Galatians (CSC) by Timothy George

As the NAC starts morphing into the CSC series, it appears there might be a trend of the editors coaxing the authors of the best volumes of the NAC series to revise their work for the first releases in the new series. Timothy George’s work on Galatians consistently ranked high and is worthy of making the jump to the CSC. By the way, I think that is a winning strategy as it extends the life of splendid works and it gets the new series off to a quality start.

I’m the past, I’ve used the first edition by George in specific passages to advantage, but hadn’t really surveyed the whole work. I had, however, noticed it said in multiple places that George was an exceptional church historian and that he gave something that no other work on Galatians could boast of. Now that I’ve taken the time to thoroughly check it out myself, I must concur.

His speciality, I’m told, is Reformation history and you will find it meaningfully interspersed throughout. Can you imagine how that might be useful in Galatians? In any event, his historical prowess isn’t limited to to the Reformation to be sure. For example, notice how thoroughly he traces the historical development of the scholarly viewpoints about who exactly Paul’s opponents were. Or notice his excursus on Luther and Calvin on Peter and Paul. He even mentions Spurgeon standing firm in the Downgrade Controversy of how standing for the gospel being a “lonely business”. I told you it was different. But good.

His Introduction was thorough and addressed all the right questions. He laid out the North and South Galatia viewpoints clearly. As you probably know, Galatians is even more debated at several points than most Pauline Epistles are. He laid out different viewpoints and gave judicious conclusions.

His commentary is fine as well. His excursuses were meaningful. I read a major reviewer say of the earlier edition that it didn’t interact enough with current scholarship. That is not really the case, but he addresses the most influential scholarship on the matter at hand no matter the time period. I prefer that. Fascination with the latest novelty has been the Achilles heel of scholarship and robbed it and us of all it could be.

You will want to have this one!

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.

James (Second Ed.) [PNTC] by Douglas Moo

Having used the first edition extensively years ago, I’m glad the PNTC series gave Moo the opportunity to revise and update his commentary on James. Moo himself in the preface tells us that this a substantial revision that extends the volume by 30%. That additional material does not, however, mean that he has changed his conclusions overall, but just that he took a stab at strengthening them. There’s not much I can say about this author as he is well known to most Bible students and so most readers enter this volume with some idea of what to expect. What stands out the most, perhaps, is that the majority of his work has been in the Pauline epistles and he sneaks off here to James of all biblical writers!

Though I had read the introduction of the earlier work in the past, I carefully read the introduction of this revised work. It’s exactly what I love in an introduction. The word that comes to mind is masterful. Far more important than reaching the same conclusion that I favor is the author’s ability to lay out all the major viewpoints, respectfully dive in and explain pros and cons, and then present his or her own conclusion. Again, I need an author to teach me things I don’t know and I’ll then make my on conclusions. The commentary that provides that succeeds. This one does.

As a case in point, after being thoroughly impressed with Moo’s presentation of what has been the major viewpoints of the overall theme of James, I couldn’t fully agree with his ultimate view of James and how he meshes with Paul. Still, in a masterful way he laid it out where I had the tools to make a conclusion myself. I always rate highly a commentary that does that for me. Additionally, he did it in less pages than many writers can accomplish. There’s something to be said for clarity.

Everything else is here too: bibliographic information, theology, exegesis and all from a guy who knows how to do it. In you don’t agree with his conclusions in the introduction, then his coverage of James 2 might raise an eyebrow at times. But isn’t that true of every commentary on James good or bad?

The Pillar commentary series has earned its lofty praise. Someone needs to light a fire under the authors of the remaining volumes needed to finish coverage of the New Testament, but every theological library simply must have the ones in print. Moo has only made this contribution on James better and so it will have decades of positive influence remaining.

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 Trinity and the Bible by Scott Swain

If you have delved into the fascinating study of the Trinity, you likely have already encountered the name Scott Swain. There are probably 4 or 5 writers who have made the greatest impact in this subject that begs for more care among Christians and Swain is unquestionably one of them. This latest title of his is not his greatest contribution on the Trinity, but it is one of those books that shows more digging and a passion to help people practically put an understanding of the Trinity to use when they open the Bible anywhere to do exegesis.

Without doubt, that is a valuable concept to entertain. In fact, even after studying the Bible for many years, when you finally do a detailed study of the Trinity, you become almost surprised at how many passages contain a Trinitarian focus. Only our Triune God knows why the Bible is designed to have the Trinity sprinkled everywhere and yet have few passages that serve as great proof texts on the subject.

When you come to this book itself, you will appreciate the big picture for sure; and yet as with any written attempt at exegesis, you might disagree at points. Occasionally, I disagreed with Swain but I was a happy traveling companion for the journey he took we readers on. Maybe you ask here: isn’t this just a collection of essays? It is. Whether the author was lucky or brilliant I can’t say, but the fragments did make a whole.

