The Hermeneutical Spiral by Grant Osborne

book spiral

This massive book lives up to its subtitle of “a comprehensive introduction to Biblical interpretation”. It’s the fullest volume I have seen on the subject and it brings the word encyclopedic to mind. There’s no way that you could find any subject in the field of hermeneutics not mentioned in this book. Its greatest strength may also be its greatest weakness as it may be simply to prolix for some people. Still, Grant Osborne has had as much direction in the scholarly world for hermeneutics study as anyone in the last 30 years. Additionally, this busy scholar has written a few important commentaries along the way.

His conception of hermeneutics as a spiral form from text to context has become the preeminent academic theory of biblical interpretation today. In this book, he breaks down the hermeneutical spiral in great detail. In his lengthy introduction, he explains the issues of interpretation, the difficulty of acquiring meaning, how to view the Scriptures, the place of the reader in interpretation, and how the goal of hermeneutics is expository preaching.

Part 1 is on general hermeneutics and covers five chapters. He takes in turn context, grammar, semantics, syntax, and historical and cultural backgrounds. In each case, he describes the range of things that has been believed in the subjects and strongly argues for his own perspective. Again, the detail is incredible and covers main issues as well as esoteric ones.

Part 2 covers genre analysis, or what we might call special cases in hermeneutics, in nine chapters. In my opinion, he shined even more in this part. The special sections of the Bible can be difficult in biblical interpretation and he gives much food for thought in every category. Even where I could not agree with him, I found him both exhaustive and interesting.

Part 3 is special. He calls it applied hermeneutics and he covers biblical theology, systematic theology, homiletics– contextualization, and homiletics– the sermon. This section continues past where most hermeneutics books end. In making the natural progression to homiletics, he provides almost a second book on that needed subject for preachers all within the same covers of this book. There’s two appendices at the end on some fairly-narrow scholarly issues too.

There’s no doubt that this is a five-star book. The only question is if it’s too much for some readers. For those who want THE book on hermeneutics, this is 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.

Mark (NTL) by Eugene Boring

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Eugene Boring’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark is one of the most highly regarded in the New Testament Library (NTL) series. Mr. Boring is quite respected in the scholarly world and this book is just one of several of his major titles. Though he is much less conservative than I am, he has a knack for throwing out provocative thoughts that I enjoy considering when studying a passage in Mark’s Gospel.

In his Introduction, he covers all the bases in 25 pages. There was a substantial bibliography before the Introduction began too. More than some writers, he focuses on Mark’s specific audience, and says this gospel is one to be read aloud “in the context of a worshiping congregation”. Though he sometimes confuses the Jesus of history as someone different than the Jesus that Mark writes about, he does trace beautifully the story that’s being written. He feels that genre is one of the most important aspects to getting at Mark’s meaning. Though I really can’t agree with Mr. Boring on his conclusions on sources, date, and provenance, nor his conclusions about Mark 13, he is a clear writer in stating his conclusions. He pulls out many details that you might miss within the text that can give some great thoughts. His discussions of author, purpose, text and transmission, and language, translation, interpretation, though, are all quite brief. His historical conclusions are odd, but in any event, he believes the main content of Mark’s narrative is theological.

His actual commentary is even better. This is where he sees things that others miss. Even if you don’t agree with his conclusion about what he found, you will love being able to dwell on the nuggets he dug up. The real value of this commentary is here.

This commentary is now available in a more economical paperback edition. It’s one of the more important mid-sized commentaries on the Gospel of Mark. You will enjoy checking 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.

Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics (Revised Edition)

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Two veteran scholars, Walter Kaiser, Jr. and Moises Silva, team to provide us this introduction to the study of biblical hermeneutics. This is a revised and expanded second edition. It comes in a nice, attractive hardback edition as well. These authors don’t always agree with each other, but they are both committed to the authority of Scripture and are worth listening to. While this book is meant to be a first introduction to biblical hermeneutics, I think it better serves as a second text because of its length and style. That’s not a knock on this volume, but a complement on how well it teaches us to logically think through some of these issues. For example, it would make a great second text to go along with Introduction to Biblical Interpretation by Keil, Blomberg, Hubbard by the same publisher.

