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.\

 

Defending Your Marriage by Tim Muehlhoff

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Here’s a marriage book that takes a fresh, new approach. Tim Muehlhoff looks at our marriage problems in light of the possibility of spiritual warfare. I hadn’t really given that possibility consideration, though I would have said: “the Devil sure fights us”.  My problem (among others) would be never probing what the Bible says about spiritual warfare in this practical way. The author works with Dennis Rainey at Family Life and writes with the graciousness and insight that belies a compassionate, experienced marriage speaker and counselor.

His introduction reminds us that our marriages are targeted by the Devil and that our job is for our marriages to showcase Christ in this world. That’s startling on both counts. Because our culture, including many Christians, is too spooked to entertain the possibility of spiritual warfare, he spends the first chapter making a clear case for it. There’s solid doctrine there. Next, he addresses why Satan cares about our marriages. Along the way, he exposes the failure of the prevalent contractual, or you-do-your-part-and-I’ll-do-mine, view of marriage. Since we all tend to overestimate our contributions while underestimating others, this approach has no hope. As you might guess, marriage as a covenant and as “an outpost for God’s Kingdom” is more appropriate. Covenant says I love like Jesus and not based on what my spouse does.

He discusses how to tell if it’s spiritual warfare rather than normal aggravations. He goes through open doors for spiritual warfare in 4 main categories of 1) sexual sin, 2) religious sins like idolatry, 3) relational sin against others, and 4) public sin. He further explains the 5 top indicators of spiritual warfare: 1) inappropriate anger, 2) sense of impending doom, 3) violent dreams, 4) no longer believing the best about God, and 5) no longer believing the best about you (your self-talk). He also probes how intimacy might play into all of this.

He has a thoughtful look at Adam and Eve and their temptation with great insights. There’s a chapter on using the armor of a Christian that gave real help (the best was the belt of truth). You wouldn’t have guessed it, but he makes great use of the Lord’s Prayer as well.

All in all, this is a fine book that covers a missing niche. I pray I will use many of its sage counsels.

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.

Last Call for Liberty by Os Guinness

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I’m not sure how Os Guinness pulled off writing the book of the hour while at the same time giving us one for many generations to come, but in Last Call for Liberty he has done that very thing. He says so much to our generation, yet it will be the words that will be needed in a hundred years. At least if there’s any liberty left to cultivate and protect at that point. What is equally amazing is how he did it. There’s only a little of Trump or Obama, and even less of Republican or Democrat. He would have us stop drowning in the latest election cycle, or even the latest 24-hr news cycle. Our problems are more fundamental than the latest round of lunacy. His perspective spans the horizon. He looks at where we are, how we got here (since the 1960s at least), and where we are going. He holds us accountable to what freedom is and what it is not. He calls on us to embrace anew the precious gift of freedom or our twisting of freedom will be our destruction.

Guinness paints his portrait with the colors of the American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789. That comparison explains so much. I’ve always loved reading about that time period, so I’m a little ashamed I never saw this dichotomy before. How freedom was both approached and defined is why one of those revolutions has held for 200 plus years while the other is a historical footnote. Still, he isn’t giving us a historical survey. No, the problem is that much of America today has switched from 1776 to 1789 in their guiding of our nation. Peril awaits.

That’s not to say that this book is depressing. It’s like a teacher who believes in your intellect and boldly makes a case that assumes your ability to comprehend. He never talks down but sounds like he speaks to peers who will see what he’s saying when they face the logic. He comes across as positive there’s hope and all that’s missing is for us to slow down and carefully analyze the facts.

You will, without doubt, get some of the most perceptive analysis of the trends and events that define us today. He never comes across as shouting “this is wrong” as much as “here’s what’s behind certain behaviors and why they will hurt us all”. He never yells at us for assaulting freedom. It’s more of a proclamation that freedom is one of the greatest things that God has given us and it’s worth hanging on to.

I’m not going to give a chapter-by-chapter overview in this review. Just jump in and you will see things that perhaps you’ve never thought before and that now you see as the natural, unanswerable explanation of our turbulent nation. This book, if ingested by our nation, would revolutionize us all, or at least take us back to the beautiful place we began. Labeling a book as a “must-read” is trite, but read it and see if that isn’t exactly what you’d say.

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.