The Triumph of Grace by Daniel Block

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Having already written much on Moses and Deuteronomy in the past, it’s hard to believe that Daniel Block could turn out this additional massive volume. Amazingly, it’s rich material. A few things about Mr. Block’s perspective are undeniable when you get into this book: he loves the Old Testament and calls it the First Testament to keep the New Testament from stealing its spotlight, Moses was more of a pastor/shepherd than a lawgiver, and the Book of Deuteronomy is more about grace than law. Even though he writes about very scholarly subjects, there is a clear passion in his voice.

He gives us readers help on many fronts. He explains Deuteronomy’s overall role, the concept of hearing the Word of God, genre, a perspective of the covenant, explanation of the law, a great deal about the structure of Deuteronomy, followed by several chapters of a more theological nature. In those chapters, he explains prayer, divine violence, the fear of the Lord, eschatology, the kingdom, Moses as a prophet, and a final challenging chapter on comparing Moses and Galatians, all regarding Deuteronomy.

Even though many of the chapters of this book have been talks or submissions to scholarly journals that he has given over the last 20 years, I was impressed at how they fit together to provide a unified book. To me, this is the most important and helpful book on Deuteronomy of the type that discusses issues beyond what you can get in a regular commentary that I am aware of. Mr. Block plies his scholarly trade with the best of them. This is an impressive book!

Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, already known for their impressive array of older and out-of-print titles that are still quite important, here joins the big boys in providing an important scholarly work that compares and surpasses many being released by the older, more established publishers today. The book itself is attractive, well designed, filled with copious footnotes, as well as nice charts, maps, and other helpful aids to learning.

We have a winner here. I suspect this book will be influential for many years to come. I highly recommended 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.

 

 

Ezekiel (NICOT)–2 Great Volumes by Daniel Block

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Perhaps you have noticed the widespread praise that has been heaped upon this commentary. No doubt, scholars across the spectrum can’t deny its success. Not only do many reviewers list it as the best commentary available on Ezekiel, but I’ve even seen reviews that say it is the greatest commentary in print on any Old Testament book. After reviewing it myself, it’s easy to see why scholars are impressed. There are simply no weaknesses in all the categories we expect to be addressed in a major exegetical commentary. What I would like to add to all that press is that I believe pastors can also be greatly enriched by both these volumes Mr. Block has given us on Ezekiel here in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT) series.

Pastors, you will love Mr. Block’s passion for Ezekiel and his prophecy. In addition, you will love his high view of Ezekiel’s God. Instead of just listing copious facts, of which there is plenty in this commentary, this impressive array of information is marshaled to say something to us about Ezekiel, his prophecy, and his God.

His Introduction runs 60 pages. He begins with a background of Ezekiel’s world. Covering the political and social environments, he draws a vivid portrait for us. Next, he discusses author, purpose, and methods. The discussion of Ezekiel’s methods is really an exercise in rhetorical criticism. From there, Block jumps into the literary style of the book. He interacts with other scholars and attempts to explain the structure of the individual oracles. Look for the interesting chart on pages 28 and 29. Since it is so important in studying the Book of Ezekiel, he explains what he calls the formulaic framework. It’s in this detailed section that you discover so much of what is especially unique about Ezekiel. It’s amazing the amount of work that must’ve gone into preparing the information in this section. After a brief section considering the text, he discusses Ezekiel in Jewish and Christian tradition. The final section is a probing look at the theology of Ezekiel. He realizes a past, present, and future aspect of Ezekiel’s vision. The outstanding introduction is followed by a lengthy bibliography.

The commentary in volume 1 covers chapters 1-24. It’s extremely well done. It misses nothing on the exegetical level, draws careful parallels, and is sensitive to theology.

Volume 2 of this fine two-volume set covers chapters 25-48. There’s no introduction as he did a full introduction for the book in volume 1. The commentary is in the same thorough style. For every passage, he gives a translation, a discussion of the nature and design of the passage, commentary on the text, and theological reflection. If you hold to a pre-millennial viewpoint as I do, you may find him a little more nebulous about what the text is predicting for the future at places in these later chapters of Ezekiel. You could grab Cooper in the NAC to compensate if you wanted, but the commentary still gives outstanding exegetical help throughout.

Besides being a seminal academic work, this commentary is easily in the “must-have” category for pastors. It would be a mistake not to secure your own copy!

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 Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Rev. Ed.) – Volume 11, Romans-Galatians

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Volume 11 of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC) series, revised edition, replaces volume 10 in the old series. Both volumes covered from Romans through Galatians. We have a mixture of original authors being updated by younger scholars, new scholars replacing old ones, and one who did his own revision. What we have is yet another success in the EBC series!