Its subtitle of “the search for meaning” describes well the approach taken here. As with most such volumes, the authors have their own approach and order of the things that must be studied in grasping the meaning of any biblical text. Part 1 looks at what the authors call “initial directions”. There they talk about why we need hermeneutics, what we mean by meaning, how language is used, how biblical theology fits in, the New Testament use of the Old Testament, and the role of history. In that section I thought the chapter “let’s be logical: using and abusing language” was one of the best.

In part 2, the authors seek to understand the text and try to help us make sense of literary genres. In that section, the unique features of the genres like poetry, the Gospels, the epistles, and prophecy are taken in turn. In part 3, they moved to meaning and application consider the devotional use of the Bible, our need to obey the word in cultural context, and how to move on to the theological use of the Bible. Part 4 is the collection of loose ends covering things like a history of interpretation and contemporary approaches to biblical interpretation. The final chapter on concluding observations attempts to tie it all together. There’s a fine glossary, an annotated bibliography, and indices at the end.

This is an outstanding volume to have on your shelves to complement your understanding of biblical hermeneutics. 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.

Entrusted With The Gospel–A Book Review

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This book, edited by Andreas Kostenberger and Terry Wilder, collects 12 scholarly articles on the Pastoral Epistles. They cover matters similar to what you might find in the introduction of a major commentary and discussions of theological issues. The editors provide the first two articles while the others are provided by other scholars who have a good background in the Pastoral Epistles.

You will likely find some articles more interesting than others, just as I did, as a matter of personal interest. For example, I’m so convinced that the books in the New Testament are written by those they’re attributed to, that I find a discussion of pseudonymity pointless. Still, if that’s your thing, you’ll find a good article about it here.

I found the article that describes the stewardship theme of the Pastoral Epistles to be very interesting, as was the one on cohesion and structure. There is good coverage of Christology and the prevalence of salvation found in these letters. One of the very best articles was the one on ecclesiology as there are so many local church issues discussed in the Pastoral Epistles. Paul Wolfe has an article that exegetes several of the more debated versus in these epistles. In addition to ethics and mission in the pastoral epistles, well-known scholar Howard Marshall gives a detailed overview of all the recent literature on these epistles (since 1998).

This book accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. The contributors are more conservative and the scholarship more dependable than many such books. This book is important in any major scholarly study of the Pastoral Epistles.

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.

Five Festal Garments by Barry Webb

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I wish other scholarly books read like this one. It could make a prototype for future scholarly monographs. For one thing, he loved to read the New Testament back into these five wonderful Old Testament books. These five books – Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther – became the five short Old Testament books that were sung in the great festivals of Israel. Though they are not together in our Bibles, it’s still a great idea to look at them together. Mr. Webb has hit a home run and packed an incredible amount of material in 150 pages.

Mr. Webb describes these books as sitting on the edge of the canon because they had more trouble with acceptance than any in the Old Testament. In the chapter on each of the five books he crams in much material like you might find in an introduction in a commentary, but the depth can’t hide the warm spiritual truth he uncovers for Christians.

He broke down the Song of Solomon in an incredible way. He describes the incredible statement it makes about love between a man and a woman in a tasteful way. He may not see it as a picture of the love of Christ for his church as much as I do, but he does finally conclude that there’s something of the love of God in it.

Without getting bogged down as I’ve seen so many scholars do, he broke down the episodes of the book of Ruth. He beautifully brought out the theology to be found in this amazing little book. He also discussed Ruth as salvation history, which many scholars will no longer do.

He sets the scene of suffering in the book of Lamentations and makes sense of its structure. Again, the theology was spot on. I may not have agreed with all his conclusions on Ecclesiastes, but I was intrigued by what he had to say. In the chapter on Esther he addressed the charge that it’s a secular book. He did see Esther and Mordecai as more conflicted characters than Bible characters like, say, Daniel. Again, he provided us with many avenues of study.

I enjoyed this book. I sat down and read it straight through in about two hours. I don’t see how anyone could read it without benefit. It’s an awesome book.

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.

Luke (NTL) by John Carroll

book luke NTL

This commentary is a fairly recent entry in the well-known New Testament Library (NTL) series. Before I received this book, I had heard reports that it was one of the most practical volumes in the series for pastors. Now that I’ve had a chance to get into it, I must agree. It’s a quality midsize commentary for the Gospel of Luke.