Don’t skip chapter 1 even though it is really just the preface. Chapter 2 is the best chapter and addresses profound concepts involving the Trinity. Chapter 3 on Warfield’s view of the Trinity is not merely a recap of history, but a case study on exegesis and the Trinity. The final three chapters take the Trinity into the spadework of exegesis in Mark 12:35-37, Galatians 4:4-7, and Revelation 4-5 respectively.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly as I have done much study on the Trinity recently. To be sure, this book is not a first choice when you begin a study of the Trinity, but it is a quality resource as you get farther into it. I’m glad to have to have 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.

Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (NICOT) by Renz

The latest in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT) series covers three exceptionally interesting Minor Prophets. The term “under appreciated” comes to mind. Apparently, Thomas Renz appreciates them because he delivers here what must be one of the most thorough exegetical commentaries available on them. He almost doubles the page count of the O. Palmer Robertson volume he replaces. It’s not a matter of verbosity either as masses of content abound.

He gives both an Introduction to the three collectively and to each alone. He doesn’t see the unity of the Twelve Minor Prophets as scholars like Paul House do. That doesn’t materially affect the commentary, but in a similar vein, structure is by far the weakest attribute of this volume. It wasn’t a matter of laziness, but a genuine belief on his part that these big-picture structures are overdeveloped by many. I don’t agree with him, but with his belief what other choice did he have?

His conclusions otherwise are good and generally conservative. He tips his hat to form critics but gently admits that their contributions are unverifiable. To my mind, form critics are like the man who escaped an asylum, stole a nice suit, and entered the boardroom and sat down among the executives and miraculously convinced them he was part of the team. It worked so well that you could say the asylum merely changed addresses and expanded. In any event, you have to appreciate the masterful diplomacy that Renz displays as he deals with them as if they, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, really belonged.

The weaknesses on structure and occasional scholarly capitulation notwithstanding, this book is an exceptional scholarly exegetical commentary. That is clearly the trend of the series from its earlier expositional days, and Renz can hold his head high among his fellow contributors. In fact, it matches the quality of several recent titles covering various Minor Prophets that have appeared in this series.

The work on grammar and words as well as history is all you could want. That means the commentary provides solid value. At first, you might ask, where is the theology? You will find it immediately after commentary in each passage in a section called “Reflections”. When you look there you will find that theology is a strength of this book as well. I was impressed.

Maybe we will see this series completed eventually, but for now this is a winning contribution.

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.

Judges, Ruth (NIVAC) [Revised] by Younger

The original edition of this book was already one of my favorites in the NIVAC series, but this revision distinctly raises its value. It doesn’t appear that many conclusions were changed, but those conclusions were bolstered. The writing was elevated. Just because this is a work with an academic bent don’t dare undervalue better writing or care with the big picture . It makes a difference. Some commentary writers think there’s a binding mandate to use five words when one will do and feel a call to plant more trees so the forest is more obscured for the common people . Apparently, such writers think that will impress other people though for the life of me I have no idea who those people are.

Want to know where the clear writing and big picture prowess are most on display? In the Introduction on structure and theology. You abuse yourself if you skip reading it. “Profound” is an overused word in reviews, but you can safely throw it out here. Some say this volume is more scholarly than others in the series, but I don’t personally think readability was sacrificed. Still, only a disingenuous scholar would rank it low.
Everything I mentioned positively in the review of the original edition remains, but there’s more. I surprised myself in how many lines I underlined. I’ll return to this book I assure you. Even those who feel this series isn’t their cup of tea better boil some water and grab a tea cup. Can you tell I like 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.

Biblical Theology According to the Apostles (NSBT)

You’ve got to admit it. Sometimes the venerable New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series finds a niche in theology that you at once hadn’t thought of before and after reading wonder why we hadn’t already. There’s a case in point here. The New Testament is rife with passages that review Israel’s provocative story. So it must be profitable to weigh how the Apostles handled the use of that story, don’t you think?

Three scholars (Chris Bruno, Jared Compton and Kevin McFadden) joined hands to produce this work. Rather than a disjointed work arising from too many cooks in the kitchen this book succeeds as drawing on the the fact the authors have been buddies since elementary school. I guess they traded the former discussions of school, sports and games for those of the Apostles thundering on the Old Testament. Maybe it’s just me but thinking about the non-typical evolution of that circle of friends brings a smile.

To maximize their contribution, the authors offer a introductory chapter that lays out a case for the importance of their idea with their criteria for inclusion and methodologies for presentation. It made sense to me.

They begin quite naturally with Matthew and his obvious connection to the Old Testament with emphasis on his genealogy and the parable of the tenants. Next, they present Luke and Acts as the climax of the Apostles telling Israel’s story with Stephen and Paul’s masterful presentation of the story in Acts 7 and 13 respectively.

