Understanding the Holy Temple of the Old Testament

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Leen Ritmeyer is my favorite modern writer on the Tabernacle in Israel’s earlier history and the Temple from Solomon’s Temple all the way to Herod’s Temple. His earlier major work, The Quest, is the gold standard on the Temple from either a historical or an archaeological perspective. Now Carta gives us one of their fine introductory atlases (They have a whole series of these helpful books) on the Holy Temple of the Old Testament. For this colorful, attractive work Mr. Ritmeyer is joined by his capable wife, Kathleen, to produce this helpful book that you will find incredibly enlightening.

The book begins with an introduction that reminds us that holiness is a key element in thinking about the Tabernacle. That’s followed by a section called the Genesis Sanctuary as the authors describe what they call the Proto-Tabernacle. That’s an interesting perspective that I hadn’t thought of. Next, we have some information on Melchizedek and Abraham, followed by great information on the Tabernacle. Every major component is explained and profusely illustrated. There’s even a section on the journeys of the Tabernacle and how that was done.

Solomon’s Temple is carefully explained, as well as the differences we find in its description between Kings and Chronicles. There are some great explanations of the rock at the top of Mount Moriah and its relation to the current Dome of the Rock. They will explain Hezekiah’s Temple as well as Ezekiel’s Temple and the Temple Scroll. Next, we will learn about the Post-exilic Temple, the Hellenistic Temple Mount, and the Hasmonean Temple Mount.

This book is the perfect way to learn a clear overview of the Tabernacle and Temple in 48 large pages. The word that comes to my mind for this book is “ideal”. You will want to look up its companion volume, Understanding the Holy Temple Jesus Knew, which is also an outstanding asset.

As with any Carta resource, there are outstanding pictures and maps. What stands out especially in this book is the diagrams of the Temple as well as pictures of reconstructed models. This book is well done!

I received this map 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 Lost Sermons of Spurgeon: Volume 3

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I love these lost sermons of Spurgeon more as every new volume is released. Here we are blessed to receive volume 3 of what will be an incredible 10-volume set for both Spurgeon fans and any who love gospel preaching. The design and setup match the previous two volumes, but I notice the sermon notes are becoming fuller as Spurgeon must’ve started keeping more careful notes.

With this volume, I became even more impressed with the editor, Christian T. George. It’s almost as if he went through these notebooks with a magnifying glass and nothing escaped his eye. He made sure we had everything he observed. Be sure to glance through the notes that follow each sermon. I even noticed that he traced down some of the sermon illustrations to volumes in Spurgeon’s library! I guess our beloved Metropolitan Tabernacle sermons will seem somewhat inferior after this set is finished. I, for one, appreciate the attention to detail that Mr. George brings to this project. B & H gave this production worthy packaging to make something truly beautiful.

Another observation: Spurgeon started hitting his stride in producing sermons that we would expect from him in this volume. As was his custom throughout his ministry, he is all over the Bible. It would be hard to argue that anyone was Spurgeon’s equal when it comes to textual preaching. The man could wring the Gospel out of almost any text! This book needs no recommendation from me – obviously its pure gold!

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 Maccabean Revolt: An Introductory Atlas

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If you are like me, the silent years between the Old and New Testaments is a place of weakness as a Bible student. There were turbulent events that changed many things about the political world situation that ended the Old Testament to the Roman control firmly in place when the New Testament began. Part of that important transition had to do with the Maccabean revolt. This beautiful introductory atlas by Carta that matches the style of several attractive introductory atlases now in print by them is the perfect place to correct the deficiency of your biblical knowledge.

The work of three highly-respected scholars was effectively molded together to give us a vivid overview. Michael Avi-Yonah who has prolifically written on Bible history and archaeology is the original contributor. Two other scholars from Israel, Shmuel Safrai and Ze’ev Safrai, combined to finish and update this useful work.

In this book, you will learn about the Seleucid Empire, the factors that led to the Maccabean revolt, key battles over the century of the Maccabean revolt, key players, and the effects on Jerusalem. The text reads well. The pictures are beautiful and effectively illustrate the material. In fact, you will find yourself staring at them and feeling you are there.

And as always with these Carta titles, there are the wonderful maps. The preeminent mapmaker of our day really outdid themselves in this work. The number of maps in a work of 40 oversized pages is incredible. It’s as if there’s a map to introduce every movement the text tells you about. The scale and amount of information on every map are perfect. The visual representation of battles was especially effective. I’ve seen whole Bible atlases that had less quality maps to cover all biblical history than this one has for only one century of Israel’s history. I’ve reviewed almost every Bible Atlas on the market today, and nobody comes close to touching what Carta provides on the Maccabean revolt. I’ve loved all the introductory atlases by Carta but be sure not to think that this is the one you can pass by because it’s too obscure. No, you will never regret having this introductory Atlas at your disposal to explain a vital component of Israel’s history.

