The Revelation to John by Stephen Smalley

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Somehow, I missed this large work on Revelation. Stephen Smalley was familiar to me particularly in his WBC commentary on the Epistles of John. As the subtitle suggests, this commentary is aimed at the Greek text. Revelation has been the subject of such approaches more so than some books of the Bible. There were Charles and Swete of another generation as well as Beale and Aune of recent times. Smalley is up to the task of being mentioned in their rank. Still, English readers can work around the Greek and follow the flow of the argument. In most cases, the English and Greek are side by side.

The Introduction begins by examining the text. He explains his approach as “literary and theological, rather than simply critical and historical. Though critical to some degree, he sees a “basic unity” in the book and accepts the authorship of John. He traces what he sees as the situation behind the book. As many scholars love to do, he takes a stab at constructing the “Johannine Community”. Genre is probed as well. He surveys John’s use of the OT before slowing down for theology. He rightfully sees the role of Christology in the book. When he turns to symbolism and interpretation, we learn his view is that of a “modified idealist”. His section on structure needs expansion.

There are almost 600 pages loaded with exegesis. If you lay aside your prophetic outlook and come here just for exegesis, you won’t be disappointed. I get more from the trees than the forest with this one. Not being part of a series may cause this one to be overlooked, but it stands in the major exegetical 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. 

Reformation Commentary on Scripture (OT VII) on Psalms 1-72

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Having a commentary series taken from the best of Reformation writers is incredibly intriguing in itself. You don’t have to hold to all of the Reformers’ beliefs to see how captivating it really is. Within that series, Psalms holds the most enchantment. Those Reformers throbbed with the personal wrestlings of Christianity as found in the Psalms. Editor Herman Selderhuis has done us all a favor by sifting through all the extant writings of the era to bring us the cream of the crop.

This volume, then, is a great representative of this attractive series. From the cover design to the layout, this book looks beautiful on either the shelf or open on the desk as you are studying. It’s a large volume whose weight in your hand will remind you of the force its pages hold.

After the guide for using the series and a general introduction, we get a rich introduction on the Psalms from the Reformers’ point of view.  The most prevalent feature is their tracing Christ in the Psalms. That why this series holds value–something as apropos as Christ in the Psalms is grossly undervalued in many modern works. Not here!

The commentary proper doesn’t cover every word or phrase, but what it does explain is often as warm as the sun. That’s a great compliment to your exegetical commentaries.

Don’t miss the extras at the end of the volume: a map of Europe during the Reformation, a timeline, a broad review of the people of the Reformation, and a bibliography. They are well done.

This book is both helpful and enjoyable. (As of this writing in October 2018 we know that the followup volume on Psalm 73-150 is coming soon). This one is 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. 

A Commentary on the Revelation of John by Ladd

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Here’s a time-tested commentary that’s rightfully being republished. Eerdmans has realized the value of several great commentaries that were subsequently replaced in some of their stellar commentary series (NICOT, NICNT, NIGTC) as well as some standout independent commentaries. There are commentators like F. F. Bruce, John Murray, Leon Morris, Merrill Tenney, and Herman Ridderbos among others. These newly-released reprints are published in matching styles in paperback as The Eerdmans Classic Biblical Commentaries series. This volume by the late George Eldon Ladd is an influential commentary on Revelation.

The Introduction is more direct than most in modern commentaries, but the information gets to the heart of the study of Revelation. Since I just recently reviewed a modern critical commentary on Revelation, this work was like a breath of fresh air. He covers authorship, date, and setting including historical background. He gives a fine overview of methods of interpretation. He categorizes them as Preterist, Historical, Idealist, and Futurist. He’s a Futurist himself with a little Preterist thrown in but sees dispensationalism as excessive. I don’t follow him in all his conclusions, but really appreciate reading them. His view of structure is simple, divided around visions, and is also presented in an outline.

The commentary is in that straightforward style that can sometimes be missed in these days. It gets to the point but is never careless or superficial. He renders complexities with simple clarity. It’s a little jewel and I’m glad to see it reprinted!

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. 

An Introduction to the New Testament (2nd ed.) by DeSilva

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This widely-used New Testament Introduction by David DeSilva has earned a Second Edition. Every major Christian publisher puts out an NT Introduction (IVP also has Donald Guthrie) because there’s such a demand for Christian college students as well as most every pastor will want one at hand. Without a doubt, this book has been one of the major ones.

DeSilva’s reputation has been hued from his many works. He’s known as a great scholar. His specialty of rhetoric is equally well known. If you find the idea of rhetoric overblown in importance, you might discount his work to some degree. If you love rhetoric, no one else will touch what he will do. Some have criticized what he attempts to do in this volume, but that criticism is a little too harsh. He does cover the typical NT Introduction issues at a depth that compares with most other works of its type.

