view, though I readily admit both a need and use of modern exegetical commentaries, I’m convinced that works of this sort are equally needed. Whether you fully agree with Mr. Shaw or not, you will have to love how he opens up the positive possibilities of Ecclesiastes.

In the brief forward, Mr. Shaw makes us feel that we are trusty hands. He has no doubt about Ecclesiastes place in the canon of Scripture, he has no trouble seeing a clear message on its pages, and he has no disdain to say that Solomon is its author. If you survey works on Ecclesiastes, you will soon discover how difficult it is to find works that abide by these three simple, conservative viewpoints. By default, this book’s going to give you some helpful things that some books many times larger have no hope of delivering.

As the subtitle suggests, he sees Ecclesiastes as a book that will help the believer live in a fallen world. I might quibble with a few of his observations, but feel he provides insights in all 22 of his chapters of the most helpful nature. Whether it be pastors preparing messages, Sunday School teachers working out lessons, or any Bible student just attempting to dig out the Word of God, you can’t go wrong with 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.

Genesis (TOTC) by Andrew Steinmann

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Prolific commentator Andrew Steinmann has produced this replacement volume on Genesis in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series. As with several of these replacement volumes, they are a little thicker than those they replaced. In this case, Steinmann has replaced Derek Kidner, who is the master of the briefer commentary. That being said, Steinmann has proven to be more conservative and dependable at key points even if Kidner’s pithiness may never be matched. As great as Kidner was, I’m not sure if I ever liked him on Genesis as much as I did on other books that he wrote on anyway. As for Steinmann, this is my first foray into his works. Though he has written massive commentaries on Ezra and Nehemiah, Proverbs, and Daniel, they were part of the Concordia Commentary series of which I am not familiar. In any event, Steinmann did prove adept at matching the TOTC style.

He begins his Introduction describing the foundational place of Genesis in the Old Testament. He well explains the traditional view of the Pentateuch as being the work of Moses including his marshaling of the witness of the New Testament. To meet scholarly demands, he well describes the Documentary Hypothesis too. Though he was gentle, it’s so easy to see that that hypothesis should be relegated to the trash heap of history. He does a fine job discussing literary features and addressing the historical and archaeological issues that so often plague studies of the Book of Genesis. He uses a few helpful tables and charts before he gets into the theological themes of the book. Fortunately, he doesn’t hesitate to highlight the messianic promise of Christ. He provides a lengthy outline for analysis as well.

The commentary was conservative and wonderful. He knew how to succinctly overview scholarly thoughts before giving some guidance without pushing the book beyond reasonable length requirements. I worked through his commentary on the creation of man and the Fall and felt his comments were ideal for what this series is trying to accomplish. Pastors will love this book and it could easily be the best volume now to put in the hands of the serious Bible students in our congregations.

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 [Second Edition] (BECNT) by Thomas Schreiner

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Thomas Schreiner’s volume on Romans in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (BECNT) series has been one of the top-rated commentaries on this pivotal doctrinal book of the New Testament since its release in 1998. That the publishers would ask for a second edition rather than a new contribution is of no surprise at all. Don’t miss his preface to the second edition as he explains the major contributions that have come out since his original work and the passages (Romans 2:14-15, 5:12, 7:13-25) where he has altered his conclusions. He describes these changes as “a different direction in defining the righteousness of God”. Works he has released during the intervening 20 years between these two editions have already revealed that he has moved to an even stronger reformed position, particularly on the subject of justification. Most second editions don’t kindly point out where to expect changes as he has done in this preface, so I believe he should be congratulated. As for these changes themselves, those of a more reformed persuasion will only like this new edition better while those who are not as much of that persuasion will not find enough passages involved to downgrade the commentary. At the end of the day, no matter where you fall on that spectrum, this is still an outstanding work in a respected series by a major scholar.

Since I had the first edition on hand to compare, I can let you know that the Introduction is not majorly changed. The layout is better, there’s occasional editing, and most of the new content is near the end on rhetoric and structure. Still, it doesn’t seem dated, especially as he adds new references to more recent scholarly works, and because he tackles the key issues that introductions ought to address rather than esoteric scholarly preoccupations that often sound ridiculous 20 years later. Without question, this commentary would still be one of the places I would turn to consult introductory issues.

The commentary is clear and helpful, up to anyone’s scholarly requirements, and insightful where needed. He does better than most at putting what should be in footnotes in their proper place so the commentary itself flows better. Even if you aren’t as reformed as he is, you can get a clear explanation of those viewpoints in those passages where it’s most debated. The BECNT format is helpful to the reader and he follows it well. Without being overly verbose, he gives Romans the meaty treatment it deserves.

This second edition is so well done that I predict it will easily remain near the top for another 20 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.

Galatians: a Commentary by Craig Keener

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Craig Keener turns out massive scholarly books at a rate unmatched by anyone I can think of. More impressive, they tend to be quite highly rated. Though I haven’t personally used it, his recent multivolume commentary on Acts is already legendary for its scope. To be honest, I wondered if this commentary on Galatians would be dry or overly padded. It wasn’t. I was pleasantly surprised at the engaging quality of the writing. Though there are some paragraphs that pastors can afford to overlook and copious footnotes, bibliography, and indices, I felt the commentary itself was the perfect length for a true in-depth exegetical commentary. He has a knack for surveying scholarly opinion and providing clarity in telling you what he concludes that is truly helpful whether you agree with him or not.