After an extensive bibliography, Mr. Carroll gets into his Introduction on Luke’s Gospel. Though rather brief, I felt it covered all the bases well. In fact, it might be the length that many pastors would prefer. He begins by explaining Luke’s impressive qualities, including he says, “Christian historian, gifted storyteller, literary artist, and theologian”. He sees Luke is drawing the picture of Jesus within the Roman world. As you will find in most such commentaries, he outlines what has been believed about Luke being the author of this gospel. He dates Luke’s Gospel later than I would. He discusses genre and purpose followed by the suggested approach to reading Luke’s Gospel. He feels that Luke applies his story to Israel’s story. He sees Luke’s Gospel as the theocentric and says, “what drives the story as God’s faithful commitment and relentless activity to accomplish the divine purpose for Israel, and through Israel for all people”. Finally, after discussing textual issues of the Gospel of Luke, he gets into the design of the narrative, which covers issues of structure. All in all, it’s an introduction well done.

The commentary itself was well done. He brought in appropriate background material, defined the meaning of words, and did lose track of the narrative flow of the gospel of Luke. Every passage I checked had meaningful, helpful commentary that you could appreciate. In fact, I compared some passages to what I had read in some of my favorite larger exegetical commentaries, and Mr. Carroll had something worthwhile to share in every passage. This is a good resource to add to your shelves.

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.

To The Cross by Christopher Wright

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After years of producing quality mid-sized commentaries, Christopher Wright has shown himself adept at writing fine sermons with helpful devotional material. In fact, this is his third such title in the last several months. One of those other titles was also by IVP and entitled Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit. This latest volume called To the Cross is just in time for Easter.

One of the things that I especially noticed in this volume is how well Mr. Wright follows in the footsteps of his mentor, John Stott. I mean that as a sincere compliment that it is. In this exposition, he brings the story of the last days of Jesus to life. The sermons are warm, thoughtful, insightful, and touching.

His first sermon is on the Last Supper. I appreciate how he tied the blood of the covenant to this story. The next sermon on Peter’s denial was even better. He showed how failure was a part of Peter’s life and how that Jesus knew those failures and could handle them. The sermon on insults and paradise highlighted the people around the cross and described how Jesus’ last three temptations were so full of irony. He ended the sermon with two of the sayings of Christ on the cross. The last two sermons covering Jesus’ sufferings on the cross were gripping. He brought that to life far better than most I’ve seen. The sermons were over by page 108 and make outstanding devotional reading for Easter.

I was surprised to find the appendix where he talked about the process of preparing these sermons. It’s like a nice bonus, especially for younger preachers, who can greatly glean from surveying the methods of an effective preacher like Mr. Wright.

This book deserves to find a large audience. Every reader would have to be blessed by what they find on these pages. You won’t regret the time spent reading this fine book.

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.

John (NTL) by Thompson

book john NTL

This commentary on the Gospel of John is one of the latest in the New Testament Library (NTL) series published by WJK. This volume is designed to be a major mid-length commentary for those who study in the Gospel of John. It is aimed more at those who teach than scholars. You will find it quite suggestive on many passages.

Marianne Meye Thompson explains in her preface that she has worked 17 years on this commentary. That’s a lot of time for mature reflection. It’s also fair to say that this is one of the more conservative volumes in this series. She chooses not to debate the historicity of the stories in John’s Gospel, but just comments on the text that we have.

I could not agree with her that the John of this Gospel was not the John, who was the son of Zebedee. Still, the Introduction to John’s Gospel she gave was filled with helpful insights. You could sense a love of the gospel of John as you read her comments. She makes some great comments on how John is different than the Synoptic Gospels. The discussion of Jesus as the son of God in both the Introduction and a later excursus (excursus 2) showed that this was an area of the author’s expertise. I thought her explanation of how matters affecting ritual purity were absent from John was well-made as well.

The section on structure was rather short though competent, and her opinion on the dating of John landed at the conservative position of the 90s. She stated that this commentary “focuses on the gospel’s account of Jesus of Nazareth: what he said, what he did, how is life ended, and what happened after his death.” To my mind, this commentary achieves the goals the author set out at the beginning.

