John 13-21 (RCS), edited by Christopher Boyd Brown

This unique series continues with this latest entry covering John 13-21. In contrast with the earlier volume covering John 1-12, Christopher Boyd Brown edits. His background as a professor of church history makes him a natural for this commentary that thrives on history rather than exegesis. The quality that was found in the earlier volumes I’ve seen remains constant.

After a General Introduction given to describe the series and its historical parameters, there is a specific Introduction to Reformation history regarding John 13-21. As you can guess, that is a review of what the Reformers focused on in these chapters. While there are distinct overlaps with our day, you quickly see that some burning issues burn out and are replaced with new ones in subsequent generations. To my mind, that is instructive in and of itself.

You will find numerous fascinating observations along with some that lack punch. As for me, I was only surprised that there was not as much offered on the Trinity, particularly in John 17, as I expected. I can’t necessarily fault the editor because I have never dug into the source materials he had available. I just assumed there would be more.

For that matter, that’s the biggest challenge for the whole series. Did the editors really collect the best passages? Who knows. The value, then, is what you can get out of their labors. On that level, they clearly scored. There are both interesting contributions for individual passages as well as help when taken in aggregate for what the Reformers thought. Help for study of passages and historical evaluation—what more could you ask for in a Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS) volume?

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.

Signs of the Messiah by Andreas Kostenberger

Andreas Kostenberger has been writing on John’s Gospel for years. I’ve used all of his titles on John to advantage. While this volume may never be as well-known as his commentary on John, nor his upcoming major new commentary on John, I think this book is something of a little jewel that Bible students ought not to overlook. To be sure, it is a perfect example of where a scholar writes some of the best the profession can give pastors or those doing intense study of Scripture. Or what is even better is that there is little jargon or extraneous material to have to wade through to get to the good stuff! When scholars take the details of a book and formulate its structure they present to us something that is truly helpful. That is what you will find here!


The introduction is not a complete introduction to the gospel of John, but rather an explanation of what this book is trying to accomplish. It takes the signs (you will learn what they are if you don’t already know) and break the gospel of John down into units. Within the unit, he explains the sign that was given and what Jesus was accomplishing and the Book of John particularly. There are riches in every chapter.

I thought the several charts throughout the book were a wonderful aid to what you were learning and crystallized in one visual what you were trying to grasp.


I disagreed with a few fine points of detail, many of which were only in the footnotes, but overall I agreed with his conclusions and thought the work was awesome. This book will probably never be the most famous one written by this author, but it will do you as much good as any 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.

Ezra-Nehemiah (NIVAC)

There is always cause for celebration when a major commentary series reaches completion. That is the case with this final volume in the NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC) series covering Ezra and Nehemiah. Some series never reach that milestone, or if they still will, we can at least say that multiple decades have not been long enough yet. As I understand it, this series has also been widely used, so reaching completion is even more praiseworthy.

This last volume, not counting revisions that may come in the years ahead, is up to the level that you usually get in this series. I can’t recall a case where I’ve seen an important commentary being written by a married couple like this one written by Donna and Thomas Petter. It is almost comical to imagine what this entry entailed to produce. In the preface, you can even tell that they are a little self-conscious about it. After a little chuckle, you will see, though, that the finished product is one where the authors pulled off what they set out to do.

There is a solid introduction to both Ezra and Nehemiah that addresses literary and historical setting, political background, authorship and date, intended audience, structure, and theological themes. The scholarship is mostly conservative. That is followed by some nice maps and charts, a detailed outline, and a select bibliography.

The commentary proper follows the typical NIVAC style of translation, original meaning, bridging contexts, and contemporary significance. I found the original meaning section to be outstanding. The application is more hit than miss. I don’t think I’m being harsh in reviewing it in those terms because I ultimately see most such attempts at contemporary application that way. To be fair, what we have here is better than most.

Most people don’t study Nehemiah and Ezra as often as they do many other biblical books, so this commentary may suffice as the only resource for many Bible students for those neglected books. For pastors and those doing deeper studies, this will be a worthwhile volume to have at hand with other key titles. 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.

Handbook of Evangelical Theology by Robert Lightner

Here is a nice book to introduce biblical doctrine to someone. Whether that be an introductory class Bible college class, or maybe for even a more valuables use, for someone alone or in a small group making a serious jab at understanding Bible doctrine, this book will fill a real need. Saying that this book is good for an introductory work by no means implies that it is shallow. There is real depth but the communication is helpful for someone who would be new at Bible study. I suppose the author’s many years of teaching made him ideal to write such a work.