If you read the preface, you will see exactly where the revision took place. Yes, some paragraphs are little changed from the previous edition while others are extensively rewritten. The print size is a little smaller, but the book has clearly been upgraded in eye appeal. That’s a trend in the industry that was successfully implemented here. The visuals including maps, tables, and pictures are not borrowed from any other work I’ve seen and are quite effective.

If you are in the market for a major New Testament Introduction, you will owe it to yourself to make sure this one is on your list for consideration. I predict this new edition will extend the life of this work for several years to come.

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 (NTL) by Blount

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Brian Blount has given us this commentary on Revelation in the New Testament Library (NTL) series. Perhaps no other book of the Bible would find a shelf full of commentaries on it to so diverge as does Revelation, so we enter any such commentary with our seat belts tightly fastened. As you would expect with the NTL series, you will also get a critical outlook. That being said, this volume was pleasantly a little more moderate in places than I expected. For comparison, it has far more value than the OTL volume on Daniel, which is the most prophetic book of the Old Testament. It doesn’t match my views on prophecy at all, but there is some real exegetical help for words and phrases, some fine background material, and some thoughtful theology. He delves deeply into the idea of persecution so you will have what you need to formulate your ideas on that angle as well.

The Introduction begins with the theological focus. His saying “John writes in anger” might be a little much, but his discussion of justice, judgment, and anger has real insight. When he discusses authorship, he can accept that a “John” probably wrote, though he isn’t sure which one. He dates the book at the year 95. His section on social setting was quite thorough and helpful. If you enjoy studying genre, he goes into much detail here as well. There are an outline and a brief overview of structure. He concludes his Introduction with a cursory glance at the text of Revelation.

There are almost 400 pages of commentary on Revelation that follows in the strengths (exegesis, background, and theology) and weaknesses (too critical in places) mentioned above. Still, if you asked me to recommend the best critical commentary on Revelation, I’d likely choose this substantial 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.\

 

The Letters to Timothy and Titus (PNTC) by Yarbrough

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This commentary by Robert Yarbrough will become, I predict, a top-rated volume on the Pastoral Epistles. These epistles are ideal for the style of commentary we find in the Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC) series. As respected and valuable as the NICNT volumes by the same publisher are, these Pillar volumes are simply more valuable. They have a better center of focus, are more consistently conservative, and have more value for pastors without sacrificing scholarship. This volume succeeds in reaching that standard too. As you might have guessed, the editorship of D. A. Carson likely keeps this series moored to that lofty perch. BTW, don’t miss the editor’s preface where Carson fawns over Yarbrough’s work here.

I was in love with this commentary within a few pages of its fine Introduction. So many commentators lose their way in the Pastoral Epistles. I have long suspected that it has far more to do with the authors dislike of what these epistles say rather than any actual problem found within them. Yarbrough is not sucked into the irrational fear of using the term “pastoral epistles” as so many are today either. It’s a breath of fresh air.

He opens the Introduction with eight theses on pastoral heritage in these epistles. To my mind, that was a great way to present introductory issues. Next, he does a section each on Father, Son, and Spirit respectively in the Pastoral Epistles (PE). He was particularly perceptive in discussing Paul as a working pastor, even dispensing some silly critical theories along the way. He then tackles in turn geography, people, and key terms. He ends with a section on authorship and other usual introductory matters and masterfully reaches conservative conclusions.

The commentary itself was even better! The phrase “real help” comes to mind. He showed off his skill, for example, in the perpetual battlefield of Titus 2. He gently yet surefootedly takes us where that disliked passage goes. He’s kind to dissenters, careful in scholarship, but not afraid to reach a conclusion. I don’t know about you, but that’s how I like my commentaries. 5 stars 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. 

1 Corinthians (TNTC) by Thomas Schreiner

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Thomas Schreiner provides us an ideal commentary of the type aimed at pastors or Bible students rather than scholars. It’s part of the celebrated Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TNTC) series that’s been a favorite for decades. In fact, the value of this series becomes especially apparent when Schreiner confesses that it was a distinct help in his younger days. Talk about coming full circle!

His task, however, was daunting as he gets to replace the redoubtable editor and writer Leon Morris. Morris was exceptionally gifted for these type of commentaries, so I can see why the current editors went after a heavy hitter like Schreiner. For my money, Schreiner, who had already proven adept with major exegetical works, scored a home run here. (That’s high praise from one who will never part with Morris!)

After a nice bibliography, Schreiner turns out a thoughtful, well-constructed Introduction. He surveys the city of Corinth, Paul’s ministry there, and the occasion of the epistle. His description of the letter’s occasion was perceptive and was strengthened by several appropriate tables. Next, he delves into the nature of the letter, which is a sane look at the letter’s unity. In the section on major theological themes, he begins with the Trinity and spreads to the church. Other themes include salvation, resurrection, the Christian life, food offered to idols, and spiritual gifts. He ends with a nice outline.