The Introduction for Galatians that followed his translation and outline for the book could fairly be labeled to-the-point. He began by sharing insights on how Galatians has been interpreted historically including a nod to Luther. From there, he addressed whether Galatians is an apocalyptic letter. He tackled author, provenance, and date with a skillful thoroughness. Without a doubt, you will have all the information you need to conclude on Galatian’s date after you read here. He defined Paul’s audience and laid out the well-known North Galatia versus South Galatia hypotheses that scholars have been debating for years before landing on the North Galatian side himself. Next, he gets into another debatable area, this time that of Paul’s opponents in Galatians. He gives, perhaps, his most detailed attention to this subject in his introduction. I found it really enlightening as that was not a debate I had deeply considered before. Finally, he looked at structure, rhetoric, polemic, before he gave a short summary of the effectiveness of Paul’s letter.

The commentary proper runs from page 47 to 588. I’m, again, impressed at his balance between thoroughness and effectiveness. No doubt, he will address some topics that only scholars will find interesting, but I fail to see how anyone couldn’t get help in understanding what each passage is addressing. You could be like me, and not agree with his conclusions as much as you might with some other commentators, but it is his laying out the issues, explanations of word meanings, and stellar historic and scholarly background that makes this book such an asset. Though it’s not in one of the major series, I suspect it will be as influential as if it were. If you are a scholar, I imagine his footnotes and bibliography will be a gold mine for you. Perhaps the book could have used a few pages of conclusion for the letter as a whole after the commentary, but I certainly can’t think of anything else that you will find lacking here. Like the best of commentaries, he will share his conclusions, but his real help is giving you the information to draw your own. That always wins for me.

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 Second Book of Samuel (NICOT) by David Tsumura

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David Toshio Tsumura has finally completed the second volume in his now two-volume set covering the books of Samuel. It’s great to see that the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT) series now has both books of Samuel covered. After I’ve carefully looked this book over, I feel that maybe his first volume was not fairly evaluated. Even when I reviewed the first volume myself, I think I missed how high of quality this book really is. Most have said that the author is a fine philologist, but perhaps the overall impact of this commentary is not as keen as others. Since I took more time with this second volume to understand his approach, I want to greatly upgrade the ranking I would give to it and now label it as totally top-notch. I fear that some have graded him more for his opinion about MT texts over the LXX and other variants than for his actual work. What we really have here is a superior approach linguistically to most commentaries on the market today as well as solid commentary for readers.

He begins his introduction by explaining his approach to textual criticism. I found it to be totally refreshing. Most textual critics today butcher the text, even lord over it trying to tell us what we can receive or not receive, but his approach allows the Scripture to speak for itself. What is brilliant about it is how he proves it at a linguistic level. I don’t possess that specialty but found him easy to follow as I read. He gets into the genre, style, discourse, and structure, before he gets into the message of the book. His section on themes and theology is not long, but good as far as it goes. His outline is as good as anyone’s and his bibliography is quite extensive.

I dug into his commentary for my favorite II Samuel passages, passages that I was most familiar with and have studied before. I found that he continued to make his brilliant linguistic points while truly contributing thoughtful reflection on what the text was saying. He also always stayed close to the text which is what we are really looking for in a commentary, wouldn’t you agree?

Some may be influenced by the reviews given for his first commentary, but I recommend you check it out for yourself. As for me, it is a five-star volume 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.

Joshua (NIVAC) by Hubbard

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The word on the street was that this commentary by Robert Hubbard in the NIVAC series was one of the best that the series had to offer and with it now in my hands, I can understand why. That is no small accomplishment when you consider that Joshua has never been thought of as the easiest book of the Bible from which to draw present-day application. That’s not to criticize that wonderful book of Scripture, but to admit that there are many issues in it that do not exactly line up with modern sensibilities. This commentary is full of keen observations and thoughtful application. I really can’t agree with all its historical and textual conclusions, but if you will look past those things what is left is of much value.

The introduction, quite frankly, is a little spotty. He is pretty good at explaining the tension between the viewpoints of Joshua’s day and our own. His brief summary of the contents of the book was fair but not deep. His explanation of Joshua himself brought out some fine points. Again, though he was fair to mention that there is an early date viewpoint out there, I don’t personally agree with his dating. If you do, you’ll like the book even more. He can be quite speculative when he talks about the Deuteronomic influence in the book. His thoughts on the theological themes in the book are much better and a chart demonstrating the echoes of Moses’ life in Joshua’s life was outstanding. After a brief outline, he gives a select bibliography that’s quite lengthy for one of these volumes.

It’s in the challenging passages of Joshua where this commentary comes alive. It takes the NIVAC format of original meaning, bridging contexts, and contemporary significance and uses that template to advantage. The depth of description in the original meaning section was impressive throughout. No one can offer applications that will ring true for every reader in every passage, but this one does a fine job for us.

