Genesis (BCOT) by Goldingay

Goldingay marches on. He seems to turn out commentaries at the pace other scholars turn out articles. How he does that is a mystery to which I can make no contribution. I’m sure some would say had he slowed down he might have, say, written a more detailed and meaningful Introduction for Genesis here. Those same observers would be hard pressed, though, to deny his penchant to turn a phrase or to make his work stand out. I think if I read just a few pages of his work I could peg him as the writer. I don’t mean idiosyncratic in a heavy way, but unique and lively.

His viewpoint is predictable and grates on me at times (perhaps because he doesn’t bury it in lifeless prose), but in recent years I’ve found it more palatable. The more I think about it, I suppose neither he nor I have changed our outlook much, but he puts more charming concepts at the center of his presentation even if things I vehemently disagree with sometimes underlies his position. Perhaps commentary series like this one (BCOT) line up best with his gifts. Or at least it seems so to me. (On that score, I see real potential in this recently-birthed series).

For the record, I came to this particular volume thinking there’s no way I would like it as much as his work on Hosea-Micah in this same series. And to some degree that’s true but it wasn’t overly a self-fulfilling prophecy on my part. I know what Goldingay believes but I still try to listen to what he says. There was some of what I don’t like; for example, his explanation of genre. To formulate categories centuries after the fact and then read them back as if more informative than what was said, and then to reduce divine Scripture to just another writing, strikes me as disingenuous, at least for believers. To deny the underlying premise that drives such thinking—God could not have done these things so we must find a more polite explanation—is one thing I’ve never understood from scholars who help us in so many other ways. But I digress.

Still, I did enjoy this volume more than I expected. I love how in a few paragraphs he neutered the whole Documentary Hypothesis. Throughout the text, he provided so many brilliant insights or things I had never thought of before. This more than compensated for his brief introduction. I don’t need a commentary to be the best in every area, only brilliant in some ways makes it much worthwhile to me. Sometimes Goldingay gets into real life for those on the pages of the Bible and that I love. Sometimes I scratch my head too, but he makes me think.

With my usual caveats for Goldingay, I warmly recommend this 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.

Text and Paratext by Gregory Goswell

I must confess that I knew nothing about paratext before picking up this book. I’ve always loved studying structure of biblical books, and heard paratext might intersect with it. It is also a study that emphasizes the “final form” over pointless study of sources and I fully favor that as well. It turned out to be fascinating, even if it at best is only of secondary importance.

The first section looks at paratext in terms of book order and the differences and what they suggest. This was my favorite as it made helpful comparisons and even more fruitful interconnections between Bible books.

The middle section on book titles just didn’t seem as fruitful to me. The final section on book divisions made a few help connections to structure and was more profitable.

Without doubt, this book taught me paratext clearly and with a skill that I could easily say, “I got it”. That’s a success for any book. The significance of the concept of paratext, though, will vary among readers. I’ll leave that for you to decide.

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.

Ruth (NICOT) by Peter H. W. Lau

In a surprising development, Ruth is replaced in the NICOT series here. It’s surprising because the replaced commentary was by editor Robert Hubbard and, as it turns out, Hubbard himself enlisted Peter Lau to produce this new volume. While the Hubbard volume was top notch, and will doubtless remain in print as an Eerdman’s Classic Commentary, Hubbard knew what he was doing. This is a dandy commentary. Peter Lau already produced Unceasing Kindness and his expertise on Ruth is now established.

The Introduction is all you could want. Lau is on point as he begins with structure. He wades through the muddy waters of genre of Ruth and comes out on the right bank. On authorship and date he surveys the horizon and picks the spot with the best view. Next, the discussion of purpose raises the standard even higher. He covers canonicity and textual issues but there isn’t much to see there.

To me, the Introduction fully blossoms in the theology section. In what’s really just a continuation he starts covering themes. Don’t miss “applying the law” and “Ruth’s ethnicity and Israelite identity” as you will connect many dots. The latter is not some latter-day political nonsense, but something that really gets at the heart of Ruth.

I loved what I read in the commentary proper. The great ideas introduced in the Introduction infuse the commentary in ways that really help. There is an embarrassment of riches in commentaries on Ruth but you’d better consider this one for your studies.

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.

