Hebrews (TNTC) by David Peterson

The TNTC continues its series revision with this new release on Hebrews by highly-respected scholar David Peterson. That Peterson mentions his respect and friendship with Peter O’Brien only raises expectations for me. As it turns out, this commentary is a success delivering high quality within the parameters of this series. There are more detailed commentaries that you will need, but this is the perfect volume to be your choice from a mid-range commentary series.

The 55 pages of introduction to Hebrews is quite well done. Though this series calls for more brevity, this introduction packs quite a punch. Everything covered ranges from either solid to excellent. By far, my favorite part was looking at the details of Hebrews to arrive at a theme. Though the author concluded with a less narrow explanation than most, he was outstanding in marshaling a host of pertinent information for us to consider. You can really do some digging in what Hebrews is about in this section.

The commentary proper is judicious and shows the work of a mature scholar. I don’t always follow him in his conclusions, but I can always follow his train of thought which is essential in good commentary writing. Perhaps he could’ve done more on the warning passages, or maybe my problem is just that I didn’t always agree with what he was saying. You can decide for yourself.

In these days of the spiking number of commentaries available with a corresponding spiraling of price, this series and this specific commentary is a truly good choice. I warmly 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.

Ephesians (NICNT) by Cohick

This volume joins two others on Colossians and Philemon by Scot McKnight to replace the influential and long-standing volume by F. F. Bruce on these three wonderful New Testament books in the venerable New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT) series. Don’t you suppose contributing this commentary on Ephesians would be a daunting task both for its high-altitude theology and in following in Bruce’s footsteps? Cohick mentions as much in the preface.

Did Cohick succeed? I think for the most part she did. The farther I got into the introduction the more I liked it. The conclusions are pretty conservative. As you are probably aware, if you are going to write on Ephesians these days, you must address authorship and pseudepigrapha issues. As she notes, the answer to the question of whether Ephesians is a genuine Pauline letter will profoundly affect the trajectory of a commentary. If you were like me and have no doubt about Paul’s writing of this letter, these issues are something of a pothole on the road to understanding. Nevertheless, any good commentary must discuss it in depth and she does a good job. She lays out the arguments clearly and if you are wrestling with this you would do well to read what she has to say. Textual and historical background are also sufficiently covered, as are structure and theology. The NPP gets only about three pages which is precisely what it deserves.

I found the commentary proper to be thoughtful and helpful. It was neither too slim nor too verbose. She is especially adept at laying out arguments and reasoning to conclusions. You don’t have to, of course, agree to profit from that skill she brings to bear.

I do have one caveat in my recommendation. It’s only about one small section and perhaps I would rank its importance higher than you would, but I will share and you can decide. In her preface she mentions the “inflammatory” Household Codes, not in quotes but her words. That bias seemed present in the commentary on that section. Perhaps it was just me, but I thought her fine reasoning skills were not as present here. My more conservative position is disagreed with in many commentaries I read, so I’m used to that; but this section seemed a little agenda laden to me. When I rechecked her biography, it does turn out that she has written on the subject much in the past. It wouldn’t be fair to withhold a good recommendation over this one point involving one small section of the whole book, but you can at least be aware of it and see what you think when you look at it.

After reviewing the two new volumes on Colossians and Philemon recently, I feel that she has produced a work equal to the more well-known Scot McKnight. Warmly 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.

Daniel (EEC) by Tanner

Wow! What a great commentary! I can’t really think of a category where this commentary couldn’t be described with superlatives. It just happens to be the first commentary in the EEC series to be released with this attractive new design. There’s far more than an attractive cover here, however, as this is a first-class commentary. I know the term “instant classic” is cliché, but I’m willing to argue that is the case. If you see some lower ratings out there, ignore them. Unfairly, commentaries on the book of Daniel are often assigned a grade based on the authors prophetic opinions before the book is even opened. I don’t personally see how someone with a different background on prophecy matters would not feel duty-bound to admit what an incredible work we have here.

What I found between these covers was incredible depth, perceptive insight, clear reasoning, and good writing. The scholarship is impeccable, yet isn’t overly dense as is so often the case. I think you will agree with me before you are even halfway through the introduction. Discussions about the text, Aramaic words, and other grammatical and literary questions is all you could hope for and certainly all you would ever need. I find discussions of structure more helpful to pastors and Bible students than some of the other information in these commentaries, and what he presents here could be a clinic on how to discuss structure in a way that enlivens one’s understanding of a biblical book. He not only explains varying opinions on structure, but more importantly he gives cogent analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. You are left with an opportunity to conclude on your own.

The commentary proper is equally commendable. There is the explanation that pastors and Bible students need along with discussions of grammar in the original languages and plenteous bibliographies for scholars.

