Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi–2 OTL volumes

Haggai and Zechariah 1-8

David Petersen first gave us Haggai and Zechariah 1-8 in the Old Testament Library (OTL) series. Later, he wrote a follow-up volumes  His two books have been influential and oft-cited volumes for several years now. 

Considered by many as the best critical commentary out there, this book has several features that we of a more conservative persuasion can glean from.

In this volume, Petersen deals first with Haggai and gives it its own Introduction. After some comments about how Haggai relates to the other “Latter Prophets”, he describes the times of the prophet. He really fleshed out that subject well and interacted with several other scholars. In his discussion of the book itself, he reviews the “prose or poetry” debate and went through his beliefs on composition. Though I could not agree with him, he stated his thoughts clearly.  From there he jumped into his commentary itself. It’s quality and design holds up well with the rest of the series.

On page 107, Petersen begins his treatment of Zechariah 1-8. He immediately tells us that he follows “the critical judgment of scholars over the years who have discerned a fundamental division between Zechariah 1-8 and 9-14.” Though there’s conservative scholars who disagree, he sets out and explains well the critical position.

He begins in this case with describing the person of Zechariah. Next, he provides a lengthy section on the book in the same style as he did on Haggai. His viewpoint requires distinguishing what he sees as the different oracles in Zechariah.

Overall, he provides as good a volume as is out there on these Prophets for those who seek a clear critical viewpoint.

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.

Zechariah 9-14 and Malachi 

David Petersen worked another decade before he finished what he began in the earlier Haggai and Zechariah 1-8. Both volumes are in the respected Old Testament Library (OTL) series.

Unlike the earlier volume, he covered both prophets and books in one Introduction. He began by stating that the last 10 chapters of the Old Testament (the chapters he covers) are as difficult as any in the OT. 

He goes into a lengthy discussion of the historical context of these prophets. Though I would disagree on several points, this discussion was fascinating and the most valuable of the entire book. 

Next, he explains why Zechariah had to be chopped up in his view. His arguments don’t hold for this reviewer, but be does write clearly so you can trace his thinking. He is briefer in his discussion of Malachi.

The commentary is in the same style as the earlier volume and for several others in the series for that matter.

This will be my go-to volume if I want to study how the other side of scholarship views these prophets. Again, he writes in a clear words and provides a transparent presentation of what he believes. For what it is, this is an important 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.

2 More IVP New Tesament Commentaries

Here’s two commentaries that you might want to check out:

1. Mark (IVPNT) by Ronald Kernaghan

Kernaghan wrote this volume in the respected IVPNT series that’s aimed at pastors, teachers, and small groups. I’d define this book as a solid work.

He adequately covers the basics in his Introduction to Mark. He begins by explaining why many scholars came to believe in the priority of Mark. In discussing authorship he reminds us that Mark has always traditionally been considered the author until more recent times. He reaches conservative conclusions on audience, date, and place of origin. His conclusions on “the gospel as parable ” are a little more sketchy to my mind.

After an outline, he jumps into the commentary proper that makes up the bulk of the book. Again, the word that comes to mind is “solid”. In every passage he opens with a modern history parallel to what he feels the passage is saying. Some fit better than others, but some readers may love that unique approach. All in all, this volume will be appreciated by its target audience.

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.

2. John (IVPNT) by Rodney Whitacre 

Whitacre provides one of the longest and most exceptional commentaries in the respected IVPNT series edited by respected scholar Grant Osborne. If you search, I think you’ll find most reviews will agree with my assessment.

The Introduction begins by his confessing the awesomeness of John’s Gospel. He introduces the two views of authorship which are a single author versus multiple authors. He admits complexity and offers three possible explanations for it.  He finally sees the profundity of John as the better explanation. 

He writes well on chronological and other differences with the Synoptics. He lays out the options on date, location, and purposes with equal aplomb. He makes sense of John’s uniqueness and theology and themes. In his allotted space, Whitacre does a great job in the Introduction.

The commentary is ideal for a mid-length commentary and its target audience. This book 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.

