Joel and Amos (TOTC) by Hadjiev

This latest replacement volume in the time-tested Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series tackles the two important minor prophets of Joel and Amos. While this title follows the format of all the recent replacement volumes in the series, it runs substantially more toward academic concerns than pastoral ones. I fear that this volume might not be as precisely aimed at the target audience of this series as usual.

The author’s previous work on these prophets have been about their composition and redaction. He seems to see the genre as the key to understanding. To be honest, it colors the whole work. Even the introduction dives straight into structural patterns without even an introductory paragraph! Other works in this series address these issues but they do not become as overarching as here. When you think genre is so important and then conclude that these prophets have mixed genres you inevitably will have interpretative issues in several passages. You will notice that throughout the commentary proper as you are introduced to all kinds of good information but sometimes the sum of the parts is substantially less than all the parts you get.

In no way has the author failed to put substantial study behind this work. I don’t want to be overly critical, but his bibliography leans toward much more critical works. I wish more conservative studies and commentaries were better represented.

To be fair, if you were a young scholar trying to wrestle with these particular issues that he stresses you might love this commentary. I even think that if the author were to write a commentary in another series that is aimed primarily at scholars and the issues that currently have captivated the scholarly world, he would probably deliver a highly rated work. On the other hand, I will have to remove a star for pastors and Bible students who would be more interested in what the text means, whom I also envision this series to be produced for. If you are a scholar, you can add the star back.

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.

James (KEL) by Spencer

book james kregel

This latest entry in the Kregel Exegetical Library by Aida Besancon Spencer is another solid entry in the series. I had heard before the book came across my desk that perhaps the theme presented would be focusing on the poor. That seemed like a stretch for sure, but when you actually dig into the book something much more helpful emerges. The author finds four themes in the book of James: how to deal with trials, how to be wise or have wisdom, how to view riches, and what she calls “a fourth unifying thing – becoming doers of the word and not hears only”. She is sensitive to the poor throughout, but that was a simplistic synopsis of this work. The book of James is clearly much about the four themes that she outlines and that sheds light as we read.

The introduction wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter. On authorship she holds the conservative position that this James is the Lord’s brother. She develops grammatical points and word choices that help explain the overall message. She examines early church traditions about the letter James. She goes through the history in a sufficient manner. One of her best contributions is how she takes scholarly criticism against James as the Lord’s brother and knocks them down one by one in vivid fashion. In the section on structure, she explains those themes I mentioned above and how they lead to an understanding of James.

The commentary section is truly helpful. Words are carefully described. There is no doubt that one of this scholar’s strengths is grammatical explanation. The exposition is solid and homiletical hints are given. A word I might use to describe this book is “fresh”. Of course it addresses what other commentaries look at in James, but it gets beyond the tired repeating that is starting to show up in some works. When a scholar seems to be in love with the book they write about, the commentary is always better. That is the case 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.

1, 2, and 3 John (Revised) [WBC] by Stephen Smalley

book 1 2 3 jn wbc

This commentary was originally published in 1983 and was overdue for updating. It appears that revision took place in 2008 and yet we have another new edition coming out at this time with a superior binding. Years ago the WBC series printed nice hardbacks with dust jackets and a few years ago changed to a more case-bound style with some of the earlier reprinted volumes having what would best could be called a shabby cover that simply would not last. I’m happy to see this binding that appears will hold up much better.

At this point, most Bible students are familiar with the WBC format. You either love it or you hate it and it falls on the more scholarly end of the spectrum. It is known, additionally, for its depth of exegesis. That is clearly true in this volume. The most scholarly comments that might not be interesting to pastors or students is in a note section. A section on form, structure, and setting has some interesting help, but the actual commentary is the best section in the book. There is some Greek, but the English is nearby and with just a little effort any serious student can use this book.

The introduction has real depth, though I can’t really follow his description of the Johannine Community. That was something of a fad for a few years and he probably explains it as well as anyone if you would like to understand it. Nevertheless, he digs in on many issues making this an important contribution.

This commentary falls more on the critical side of the scale. For example, this publisher, Zondervan, has a book in its ZECNT series that is much more conservative. On the other hand, Smalley has more evangelical beliefs than many of his fellow critical counterparts. This commentary is by no means the most critical commentary in this series. I would go so far to say that this would be the commentary I would recommend if you preferred conservative commentaries and yet wanted to have one quality more critical commentary just to cover your bases. Smalley reads well even if your own sensibilities run another direction.

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 Letters of John (Pillar)[Second Ed.] by Colin Kruse

book ept john pil

Without a doubt, Colin Kruse’s work on the Letters of John in the Pillar (PNTC) series has been one of the most highly regarded since it was first published 20 years ago. In fact, the whole Pillar series maintains a sterling reputation. In the intervening years, a few series have contributed serious rivals like the BECNT, and just recently the EEC, to Kruse’s work. In any event, it was a wise decision to allow this volume to be updated for a second edition. I judge it a success that will likely extend its usage another 20 years.

