Reading Mark’s Christology Under Caesar by Winn

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Mark’s Gospel has intrigued scholars for years. Or maybe it has confounded them. There’s a general consensus that Jesus is Messiah and that Mark is written against a Roman backdrop, but paths diverge from there. Adam Winn takes a stab at it arguing that Jesus as Lord directly counters Roman propaganda. He further posits that Christians would have read it as such in those days. Winn explains in his acknowledgments that this is his second pass on this subject. He wrote on the Christology of Mark in his doctoral dissertation and has since imbibed the contributions of his critics. To me, this work benefits from that mature reflection.

The Introduction possesses great value as a reflection on what’s been believed along with a perceptive analysis of trends found in the text of Mark itself. The secrecy motive, redaction studies, and other criticisms good and bad are well explained too. Fortunately, he unpacks his own approach, which gives you a good basis to take in what he will share over the course of the book.

In chapter one, he reconstructs the historical setting. That analysis is foundational as he sees Roman influence as a driving force in Mark. Chapter two develops the equally essential element of his approach as he explains Christological titles in Mark. You don’t have to agree with his conclusions about the individual titles to glean from the chapter.

The next two chapters trace this theme through the traditional lens of the powerful Jesus in Mark 1-8:21 and the suffering Jesus in Mark 8:22-10:52. In chapter five he returns to the secrecy motif through his Roman lens followed by one on Christology.

If you are familiar with volumes that attempt to provide a thematic analysis of a biblical book, you will find this book to be a good representative of the type. It may be a specialized subject, but it is one well done.

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. 

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. 

Qumran: A Carta Field Guide by Hanan Eshel

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Let’s load up the buses and ride! I want to visit Qumran after seeing this fine book by Hanan Eshel. Somehow I missed visiting Qumran when I was in Israel, and now I regret it after seeing what the site has to offer. This Carta field guide covers history, biblical archaeology, and serves as a nice tour guide as well.

Eshel was a professor in Israel and has the historical and archaeological credentials to be the ideal writer of this book. He has personally led several excavations in Israel and knows how to lead the reader around a site of archaeological significance.

There’s a short introduction that outlines the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Next, we get a thorough description of the near turbulent acquisition of the scrolls. That story would make a movie and it must’ve been the providence of God that they were attained!

As it turns out, there were 11 caves involved (see the map on page 83) so there’s a lot of stories to tell. The photos are gorgeous throughout! By page 96, the book shifts focus to helping you plan a trip to Qumran. Without this book, you would miss so much of what can be seen at Qumran National Park. Don’t miss the panoramic view provided by the photo on pages 138-139.

As you would expect, you will also find those awesome Carta maps and illustrations throughout. This book is the second Carta field guide that I’ve seen (En Gedi being the other) and I think we need these field guides done for every major site in Israel. I assure you that whenever I get to visit Qumran, this book will be in my hand!

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.

Ein Gedi: A Carta Field Guide by Hanan Eshel

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I want to go back! Ein Gedi was one of the most beautiful and interesting sites for me when I visited Israel. Now that I’ve had the chance to look at this Carta field guide by respected author Hanan Eshel, I realize I missed so much.

This attractive resource with its sumptuous photography, fine illustrations, and superb maps as you would expect in a Carta title enables you to have an intense tour of Ein Gedi from your armchair. I will review this work again before any subsequent trips.

The book begins with a topographical map and introduction that gives a broad overview. The first half of the book is an outstanding historical survey of the site. The history is placed within accepted archaeological periods and the archaeological evidence is carefully presented. The section that covers the biblical period is, for most of us, the most insightful. Don’t miss the map of David’s wanderings on pages 16 and 17. Beyond David’s time, Ein Gedi’s archaeological evidence continues to unlock its history all the way to the Hasmonean Period.

The second section provides an actual tour of Ein Gedi. A map covering pages 72 and 73 show the extensive possibilities of a visit to the site. The photo on page 76 that gives an aerial view of Ein Gedi looking west is breathtaking. What follows is a thorough coverage of all that can be seen there. There’s a final section that covers things to visit that are nearby to Ein Gedi.

This is a perfect title for either Bible students or travelers to Israel. I can’t imagine ever studying or planning to visit this site again without turning to this volume. It’s beautiful in every 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.

Understanding the New Testament: An Introductory Atlas

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Over the last few years, Carta has developed an outstanding set of introductory atlases. This title is one of the earliest releases. While I feel that later titles continue to get better, this earlier entry is a thorough success and one that I would recommend you study first if you choose to work through these atlases. A careful study of these titles would be the equivalent of an awesome college class though these titles are accessible enough for any Bible student. This title gives a broad sweep of important background material for the New Testament in the beautiful Carta style.

After an initial physical map of Israel, you have the succinct and pithy overview of all the books of the New Testament. Next, you have a breakdown of the different areas in Israel where the varying climate impacts its history. From there, you spread out to the larger New Testament world including the areas that Paul carried the gospel to throughout the Roman Empire. There’s an overview of the Intertestmental Period including some great charts on the early Caesars and Herods of that time. There’s also a chronological discussion of the Gospels from a geographic standpoint followed by one for the early church.