Theodore Beza by Henry Martyn Baird

Banner of Truth has a knack for publishing great Christian biographies and for not caring if the subject is wildly famous or not. That in itself is encouraging as it reminds us that many have served the Lord wonderfully even though most are not especially noticed. In this case, Theodore Beza, is known in the sense of being a contemporary and even friend of Calvin while little more is known of him by most people. Calvin, loved by some and hated by others, is by any metric a seminal figure in Christianity. Beza didn’t blaze a trail but he did help establish it into a widely-traveled road.

Baird was easy to read. He was thoroughly impressed with Beza, but could admit when something wasn’t handled the best way. Beza’s story is primarily an academic career. In certain times of history that can have some drama and intrigue and this was one of those times. The ongoing interaction with government made that so.

Perhaps there isn’t as much piety or spirituality as in some recent Banner biographies like, say, Thomas Charles of Bala. That is not to call into question Beza’s piety or spirituality at all, just the focus of the biography. He came across as dedicated to his work and would unhesitatingly choose a course to follow what he believed to be right before the Lord even at great personal cost. It just seemed that his spiritual trials were all in his work, though a few personal trials were briefly mentioned, even as almost an afterthought. I’m not downgrading the biography, just explaining what to expect.

I suspect this biography will secure its strongest following among those who love Calvin and want to vicariously experience him again through Beza. This book will unquestionably recreate a portion of Calvin’s life as the lives of Beza and Calvin were prominently intertwined.

Banner never fails us on book quality and this lovely book is worthy to adorn your shelves for 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.

Typology by James Hamilton Jr.

Fascinating! I can’t think of any better way to describe this book. For that matter, I’m glad to see it come along. It’s really needed. So many of the books on typology I’ve encountered have only been a listing and description of the author’s favorite types however fanciful they might be. Usually, for the record, they were extremely fanciful. In many cases, several of the types discussed had never been thought of by anyone else before. There’s you a red flag. Because of these excesses, many cast a suspicious eye at all types. What we needed was a work championing legitimate types while explaining some criteria to determine that legitimacy. This book steps into that gap and shines.

James Hamilton is an ideal author to tackle this subject. To be honest, I’ve become quite enamored with him since I was blown away by a recent commentary on the Psalms he did. His reverence and love of Scripture is almost an anomaly in the scholarly world. Others like him walk gingerly around these issues. Not him. For him, the Bible is a book to be trusted that can speak for itself.

Specific to this title, he sees clear authorial intent behind typology. These types weren’t random, nor were they worked out by us later. They were originally intended. Rather than finding them, we have more often lost them as we have gotten away from seeing the brilliant design behind biblical writings. In chapter one he shows these micro-level clues. Mainly we offers historical correspondence followed by escalation in significance as these types recur. He then tells us how to spot that historical correspondence by catching key terms, quotations, repeating of sequences of events, and similarity in salvation-historical or covenantal import ( his words). Finally, and I was expecting it all along, he adds “God-ordained” to his author-intended historical correspondence. I agree right down the line.

In something of a quirky design, he suggests that you read the last chapter next. You’d better. He organizes his material in this book as a chiasm. He rightly contends that that is a common design in the Bible and, I guess, he wants to show us what it looks like and that he knows how to do. Read the last chapter second and then go back to chapter two and the chiasm will be no detriment to you at all. That last chapter flips the promise-shaped typology discussion to the macro level.

Chapters 2-6 are types involving key persons while 7-10 are of key events. He takes what he showed us in chapters one and eleven and works out the clues that prove that these are the author-intended types in the Bible. The connections he mines are so rich that we finally get the types that will open up the Bible as God intended. Mark this book down as a must-have. You’ll, for sure, be the loser if you let this one get by you.

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.

Daniel (EBTC) by Joe Sprinkle

Joe Sprinkle gives us the latest entry in the Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary (EBTC) covering the much-loved Book of Daniel. You will notice a new publisher and a sharp, attractive new look for the volume and the series as a whole.

One of the first things I found in this commentary emphasizing theology was the exceptional exegetical work done on the text. Another strength is the way it presents the traditional view of Daniel against the prevalent attacks lobbed at it from much of the scholarly world. If you are looking for a prophecy emphasis, you will need to look somewhere else, but if you are after theology, history, and lessons we might learn from Daniel, you will enjoy this book.