The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Presidential Bio. Series)

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You would have thought the design of this book would have caused it to collapse under its own weight. I mean how could a biography of two presidents along with the most influential journalists of the age possibly work? I mean the word that comes to mind is–unfocused! Believe it or not, Doris Kearns Goodwin pulled it off. Count this as one of the really enjoyable presidential biographies out there.

Having Teddy Roosevelt didn’t hurt its chances of holding interest with his colorful life. I’ve read a few books on him and would summarize him as larger-than-life, principled, but egotistical. His zeal was legendary, but his pride was too. Though he was agreeable to Christian moral principles (perhaps more than several that held the office), he was not a man with faith in anyone other than himself.

My biggest surprise was how likable Taft was. A gentleman that was a perfect candidate for best friend. Not really a Christian, but a fine moral, upstanding man is how I would describe him. Over the course of a deep, yet turbulent friendship, Taft was much the better friend to Roosevelt than the other way around. Goodwin did a great job in bringing their relationship alive.

At first I didn’t enjoy the biography space given to key journalists, though I did grow to appreciate it. They really had an impact on that time period–so much so that I wonder if Roosevelt could have risen as far as he did in another epoch.

Goodwin has turned out an enjoyable read here. I feel like I know both men so much better.

Biblical Theology for Christian Proclaimation: 1-2 Timothy and Titus

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 This second release in the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation (BTCP) series by B & H Publishing is a home run. Andreas Kostenberger has produced a conservative, thoughtful, and winning commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. I anticipated a good volume based on what he has written and edited on the highly-debated passages of these books in the past, and if anything, this volume exceeds my expectations. You have to love a book that holds to biblical inerrancy, has a complementarian viewpoint, and does not run off the rails with esoteric or pointless scholarly misconceptions.

His Introduction covers much of the typical information that you would find in any substantial commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, which he prefers to call LTT, or Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. Authorship, date, relation between the three letters, and the roles of Timothy and Titus (he sees them as apostolic delegates rather than pastors). He further discusses canonicity, authenticity (which he fully accepts), chronology, and historical context. He has an interesting section on literary analysis and structure as well.

Still, the commentary proper is what I loved. Even better, he always did his best work in the harder passages. Passages on pastoral qualifications, women in ministry, and household code were handled with aplomb. As is an aim of the series, he beautifully draws out theology too. Can you tell I’m really high on this commentary? I couldn’t imagine not using it in any future study in 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.

Micah (OTL) by Smith-Christopher

book micah otl

This commentary on the Book of Micah is one of the latest entries in the Old Testament Library (OTL) series. A reviewer that I respect said he found this book to be “rich”, so I was anxious to dig into it. Daniel L. Smith-Christopher has produced this provocative commentary from the critical side of scholarship and “rich” is a fair assessment. Though I found many points at which I would disagree with the author, it’s the quality of writing that makes me rank this volume highly.

Mr. Smith-Christopher provides an introduction that is longer than some of those I have found this series. After a substantial bibliography, he dives into the introduction saying that he proposes “reading the book of Micah as an ancient Israelite ‘critical populist’, whose attitudes were fueled partially by his location as a ‘lowlander’”. Though at times he stretches the politics too far and reads too much of a modern take on Micah’s day, he does discuss issues that could have been in play in Micah’s day that other scholars overlook. His own background with Quakers and Mennonites, and their corresponding hatred of war, contribute to his outlook. Still, he pulls out insights that we can use in developing our own thoughts.

A strength of this commentary is how well he paints the picture of the historical context of Micah’s day. Those were turbulent times, and he captures how events help guide the struggle. He does well in viewing history internationally, regionally, and locally. His political take is best described as populism. Again, though that is overdone, some elements of what we call populism may have been in play then. These discussions take up the majority of the introduction. He does end with a discussion of the literary observations of the book of Micah including versions of the text, organization of the book including Micah’s coherence, and guiding principles in reading Micah. He summarizes what several other scholars say on those subjects. The last page of the introduction is his warning to remember how trauma affected the people of Micah’s day.