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 Lord Is Good by Christopher R. J. Holmes

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This book by Christopher R. J. Holmes challenged me. For sure I enjoyed it, and I learned great things, but this is no lazy summer afternoon reading. You can decide for yourself, but I need books like this. I need to be pushed past the fluff that prevails in Christianity today. I can’t say I agreed with every single word he said or every conclusion he drew, but I felt a connection with Mr. Holmes because I felt on every page that he sincerely believed that the Lord is good!

Don’t let the subtitle “seeking the God of the Psalter” lead you to believe that this is some sort of commentary on the Book of Psalms. Truth be told, had the printer accidentally left off the subtitle, I would probably have only thought that he quoted Psalms more than other books of the Bible. This observation is no criticism, however, because this is a profound theological work. Still, you will likely see a few verses in the Psalms far differently after reading this book.

As I read this book, I thought at times that the author could easily go to the field of philosophy and succeed. Still, his biblical observations were rich. At other times, I thought he had something of a love affair with Thomas Aquinas and was at least a member of the fan club of Augustine and Barth. For me, what he drew from each of them and put together was closer to what I would think than any one of the three individually. Mr. Holmes deserves credit because it would be a gross misrepresentation to say that he merely regurgitated what others had said. These three theologians have put such a strong stamp on what Christianity believes on the subject of the goodness of God that it would be impossible not to greatly interact with them in a book like this one.

There are nine chapters in this book that cover the subjects of simplicity, you are good (that doesn’t mean what you first think), goodness and the Trinity, you do good, the good Creator, goodness and evil, teach me your statutes, goodness and Jesus Christ, and perfection. I could only read one chapter, or sometimes only half a chapter, at a time. There was too much to take in! Every chapter was great, but my personal favorite was the one on goodness and evil. That one really helped some light bulbs come on for me.

I’ve learned that this book is part of IVP’s series entitled Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture. Though this is by far the most interesting subject to me of those released, if this series can turn out more works like this one it will be a dandy.

We all have our systematic theologies on our shelves, but this is the type of theological work that needs to find its place beside them. The Lord’s attribute of being good is brought alive here and I’m a richer person for 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.

Leviticus (OTL) by Gerstenberger

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Erhard Gerstenberger replaces Noth in the Old Testament Library (OTL) series with this volume. It strikes me differently than many other volumes in this series. Whereas many volumes in the series make a greater theological contribution than an exegetical one, this one gives us little theology around its exegesis. The whole series is known as a critical one yet in this volume it seems more pronounced to me. Known as a form critic, the author talks much about sources. Those discussions seem nebulous and unprovable to my mind and give the text a devastating uncertainty. How deeply you fall into the critical viewpoint will determine how high you rate this volume. If you’re more conservative like me, you may not find the theological compensations that some others in the series provide.

The Introduction begins by describing difficulties in reading the Bible. The aforementioned subject of sources arises immediately. He describes the audience as “a colorless someone” and does not demonstrate a passion for the book of the Bible that he commentates on that is found in the best commentaries. He discusses authorship, subsequent influence of cultic law, and structure. He takes the critical line across the board.

In the commentary proper, he does provide a lot of exegesis (the best trait of the book) and a lot of detail about the ceremonial things that are foreign to our thinking. He would bring up things like feminist concerns that put him at odds with the text.

In a nutshell, critical scholars will likely rate this book highly, those doing exegesis will appreciate some details, and more conservative readers will likely not enjoy this book as much as several others in the series. In fairness, it could be that the Book of Leviticus doesn’t lend itself to the same kind of theological treatment several others in this series provide.

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.

Determined to Believe? by Lennox

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This book is one of the most thoughtful, balanced, and needed volumes that I have seen a long time in the always turbulent Calvinist/Arminian debate. He takes us back before these later labels to the more correct label of theological determinism and helps us wrestle with the sometimes tricky concepts of the sovereignty of God and human freedom. In tone and in content this book is a tour de force that refuses to accept the theological constraints that have been foisted upon us and takes us back to the Bible itself.

