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 Gospel of Mark by Witherington

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Perhaps you’ve already used other works by prolific commentator Ben Witherington. If so, you’ll know what to expect—broad research, lively writing, and a socio-rhetorical emphasis. This work on Mark is up to the same level as others of his that I have used. No one understands how he gets such copious amounts of writing done, but that is not ours to know. What is apparent is that he grades out well on quality amid all that quantity.

The Introduction will prove that he’s not skimming but probing deeply all the scholarly questions. In the first sections, unsurprisingly, he addresses genre and rhetoric. Next, he wades through Mark’s sources. I find both his ideas and the overall importance of the whole question of sources off the mark, but he again is clear as a bell on explaining what he thinks. There are, however, some good points on Mark’s style that he digs out that help no matter your perspective on sources themselves. From there he slides into authorship and dates Mark from 66 to 70. I enjoyed his explanation of Mark’s social context much more. You’ll find plenty of insights there as well as the next section on structure. He gives perceptive analysis on both Mark’s Christology and the widely-debated Messianic Secret viewpoint. All in all, the Introduction is a deep dive running over 60 pages.

The commentary proper maintains his level of work. You’ll see things introduced in the Introduction fleshed out even more in the commentary. There’s real value here and the writing remains engaging throughout.

I don’t always agree with Witherington’s conclusions, but I appreciate the clarity that he presents his with. Some scholarly writing so entertains differing viewpoints that you’re not quite sure which ones the author holds. Witherington will not fail you on that count ever.

While this commentary would not be my first choice for an exegetical commentary, it’s an excellent volume to give another angle. He’s not a parrot of any other commentator and that means you will get food for thought throughout.

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.

Love By The Book by Walter Kaiser

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Walter Kaiser has written many helpful works over a career spanning decades. I’ve enjoyed having many of them on my shelves. You know that you will get careful and capable help from a conservative standpoint. This work strikes me as him entering an area that differs from his usual academic work. In fact, the back of the book will show its classification as “Christian Life/ Love & Marriage”. Still, he can’t deny who he is and gives us something of a brief commentary on the Song of Solomon even as he attempts to give marital help.

As for the Song, he holds to a literal, non-allegorical approach that is most prevalent these days, though he is much more subdued than many such works in the intimate details. On the other hand, he presents a three-person interpretation (Shepherd, Shulammite, and Solomon) rather than the much more common two-person view (Shepherd and Shulammite). Though I believe some aspects of the allegorical view seeing Christ and His people must be true, and though I definitely can’t find my way around the difficulties of the three-person view, I found Kaiser clear and a good resource for me to check those competing views.

As for the marriage help, he holds to the traditional view of marriage that has been held up as the biblical position for centuries. He will have none of the radical trends pervading our culture and ensnarling the church. He makes a beautiful case for a superior way that is held up in Scripture.

My copy will be found on my Song of Solomon shelf, but this work can be used effectively in the “Love and Marriage” as well. How blessed we’d be if our views of marriage were what Kaiser champions 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.

Romans (NICOT) by Moo (Revised)

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Douglas Moo’s commentary on Romans in the New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT) series has been the highest-rated modern, exegetical commentary on that pivotal letter over its 20-year life. It’s really not even been close. It was a no-brainer to ask Moo to revise this commentary rather than enlisting a new contributor. To those who have used this conservative commentary, the good news is that the revision doesn’t involve its solid conclusions. Think of the same home-run exegesis with up-to-date scholarly interaction. Since the conclusions remain, maybe it’s more of a scholarly dismissal of wobbly ideas that this revision’s additions accomplish.

Academic types will love the massively-expanded bibliography. It grew from 8 pages to over 120 pages! The Introduction changed little but little revision was needed. It’s something of a model introduction with great findings. The word “refreshing” comes to mind compared to much that’s printed today.

The commentary itself had places that changed little as well, but other sections had more shoring up of an already great presentation. (I actually laid the old edition beside it and compared on several passages). In the preface Moo explains what he sought to do in this revision—interact with 20 years of work and improve the writing. He succeeded. As you would guess, the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) has mushroomed over these last 20 years. Moo shows us that, perhaps, it was a wasted two decades in many ways.

It’s no bold prognostication to predict this commentary will hold the top spot for another 20 years with this revision. I’ll further predict that scholarship will be at no loss at all if it does.

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.

Daniel (TOTC) by Paul House

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The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series scores again. This latest title is at least the tenth release in this current revision of the venerable series (current writers used earlier editions as young Christians in many cases!) and they are all a success—keeping the winning format and scope with more up-to-date scholarship and good writing. Snagging Paul House was a coup for the series too as he has already produced a much-used Old Testament Theology as well as coauthored an Old Testament Survey. To my mind, he worked within the established TOTC format as if it fit him like a glove.

Any commentary on Daniel bears the additional weight of the varying prophetic outlook of the reader. While that’s not an issue in many other books of the Bible, Daniel is second only to Revelation in that dynamic. Many will unfairly rate any commentary on these two books on this issue alone before they read the first paragraph. For the record, the TOTC series has always been amillennial. Though that is not my viewpoint, I’ve always found great insight in these volumes. This volume, too, delivers on many levels in my judgment even though that differentiation of perspective exists.