Though it was not as in-depth as some of the major exegetical commentaries out there, I thought the commentary proper was both interesting and helpful. She wrote in a clear way that was easy to understand. I could not agree with all her conclusions, but I appreciated the way she wrote. I checked several passages in this commentary, and the quality was consistent throughout.

If you’re looking for an additional voice in your studies of John’s Gospel, you would do well to cure this volume for your shelves. 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.

Luke (ZECNT) by David Garland

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With every new title in this Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series that I delve into, I find my appreciation growing. This series is well conceived and this entry by seasoned-commentator David Garland adds to the laurels of the series. In addition to commentaries on a few New Testament epistles, Mr. Garland has already produced a volume on Mark in the NIVAC series. He is equally at ease in either the Gospels or the epistles.

In his Introduction to Luke, Mr. Garland discusses the authorship of Luke and Acts. In accepting Luke as the author, he strives to dig a little deeper into who Luke actually is. He keeps his discussion of Luke’s sources mercifully brief and jumps on into the genre of Luke and Acts. He sees Luke as both an historian and apologist. The next section is called “date, provenance, and the readers of Luke-Acts”. Unlike some other commentaries I’ve read, he discusses those three issues together rather than separately. There’s even in that section some great information that some others might put in the category of structure. He makes some nice, valid points about Luke’s purpose in writing this gospel. The only disappointment in the Introduction is that his section on structure is only an outline.

I found the commentary proper of even more value. That’s not to say I didn’t disagree with him on some points. For example, the meaning of the word “inn” in the birth of Christ is much more conducive to the traditional meaning that Mr. Garland seems to believe. Most other commentators would not agree with him on that one either. Still, the commentary is of extraordinary value. Every passage I surveyed offered the kind of things I’m looking for in a commentary.

Mr. Garland appears comfortable with the ZECNT format. In each passage, he discussed the literary context, stated the main idea, offered his own translation, explain the structure and literary form, and gave an exegetical outline before launching into a detailed explanation of the text. That is followed by a theology in application section that helps preachers bridge the gap between exegetical information and the sermon.

Having reviewed the volumes on Mark and John, and now reviewing this volume on Luke, I’m amazed at the quality this series has given us on these three Gospels. This volume is ideal for pastors. Think of it as being helpful like the NAC series with a little more depth. 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.

Old Testament Exegesis by Douglas Stuart (4th edition)

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Subtitled “a handbook for students and pastors”, this volume has been a standard in the field for many years. Now in its fourth edition, it is poised to continue its usefulness for many more years. Mr. Stuart is a highly-respected Bible scholar, who has written several outstanding commentaries. I’ve enjoyed using several of them myself. In this volume, he goes through his process of performing exegesis on Old Testament passages. This book is especially valuable for those new to exegesis.

The structure of the book, with every section and subsection numbered, makes using it as a reference at any point of the exegetical process very efficient. After you work through the volume initially, you will find it easy to go back and check certain elements where you may be confused. There’s even a handy analytical table of contents at the beginning to help you zip to the needed location. While you might not have his exact method, you must think of everything he addresses at some point in the exegetical process. I don’t personally do everything in the exact order he says, but I found him to be engaging and suggestive. It even struck me as I read that there were some elements of the exegetical process that I could improve.

Chapters 1 and 2 are aimed more at students doing exegetical papers in seminary. Not only does he explain the process well, but he also illustrates his point with scriptural passages on several occasions. Chapter 3 shortens the process for pastors creating sermons. He takes the process even through application and sermon. Chapter 4 is a fine bibliographic chapter suggesting books for each phase. The suggestions are quite extensive.

The only downsides I could see in the book is that it reduced the process to such a science that the art was lost. Further, some of the language work he suggested is realistically not going to be done by pastors. Finally, if the student or pastor is just beginning, it would take years to build the library he recommends. In his defense, I’m sure he was suggesting buying one good book in each category.

You might want to check out a similar volume on the New Testament from the same publisher. Don’t miss the list of common Old Testament exegesis terms and the list of frequent hermeneutical errors in the back of the book. As a guide or refresher, I recommend this book.

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.