Mark: Through Old Testament Eyes by Andrew T. Le Peau

book mark ot

This book is the inaugural volume in the Through Old Testament Eyes commentary series. Series editor Andrew T. Le Peau contributes this volume on the Gospel of Mark. As we are starting to see such a proliferation of commentary series these days that the market is almost glutted, so a new series especially needs a unique contribution to not get lost in the multifarious market. If this first volume is any indication, I think this series is going to have something to say that’s not found in others. The Old Testament angle is only part of its success.

Be sure to read the Series Preface to see how it’s set up. In the Introduction to Mark’s Gospel, you immediately see that this series is aimed at pastors and Bible students, not academic types. He gives a long movie analogy of movies borrowing from older movies to describe Mark’s borrowing from the Old Testament. It’s in this Introduction that you find one of the highlights that will be carried through the whole commentary. Scholars often make a discussion of structure a quite nebulous exercise, but he takes it and in a few paragraphs turns it into something truly helpful. Compared to others, the Introduction is short, but I think it succeeds for what this series intends to be.

Every passage has commentary with an emphasis on its relation to the Old Testament. That does help where other commentaries sometimes lack. It’s those sections in the dark shading that I love the most. They contain all kinds of helpful information. It often involves explaining structure. Many times there’s a helpful chart that aids understanding even more.

I see this commentary as the perfect secondary commentary. It holds up well with the other serious paperback commentaries on the market. If this series can sustain what we have here, it will likely be quite successful. In any event, this first work on Mark is a winner.

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 (NT XIII) on Hebrews and James

book ref heb jam

Though several titles have been released in this Reformation Commentary on Scripture series, this is my first opportunity to review or use one of its volumes. Immediately I’m impressed by the hardback volume and its attractive dust jacket. Since this series is different than most that I use, I really appreciated the guide to using the commentary that was provided at the beginning of the volume. That is followed by a general introduction to the whole series that explains what its producers are hoping to accomplish. The editors are seeking to help modern interpreters and preachers, as well as furthering historical understanding and Christian scholarship. There’s a great deal of helpful information on that history and how exegesis fared in Reformation times. It was thrilling to see a sympathetic view of Anabaptists from that time as well.

Next, we have an introduction to Hebrew and James that reviews things as they stood in the Reformation period. The commentary itself is easy to follow. The person quoted is always listed at the beginning with a more detailed bibliographic entry at the end of the periscope. Hebrews and James are tricky for totally different reasons, and that makes this step back to Reformation times even more interesting. There were some authors quoted that I’ve read Spurgeon loved that I’ve not seen anywhere else that was icing on the cake for me too.

It’s all really fascinating. It’s a terrible mistake to assume that only our generation has anything to say. Though the years aren’t equal, the Reformation seems like the midway point between New Testament times and today in my view. It’s great to see what was believed at that time. Plus, you must respect the men who returned to the Bible at such cost in their generation. What they have to say is at least worth listening to.

I think I’ll be checking out other titles in this fine series. IVP is to be commended for providing us today with such a valuable asset.

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.

Zondervan Handbook to the Bible

book zon han

This handbook that is the favorite of many has garnered a fifth addition. I’m told that there are over 3 million copies in print in many languages for the first four editions. Even the earliest editions, edited by David and Pat Alexander, were colorful and more eye appealing than most on the market. That tradition is extended in this latest edition. It’s beautiful, colorful, full of helpful articles, and contains wonderful maps, charts, diagrams, and photographs.

Section 1 introduces the Bible with broad discussion, helps put the Bible in its proper setting, explains keys to understanding, looks at the unity of the Bible, and surveys the challenges of reading the Bible today. The next section covers the Old Testament, breaking it down by looking at the four genres found there. Each book of the Bible is given an overview and a synopsis of its contents. There’s many articles of special features found in the book as well as lavish illustrations. The New Testament is approached in the same helpful way.

You will enjoy the final section too that they call the “rapid factfinder”. I describe it as a brief Bible dictionary as well as a reference on where to find further discussion in the book itself.