From what I can tell this edition is more of a tweaking or a finessing than a serious rewriting. It seems the author has not swayed in his approach to these letters, but does take the opportunity to interact with more recent scholarship. The commentaries listed in his bibliography include almost as many titles released since his original volume as before.

The introduction is solid and arrives at consistently conservative conclusions. His description of the Johannine community makes much more sense than some of the bizarre descriptions in more radical works. He doesn’t just state that John is the author of these letters, but lays out an excellent case surveying both internal and external evidence. His section on structure is overly brief, but most scholars have issues figuring out the structure of these letters anyway. I have read previous criticism of the brevity of his discussion of 2 & 3 John, and it does not appear to be too much longer. I do think, however, it will satisfy most students. His theological approach is fully in line with what users of this series expect. I don’t agree with every conclusion he makes, but see this volume as important and an asset to any student’s library.

This volume is more directed at pastors and serious students, but is scholarly perceptive while not getting stuck in the morass of more scholarly esoteric subjects. If I were going to get two or three important modern commentaries on these letters, I would for sure choose this book as one 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.

1 and 2 Samuel (TOTC) by V. Philips Long

book samuel

Can you imagine the task that you would have before you if you were charged to write a commentary on a portion of scripture the length of both books of Samuel and stick to the typical parameters of the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series? To make it worse, you would have to allow within those constraints that your task was to delve into some of the most beloved stories of scripture. Did V. Phillips Long get the job done? Yes. How did he do it? Pithiness.

The trick would be to make every sentence count. There would be no room for fluff and every paragraph would have to carry quite a load. All of that you will find here. To make it even better, theological accuracy is not sacrificed and getting out such a myriad of details.

You will see the author’s pithiness in the introduction. To be honest, I found it ideal. Unlike many introductions, it sticks to the type of information that will actually do a Bible student much good. I noticed an honesty as well. For example, Long was willing to admit that there is no clear structure to the books of Samuel other than telling the story as it happened. The Lord, of course, develops the appropriate theology in the text. But this story is a history, a history that the Lord carried out in the persons of Samuel, Saul, and David. These stories need no help in being thrilling, only that we not miss the point of those stories.

I read some passages in this commentary that I thought are some of the more challenging to commentate on. Again the value of saying more with less was clear. I found myself nodding in agreement with the theological implications of the text brought out as well. The things in the story that needed explaining were well explained. The goal to illuminate more than the obvious was accomplished.

This is a fine commentary. Bible student, Sunday school teacher, or pastor we’ll find this a treat. That it is more economical than most helpful commentaries cements its value. You will enjoy this one.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Romans (KEL) by John Harvey

book romans

I’ll be honest. When I first thumbed through this book, I wasn’t impressed at all. It looked too brief for an exegetical commentary. Then I started digging into it and I became more and more impressed. First, we need not forget that some commentaries are written for pastors or serious Bible students rather than scholars. That is the case here. Come to think of it, there isn’t exactly a shortage of those voluminous exegetical works on Romans! Second, there’s much to be said for writing succinctly with clarity. That is clearly present in this work. At times he says as many meaningful things in a paragraph that some of those larger commentaries would need 10 pages to say.

The Introduction was actually enjoyable to read. He made historical background actually interesting to read. When he delved into deeper, more scholarly issues, he gave a number of particularly helpful charts to synthesize his presentation. I give him kudos for all of them.

The commentary was a solid work. There were a few instances where Romans has become controversial that he did not say as much as many other writers. He usually outlined the various viewpoints, but didn’t seem to want to bog down in making that what his work was known for. He never lost his focus on pastors and Bible students. In some ways, the commentary reminded me of one of the better NAC volumes. In any event, this is a commentary worth having.

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, Judges, Ruth (RCS), edited by N. Scott Amos

book jj rurh

This latest volume of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture equals its predecessors in laying bear the contributions of the Reformation Era to the respective area of scripture. Somehow, at least in my opinion, this volume was a little more fun. Perhaps it is because the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth are at once unique and even controversial. What you will soon see is that passages that invite all sorts of wrestling among students had the same grappling with a text in the days of the Reformation. Particularly, some of those wild stories in the latter part of the Book of Judges prove for interpreters to run circles in trying to form an interpretation. From what I can see, we have not improved upon their commentating despite our decades of exegetical work.

Mr. Amos did a good job in the Introduction in describing his research. You will likely find answers to questions you will later have, like say, why are there fewer Anabaptist citations in this work compared to other RCS volumes. It’s simple if Mr. Amos is accurate. Very few Anabaptist authors tackled these books of the Bible. He lays out clearly what the Reformation had to offer in these three books from each strand of Reformation thinking.

