Ephesians (TNTC) by Bock

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This latest release in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TNTC) series has snagged yet another top-flight scholar. Darrell Bock tackles Ephesians here after his major works on Luke, Acts, and the historical Jesus. In case you weren’t aware, his two-volume commentary on Luke in the BECNT series is often rated as the best exegetical work we have on that book. Though he branches away from his normal work in this effort to grapple with a Pauline epistle, his credentials are clearly up to the mark. TNTC targets an audience below those major exegetical works though its scholarship is always top-notch. It seems to me that Mr. Bock understood the aims of the TNTC series and brought us an excellent work within those parameters.

After a select bibliography of a few pages, Bock jumps into his introduction. He begins with explaining the importance of Ephesians which many find to be a mountain peak within Pauline writings. He goes on to explain destinations of the letter with plenty of background on the city of Ephesus before he gets into several issues involving authorship. When he enters a more formal discussion of authorship and date, he explains vocabulary and style and theological issues within Ephesians. He doesn’t find enough evidence to deny Paul authorship.

After a brief outline, Bock enters the commentary section that makes up the bulk of the book. For each passage, he gives context, before entering into commentary itself for each verse. There’s also a paragraph or so on the theology of the passage. In my estimation, he makes the reader fully aware of the issues and what the passage is trying to say to us. For example, I thought he handled the Household Code with skill and grace. He stayed true to the text concluding a conservative position yet wrote in a way that would not be overly antagonistic to someone of a different persuasion. The quality of commentary remained throughout.

Pastors, teachers, and Bible students will appreciate the fine help this commentary provides. 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.

All Things New (NSBT) by Brian J. Tabb

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If you are like me, you know what to expect when you pick up the latest entry in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT): perceptive theology, careful scholarship, in-depth coverage that even exceeds many commentary introductions, and a work that goes beyond anything you already have on your shelves. That consistency is as steady as the unchanging gray covers that adorn every volume. On the one hand, some credit must go to D. A. Carson for his editorial work. On the other hand, somebody must have done their homework in choosing authors as well.

This latest release by Brian J. A Tabb looks at the book of Revelation “as canonical capstone”. As heady as that sounds, the author knew how to make a strong case for his thesis. As I read, I thought this author is great at digging. He brought out so many things that are easily missed and made so many connections between Scriptures that we rarely see. Mr. Tabb takes an “eclectic” approach to Revelation. In fact, he much reminds me of Gregory Beale. (He cited 19 of Beale’s works in his bibliography!) Still, it’s clear he did his own work and made his own conclusions. Further, as one who is a futurist rather than following his eclectic approach, I felt he was gracious throughout. Even better, the type of information he mined for us can be taken and shone back into Revelation no matter which approach to prophecy you take.

His introduction was outstanding and contained all kinds of wonderful information. I did much underlining there. From there he divides his book into four parts: the triune God, worship and witness, judgment, salvation and restoration, and the word of God. Part one contained, you guessed it, three chapters on the Sovereign on the throne, Jesus as the Lion and the Lamb, and the Spirit of prophecy. These were some of my favorite chapters in the book with particular success in the chapter on the Holy Spirit. Part two looked at followers of the Lamb and discussed things like a priestly kingdom and a new Israel while another chapter talked about the battle for universal worship. I felt that viewpoint was well worth digging into. Part three considered the wrath of the Lamb and made several insights on things like the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls of wrath, as well as a new Exodus. There was a chapter on Babylon the harlot and Jerusalem the bride as well as another on all things new. Part four only had one chapter on the Word of God but it was well done and followed by a conclusion for the book. There’s a lengthy bibliography for those wanting further study.

This book even contains some charts that summarize important information for the reader and that I was blessed by. This book is fully up to the high standards set by the NSBT series 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.

Walking the Ancient Paths: A Commentary on Jeremiah by Kaiser and Rata

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I’ve been using the works of Walter Kaiser for several years, so when I saw that he was coming out with a new work on Jeremiah I was instantly intrigued. Now that I’ve had a chance to get into this commentary, I can confess that it did live up to my high expectations. As something of a commentary junkie, I’ve had the privilege to review all types of commentaries all the way up to the massive tomes that cover every conceivable issue. As much as I enjoy using all of them, if I were forced to choose, this type of commentary prepared by Kaiser and his colleague Tiberius Rata is the most ideal for pastors. It has more depth than the TOTC series and is pretty close to the NAC in its scope. If you can imagine that style of commentary, then you will know how to gauge this work that is a model volume of its class. Further, in these days of prolific commentary production, I would argue that Jeremiah would be one of the books most in need of a new commentary of this type.