To put it in perspective, I found this commentary markedly more helpful than, say, the recent revision of Goldingay’s WBC work. That work is more critical than some like to admit while this work is not afraid to believe as it explains. Some might prefer the more straightforward NAC volume, but by design it doesn’t cover everything as this one does.

Force me to only keep one commentary on the book of Daniel, and this is the one you will see in my hands.

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.

Hosea (ZECOT) by Jerry Hwang

Several of these earlier volumes in the ZECOT series have gravitated to the relatively shorter Minor Prophets. This volume by Jerry Hwang continues demonstrating the promise that the distinctive style of the ZECOT holds. Perhaps the series emphasis on discourse analysis shines even brighter in these Minor Prophets, though I look forward to all its volumes. Hwang grasps clearly all aspects of discourse analysis and similar scholarly tools and makes a real contribution here.

The introduction is thorough. At times the prose is stuffy, but the content is rich. I think pastors and students will be rewarded for waiting through language that might be a bit more scholarly than preferred. Still, this is not a scholars-only commentary.

The select bibliography is a bit too select, but the historical background to the prophecy as well as what the author calls “Hosea’s distinctive theology in its cultural context” is well done. The concepts discussed strike me as the best scholarship can offer the Bible student. Again, it may be heavy going it is verbiage, but you will be able to weigh the ideas that make up the theme of Hosea. The section on the contribution to Christian theology is too brief but on target. There is also a detailed outline for the book.

The commentary proper is never trite. Clearly the author took his time to produce a significant commentary. By now you are probably familiar with the ZECOT style and he is comfortable in it and puts it to good use. This commentary does not duplicate other volumes and is good as either a first or a second choice. I’m glad to have this commentary at my disposal.

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.

Warren G. Harding by John Dean (Pres. Bio. Series)

Probably the only thing that we really associate with Warren Harding a century after his life is scandal. Even there, we wouldn’t call it exciting scandal, because it essentially forgotten in our country. Perhaps you remember a history teacher saying something about the Teapot Dome scandal, but then again, probably not. If you are into presidential history and biography , perhaps you have noticed that Harding has always been a serious competitor for the worst president ever. At least that is what I have always thought. Now enter this biography by John W. Dean. Believe it or not, he moved my opinion of Harding… a little.

This biography is part of the American Presidents Series, a series I always turn to for the lesser known presidents. Lesser known presidents who have no particularly outstanding accomplishments generally don’t have an awesome biography anyway. For an investment of less than 200 pages you can get a concise biography in your quest to cover every president. Some of them are better than others, and this one is at least well written for what it is.

This one is perhaps unique in the series as the one that is the most driven to rehabilitate the reputation of its subject. One of Harding’s scandals is his fathering a child out of wedlock just before he assumed the presidency. Mr. Dean was convinced Harding was innocent, but subsequent DNA testing has proved the accusation was, in fact, true.

Still Mr. Dean lead me to believe that something of a hatchet job was done on Harding. As he points out, Harding‘s wife burned his papers thinking she was doing his reputation a favor when in fact any proof to counteract wild claims went up in the smoke of her actions.

Perhaps Harding did pick a few cabinet members who were crooks without his knowledge. His legislative record was not outstanding but was sufficient for his times. He took no egregious positions and showed some real political skills in a variety of ways. He is still miles away from being a great president, but as long as John Tyler is remembered he should be spared from being the worst!

As I usually do, I kept my eyes peeled for the religious background of this president. To be frank, very little existed beyond some perfunctory religious statements. He clearly had some personal life issues. Still, he was likable and decent to all those he worked with. In fact, he often tried to be very cautious about needlessly angering his opponents. For what it’s worth, both the opinion of his friends and the public was phenomenally higher before his untimely death than when several took up the pen to destroy his name afterward. My opinion: The real Warren Harding probably fell somewhere between the high marks given in this biography and the flunking grades given by many over the years. To be fair, had he not died unexpectedly of heart trouble, he might have been able to have addressed the scandal and got it turned around. There’s really no other failure in his term of office that should cause his reputation to get so thoroughly creamed. The dark stain on his reputation is exclusively from his private life and scandal involving subordinates.

I will also judge this biography a success because even beyond it’s near whitewashing of some aspects of his life it got me, the reader, to slightly sway my opinion of Harding. That would have to be a win for the biographer.

Amos (NICOT) by M. Daniel Carroll R.

I’ve been hearing that this commentary was coming for many years and it’s always been said that when it arrived it would be a good one. I’ve been reviewing commentaries for several years now and have much experience in even reading about some scholarly subjects that are beyond the scope of my personal interests. One thing is clear to me, when it comes to a detailed scholarly commentary on a book of the Bible, we are in the hands of a master in this volume.