The book is beautiful and well done. The paperback cover is sturdier than most and actually works well in this case. Many of the contributors are well-known scholars. I imagine any Bible student would crave this book. It’s a winner.

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.

Second Corinthians (NIGTC) by Harris

book nigtc 2 cor

This volume by Murray Harris is one of the most respected in the well-known New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC) series. Its success arises from its masterful exegesis, its scholarly clarity, and its warmth. Along the way, you will have one of the most conservative entries in the series as well. Having already written a helpful commentary II Corinthians in the EBC series aimed at pastors, Harris flexed his scholarly muscles in producing this meticulous, yet clear technical commentary.

Harris provides a massive bibliography running 100 pages. He begins the Introduction by digging into the literary issues of II Corinthians. I appreciated that on page 1 he wasted no time in saying, “one of the areas in which there is consensus among NT scholars is that Paul was the author of 2 Corinthians….” Quickly he segues into where the strongest debate concerning this book always happens – how it fits with I Corinthians. He explains what he calls “the severe letter”. He works through all the main possibilities before he begins defending the integrity of II Corinthians. There’s debate also about some of the passages and if they possibly come from a different hand than Paul. Again, these passages are covered from every possible angle and he is quite open to conservative solutions.

He also tackles the occasion, purpose, and outcome of the book. From there, he comes back at the book with a view to explain historical issues. In doing so he will review the date, Paul’s opponents, and the collection for Jerusalem. He works with care in producing a chronology before he dives into discussions about structure. There’s also some good discussion of theology in the book, which you will also find in the commentary itself.

The commentary proper is over 800 pages on the text. It is in perusing these pages that you will see that Harris lives up to the reputation that has attached to this book. As with most volumes in this series, the English translation of the Greek presented is nearby and fairly easy to follow even for non-Greek readers.

This volume is easily the best we have on the more technical side for II Corinthians today. Don’t miss it.

 

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

President McKinley by Robert Merry (Presidential Bio. Series)

book mckin

In the world of presidential biography, how would you grade the biography of one of our lesser – known presidents? Without doubt, it requires more of the author. The two main characteristics of such a presidential biography must revolve around: a) skilled writing that draws you into the life of one you never realized was interesting, and b) enough depth to make you feel that you really know this person. Granted, the life of the president that headlines the biography is what it is, and the author will be greatly aided if that individual happens to be compelling, even if the accumulating years pushes him into obscurity.

In this work by Robert W. Merry on Pres. McKinley, all these factors aligned beautifully to create an outstanding biography. It’s a joy to read and it moved me firmly into the category of counting McKinley as one of our better presidents. In fact, Merry is so successful here that I’m still scratching my head how that I, as one who enjoys presidential biographies, thought so little of McKinley before. The subtitle “Architect of the American Century” is in no way an overstatement. Probably the only reason that McKinley has suffered such obscurity is the unfortunate circumstance of being followed by the flamboyant Teddy Roosevelt. I found Roosevelt larger than life myself, and in reading his biographies found McKinley pushed exactly where Roosevelt wanted: in the shadows.

McKinley is easily one of the more upstanding men to hold the office. Merry is extremely fair, and worthy of praise even, in his presentation of the religion of McKinley. In other words, he reports the facts, and doesn’t pass judgment on those views, nor does he attack the sincerity of those views. McKinley was raised in a dedicated Christian family. He was a gentleman, he did not use swear words, yet was not overly judgmental of others. As a young person, he came forward at a camp meeting to profess salvation at a mourner’s bench, and in my view, stayed true to his roots in a much greater way than most presidents.

The author seems amazed, and I agree, that McKinley was extraordinary in managing and getting his way, yet without running over others. Though he took great pride in his military career in the Civil War, he was not horribly vain. He seemed to always rank getting the job done more than getting personal glory.