The layout of this volume is identical to the others and Mr. Amos seems right at home in that setup. There are always many decisions to be made in what to put in and what to leave out, but I found many interesting contributions in what we find here. I enjoyed how he pointed out that whatever comments different Reformation personalities had about who wrote each of these books, that they had an overwhelming sense that the Holy Spirit was the ultimate author. I’m glad he didn’t scold these giants of biblical interpretation with modern gibberish.

This is a fine series that makes a distinct contribution and I find this one of the best books it has given us so far.

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.

Including the Stranger (NSBT) by David Firth

book in str

This book has two things in his favor. It’s another of these unique entries in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series, edited by D. A. Carson, that are theologically astute and make a distinct contribution to both scholarship and biblical studies.The other plus is that renowned scholar David Firth contributes this volume in his area of expertise, the Former Prophets which include Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. In fact, Firth has already delivered an outstanding commentary on the books of Samuel. His deft hand shows throughout this volume.

His premise is that a unifying theme of these Former Prophets Is the treatment of strangers or foreigners. It is a theory that he very well may convince you on because (It made sense to me). Even if it isn’t the overarching theme of these books, it is at least in play in a key way.

To my mind even if you don’t agree with his premise, you have something of a fine introduction to each of these historical books of the Old Testament. In fact, I could not imagine studying these books without consulting this work going forward. To me, it almost does what Barry Webb’s “Five Festal Garments” does for the Five Scrolls. Count this another winner in an outstanding series.

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 Book of the Twelve by Michael Shepherd (Kregel Exegetical Commentary)

book mp kec

This commentary will serve as a handy help to pastors and Bible students. Since there is only a little over 500 pages of actual commentary covering all 12 of the Minor Prophets, it is obvious that Mr. Shepherd has not attempted to produce the typical prolix commentary of our day. What he has provided, however, is direct help on grasping both the meaning and overarching theme of these prophets. His stated niche,that to my mind he has accomplished, is presenting these 12 prophets as a unified composition. In other words, instead of 12 random prophecies that so lacked cohesiveness that they were not even fully integrated within themselves, he paints a portrait of the Lord designing them as so unified that they should never be completely thought of by themselves. You can’t deny that that is a refreshing approach after years of commentators trying to decide if each passage within each of these prophecies is even legitimate!

It will be extra important to read the introduction to this work as he makes his case for the cohesiveness and unity of these prophecies. I personally thought this introduction read well and made a lot of sense.

The commentary proper lacks the thoroughness of some other works, but what he shares is good all around. Perhaps it shows the forest better than the trees, but that is no problem. There are plenty of other commentaries to analyze those trees!

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.

Revelation (ZECNT) by Buist Fanning

book rev zec

This latest release of the ZECNT Is a fine exegetical commentary on the highly-debatable Book of Revelation. Personally, I always give commentators a little slack because this book manages to trip them coming out of the gate in almost every instance. In other words, the reader is going to approach both the book and the commentary with his or her own theological system. For that reason, no matter what the perspective of the commentator happens to be, he or she is going to start out with a much higher group of detractors than if, say, they had written on the Gospels or one of the Epistles. Fanning has done the best that could be done. He has tried to write a commentary that would be helpful to the widest number of readers without rigidly lobbing off whole swaths of them. He does, however, lean toward positions that would be labeled futurist as opposed to historist. Still, he is fair to all. More importantly, the exegesis and examination of structure are both rock solid. No, I don’t agree with every interpretive point he makes, but what commentator on Revelation could hope for that from any of us? The point that must not be lost is that this commentary can help you as you wrestle with this challenging book of the Bible.

I thought the introduction was exceptional. Throughout, he both lays out varying opinions and respectfully submits his own. He begins by talking about authorship and really does not land on one outlook himself in this case since he doesn’t find it critical to the overall interpretation of the book. He discusses date and setting, genre with an emphasis on prophecy, imagery and symbols, all before he addresses the thorny subject of hermeneutical approaches. He explains both the importance and the specifics of the use of the Old Testament in this book and how to view prophecy and typology. I thought his discussion of topology was particularly apropos. He discusses text, language and style, before he dives into structure and outline which is an emphasis of this series. He gives a lot of outstanding insights before he provides his own outline. There is a select bibliography given as well.

The commentary proper follows the typical style of this series and is quite helpful. There were just a few places I wish he had said a little more. Still, when you talk about what you really need to learn in an exegetical commentary you will find it all here in spades. The end of the book gives a nice summary of the theology of Revelation too.

He probably does for a futurist position what Beale does for the modern fad of an eclectic position. You’ll need both. Therefore, you should probably put this in the must-get category.

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.