Respected scholar Donald Hagner revised Everett Harrison’s original work on Romans on such a level that we now have a joint authorship. The Introduction covers the founding and history of the church at Rome, authorship, date, and place of origin, destination and integrity, occasion and purpose, composition of the Roman church, literary form, theology, the New Perspective on Paul (wisely rejected here), canonicity, and followed by a bibliography and outline. The commentary follows the usual EBC style: overview, text, commentary, and textual notes. It’s a solid effort for a mid-length commentary on Romans.

The Book of 1 Corinthians is a new work by Verlyn Verbrugge. He is known for the vast amount of academic works that he has edited. The Introduction addresses Paul’s missionary strategy, the church at Corinth, specific occasion of the letter, date, authorship, and integrity, literary characteristics, theological considerations, and a bibliography and outline. His editorial background gave him good insight on what would be helpful to pastors. He clearly aimed his work at them and succeeded.

II Corinthians was handled by Murray J Harris. His Introduction looks at historical background, unity, authorship, date, place of composition, occasion and purpose, special problems, theological values, structure and themes, and bibliography and outline. The success of Mr. Harris on II Corinthians is universally acknowledged. He has had a coup of sorts: the most highly-rated mid length commentary on II Corinthians with this effort as well as the top major exegetical commentary in his volume in the NIGNT series. I can’t recall anyone else who has done that. This is an outstanding commentary and the revision was successful as well.

Galatians saw James Montgomery Boice be replaced by Robert Rapa. I must confess having a warm place in my heart for the late Boice’s commentary, but it’s age did call for its replacement. The Introduction discussed the identity of the Galatians, the relationship of Galatians and Acts, authorship, date and place of writing, the epistlolary and rhetorical structure of Galatians, and a bibliography and outline. It was a little brief, yet contained conservative conclusions. Pastors will find the commentary adequate.

After reviewing almost all of the EBC volumes, I just don’t see how you could go wrong with this volume as a pastor or Bible student. The price is right, and the quality is good without getting as wordy as some of the major exegetical commentaries. For many pastors, that is another plus. Here’s another winner that you should check 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.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Rev. Ed.) – Volume 1, Genesis-Leviticus

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Volume 1 of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC) series in this revised edition covers the books from Genesis to Leviticus. As is common in this series, this volume is a revision of an already valuable commentary. In this case, two authors revise their original work while another is replaced with a new scholar. There’s some great help to be found in this volume.

The Book of Genesis is revised by the original author, John H. Sailhamer, who is known for his writings on the Pentateuch. It appears to me that the earlier part of the Introduction is not majorly revised, but much material is added farther in. He begins with a discussion of the historical background, followed by one on the unity of the book. Next, he discusses authorship, date, and place of origin. In doing so, he reviews both the traditional and critical viewpoints. He expands to discuss the compositional view where he surveys what he calls In-Textuality. He goes on to discuss purpose, literary form including an assessment of structure, and the final shape of the primary history. He also compares it to the Old Testament (Tanak) as a whole. After an outline, he jumps into the commentary and gives an overview, commentary, and textual notes on each passage. I agree with those who rank it highly.

The Book of Exodus is done by prolific scholar Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. I have long had a deep respect for his work. I am aware that some think that his work on Exodus is not long enough while others expressed disappointment that his revision was not more in-depth. Still, his work strikes me as quite helpful in a series with the aims that the EBC has. In the Introduction, Kaiser discusses title and theme, authorship and unity (with conservative conclusions), date of writing, the text of Exodus, the date of Exodus, the route of the Exodus, and a brief discussion of theology. After a brief bibliography and outline, along with a chart about the Tabernacle, he jumps into the commentary proper. It’s in the same style mentioned above and is very well done.

The Book of Leviticus has Richard Hess replacing the work of R. Laird Harris. Mr. Hess has also written a commentary on the Song of Songs that is highly regarded. In his Introduction, he reviews name and text, date and authorship (with a favorable view of Mosaic authorship), scholarship and interpretation, and theology. Most agree that he has turned out a substantial improvement over the old edition. The commentary is outstanding and there are a few charts along the way that greatly help understanding.

This commentary provides great help on Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus. It’s a bargain with its three commentaries for one price deal. Pastors and Bible students will love 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.

Interpreting the Wisdom Books: An Exegetical Handbook

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This book is the latest entry in Kregel’s series entitled “Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis”, edited by David M. Howard, Jr. If you have already used the earlier volumes on the Pentateuch, the historical books, the Psalms, the prophetic books, and apocalyptic literature, you know what to expect. This entry is equal in value to its predecessors. It tackles only Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon since the Book of Psalms has its own volume. The series is geared for graduate-level exegesis courses, but any pastor or Bible student could glean from its contents.