It’s not that he takes a completely different approach to the task of writing a commentary. No, all the usual subjects are found in the introduction and what is explained in the commentary proper is within the usual parameters. It’s the deftness, proficiency, and expertise that shows up in paragraph after paragraph.

The icing on the cake is the generally conservative conclusions that are given. Sometimes you have a person who is a whiz at writing a commentary yet who concludes nonsense, but you will not find that here even though some scholarly subjects are so esoteric that you wonder why scholars even trouble themselves with it.

Instead of breaking down all the things covered in the introduction as I usually do, I’m going to skip to the chase. If you are building a first-rate scholarly library you simply must have this volume. There’s really no debate. I’ll make a prediction too: this commentary will be one of the most quoted on Amos in scholarly works for at least 25 years. Pastors will want other works too, but this is THE scholarly work on Amos now that it’s been released.

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.

Tethered to the Cross–A New Book on Spurgeon

Maybe you are like me and already own most every book about Charles Spurgeon that has been written. At least those that are well known and have stood the test of time. Perhaps you were also like me and thought all of the most important books about Spurgeon had already been written. As it turns out, we were wrong. Enter this new book by Thomas Breimaier that makes a distinct contribution and approaches the study of Spurgeon from a heretofore untried method. He allows the sermons of Spurgeon to tell his theological biography.

Since this book is advertised as a scholarly study of Spurgeon, you might fear that that would add some amount of boredom to a book about him. Though the scholarly approach often slows down the excitement of a book, this book is saved by the words of Spurgeon himself. Spurgeon couldn’t be dull if his life depended on it!

I have never seen the terms “crucicentric” and “conversionistic” used so often in a book, and though they are so rare that they could not even pass my spellcheck, they are accurate descriptions of the essence of Spurgeon even if no one but scholar would use them. To be sure, for Spurgeon everything, and I do mean everything, is about the Cross and the need of salvation.

The book works too. You might think a book that studied Spurgeon’s preaching in terms of both style and theology couldn’t possibly share his life’s story as well. But it does. I’m not saying we have a new David McCullough here, but since it’s a biography you may already know anyway the story of a man we love is here.

The introduction discusses past works about Spurgeon and his sermons as well as describing the published sermons. Being familiar with all of those works myself, I feel this number is well done. The six chapters that approach Spurgeon both chronologically and involves the role of the Bible, his use of the text in both Old and New Testaments, and his later ministry all hold attention.

The truth is that Spurgeon was not a master expositor like, say, his contemporary Alexander McLaren, but he was likely the greatest preacher of the gospel we have ever known. His sermons will always remind us to magnify Jesus and never fail to call on the hearer to receive Christ now. Every preacher in the world needs a dose of Spurgeon and every listener needs a dose of such preaching. Yes, Spurgeon was tethered to the Cross and that’s worth reading in a world unmoored from 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 (ZECOT) by Daniel Timmer

It’s great to see this important commentary on the largely unknown book of Nahum finally get released. You will find here a finely constructed commentary that can help you on several levels. To me, it presents the fruits of scholarship at their best allowing the careful Pastor or Bible student to unearth real nuggets.

These earliest releases of the ZECOT are largely to be found in the Minor Prophets. That could be because they are shorter books and commentaries can be completed sooner, but whatever the reason, these same prophets are ideal for the ZECOT format. Don’t be scared away by the terms discourse analysis or structure because here the scholar is plying his trade to get at theme and purpose. In that vein, you can walk away from these pages with tangible help. To scholars themselves, I don’t see how this volume could be ranked anything other than a success.

This work is conservative and finds its place among believing scholarship. On the first page of the introduction we read, “Nahum’s message has rich significance for contemporary audiences in light of its ongoing fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ.” I knew I was going to like the book at that point, and continuing to look through it, that assessment never wavered. The weaving of the historical context into both the introduction and the commentary was outstanding as well as the theological implications and structure that is drawn out. You might read this and draw some different conclusions, but this commentary will help you not miss what is important to work out your own understanding. This book impresses me with its big-picture conclusions, but the finer points of detail appear well done as well and will provide help with those hard to understand phrases you encounter.

The author seems comfortable in the format of this series. It works as one of the very best single volume commentaries on Nahum. I highly recommend this commentary on a fascinating book of scripture that most of us know so little about.

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.