Both in the brief prologue and the introduction on what this book is about, we immediately notice something that is rare in this debate –civility. There’s no way he can agree with everyone, but he is altogether kind to those with whom he cannot. Occasionally, I almost wondered if he’s spilled too much ink in a cautious attempt to be respectful. Still, that may be what this subject demanded.

He had me by just a few pages into chapter 1. His discussion of the nature and limitations of freedom brought the subject into clear focus as he explains the difference between the liberty of spontaneity and the liberty of indifference. He introduces terms like determinist, indeterminacy, compatibilists, and incompatiblists. He makes an indisputable case that there can be no morality without freedom, nor love without free will. He gives a great discussion of how there are both atheists and Christians who hold to determinism. Chapter 2 dives into various kinds of determinism including physical determinism and theistic determinism. The logic employed is flawless and unanswerable. Chapter 3 develops some of the earlier thoughts to discuss the moral problem with determinism. As you will see, there is a major moral problem with it. Chapter 4 with its interesting title of “weapons of mass distraction” talks about the plethora of labels that have overtaken this debate. He turns us to Scripture and shows us what the apostle Paul said about following men or labels and how perhaps this debate stumbles out of the gate in the approach to it that so many of us take.

Chapter 5 begins part two that now feels comfortable to address God’s sovereignty and human responsibility head on. Again, he writes with clarity and does not allow himself to be bound by the clichés that have robbed the debate of its vitality. In chapter 6 he turns to the biblical vocabulary and instead of turning to a theological book goes straight to the Bible to discuss and define foreknowledge, predestination, and election. Part three begins with a chapter on human capacity and its limits and it is where we are now able to discuss some of the common arguments given, including some of the letters of TULIP. The next chapter looks at the human condition and digs into God’s righteousness and justification by faith. Chapter 9 tackles what the Bible says about being drawn by the Father and coming to Jesus Christ. Chapter 10 asks hard questions about the common explanations given for regeneration. Chapter 11 cycles to the gospel and human moral responsibility. The balance of the book looks directly at some of the key Scriptures that serve as the battleground of this issue: Romans 9 – 11 (5 chapters), several passages on assurance (1 chapter), several passages on endurance (1 chapter), and passages in Hebrews (2 chapters). The book ends with a very brief epilogue and questions for reflection.

I don’t see how you’d want to dig into this subject without availing yourself of this incredible book. I give it the highest recommendation!

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.

Philippians and Philemon (NTL) by Cousar

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This volume by Charles Cousar in the New Testament Library (NTL) series covers Philippians and Philemon. I’ve read some unfavorable reviews on this book mostly owing to its brevity. While that charge is true, I came away rating this book better than I expected. It does hold to the familiar NTL pattern, is less critical than I anticipated, and provides insight.

After a bibliography, we have an Introduction to Philippians. He begins by acknowledging the theme of joy. (How could we trust any book on Philippians that ignored the theme of joy?) He introduces us to both the city and the church at Philippi. Its history in the Roman Empire, as well as its significance, are clearly reviewed. He refers, as he has at other times, on the fondness Paul has for this congregation. When he moved to the subject of authorship and integrity of the letter, he admits that the Pauline authorship is rarely questioned. Though he mentions a few absurd prognostications about authorship, he seems comfortable with Paul. As to place and date of writing, he presents briefly the evidence for Rome, Caesarea, and Ephesus before cautiously choosing Ephesus for this commentary. He explains Paul sending this letter as a thank you to the Philippians. He discusses structure and suggests an outline. As with any of these Philippian commentaries, he discusses the opponents. I thought he provided his best observations when he discussed the message of the letter. In less than 70 pages, he provides a commentary on Philippians that is worth consulting.

I felt the Introduction to Philemon was simply too short and discussed too little. What he did discuss, though, was some of the things that you wrestle with in such an introduction. The commentary on Philemon was unacceptably brief.

While this volume may not rate as highly as some in the series, it’s by no means a throwaway volume, at least on Philippians. If you are filling out your NTL collection, there is still value here as this author does his best work in providing nuggets for the preacher.

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 God’s Word (Second Edition)

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Now in its second edition, this book by Terry G. Carter, J. Scott Duvall, and J. Daniel Hayes lives up to its subtitle: a hands-on approach to preparing, developing, and delivering the sermon. It strikes me as a success because of its clear value as a first textbook for someone learning how to put together a sermon. It does better than most at keeping a big-picture view as it assembles the pieces of the sermon. There are other books that, perhaps, dive deeper into the details – the works of Jerry Vines comes to mind – but this one may be “just right” for a wide array of readers.