The first chapter overviews the task of interpreting Old Testament Wisdom literature. That requires explaining Wisdom’s perspective in the biblical sense. The author discusses what he calls the pedagogy of the sages and thoroughly reviews the genres of Wisdom: poetry and proverb.

The next chapter tackles primary themes in the Wisdom books. Each of the four books being studied are discussed one at a time. Outstanding theological themes are shared in this lengthy chapter. Whether you agree with all of them are not, you will be given much food for thought that will advance understanding.

Chapter 3 turns more toward the hermeneutical task. In this chapter, you will learn the importance of the ANE background, textual criticism, and context. This chapter also gives a detailed list of hermeneutical resources that can be consulted. Chapter 4 extends the process by diving into exegesis. Chapter 5 guides the reader into taking that exegesis and turning it into a sermon. Since some portions of these Wisdom writings are the trickiest to turn into sermons, this guidance will be greatly appreciated. Chapter 6 continues the process of sermon building to organizing the material and applying the text. Chapter 7 serves as an appendix of computer and Internet resources.

There is a helpful glossary of terms in the back of the book that defines carefully important highlighted words from the text of the book.

Mr. Curtis has done good work here. It’s thorough enough for deep study, yet short and the succinct enough to be used widely. This book can do you a lot of good 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.

1, 2, & 3 John (EEC) by Derickson

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This book is my new favorite exegetical commentary on the Epistles of John. It’s yet another notch in the belt for the trending Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (EEC) series. This volume compares favorably to other major series in the exegetical category while exceeding many of those same volumes in the evangelical category. Gary Derickson was an unknown author to me, but he makes a splash here with an outstanding commentary.

The Introduction given here on the Epistles of John is one of the better that I’ve read in a while. The author doesn’t beat around the bush. I loved that his first sentence read: “the author of this epistle is John, the beloved apostle”. That is not to say that he fails to thoroughly survey the scholarly landscape, but that he with equal adeptness evaluates it. As you would expect, he reviews both internal and external evidence in defending the conservative conclusion that he originally stated.

Next, he discusses recipients and date of I John, and after arriving at a conservative date, he smashes the scholarly idea of a “Johannine school”. Further, he works his way through the occasion and setting and deals with the proto-Gnosticism found in the epistle just as you would imagine. After discussing the order of composition of the writings of the Apostle John, he jumps into the purposes of the book of I John. This is yet another place the author turns out superior work. For years I have been disappointed with so many authors following Robert Laws’ tests-of-life view that ties everything we read in I John to salvation. The author is correct in seeing it a test of fellowship rather than that of relationship with God. He further discusses genre, theological emphases, literary design, and John’s love of dualism, before he dives into an outline.

The commentary section is impeccable. He shares both the Greek and English of each phrase and thoroughly exegetes it. There are ample textual notes and quality commentary for every passage. He provides the same quality Introduction and commentary for both II and III John.

I’m such a fan of this commentary that to me it could be offered as a prototype for commentary writing. If you plan to invest in only one quality commentary on the Epistles of John, without question this must be 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.

Preaching the Farewell Discourse by L. Scott Kellum

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This book by Scott Kellum has many good things. It’s a hybrid of sorts, and so is quite hard to categorize. I can’t decide if it’s best to put on my shelves of books on preaching or on the one with my books on the Gospel of John. I finally leaned toward gleaning what I can from it regarding expository preaching, but then keeping it with the commentaries on the Farewell Discourse in John 13-17.

I don’t think I could do his exact method, but probably that would not matter to him. There’s just several careless mistakes made that he felt strongly that preachers should correct. In his first chapter, he tries to develop an expository theory and touches on all the important things. He does run slightly aground, as is so common in these type of books, to presenting a narrowness that more or less conforms to his own style. No one could disagree with the need of arriving at the proper interpretation, but he almost seemed to feel that the application (singular, it appeared he felt) was just as obvious. I’m not quite sure that’s true.

In the next chapter, he covers the analyzing of literary structure and flow of thought. He gives you an in-depth structure for John 13-17 such as you might find in a good commentary, but uses it as a teaching tool to say that that kind of depth is required of a book’s full context to preach one passage. Of course, a preacher must have an idea of the overall theme of the Bible book, but his method might never work for someone who has weekly sermons to produce. Still, what he shares is many of the things that we ought to be thinking about.

What follows is a lot of great information, sermon sketches, background information, and outlines for this important prayer of Jesus. How he presented all this information was a design that could have been more straightforward, but was helpful. Though the book is clearly useful overall, it’s final rating for you may depend on your own style of sermon preparation. As help on this portion of the Gospel of John itself, it rates even higher. 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.