The maps are of the sterling quality you’ve come to expect from Carta products. Some of the maps are those you may have seen in some of their larger, beloved Bible atlases. Once you’ve studied this title you can also find others on the Old Testament along with others on archaeology, history, and geography. There’s not a dud in the bunch and I highly recommend them all including this fine title on the New Testament.

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.

Understanding the Geography of the Bible: An Introductory Atlas by Wright and Har-El

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This title in 40 large, attractive pages really pulls off a fine presentation of the geography of the Bible for students at any level. If you will take the time to study this introductory atlas, you will quickly understand how the geography in Bible lands dramatically impacts events. This title goes well with other introductory atlases in this series that give an overview for the Old Testament, the New Testament, kingdoms in and around Israel, and biblical archaeology. These two authors have contributed several of these outstanding titles and Carta has perfected the art of presentation.

Carta never fails us with its maps and pictures. Their titles are always a visual smorgasbord. Don’t miss the charts and maps that show annual precipitation, mean temperatures, climatic regions, principal geological features, and major routes.

The text is highly instructive as well. You will gain a working knowledge of the climate and geography of the entire Middle East where the discussion is especially thorough on prominent areas of the Bible. The range of climate and geography being so small an area is incredibly pronounced and has a distinct impact on those living in the particular areas. In my view, this knowledge is critical background information for any sort of Bible study.

At this point, I’ve seen all of these introductory atlases, and this one is one of my personal favorites. Don’t miss 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.

Life in Biblical Israel by King and Stager

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I love this type of book. Though this book has been around for a while and often receives glowing recommendations, somehow I had overlooked it. I’m glad that’s no longer the case. I don’t subscribe to the authors’ chronology or critical assumptions, but there’s much treasure to be found in what they’ve put together here.

The authors provide a fine introduction that explains the importance of everyday life, what must be worked with to arrive at an understanding of that everyday life, and an overview of archaeology and other things. The next extensive chapter covers an Israelite house and household. Homes, family members, meals, and medical information are all addressed. The next chapter looks at farming, climate, vegetation, water sources, arts and crafts, travel, transport, and trade. From there, there’s a chapter that looks at the city, water systems, and warfare and armies. There’s a helpful chapter on culture that looks at dress and adornments, music, literacy, and education. The last chapter covers religious institutions including temples, shrines, objects associated with these places, religious practices, death, burial, and the afterlife.

The maps section is a little weak, but the bibliography, the indices, and the photography and illustration throughout the work are superb. This is a fine resource where you will find many opportunities in your studies to consult. Warmly 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.

Everlasting Dominion by Eugene Merrill

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I’ve used the works of Eugene Merrill throughout my entire ministry. He’s known for quality conservative academic work. Somehow I had overlooked this work for a long time. I’ve used several of his commentaries to great advantage, so my curiosity was piqued when I saw this volume described as his “magnum opus”. At least we can say that a major work of biblical theology requires more interdisciplinary mastery than most other theological work. Mr. Merrill’s humility is such that he almost sheepishly approaches this work in the preface. To my mind, however, he has the skills to tackle this task.

In chapter 1 he overviews what Old Testament theology is. That chapter includes a look at the winding path scholarship has taken on Old Testament theology. Much of it has been so absurd that we welcome this conservative effort. In chapter 2 he discusses the Old Testament as the autobiography of God and covers a wide range of theological concepts that you might find in a systematic theological approach. Chapter 3 upholds that the Old Testament is the revelation of God. Chapter 4 looks at what the works of God are as found in the Old Testament. Chapter 5 concludes part one with a discussion of the purposes of God.

Part two backs up and approaches the Old Testament from the perspective of mankind, who is made in the image of God. That will include chapters on the fall, redemption, and the creation of Israel.

Chapter 3 discusses the kingdom of God and in this section, we began seeing work on the individual books of the Old Testament. You may find his order of approaching Old Testament books a little unusual, but all are covered beautifully. We reach the wisdom literature of the Old Testament in chapters 18 and 19 before we find one concluding chapter that returns us to the big picture and anticipates the New Testament.

I don’t see how you could do serious work on Old Testament theology and not consult this book. It’s clearly one of the top volumes on the subject and 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.

Understanding Biblical Archaeology by Wright

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At this point, Carta has several introductory atlases that could serve as a personal class on some important topics of Bible study. Paul Wright has contributed several of these outstanding introductory atlases covering the New Testament, geography, biblical kingdoms, important people groups mentioned in the Bible, as well as writing a well-received major Bible Atlas. This title gives an excellent overview of biblical archaeology. When you finish this book, you will have a working knowledge of what biblical archaeology is and what has been discovered in Israel from various archaeological periods.

Other works may probe more deeply the broader assumptions of archaeological work while this one focuses more on what we have found. These findings are presented through clear text, gorgeous pictures, and effectively chosen Bible maps. This book could have a secondary use as a guide to what archaeological sites might be worth visiting on your next trip to the holy land too. For example, on a trip, I did I enjoyed immensely visiting biblical Shechem of which there’s a fine picture on page 15.

The diagram on page 9 is worth pages of text in describing how we have such levels of archaeological finds available at many sites in Israel. We also find there an overview of archaeological periods.

The balance of the book takes us from the Early Bronze Age through the Early Roman or Herodian Era. Fortunately, there have been many wonderful archaeological finds in every major era between those two and none are given short shrift here.

This book is worth your time and I highly 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.