The commentary proper is in the OTL style. That includes a translation with plenty of technical discussion and commentary verse by verse. The textual help is first rate. The commentary soars and lags depending on where you are. In Micah 5:2 he never even mentions the possibility of it being a prophecy of Jesus Christ! In other places like the famous Micah 6:8 he was much more helpful. There are also eight excursuses of unexpected subjects along the way.

I consider this one of the best commentaries to own from the critical camp on the book of Micah. Even where you don’t agree, you will be challenged. I recommend this volume.

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

Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough (Presidential Bio. Series)

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Though this book could not be classified as a regular biography, as the story of Teddy Roosevelt ended in this volume before the famous parts even began, it was still a joy to read. David McCullough is easily one of my favorite authors. I’ve read over half of the books he’s written, and he always writes in a style that appeals to me. He often makes his nonfiction works read with the energy of great fiction. Though I would not label this volume my favorite of his books that I’ve read, I still enjoyed it. He painted a vivid portrait of all the foundational elements of Teddy Roosevelt’s life.

Teddy Roosevelt was not really cut from the same cloth as other men who held the office before him. His family was filthy rich. The hardships of the average citizen he could only see vaguely from a distance. I almost find it surprising that he became the rugged man he was with a high society background in New York City as he had.

A few things stand out from this early period of his life. His family adored him. For some reason, everyone in the family decided he was the most important person in their family from a young age. He faced horrific asthmatic attacks, and there was doubt on many occasions that he would even live to adulthood. That desire to live “the strenuous life” flamed up early, even before he had the health to really carry it out. He was able to see much of the world including Europe and the holy land, which was unknown to most Americans in those days.

He revered his father, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. His father was a kind family man. He really didn’t have to work in the family business as he inherited his fortune, but he was often involved in major philanthropic efforts. He invested time in his family. Teddy Roosevelt’s deep respect of his father at times stressed him as he sought to live out the highest expectations that would please his father. While Teddy was at Harvard, his father died. He suffered greatly with stomach cancer and Teddy was grief stricken that he could not do more to help his father. Still, his father was a moral man and stressed morals to Teddy. To a great degree, Teddy held to those morals. His father also exposed him to Christianity, took him to church, and taught him the Bible. I could not tell from reading this book if Teddy had a personal faith in Jesus Christ, but it certainly impacted the man that he was.

Teddy met and married a beautiful young lady. While he served in the New York State house, his wife became sick in what was expected to be a routine delivery of their first baby. At the same time, his mother became sick. They were all in the same house while Teddy was away. Teddy rushed back, but both died just a couple days apart. As is often the case, tragedy molds a person and makes them more fit for greatness.

I look forward to reading a full biography of Teddy Roosevelt somewhere down the line, but this book is still a worthy read for either presidential biography lovers or McCullough fans. The book ended after Teddy put his life back together after some ranching in North Dakota and married his second wife. I finished the book thinking why didn’t McCullough just finish it. Had he done so, the book would’ve likely have been as great as “John Adams” or “Truman”. All in all, it is still an outstanding volume.

To read other articles in this series, click here.

A Minister’s Obstacles–An Awesome Reprint

book turnbull

I’m excited to see this superb book reprinted. I found an old copy of this book early in my ministry and it made quite an impact on me. It’s crazy that it went out of print. It’s truly one of the great titles on the ministry that has been written. In fact, when I started a series a few years ago on the best books for ministry, I recommended this book. (Read me earlier review here).

The story behind this reprint is touching. Marty Moon fell in love with this book and was saddened to realize that preachers today did not have it available to glean from. He also wanted to give a gift to his pastor, Bill Lytell of Gospel Baptist Church, on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as pastor. On March 5, 2017 Pastor Lytell was presented with a copy of this book reprinted in his honor. Clearly, Mr. Moon saw in Pastor Lytell the great traits exemplified in this book.

Your pastor would likely be blessed by a copy too.

Click here to find on Amazon.