The Introduction gets to the point as this series demands yet delivers the goods. Some of the more perverse scholarly train wrecks on Daniel that dominate much literature is happily not the focus here. Let’s call it a clear conservative presentation. History is carefully unfolded. Literary, genre, and textual issues are all concisely unpacked. Daniel’s role in the canon is probed before theological themes are presented. Structure gets one paragraph called “Analysis” and a detailed outline.

The commentary itself is well done, again, in the TOTC style. Its best contributions are historical and theological. You will be able to trace easily the flow of the text. A few passages will have the drama of a prophetic outlook that may not match your own, but you will still learn much in the commentary.

I really like this book and am happy to have it at hand for future studies. 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.

 

Reformation Commentary on Scripture (OT VIII) on Psalms 72-150

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It’s great to see this work on Psalms completed with the release of this second volume covering Psalms 73-150 in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series. Editor Herman J. Selderhuis, a church history expert, had already delivered the winning earlier volume on Psalms 1-72. I don’t see how anyone would stop short of getting them together. They are both well-crafted, lovely on the shelf, and effective on the desk.

The only odd feature of this volume is the replication of a guide to the commentary (that’s in every volume in the series), a general introduction, an introduction to the Psalms, a map of Europe in Reformation times, a timeline, and a lengthy section of biological sketches. They are all without alteration in the earlier volume. Perhaps they wanted to ensure the reader’s ability to use as a stand-alone book. In any event, you will want this title for the commentary on Psalms 73-150 covering pages 1-399.

The same painstaking work found in the earlier volume continues to the end of the Psalter. Unlike some commentaries that peter out before the end of a longer biblical book, this one reads like a labor of love. I’m impressed by the amount of research required to distill for us the best the Reformers had. I also appreciate the scope of comment. You might be able to figure out the editor’s favorite Reformers, but you will get much coverage beyond them too. To my mind, the Reformers were at their best in the Psalms.

Look here for treasure that the exegetical commentaries won’t have. They weren’t afraid of practical Christianity and it shows. I highly recommend 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.

Ecclesiastes (Interpretation) by William Brown

 

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William P. Brown, a prolific writer on Wisdom literature, contributes this commentary on Ecclesiastes in the Interpretation Bible Commentary series. I’ve had the privilege of reviewing the better titles in this series, and for its theological offerings, this title is certainly in that category. In fact, it gets its higher ranking for that theology far more than for its academic weight. That’s not to say that he fails to address scholarly issues, just that its theology is its best feature. As expected for this series, the conclusions come from a fairly critical perspective.

In my mind, the Introduction was not the success that the commentary was. His bizarre comparison to the epic of Gilgamesh sent much of the Introduction awry. Why not use Solomon, or at least the Bible, instead of something with such a dubious connection! Brown does seem at least to love Ecclesiastes even if he finds it the strangest book in the canon.

The commentary digs out much theology and well describes “vanity”. If you like to check out either the critical perspective or some theology that’s a little different than what you find other places, then you will want to check out this commentary.

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.

Lamentations (Interpretation) by Dobbs-Allsopp

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This volume on Lamentations by F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp in the Interpretation Bible Commentary series is likely the most referenced volume in the whole series. I’ve seen it mentioned in many places including the most respected listings of valuable commentaries. Its success is partially rooted in its thoroughness compared to others in the series. Here you have 159 pages on the 5 chapters of Lamentations. For comparison, the companion commentary in the series on Jeremiah’s 52 chapters rounds out at 275 pages. You can make some prediction on that coverage alone. Beyond the depth of coverage is the quality of theological reflection itself. There are places the discussion goes off the rails with its critical outlook and troubling conclusions about God to be sure, but Dobbs-Allsopp turns the theological spade to the same profit as the better volumes in this series.

The Introduction is much more thorough than many I’ve read in the series too. There is a broad sweep of several introductory issues including date and authorship with typical critical conclusions before the author slows down for one of his favorite topics: literary features. He defines the genre as “city-lament” and says it’s written in lyric poetry. He carefully weaves through metaphor, diction, wordplay, pun, euphony, alphabetic acrostic, and enjambment. The balance of the Introduction is on theology. I found more value here.

The commentary itself upholds the standards established in the Introduction. As is true of some of the better titles in this series, it competes for the title of the best commentary from the critical perspective. Adele Berlin is its main rival, but the intentions of the two are different. Berlin aims at the scholar while this volume pitches itself to teachers and preachers. Pick according to your need, but this is a successful choice to grasp the critical approach and glean its theological contributions.

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. 

Numbers (Interpretation) by Olson

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This volume on Numbers in the Interpretation Bible Commentary series by Dennis Olson is one of the more favorably reviewed in the whole series. When I saw that it was judged as more academically astute than its companion volumes, I was intrigued to check it out. Its marks for theology rank highly as well. Without doubt, its conclusions spring from a critical perspective just as you will find to be true across the series. To my mind, these reviews are accurate.

The Introduction is quite brief but introduces us to Olson’s highly-regarded ideas about the structure of the Book of Numbers. That provocative view of structure divides Numbers into two parts: Numbers 1-25 and 26-36. It sees the first part as the old generation of rebellion and the other as the new generation of hope. The design within each half is also presented as cohesive. This review of structure is followed by some theological discussion. Everything else is pushed to the commentary section.

The structure Olson loves to highlight becomes a guide in the commentary itself. Besides a few places of too much brevity, the commentary is well done. If you understand the perspective this book brings, you will know what you can find versus what simply must be sought somewhere else.

There are about 5 or 6 volumes that have separated themselves from the others in this series. Mark this book down 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.