The introduction is not massive, but it gets to the heart of what most Bible students and pastors are looking for. There is background on Jeremiah and his times. There’s a brief mention of compositional issues because the scholarly world is so enamored with them. You will find conservative conclusions here. There is a discussion of Jeremiah’s relation to Deuteronomy as well as the text of Jeremiah. The section on theological emphases could probably have been expanded but was accurate as far as it went. The authors give us an extensive outline of Jeremiah along with a brief bibliography at the end of the introduction. (There’s a lengthy bibliography at the end of the book).

As for me, I enjoyed the commentary itself even more than the introduction. What you received in every passage was clear guidance on understanding the text. If scholarly side issues were mentioned, they never dominated the discussion. I don’t see how this book could not help someone wrestling with the challenging book of Jeremiah. Let’s label this book a necessity!

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.

Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Volume 2A, John

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This commentary on the Gospel of John is my first foray into the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. Often sold as a set, individual volumes like this one can be picked up. This commentary on John is new within the series and is written by Craig Keener. The amount of writing that this world-class scholar has done is almost beyond belief. I’ve personally used his massive two-volume commentary on the Gospel of John to advantage, but this new commentary is a completely different resource.

You will find the background and commentary in this book to the point. Unlike others of this style that I have seen, however, things most likely to need illumination are exactly what received comment. You might not agree with every comment made, but you won’t find any of the pointless fluff that is often passed off as a viable resource for students. In addition to Keener’s writing, some fine designers exquisitely integrated visuals throughout the book. Sometimes they included a helpful chart, a sidebar on a specific item, a map, a picture, or an illustration. Again, the value of the book is in its wise selections both in comment and visuals. What you end up with is a resource that is as attractive as it is helpful.

Pastors might enjoy this commentary on the fly but would need other more-detailed resources to go with it. Still, this commentary could be an incredible asset to Sunday school teachers, Bible study group leaders, or people attempting to do serious Bible study at home. It’s not common for books aimed at these users to be so well underpinned with quality scholarship. For that reason, this book is a clear winner.

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.

Reformation Commentary on Scripture (NT VII) on Romans 1-8

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Before I even cracked open this book, I figured it might be the most important in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS) simply because it covers Romans 1-8. I further imagined that its editor would likely find what to leave out more difficult than what to put in with such a wealth of Reformation writings on these chapters available. When I finally perused this volume, I found that editor Gwenfair Walters Adams had done as well as job as could be done though arbitrary choices had to be made.

I enjoyed Adam’s introduction to the commentary on Romans 1-8. She fully described the challenges you would anticipate with this volume and yet gave a wonderful overview in around 25 large pages. She explained which groups wrote widely on Romans and which did not and yet was equitable to all. I felt she was exceptionally fair to the Anabaptists and accurately stated their position. Without doubt, this volume favors a Calvinistic viewpoint, but what else would you expect from a Reformation commentary?

If you are familiar with this series, you will be pleased to know that this latest release is wonderfully consistent in following the series format and making interesting selections from Reformation writings. General editor Timothy George has succeeded in having this series make a congruous presentation.

Picky readers can always argue selections made for each passage, yet it would be impossible to debate the distinct contribution this volume makes. There is nowhere else you could gain all these Reformation insights between two covers. And as we said before, these chapters were the favorite of the Reformers. There simply had to be great pressure in covering Romans 1-8 in the RCS series and that pressure has brought us a pearl.

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.

Discovering the New Testament: Volume 1–The Gospels and Acts

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I love this book! I’ve had the privilege to use and review many books on New Testament Introduction, but this volume has one of the best combinations of design, layout, information, and approach that I’ve encountered. Though it only covers the Gospels and Acts until volumes 2 and 3 are published, it may easily become the first grab off the shelves when questions of New Testament Introduction arise for me.

This volume is my second foray into the writings of Mark Keown. His two-volume work on Philippians in the EEC series was, in my opinion, a very successful exegetical commentary. This work is of a completely different sort. He exhibits the gifts of a teacher though out, so it’s no surprise to me to learn that he has taught this material for many years.  This book is ideal for students, but I also notated page numbers at the beginning of places I want to review later for further study. There’s much to be said for writing that can communicate clearly as found in this book.

There’s nothing missing that I would want in New Testament Introduction (through Acts) in Keown’s approach. Both the Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts were exquisitely presented. For those who care, there’s a clear overview of critical methodologies. Though it seems a fool’s errand to me, there’s a chapter on the speculative Synoptic theories. Keown excels in the five chapters that cover each of the four Gospels and Acts in turn. You will leave each chapter with a better understanding of the purpose of each book. Next, he mines the paramount theme of the Kingdom in a chapter that captures the heart of these writings. The final two chapters look at miracles and parables in a way that answers criticisms and sees through them to their purpose.

You may quibble over some point (he speaks of “Q” as fact), but overall this book can stand up to any conservative Introduction. On the teaching level, this work could easily serve this generation as Merrill Tenney did for past ones. In fact, it’s far better than that oft-used textbook for my money. You will do yourself a favor to look this one up.

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.

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.

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.