I would check other volumes for historical matters, but this one delivers explanation and application with the best of them. 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.

Now My Eyes Have Seen You (NSBT) by Robert Fyall

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The wide-ranging, impressive New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series here jumps into the Book of Job. Perhaps the editorship of D. A. Carson keeps this series running at a high pace, but in any event, I’ve seen this book by Robert S. Fyall often favorably mentioned. The author understands that Job has been subjected to widely differing interpretations. Fyall sees creation and evil as the key to understanding Job.

You may not agree with his total outlook, but the book’s value stands out most of all in its ability to highlight the masterful Hebrew poetry involved while also doing detailed exegesis on several passages that bring to light the key thinking behind the book of Job. What he has to say about the Behemoth and Leviathan was certainly new territory for me. I couldn’t agree with all his conclusions, but they are worth wrestling with. Make sure you take in his concluding chapter on “the vision glorious” as he ties together much of the detail he collects throughout the book.

There’s not a dud in this series and this book has caught the eye of all who write on Job. You had better check it out!

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.

First and Second Samuel by Eugene Peterson

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I’ve enjoyed books by Eugene Peterson over the years. On the one hand, he’s a great spiritual help in our out-of-control world while he is, on the other hand, a fine encourager for pastors. He knows how to make you slow down to think and always pushes you toward thoughtful reflection. What I’m not used to seeing is Peterson showing up in a commentary series. Since this series (Westminster Bible Companion) is directed at laymen I’m not as familiar with it as I am with others. Apparently, it aims to do for laymen what the Interpretation Bible Commentary series might do for pastors or students: give thoughtful theological commentary from a critical perspective. What I’ve learned from a little research is that Peterson has contributed this work and made it unlike the others in the series. Truth be told, nobody cares because Peterson is always worth reading, and for that matter, some may like his style more than the typical ones found in this series anyway.

You will see what I mean the moment you read the introduction. There are almost none of the issues you find in a typical introduction for a commentary. When he talks about story, history, or God, he’s not really talking about them as much about the books of Samuel as he is how we ought to think about them in general. It appears to me that with very little editing he could have written this introduction for any book of the Bible. For the record, he overplays the whole “storyteller” idea too.

In any event, his few paragraphs on every passage are a joy to read as they are so out-of-the-box and spiritually minded. To be sure, sometimes I think he’s talking about something that is not really in the passage at all, yet I’m usually happy to go digging for nuggets where I’m sure to find some. In this book, if you will dig among the stones, you will find those nuggets. This book may not be as valuable as some others I’ve read by Peterson, but as always, it is a good 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.

The Ten Commandments (I) by Patrick Miller

 

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Perhaps you are familiar with volumes in the Interpretation Bible Commentary (IBC) series on various books of the Bible. Those volumes don’t dig too deep in exegesis but excel at providing theological implications within the text. Though that theology is much more liberal than my thinking, I’m often challenged to think of things that I would have otherwise overlooked. I’ve discovered that the Interpretation series has additional volumes on a variety of scriptural topics like this one on the 10 Commandments. What has surprised me when I picked up this volume by Patrick Miller is the depth of content that really unpacks these commandments while still pointing out the theology this series loves.

With every commandment studied Miller explains the commandment in depth, what it means, how it has been applied, the moral issues involved, and how it relates or is expanded to other Scripture. My only complaint is the occasional sentence that totally capitulates to modern progressive norms. The wise Bible student can get around those because this volume digs out too much needed information to miss.

This book impresses me. I can’t imagine ever studying the 10 Commandments as a whole or one of the individual ones without consulting this book in the future. I rank it higher than any IBC I have ever used. I’d even call it the ideal place to begin for study of the 10 Commandments.

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.

1 & 2 Kings (NIVAC) by Konkel

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Professor August H. Konkel produced this commentary on 1&2 Kings in the New International Version Application Commentary (NIVAC) series. Its greatest strength lies in what the series itself aims at: application for our day. Without doubt, the scholarship that undergirds the work is solid, but the scholarly issues that he makes his focus might be less helpful than if he had, say, dove more deeply in the structure or broad themes of the book.

In fact, it is in the introduction that this becomes clear. Perhaps I overgeneralize, but he makes the theme of his introduction that of the Books of Kings being Deuteronomic history.  That emphasis almost exclusively thinks in terms of genre and composition. Even his review of the “prophetic character of Kings” is viewed from that rubric. I feel that there are clearly better options to serve as an overall guide for Kings. If you are of his mind, you will probably rank this volume as “great”.

Despite that caveat, I still can fully recommend this book for its commentary and application. Maybe I’m crazy, but somehow he reminded me of John Walton who has also written in this series. The book increases in value, too, when you consider how few volumes guide us in that last link of the chain called application.

For the record, what was slightly annoying in the introduction was in no way overwhelming in the commentary proper. I should stress again that the scholarship itself is well done. I see much evidence of careful study and thoughtful reflection. He is never trite or trivial, so you will get plenty of needed help for this often-neglected portion of Scripture.

While there are a few volumes in the NIVAC series that I enjoyed a little more, this commentary is a solid effort that I without hesitation recommend for your library.

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.