The Epistles to the Thessalonians (NIGTC) by Wanamaker

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Charles Wanamaker contributes this volume on the Thessalonian Epistles in the reputed New International Greek Commentary (NIGTC) series. My own perusal of the book backs up what I’ve heard. Wanamaker has provided dependable evangelical work on these epistles with a lot of rhetorical and social scientific analysis while providing less theological insights. You might say, that he hits a home run for the scholars, but provides a little less value for pastors. In any event, this volume is going to be in the discussion for quality work with the Greek.

After a thorough bibliography, Wanamaker gives us an Introduction that is broken down in what appears to be three chapters. He first discusses the historical background for Paul and Thessalonica. My impression was that he excelled in highlighting Thessalonica’s relations to Rome. In that section, he explains why he believes Paul addresses the Parousia to such a significant degree.

The next section of the Introduction discusses literary questions. There’s a thorough overview of what the scholarly world has thought on the subject, including questions of authenticity. I didn’t find his conclusions very plausible, particularly on this ordering of the letters. Rhetoric must be one of his specialties. The depth of thinking on the subject is obvious. The final section of the Introduction that is entitled “historical setting” deals less with the political environment and more with the Thessalonian church issues. It is well researched. All in all, the Introduction runs to 63 pages.

The commentary proper is where this commentary gets its high reviews. The exegesis is very thorough. The English rendering is always near enough to the Greek that I feel it can help a larger audience than most anticipate. If I had to summarize this commentary in a word, it would be: important. I recommend this volume to anyone trying to build a quality exegetical 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.

Proverbs (TOTC) by Lindsay Wilson

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Lindsay Wilson has produced this replacement volume in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series. It replaces the much-beloved volume by Derek Kidner. Since IVP is reprinting most of Kidner’s volumes as classic commentaries, we can embrace this new volume by Wilson without forsaking the old Kidner standby. Lindsay has turned out a well-written, up-to-date commentary that will explain the Book of Proverbs. In case you’re wondering, it’s substantially thicker than the Kidner volume.

The Introduction is as substantial as any that you will find in the highly respected TOTC Series. After a bibliography of several pages, Wilson jumps into historical issues. In that section, he succinctly discusses authorship, date of writing, and its relation to ANE literature. In the section on literary issues, he answers the question of what kind of literature we have in a proverb, and delves into parallelism. I thought that section covered the bases well, but got straight to the point. The next section was on structure. As you would expect, he looked at the structure in chapters 1-9, then in chapters 10-22, followed by chapters 22-31. The conclusions in all these sections were thoroughly conservative.

Wilson gave several pages to discussing theological issues. He began by making a case for Proverbs being a very theological book. Then he discussed subjects like retribution, the fear of the Lord, God’s active kingly rule in everyday life, and Proverb’s connection to biblical theology. The theological emphasis continued in the section about thematic issues. There he discussed wealth and poverty, family and marriage, friends, speech and words, work and laziness, the good life, and the heart. The Introduction ended with an interesting section entitled ministry issues. That whole section was an attempt to offer suggestions for teaching and preaching the book of Proverbs. It was helpful.

The commentary proper was both thorough and enlightening. It can take its place beside Kidner without shame. To my mind, it’s one of the better volumes in the already highly- rated TOTC Series. Make a point 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.

Ruth (OTL) by Neilsen

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The Book of Ruth gets its own small volume in the Old Testament Library (OTL) series. Written by Kirsten Nielsen, this commentary meets the aims of the series in providing a critical take in a mid-length commentary. Though I do not hold to the author’s viewpoint, I did appreciate its thorough presentation of a critical position as well as several reflections that you won’t find anywhere else.

In the Introduction, the author first discusses contents and structure. The author seems impressed with the outstanding, tight structure of this little book. Though a short section, I found the comments on structure helpful. Next, there’s the typical discussion of genre found in most commentaries on Ruth. The rest of the Introduction focuses intensely on inter-textual reading. In other words, the author loves tracing out connections to other parts of Scripture. Some seem more plausible to me than others, but this is clearly an area where the author has carved out a niche. I couldn’t follow the thinking presented in the historical context, but it matches what you would expect in a critical commentary. Much better is a discussion of theological themes. Finally, there’s a short discussion about the text of Ruth.

The commentary well matches what I’ve come to expect from the OTL series. In several places, you will glean much food for thought. I appreciated the emphasis of hesed not being overlooked. On the downside, the discussion of Ruth’s behavior at the threshing floor that included a confidence of sexual activity and of that sexual activity being praiseworthy was more than I could take! Fortunately, the commentary on other parts of the narrative is much more reasonable.

This book is one of the best to gain the perspective of the critical camp. It’s not prolix, it’s easy to follow, and it will stretch your mind in places. If you can overlook that one offensive section, you will find this a nice book to add to 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.