Whether it be with the gold – versus – silver issue, the Spanish-American War, a foreign policy that predicated itself upon America’s greatness without features of colonialism, the Panama Canal, and even economic policy, McKinley moved us from post – Civil War times to the 20th century. I’m glad Merry pushed Teddy Roosevelt enough to the side that we could see this great president.

As presidential biographies go, this one is a winner. I enjoyed it, and suspect you will to.

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.

Haggai and Malachi (NICOT) by Jacobs

book hag mal

This latest entry in the highly- regarded New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT) by Mignon Jacobs covers Haggai and Malachi. It replaces the serviceable volume by Pieter Verhoef that’s been much used for 30 years. In the last few decades this series has transitioned to academic issues from its earlier emphasis of assisting pastors, though scholarly pastors will still love it. If you appreciate the last few entries in this series, you will find this new title in that same vein and fully of their caliber.

After a substantial bibliography, the Introduction of Haggai begins with the historical background. We learn of the times of the prophet, his identity, and the date of his activity in the book. The next section tackles historical context by explaining what the author calls “chronological indicators” followed by the sociopolitical context and the conceptual framework. Next, there’s a brief discussion of the text followed by a section on inter-textual indicators. That revolves around Haggai’s comparison with Ezra, Chronicles, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Leviticus. There’s also a short section on structure (It could have been longer). The Introduction ends with a brief overview of the message that includes a few theological values.

The book of Malachi has an Introduction with the same design as that used by Haggai and explained above. There’s a few more charts and tables in this one to help the reader. The outline provided in the section on structure was also much more detailed than that of Haggai. I thought the theological discussion of the ideal versus the real was illuminating.

The verse by verse commentary of both sections is helpful. Scholarly issues are well defined and inter-textual discussions are well done. I’m glad to have this book on my shelves. It’s a real asset!

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.

Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology

book arc h

This Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology is a real gem. Not only is it attractive, but it assists in the very area that many Bible students struggle: archaeology. Randall Price has both taught and participated in archaeological excavations, and is the perfect candidate to produce this book. H. Wayne House, a prolific biblical writer, assists.

Whatever you do, don’t skip the introduction to biblical archaeology provided in this volume. It defines terms, helps you see were biblical archaeology is today, explains the major difference between minimalists and maximalists, explains the limitations of archaeology, its value, and its methodology. There’s a good description of what archaeology contributes to biblical studies too. That’s followed by a fascinating explanation of an archaeological site. It really brings archaeology to life. The introduction ends with an overview of archaeological periods.

The book is divided into three main sections, you have archaeology in the Old Testament, archaeology and the intertestamental period, and archaeology in the New Testament. This enables the reader to approach the Bible chronologically and apply archaeology to it.

You will love all the vivid, color photos, the helpful charts and diagrams, and the text itself. As a bonus, each of the main sections has a detailed chart of archaeological discoveries from that time. There are several helpful color maps at the end, as well as a thorough glossary.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book and highly recommended!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The New Testament in Antiquity by Burge, Cohick, and Green

book nt antiq

This book is a fine new entry on the market for New Testament introduction. This attractive, well-illustrated volume by Gary M. Burge, Lynn H. Cohick, and Gene L. Green is an up-to-date survey of the New Testament. Its special emphasis is to provide that introduction within the cultural contexts, whether Jewish, Hellenistic, or Roman cultures. That viewpoint helps bring the New Testament to life. The book is designed as a textbook, and the publisher provides both instructor and student resources for it, but any Bible student could learn much from it.

Chapter 1 begins with a broad look at the issues involved in studying the New Testament. The reader is reminded of the importance of context, geography, history, and as said before, culture. Chapter 2 discusses the historical setting of the New Testament. It begins by explaining the post-exilic times, continues through the Hellenistic period, and ends by explaining the Roman era. (Notice the chart on page 38, which is one of the most creative I’ve ever seen explaining the family of Herod). Chapter 3 narrows its focus to Israel and the time of Jesus. Chapter 4 expands the discussion to the Mediterranean world of the Apostle Paul. Chapter 5 discusses sources for the Gospels – I find that chapter off target, but it’s exactly what you’ll find in most modern New Testament introductions.