The commentary itself is outstanding. If you want to see the quality of his work, look at a controversial passage like, say, I Corinthians 7 on marriage issues. Words like gentle and gracious come to mind. On the other hand, words like brave and certain come to mind as well. In other words, you will get the kind of things you are looking for when you pick up one of this kind of commentary.

This commentary is a winner all around. It’s inexpensive too. What more could you ask for?

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 (NICNT) by DeSilva

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David DeSilva has wonderfully replaced the volume on Galatians by Ronald Fung in the long-lived, much loved New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICOT) series. This new volume is little like its predecessor.  That volume was old enough to be written in a more expositional way than is found in the major scholarly works the series turns out today. DeSilva is fully in line with what the series has been turning out in recent years. Without a doubt, he brings many of his own specialties and a somewhat more lively writing style as well. He always has a few detractors for his strong emphasis, and to some minds overemphasis, on rhetoric, but I predict this commentary will be well received. It’s pretty conservative too.

There’s a major, thorough Introduction of over 100 pages after a substantial bibliography. First, he addresses the Pauline authorship. From there, he delves into Paul’s ministry in Galatia and the pastoral challenges he faced there. That requires a careful rendering of the false teachers there. It was an explosive battle among Paul and the false teachers and DeSilva well described it. Next, geographic issues (he favors the South Galatian view) and chronology are surveyed. Acts is consulted and a conservative chronology is pieced together over several pages.

As you would expect with this author, he dives deep into rhetorical issues. There are 40 pages on it! I don’t find that as interesting as some do but he examines it with the best scholarly standards. He ends with structure and the overall effectiveness of the letter.

Next, you get 400 pages of commentary on the epistle itself. I found it thorough, done with careful exegesis, and with a healthy coverage of issues scholars love along with some timely excursuses. Pastors will benefit from this commentary too. All in all, a fine work.

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.

Hosea (Apollos Old Testament Commentary) by Joshua Moon

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The Apollos Old Testament Commentary series is starting to get out enough titles to see that we are going to have a major series on our hands. They run from conservative to moderately critical and are far more conservative overall than, say, the Word Biblical Commentary series. This latest release is a helpful volume on one of the Minor Prophets, Hosea. I enjoy having individual commentaries on even the smaller books, and this is one of the few major ones on Hosea. Only Dearman in NICOT comes to mind, yet their strengths are different enough to make both worthwhile. Both have impeccable scholarship, yet I suspect pastors might favor this one while scholars will go with Dearman. I’m glad to have both within reach. Joshua Moon is the younger scholar, and perhaps like me, you hadn’t heard of him before. I suspect a productive career for him after writing this quality commentary on Hosea. He seemed adept at commentary writing as he pitched this book perfectly for both scope and length.

The Introduction begins with an overview of Hosea’s historical backdrop. He holds to a conservative chronology. From there, he broadens his purview to Hosea’s place among the prophets. The next section looks at Hosea from a writing perspective. He says, “As will be amply demonstrated, no part of the text requires a date earlier or later than the era stated in the superscription”. He does discuss editing which always strikes me as fanciful. The sections on text and structure are a little too brief, but the one viewing Hosea in light of the Covenant was well done. Theology could have used more space too, but I suppose he saved it for the commentary itself.

The commentary is truly helpful. It’s presented in the usual Apollos style: translation, notes on the text, form and structure, comment, and explanation. I liked what I found here.

The Apollos series has another quality title here and I warmly 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.

The Message of the Living God (BST) by Peter Lewis

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Peter Lewis contributes this book in the Bible Speaks Today (BST) series. In addition to all the fine commentaries covering all the books of the Bible, there are several like this one that covers biblical themes. The approach to explaining these themes is still one of examining Bible passages. If you happen to be studying the doctrine of God, you might find this volume along with The Message of Creation by David Wilkinson and The Message of the Trinity by Brian Edgar to form quite a trilogy. In any event, this book on the Living God covers several key passages effectively.

The book is divided into three parts: God and His world with all Genesis passages, God and His people with passages over the rest of the Old Testament, and God in Three Persons with all New Testament passages. Believe it or not, that division is not stretched.

There are many outstanding expositions here, but I found the one entitled “Genesis for today” on Genesis 1 to be particularly perceptive. Several attributes of God are brought alive here. You’ll find many underlined sentences in my copy!

This book has great value because most volumes on this subject approach it in a systematic theology fashion. We sometimes need reminding that good systematic theology should come from Bible passages first.

I’m a fan of all the books in this series and mark this down as another title well worth your time.

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.