The work is thoroughly conservative with no concessions to nonsense. In case you were wondering, the author subscribes to a dispensational outlook in prophecy and is committed to inerrancy of scripture throughout.


The sections of the book correspond to the great doctrines of the Bible. Near the beginning of each chapter there is historical perspective to help orient the reader but that does not dominate the discussion. Then after a careful laying out of the doctrine itself he concludes each section with a discussion of major areas of difference among evangelicals. I think that section has real value. It can come as a surprise to those studying theology for the first time that there are such differences. To my mind, it is better to go ahead and allow the reader to know that upfront. Plus, while there is not value in arguing, sometimes hearing different viewpoints can help one formulate their own more strongly.


This is a fine book. I might disagree on some little point, but how could that not be the case in any detailed work in systematic theology or Bible doctrine? I happily recommend this book to anyone interested in studying the great doctrines of the Bible.

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.

Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (TOTC) by S. D. Snyman

S. D. Snyman has turned out a little gem in the ongoing revision of the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series on the exciting books of Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah. This volume along with a few other recent releases show us what is an emphasis in this round of revision in the long-running series: exegesis and theology. Previous volumes highlighted ANE background and other such details. This new emphasis is far better for us who use them. I am pleased!

This volume on three Minor Prophets who should be far better known is one of my favorites so far. I hope my love of these three prophets isn’t jacking up my review of this book, but it surely is a fine offering.

There is a general introduction to the three prophets and their writing that is brief but really gets you oriented. Each book is given introduction and commentary in turn. There are seven or eight pages of introduction, which is for this series what Goldilocks would call “just right”. I was impressed with what was accomplished within that brevity. It says as much as some larger works that can never tell the difference between the center and the tangent. When you get to the commentary you really have a basic grasp of what’s going on in the respective book. He does mention where scholars diverge and disagree, but he never allows the book to confuse that with what is most important.

The commentary is great. It doesn’t go as deep or say as much as some of the larger works, but that is not this series’ goal. Again, it is more to the point and you do know what is going on in the passage. There are many rich statements that will help you as you work through these books that you might not be especially familiar with.

Mark this volume down as an A+. I sincerely hope this series can keep this fine level of quality in the volumes that are still coming down the pike.

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 (TOTC) by Robin Routledge

Here is yet another new volume in the rapidly unfolding complete makeover of the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series. In my judgment, these more up-to-date new titles are holding their own against the famous selections that we have seen from this series in the past. To be sure, Robin Routledge delivers a home run in this take on Hosea.

The introduction begins by stating the context of Hosea. He explains historically where they are in the northern kingdom of Israel including political developments that defined the times. He develops the religious context as well, which as you would guess is essential to understanding Hosea’s ministry. Along the way, he will have considerable discussion about how Hosea’s marriage to Gomer should be viewed. It all seems wonderfully balanced.

He also explained Hosea’s place among the Minor Prophets as well as in the Old Testament at large including connections to Deuteronomy and Jeremiah. He next explained textual issues before delving into the theology and message of the book.

The commentary proper delivered the sort of thing that those who study the Bible would be looking for in this type of commentary. In every passage he set the context and gave commentary with real depth.

All the new volumes in this series that I have seen so far range from competent to very good. Mark this one down on the side of very good. 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.

Baptism: A Guide to Life From Death by Peter Leithart

It’s hard for me to put my review in words for this book. It’s part of a Christian Essentials series where I had already been blessed by the one on the Lord’s Prayer. I was very intrigued to look into this one about baptism. In the first few pages of the book he reminds us of the challenges of this subject. Around Christianity the battle lines are drawn and people are ready to fight at the drop of a hat. Because that is true, I did not come to this book expecting to read what I would agree with down the line. No, I was happy to learn what others thought. How can the opinions of baptism be so profoundly different?

In light of that approach, I do have a much better view of how others view baptism. Perhaps it would be best to describe the approach of this book as liturgical , which is not my viewpoint. It’s only fair, then, that I put my bias on the table before I tell you what I think might be wrong with this book.

In short, it seems to me that he puts more weight on the back of baptism than it can legitimately bear. There were paragraphs where he described what I would say happened when I received Christ where he made it sound like it happened at baptism. To be fair, I think he would argue that those benefits of Christ rolled over him at baptism. I don’t think that is the case, and so his beautiful prose might lead younger believers to a conclusion that I think would not be beneficial.