The book is divided into three parts: eight chapters on developing and preaching a sermon, three chapters on preaching the New Testament, and four chapters on preaching the Old Testament. Duvall and Hays had earlier produced a hermeneutics textbook entitled Grasping God’s Word, which is also published by Zondervan, so this book assumes an understanding of hermeneutics and goes straight into putting together a sermon after that work has been done.

The first chapter introduces their 11-step sermon process. Chapter 2 covers the first five steps: grasp the meaning of the text in their town, measure the width of the interpretive river, cross the principlizing bridge, consult the biblical map, and grasp the text in our town. As you can see, they word this information in practical terms aimed at our maximum understanding. Again, they avoid being either too shallow or too deep and succeed at being “just right”.

After all that wonderful help for putting the sermon together, the other two parts on the Old and New Testaments look at the genres and their unique challenges for the preacher found in each. Most of these were wonderful. The value of the chapter on preaching Revelation might correspond to your own prophetic viewpoint. Actually, they tell you that that might be the case when you preach the Book of Revelation.

If you’ve been called to preach and are trying to figure out how to put a sermon together, you owe it to yourself to check this book 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.

First and Second Chronicles (Interpretation) by Tuell

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Here’s a moderately critical work that’s one of the best in the Interpretation Bible Commentary series. Steven Tuell, who has also written a succinct commentary on Ezekiel that has been well received, writes on First and Second Chronicles here. Though you might consider a work of 250 pages on both books of Chronicles a little too brief, he makes good use of every page. To my mind, the best contributions of this book are the theological reflection on and a big-picture presentation of Chronicles.

The Introduction begins by opining the diminished acceptance of Chronicles compared to other books of the Bible. He explains that to many Chronicles is little more “than a dull rewrite of Samuel and Kings”. The author works against that comman viewpoint and champions Chronicles as a unique book of the Bible that covers the broadest historical range of any book in the Bible – from Adam to the Babylonian Captivity. Though I don’t care for the label “Deuteronomistic history” as a description of Joshua through Kings, he gives good explanation of how they interact, are similar, and are different. He highlights how Chronicles uses other scriptures widely. In fact, he says, “the most distinctive feature of Chronicles is the large degree to which it reproduces other biblical texts”. He looks at Chronicles as it relates to Ezra and Nehemiah, and from there launches into an explanation of date and composition. The dating he explains is more conservative than what you might expect in a more critical series. The brief section on the theology in Chronicles is just a preview of what you will find in the commentary itself.

While this commentary might not be my first choice when I’m digging into a passage in Chronicles, I still see it as a great second choice and one that I will enjoy consulting. What I see in the commentary proper is of distinct value.

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.

Jeremiah and Lamentations (Reformation Commentary on Scripture)

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Don’t think of this as a curiosity piece. There’s real value here as previous generations have distinct contributions they can make to our understanding of the Bible. The Lord has spoken in every generation. This large, beautiful volume is the latest release in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series. Covering Jeremiah and Lamentations, this book of 600 large pages makes many important observations that can enrich our Bible studies.

I can’t imagine the amount of research that was required by J. Jeffery Tyler to produce this volume. Without a doubt, this book also has great historical value. The trends in the Reformation become clear as a more careful return to the text of Scripture is apparent in their work. My only problem with calling this a historical work would be a possible misinterpretation that you couldn’t use it as a commentary. For my time, this volume’s expository light is its greatest asset. In addition, the Book of Jeremiah is always one of those where you would appreciate a little more help.

All of this is not to say that you will fail to enjoy the historical contribution this book makes. There is a general introduction that overviews the Reformation and explains what this commentary series is trying to accomplish. There’s also a wonderful introduction to Jeremiah and Lamentations in the Reformation. I enjoyed reading it. There were the names I was very familiar with and those I had never heard of it at all. All facets of the Reformation were fair game for this work and even the Anabaptists were brought into the commentary. Some of those unknown names reminded me that all of our heroes are not household names. Many more than we know are worth knowing. When the introduction explained the main themes that the Reformers often discussed it’s easy to see that those probably are the true themes of Jeremiah and Lamentations. Maybe new is not always better!

Every passage gets an overview and commentary from the Reformers in the commentary section. Again, it must’ve taken so much sifting to cherry pick for us readers the best of the bunch. The editor doesn’t excessively quote any one Reformer and that variety strengthens the work.

I’ve only reviewed a few of the volumes in this series so far, but I really like this one! When complete, this series will be a force to be reckoned with. In the meanwhile, don’t miss this great commentary on Jeremiah and Lamentations!

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.