Chapters on what is found in Galatians, Romans and Hebrews follow in turn. Hebrews 11 is surely a favorite of many of us. There’s a fine conclusion that sews up this unique study. Mark this work down as one of the more imaginative ones in the series that also manages to add something tangible for us.

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.

Salvation to the Ends of the Earth [Second Ed.] (NSBT)

Andreas Kostenberger gives us a second edition of this 20-year old work in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT). This time there is no co-author other than T. Desmond Alexander contributing a chapter on mission in the Old Testament.
Though I hadn’t used the first edition, the preface explains how he organized his discussion of the theology of mission in such a way as to recast the material even if ultimate conclusions remain the same. Gone are chapters on Paul and the General Epistles and hello to one like, say, Matthew, James and Hebrews. The strikes me as merely shuffling the deck and re-dealing the same 52 cards, but if that helps crystallize the material for him to present it to us there’s no harm in it. There’s a Scripture index too so you can get when you need.
Two things stand out about this book. First, it is thorough and thoughtfully presented. I can’t think of anything he left out or any place he wasn’t clear and helpful. Perhaps you will find more or less (more likely) of mission in the passage he discusses, but I doubt you will find omissions of passages themselves. There’s also the passion that you would expect to find in a missional work.
Second, this book does not take a narrow focus on one aspect of a doctrine as is often the case in the NSBT series, but instead takes in the broad horizon of a grand biblical subject. For that reason, it will be an asset to a broader swath of Bible students too.
Kostenberger needs no recommendation from me as his scholarly work speaks for itself. I’m sure you already have some of his works around you. Add this good work to the pile!

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.

Wonderfully Made by John W. Kleinig

Here’s a book of theology that is at once timely for our days and provocative to the mind. He delves deeply in Scripture to formulate a theology of the body. With a world that’s lost its way in viewing our own bodies and a church that in some sectors has gone wobbly, such guidance as found in this book is nothing short of a tonic.

Don’t start imaging some sort of political plea, nor even much of a cultural critique. The author assumes that you know that we are culturally in a different time (though some similarities with ancient periods exist). Further, he beautifully assumes the Bible is where truth is found. He never argues how the Bible has the better blueprint. Of course it does! Let’s just find out what it says. He writes, too, with Christian love yet without fear or apology for truth. Most authors can’t score that balance.

To be sure, he writes with a Lutheran perspective that I do not share. If you are like me and don’t share his background, don’t sweat it. It was little distraction to me. He would often speak of something like, say, baptism that would make me momentarily bristle, but it was easy to keep focused on his theme and find so much that helped and even challenged me.

After a chapter on “body matters” to orient us he divides his subject into the created body, the redeemed body, the spiritual, the sexual body, the spousal body, and the living body. The chapter on the created body was top notch on issues that we used to call “the doctrine of man” (anthropology). The two chapters on the redeemed and spiritual bodies are where you most might run into his Lutheran sensibilities on salvation issues, but good things to process still abound. The chapters on the sexual and spousal bodies (this is more than you think) are interconnected as well and address burning current issues. As started earlier, it’s not presented so much as a harbinger of the end as that of what is true, what has always been true, and what will always be true. The last chapter on the living body is really a conclusion.

The world is falling apart for sure, so it’s especially nice to read a book that keeps its head as this one does. By the way, it can hold up as a solid work of theology as well. This book is theology as it should done.

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 13-21 (RCS), edited by Christopher Boyd Brown

This unique series continues with this latest entry covering John 13-21. In contrast with the earlier volume covering John 1-12, Christopher Boyd Brown edits. His background as a professor of church history makes him a natural for this commentary that thrives on history rather than exegesis. The quality that was found in the earlier volumes I’ve seen remains constant.

After a General Introduction given to describe the series and its historical parameters, there is a specific Introduction to Reformation history regarding John 13-21. As you can guess, that is a review of what the Reformers focused on in these chapters. While there are distinct overlaps with our day, you quickly see that some burning issues burn out and are replaced with new ones in subsequent generations. To my mind, that is instructive in and of itself.

You will find numerous fascinating observations along with some that lack punch. As for me, I was only surprised that there was not as much offered on the Trinity, particularly in John 17, as I expected. I can’t necessarily fault the editor because I have never dug into the source materials he had available. I just assumed there would be more.

For that matter, that’s the biggest challenge for the whole series. Did the editors really collect the best passages? Who knows. The value, then, is what you can get out of their labors. On that level, they clearly scored. There are both interesting contributions for individual passages as well as help when taken in aggregate for what the Reformers thought. Help for study of passages and historical evaluation—what more could you ask for in a Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS) 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.

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.