But there is another question. Did I enjoy the book? I must confess that I did even with my table full of caveats. There were paragraphs when he would write something where all I could say was, wow, I had never thought of that before. What a blessing! Then the next paragraph I might think, you shouldn’t attach that to baptism! For example, he writes so many beautiful things that the Bible says about water. They are profound! Unfortunately, if it involved water, he was convinced it was about baptism. I think that’s completely over the top, but it was good to refresh my heart about many things the Bible did say even if baptism was not the subject.

I’m sure this book on baptism could be in no way more conflicted than this review! It’s the best I could do. It will be up to you, if you are intrigued or not.

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.

Rebels and Exiles (ESBT) by Harmon

Chalk this volume up as another smashing success in the new ESBT (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology). I love how this series takes a broader view than many similar series, yet imparts so much vital information. Matthew S. Harmon gifts us with something powerful about the doctrine of sin with a view toward redemption. After you read this book, you will agree that the concept of rebels and exiles is key in Scripture.

After making a good case in his brief introduction that “exile” is a proper rubric to study sin, he plunges into tracing that line throughout the Bible. Chapter 1 was my favorite, not because his writing deteriorated later, but because the story of Adam was like a home run out of the park to illustrate his theme. Additionally, he provided nugget after nugget that I especially enjoyed that imbibed freshness into an old story. Subsequent chapters follow the timeline of scripture seeing “exile” all along the journey. I will have to admit that it was there.

He followed through until he got to the New Creation where “exile” is finally banished. His final chapter on the practical implications of what he has written about brought theology out of the textbook and into life. I loved how he explained how we have a homesickness for a place we’ve never been!

At the end he gave some detailed suggestions for further reading as well as a thorough bibliography.

The success of this volume makes me even more excited to look at the others in the series. You have here accessible theology with real depth. 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.

1 & 2 Peter and Jude by Schreiner (CSC)

Only recently did I notice that the NAC series, which I’ve always loved, is being revised and re-cast as the Christian Standard Commentary (CSC). This first revision is on 1 & 2 Peter and Jude and updates the popular commentary by highly-respected scholar Thomas Schreiner. I had the privilege of using the part on Jude extensively a few years ago. I’m glad this commentary is receiving this revision.

I found the case to be exactly what the author stated in his preface. He has updated and revised, he has rewritten sentences, he has surveyed more recent scholarship, but he has not changed his mind. I carefully reviewed the bibliography and several of the footnotes. If that is your need, you will want this new commentary because there seems to be significant interaction with later works. If you are a pastor or teacher, what is revised might not be your main focus. Still, this volume has always been one of the most highly-rated in the NAC and sets the bar high for this new CSC.

As for this new CSC series, these new volumes are attractive. I always liked the look of the NAC and thought it looked better than several other series on the shelf, but these new volumes are even nicer and have a crisp, smooth look. I like the dust jackets, I like the binding, I like the font of the text, I like the font of the footnotes, and I like the overall layout and look of the whole book. Some series print volumes that look like little more than an afterthought, but this volume is sharp!

The work is top-notch here, and this volume is essential on Peter and Jude!

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.

Systematic Theology (2nd Ed.) by Wayne Grudem

This release is exciting! It’s fantastic to see this widely used systematic theology get a fresh updating to extend its life and reach even further. As someone who has used the earlier edition extensively, I am happy to report that this gets helpful revision and new paragraphs without sacrificing what we loved in the older one. It does not appear to me, either, that he has changed his opinion on many matters. He just states even better what he has been saying well in this book for 25 years.

Because there have been few changes in conclusion, or even in design, it is likely that whatever shortcomings you found in the earlier edition will continue to be found in this new release. For example, I always thought his discussions about the doctrines of Christ and the Holy Spirit could have been fuller and more prominent among the other doctrines. Don’t misunderstand me; these discussions were still good. I’m just talking about their prominence among systematic theology at large.

It is obvious that systematic theologies get graded more on the reader’s agreement than its quality of work, and so if you follow Grudem’s theology this is easily going to be your favorite one. I suggest it ought to be one of your choices no matter your theological predilections. In fact, I think the best way to use systematic theologies is to have at least three or four of varying perspectives for you to wrestle through. If you take that approach, as I always have, this simply must be one of your choices. I know it’s always been that way for me. If I’m going to study a doctrine, Grudem is going to be one of those first three people I read before I branch out. This revision only makes that more happily the case for me. I don’t always agree with him, but I always appreciate what he has to say.

This is a phenomenal, well thought out, and well communicated volume that could not fail to enrich any Bible student who used it. I know the word “indispensable” can be overused and cliché in a book review, but this is that place where it must be said.

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.