Wilson by Scott Berg (Pres. Bio. Series)

I wanted to get to Woodrow Wilson for some time on this presidential biography journey. I knew enough to know that he was incredibly influential in the direction that this country has taken in the last 100 years. Surprisingly, very few people are aware of his impactful presidency and know little more about him than any one of other dozens of forgotten presidents. Additionally, Wilson is an enigma to me. He is known for his Christian faith and in some ways is one of the fathers of a movement that has lead our nation far away from God. Let’s just say that I got what I needed from the incredibly well written biography by Scott Berg of Woodrow Wilson.

On the level of biography, this book was outstanding. To be sure, it was written as a biography, not a political treatise. Berg clearly appreciated Wilson but did not hide his flaws. Further, this biographer would probably not even conclude in any way similar to me about Wilson’s political legacy, yet this is one of the better presidential biographies that I’ve read.

Now for Wilson himself. One thing that I’ve tried to do in my presidential biography reviews that maybe no one else does is to make a concerted effort to probe the president’s religious background and corresponding influence upon his life. In the lives of several presidents I have discovered that there is very little religious influence. Wilson, however, was profoundly religious. Christian ideals that were peaking in some circles in his day were highly evident in him. Only in a careful reading of his life story can you put together his complex religious views. Again, that’s why this biography was so helpful to me.

His father was a prominent Presbyterian minister. Wilson was born in Virginia and his dad pastored churches in Georgia and South Carolina in his formative years. The effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction and the race relations in the south surrounding those events we’re deeply imbibed into his psyche. Though I hate how the term racist is thrown around in our day to the point that the concept becomes meaningless, Wilson had some racist views. These views led him to see Black people as inferior, yet his religious beliefs at least required him to treat them civilly though he always wanted them kept in their place.

Another factor in the person Woodrow Wilson is his academic career. He is the only president we have had who was truly a political scientist that possessed a PhD. he wrote influential scholarly works on history and politics and had an incredible career Princeton University that culminated in his ascendancy to the presidency of the University. He truly had a national influence even in that capacity. If you dig a little farther as I have done it matters that go beyond the scope of this biography, you will learn that Wilson rejected several concepts of our founding fathers. These rejections are neither subtle nor minor, and successfully birthed the progressive movement in our nation.

Wilson’s religious beliefs are paramount in this new direction. I’ve done much more reading in theology in my life and know that in the later 1800s Christian scholarship took a hard turn to the left because of German scholarly influence. Other similar influences were taking hold of universities and Wilson was similarly influenced. He went on record as saying that our government was founded on the Newtonian viewpoint but modern science has taught us that we should take a Darwinian viewpoint. Therefore, governments are to always be evolving and the needs of the current generation are unique and principles at the Founding cannot be a straight jacket to us.

To be fair to Wilson, he saw no incongruence with his Christianity and these beliefs. In many ways, he lived his life with fidelity to his Christian principles. In fact, he seem to hold tightly to Calvinistic doctrine and perhaps believed in redemption though this biography did not go that far. He kept the Sabbath, attended church faithfully, enjoy good sermons, and in many ways, he lived his life with firm adherence to his Christian principles and ethics. He seemed to love his wife until she died. He had a friendship with a lady that Berg went out of his way to argue that no physical adultery transpired. There is evidence that Wilson expressed regret about that friendship and after his first wife died he seemed to again truly love his second wife.

At times he may have even seen himself as a Christian crusader. Elements of his personality, perhaps, worked against him as well. He was so sure he was right that he almost never compromised or considered other viewpoints. What he thought was always right to his mind and his mission was to convince everyone else and lead them there. He lost the respect of several colleagues both in his university presidency and as president of the United States for this flaw of character. Both of those presidencies ended on a sour note after a period of soaring popularity and accomplishment. It seemed he was always ready to die on the hill of getting 100% of what he wanted.

While I vehemently disagree with both his political and religious philosophies, I must admit that I find him sincere. I would not feel that way about several who followed in his footsteps, but he believed in what he championed.

Back to the biography. Even the chapters that covered his career at Princeton were highly readable. I felt the only weakness of the book was its coverage of World War I. It seem to be viewed from a far, though by the limitations of that age, that is probably how Wilson lived it. The frustrations of the Versailles conference and Wilson’s inflexibility were tragic but well presented. Berg did a great job in eliciting pity for Wilson in the sad story of his life from the failure of getting his treaty passed and his League of Nations off the ground, all followed by an incapacitating stroke. Yes, the nation was misled by his wife and doctor, but fortunately no great harm came from it. Wilson died thinking himself a failure. Were he alive today, he might realize his progressivism with some changes thrives. What FDR gets credit for, could fairly be attributed to Wilson who FDR thought heroic.

Your assessment of Woodrow Wilson probably directly corresponds to your political opinions. Still, we can all enjoy this biography!