The Acts of The Apostles by Osvaldo Padilla


Mr. Padilla provides an extensive introduction to the Book of Acts. It doesn’t cover all issues traditional to an introduction, such as structure or canonicity, but focuses specifically on interpretation, history, and theology. The book is geared toward a more advanced audience that is deeply concerned about scholarly issues. The author explains that he is attempting to update Howard Marshall’s Luke: Historian and Theologian for our generation.  I would not be surprised if this book is as widely quoted in the future as Marshall’s title has been in the past.

The first chapter is about who wrote the book of Acts. He arrives at the traditional conclusion of Luke after he deals with all the other views and criticisms of the traditional view. When he writes on the genre of acts, he concludes that it is a Hellenistic historical monograph the Jewish tradition. Along the way, he surveys a lot of scholarly nonsense that has been believed. On the subject of how Luke writes history, he deals with a lot of negative scholarship that has concluded bizarre things. Still, he concludes that Luke is a trustworthy historian.

The next two chapters on the speeches in Acts were the best in the entire book. He is known as a specialist in the speeches and it shows. His working through each of the speeches provided many amazing insights. A great deal of theology is also revealed. The final chapter on the justification of truth-claims in Acts is merely answering postliberalism’s attack on Acts that has been relentless.

This book will delight scholars. Some parts of it will be less interesting to pastors, but it is clear in what it discusses and will be considered a very important contribution in the study of the book of Acts.

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.

Hearing the Message of Daniel by Christopher Wright


Christopher J. H. Wright has turned out some terrific commentaries on Old Testament books in the past, and now provides us with a little jewel on the Book of Daniel. This time out he does not provide us a commentary, but a book of expository preaching. As he explains in his preface, he does not get into critical questions, but intends the book to be “an encouragement to God’s people in the midst of hostile and threatening cultures, and to affirm God’s sovereign control of all that happens….” In my estimation, he fulfills his intention.

His introduction is brief, but encourages us to view Daniel from so long ago in a proper way for our day. He scolds what he calls the “end- times prediction industry” with criticism that is warranted. I say that as a premillennialist who would differ with Mr. Wright on several points involving prophecy. Books on Daniel tend to be judged on the prophetic views of the author rather than what he or she actually says about Daniel. It’s what Mr. Wright has to say about Daniel and his times that I find so compelling.

The historical background provided is superb. To my mind, he is at his best when the text is historical narrative. His theological observations are astute and helpful. Leaving out the issue of prophetic interpretation, this is what preaching should look like.

This book is one of those volumes that attempts to hit two targets at once – pastors and devotional readers. Most books in this category can’t quite pull off that feat, but Mr. Wright did with the best such effort that I’ve seen in a while.

The book reads well and yet is never superficial. I’m glad to have it on my shelves now and I predict you won’t be disappointed.

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.

Hebrews (NIGTC) by Paul Ellingworth


Eerdmans has breathed new life into this reputable commentary by this new release in a more economical paperback edition. Now pastors and students can afford to have this major exegetical commentary on their shelves where it belongs.

This work is massive. Encyclopedic comes to mind when you consider all it offers in its over 750 pages. Scholars will pour over every line while pastors will likely focus on the paragraphs that aid in exegeting the passage.

Its 88-page Introduction covers well all the issues you would expect in a major commentary on a book of the Bible. He carefully goes through all the options for authorship and cautiously supposes that Apollos is the best guess. He examines carefully the first readers, destination, and date of this book. He briefly and carefully lays out the canonization of Hebrews and highlights the obvious use of the Old Testament throughout the book. When he discusses literary structure, he covers in detailed fashion what has been thought before. He discusses theology, purpose and occasion, and ends His Introduction with a few pages for the specialist on the text of Hebrews.

In the commentary proper he gives incredible detail. This commentary’s greatest strength (detail) might also be its greatest weakness as sometimes the trees get more prominence than the forest. Still, if you were building a major exegetical library, how could you possibly be without it? Further, it can give you the detail you will need to make your own decisions.

You may find places as I did where you could not agree with Mr. Ellingworth, but you will find it a serious resource. 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.