At first I misunderstood the approach in the introduction. It seemed to be at first a standard introduction like you might find in any exegetical work, but then it stopped without addressing things like structure and even theology at large. It’s emphasis was on genre, authorship, and historicity. Finally, I figured out what the design. The author is suggesting that your conclusions about these things will dramatically impact how you look at this Book of Daniel. If you do not, for example, believe that Daniel is a real person or that the history can be trusted, then even the theology is meaningless. The case for the early date and historicity of Daniel gets the largest chunk of the introduction and it really is foundational to study theology in Daniel. The information is well presented and holds up against whole books on the subject.

I wasn’t expecting such a good linguistic work as this volume might vie with others even on that score. The theology that this series promises is given in a bridge at the end of each passage. Again, the emphasis is not on prophecy but the spiritual help and biblical theology that you will find. The commentary is weighty and you never feel it is being shortchanged to get to theology as some of these type of books do.

As for prophecy, when you come to famous prophetic passages like Daniel 9:24-27, you will find that the author is gentle with varying viewpoints. He boils down the three main views of the passage as the Antiochus view, the Classic Dispensational view, and the Roman view. He shares the strengths and weaknesses of each view and is quite evenhanded. I don’t agree with his final conclusion, but I appreciate the work he presented here.

I believe this commentary is as valuable as any that has been released in this series so far. This is a nice commentary that can be a real asset in your study of the pivotal, controversial book of Daniel.

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.

Rebels and Exiles (ESBT) by Harmon

Chalk this volume up as another smashing success in the new ESBT (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology). I love how this series takes a broader view than many similar series, yet imparts so much vital information. Matthew S. Harmon gifts us with something powerful about the doctrine of sin with a view toward redemption. After you read this book, you will agree that the concept of rebels and exiles is key in Scripture.

After making a good case in his brief introduction that “exile” is a proper rubric to study sin, he plunges into tracing that line throughout the Bible. Chapter 1 was my favorite, not because his writing deteriorated later, but because the story of Adam was like a home run out of the park to illustrate his theme. Additionally, he provided nugget after nugget that I especially enjoyed that imbibed freshness into an old story. Subsequent chapters follow the timeline of scripture seeing “exile” all along the journey. I will have to admit that it was there.

He followed through until he got to the New Creation where “exile” is finally banished. His final chapter on the practical implications of what he has written about brought theology out of the textbook and into life. I loved how he explained how we have a homesickness for a place we’ve never been!

At the end he gave some detailed suggestions for further reading as well as a thorough bibliography.

The success of this volume makes me even more excited to look at the others in the series. You have here accessible theology with real depth. 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.

The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon: Volume 4- Collector’s Edition

It is so wonderful to see this awesome series resumed after a delay. It turns out that a change in editorship most likely brought on the hold up, but what we loved in the first three volumes is still on hand here. I especially love the beauty and durability of these collector’s editions , but if you need to save a few dollars there is a regular edition as well. To me, the collector’s is worth the extra expense.

While the sermons here might not be quite as good as his later ones that have been long in print, they are unmistakable Spurgeon and contain much more than potential. The focus on the Cross and the call to repent and be saved is everywhere just like you’d expect from him.

Be sure to read the introduction so you can understand what they are trying to accomplish here. Every reader will have their own favorites, but in this volume it is some of the sermons from the old testament prophets that I found truly classic.there are a few where are you a crack a smile like the one on Deuteronomy 22:11 called “Linsey-Woolen Forbidden”!

The work is simply gorgeous as well there are photographs of his sermons as well as indispensable notes on every sermon. You will learn a lot of things about Spurgeon in those notes as they are impeccably researched.

They have re-calibrated this series and it will now ultimately be nine volumes. We are almost halfway there and what a jewel the set will be! Plus, it will be easier on the wallet to secure these volumes one by one as they are released and at the end what a treasure you will have!

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.

William Howard Taft by Rosen (Pres. Bio. Series)

Here’s another quality short biography of a president in the American President Series. I was introduced to Taft in Kearn’s “The Bully Pulpit”, but as was true to real life it seemed that Teddy Roosevelt dominated that book in my opinion. This helpful book make sure that one’s considers Taft on his own terms outside of Roosevelt’s shadow.