Chapters 6 – 11 cover the life of Christ and the four Gospels. It’s helpful to view the Gospels collectively as a life of Jesus and then examine the uniqueness of each gospel. Chapter 12 overviews the book of Acts while chapter 13 gives an overview of the Apostle Paul. Chapters 14 through 26 survey the rest of the books of the New Testament. A concluding chapter discusses the preservation and communication of the New Testament.

The maps and pictures are well chosen, beautiful, and quite enlightening. Some of the illustrations and reconstructions were especially eye-catching. The design of this survey is ideal. It is at once to the point and of sufficient depth to be a real asset to readers. I imagine this book will be the text of choice for New Testament survey classes for the next several years. Pastors and Bible students will find it worthwhile to check out as well. 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.

Walking Through Twilight by Douglas Groothuis

book teilight

This book grabs you. You pick it up, anticipate what you will find, and then get surprised. Though being real, or “raw” as they say, is all the rage these days, after you read this book you may decide, as I did, that you’ve hardly ever read something that’s “raw”. So much of the rawness of our day is merely façades more painstakingly crafted, but here the author detonates dynamite under his façades. He is a philosopher, an academic, an accomplished speaker, the man that is supposed to have it all figured out, but in the waves of bewilderment that crashed upon his soul as his wife descended into the twilight of dementia he found out he did not. What he could figure out when he forced himself to examine this bizarre, unexpected place is worth contemplating. It reminded me of my dark places, which were not as dark as his, and taught me what to examine the next time.

This effort is not along the same lines as the other titles Mr. Groothuis has produced, other than his quality writing skills. For example, I was greatly instructed by his “Philosophy in Seven Sentences”. He was able to marshal philosophy and especially the Bible for his struggles. He did it without an ounce of superficiality. He wasn’t able to tie everything up in neat little packages either. The profound part was that the more crushed he became the more sufficient his Savior became. I was moved.

Usually, when I review a book I overview the contents, but I think that would be a mistake in this case. Just experience it. Approach every chapter with a clean slate. You won’t regret 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.

A History of Israel (Revised Edition) by Kaiser and Wegner

book hist israel

We have here a massive revision of a much-beloved history of Israel textbook. Don’t allow the word “textbook” to cause you to think this book is only designed for college students. It’s an extraordinary resource for any Bible student or pastor. The amount of information is incredible. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. is known for his helpful conservative scholarship and has been a trusted name for many for years. You might say this volume has been made fresh with the addition of Paul Wegner as a co-author.  The addition of many color pictures and maps from the B&H Publishing collection helps immensely as well. It’s large 7” X 10” size allows the font and picture/map dimensions to add to its enjoyment. The only downside is the fact that it’s in paperback and that its type of printing removes some of the sharpness of the illustrations. My hope is that this volume will meet with such success that the publisher might consider an attractive hardback with slick pages. That is, though, the only shortcoming of this book that I found.

As much as I enjoyed the bells and whistles of this volume, it’s the well written conservative viewpoint that makes it stand out. I’ve seen most of the other histories of Israel in print by academic publishers today, and this volume far exceeds them all. The others may have some commendable features but always come with a pile of caveats because of their consistently twisted chronology and skeptical nature. This volume contains all the academic and biblical information on the history of Israel that a sincere Bible believer could desire.

After three introductory chapters that describe the scholarly mess that academia has made of the history of Israel, the book has nine major parts with 30 more chapters that take us from Israel’s beginning to the Intertestamental period. You might quibble over some date or conclusion, but you will greatly appreciate the bedrock assumption behind every conclusion drawn from the evidence found that the Old Testament is a trustworthy source and the basis of our study. I especially appreciated the archaeological proof of Israel and the Old Testament, which is substantial, that is presented in this volume.

Without a doubt, this volume will take pride of place in my library on the subject of the history of Israel. 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.