Taft was unique among the presidents. So far, he is the only president that I’m aware of who had no interest at all in the presidency. He was a judge and loved the judicial system to the core. Had not his wife so adamantly wanted the presidency, and had not a few fortuitous (at least to his wife’s point of view) events happened, he would not have been a president. Likly he would have been on the Supreme Court years before he ended up being.

He gave his best efforts to the presidency, but if the author here is correct, he often blundered politically because he always made decisions as a judge rather than a politician. Stranger still, it appears he never quite figured out how he blundered. In a more positive vein, he may have loved the Constitution as much as any president. Further, he bowed to it just as should be done better than most in our government ever have. In that way, I totally admired Taft. His love of the law seemed genuine as well and was praiseworthy. History records him quite accurately as a far better Chief Justice of the Supreme Court than a president of the United States.

This book makes Taft’s religious position clear. He was a Unitarian. He held to some Christian beliefs, but denied the divinity of Christ and the miraculous. In his personal life, he seemed to be quite honest.

The book itself here was well written. The author seemed to admire Taft as well. Even went so far as to mitigate the usual criticism of Taft’s girth. As you may know, Taft was by far the heaviest president we ever had.

Add Taft to that list of presidents who is mostly unknown and yet was sincere and mostly an all-around good guy. If we were considering Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, he would likely be top-five, though he is nowhere near that as a president.  And here is the perfect biography to get to know him outside of Teddy Roosevelt’s shadow.

Benjamin Harrison by Charles Calhoun (Presidential Bio. Series)


Besides the fact that Benjamin Harrison is the grandson of an earlier President Harrison and that he lived in Indiana, I knew so little about the man. It was a joy to get to know him in this work by Charles Calhoun. It’s a shorter biography of a lesser-known president who was a fine man but lived in good times when no major crisis was in play. Don’t expect a riveting read, but the president and his times are what they are and that is at least given here. For what it’s worth, this is my favorite biography of the few I have read in the American President’s Series edited by Arthur Schlesinger.

Like a few other presidents in this stretch of history, Harrison was a Christian, even a true believer you might say. Sometimes he came across as stiff or even austere, but it’s also fair to say he was molded by his Presbyterian upbringing and he faithfully followed it. He was sincere, loved his family, was a man of principle, possessed some ambition like every person to hold the office of president, was a great public speaker, and was real. His life story wouldn’t make a good movie, but it was a consistent story. It’s hard to say for sure because some biographers might conceal a president’s Christianity, but Benjamin Harrison may be one of the most distinctly Christian presidents we have had.

It’s bewildering that Grover Cleveland was returned to office rather than Benjamin Harrison receiving a second term. Nothing against Cleveland, but Harrison seemed like a good president who was generally liked. There were a few issues in that day that mean little to us now that people were highly divided over. Perhaps Harrison’s desire to deal with a few problems crossed a few too many people. He got some elements of his agenda through, though some were overturned later. I don’t think I would go too far out on the limb to say that Harrison took several positions that I could see Lincoln taking. The times were not as desperate and there will never be another Lincoln so I’m only referring to positions, not impact.

Though I appreciate Benjamin Harrison as a president and a person, this short biography of less than 200 pages is enough for me. It helped that Calhoun respected his subject. Some biographies go too far in making their subjects larger than life, but if the subject garnered the respect of the biographer overall it usually makes the book a little better for me (unless it is someone I want to dislike!).

Harrison’s life story was not that dramatic, though his wife died shortly before the election he lost for a second term. It’s hard to imagine how devastating that must have been to him as a man. He did later marry his wife’s niece, though there was nothing scandalous in it. It was sad to see his family divided as his children did not accept his new wife. Let’s just call that a footnote on a good life.

This whole stretch of presidents makes me wonder if a key ingredient to a “great” president is the environment of momentous times to shine in, especially if they don’t naturally have a larger-than-life personality. In its absence, only cut-throat politics remain and there’s little occasion to rise to greatness in that putrid habitat. There are a few presidents between Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt that might have been a “great” president had they a crisis to carry the nation through to prove it. Somehow I think Benjamin Harrison might fall in that category.