Matthew (2 volumes) by Frederick Dale Bruner

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I must confess that I looked forward to getting a look at this massive commentary on the Book of Matthew. Volume 1 alone looking at Matthew 1-12 reaches 600 pages! Eugene Peterson called this book a “theological wrestling with Scripture”– you’ve got to admit that sounds intriguing. The set was updated in 2004 which makes it fairly recent. The designation that I had heard of it being mildly critical and theologically powerful is justified. I had also been told that many question its exegetical conclusions, but you will appreciate it for its theological insights. The Book of Matthew is blessed with other commentaries that might be your exegetical first choice.

Whatever Bruner has to say on introductory matters for Matthew is given in the preface. I take it that the introduction is not the contribution to studies of Matthew that he intends to make. The commentary itself is thorough, thought-provoking, wide-ranging, and theologically astute. I see this commentary as a noble second. After you have a good start on the Book of Matthew, then pick this volume up to see things that you have missed. When I peruse this volume, I don’t see any regurgitation of some other book. Bruner delivers an original production. I love the second viewpoint; don’t you?

This one is worth looking up!

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.

book matt 2

Volume 2 of Frederick Dale Brunner’s highly-respected commentary on the Book of Matthew is even more massive than the first volume. It checks in at over 800 pages. As was the case with the first volume, whatever introductory discussion he wants to have is found in the preface. Page 1 picks up with Matthew 13 and the commentary carries on through the end of the book. All the superlatives of volume 1 are repeated in this volume. Theology is its greatest contribution. Though it must’ve taken Bruner years to write this large-scale work, there’s no tapering off toward the end. The last chapter of Matthew is given the same quality work as the first. I’m glad to have this volume for the type of extra insights it delivers.

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 (NTL) by Fowl

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Stephen Fowl has delivered this volume on Ephesians in the New Testament Library (NTL) series. Mr. Fowl would rate as one of the more conservative writers in this critical series. If you are familiar with this series it’s safe to say that the author delivers what you’ve come to expect. There’s the same theological insight with even a higher level of exegesis as compared to other volumes in the series.

The introduction that follows a lengthy bibliography is rather short. Some typical introductory issues aren’t even touched upon. He does explain his view of the argument of Ephesians. He gives a fairly detailed outline of the book. He covers historical background in a section on Ephesus and Paul in Acts. When he discusses authorship, he doesn’t completely dismiss the possibility that Paul wrote the letter as we might have expected in this series. In any event, he doesn’t feel that authorship has all that much bearing on the interpretation of the book. He discusses briefly its relation to the book of Colossians, and he overviews vocabulary, style, themes, eschatology, and its use of the Old Testament. He ends the introduction with a look at the recipients and occasion of the book.

Even the commentary section is shorter than I anticipated. Still, the size is somewhat mitigated by a succinct style that is thorough enough to get to the heart of the matter in most passages. Again, the theological help makes this commentary worth consulting. Here’s a good look at Ephesians from a moderately critical perspective that is better than many in that same category.

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.

Historical Theology by Gregg Allison

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Here’s an excellent help for when you are studying doctrine. Designed as a companion to Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, this volume looks beyond what to believe to what has been believed. I fully agree that what has been believed is a wise thing to consider when formulating doctrine. Though this book is technically a textbook, any pastor or Bible student could glean much from its use. It reads much better than a typical textbook too. Mr. Allison must have aced a creative writing class somewhere in his past.

Though this book is tied to Grudem’s work, it could be used independently or with any systematic theology. The order the doctrines are approached matches Grudem, as do the overall conclusions. I’ve used Grudem’s work extensively over the years, so I knew in advance where I would and would not agree with Mr. Allison. His judicious handling of historical fact even when it didn’t completely match his own opinions is praiseworthy. For that matter, I found his tone toward other viewpoints a model of grace. His respectful approach adds much value to its already rich content.

When working systematically on doctrine in the future I’ll still first reach for my favorite, trusted systematic theologies, but I will definitely grab this book too before I stop. Discovering the history of belief on the major doctrines is at once revealing and the icing on the cake. This book delivers!

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.

Lies Pastors Believe by Dayton Hartman

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It seems several other groups have books about the lies they’ve believed, so it’s good to see pastors get their turn. The lies we believe, however, come from deep within and are ugly when examined as in this book. Every generation has a book of this nature for pastors and this volume is ideal for ours. It’s a short volume that can be read rather quickly in our busy age, yet there’s nothing shallow about it. It probes deeply and pastors who read it must either look within or close the book and walk away.

The subtitle reads: “7 ways to elevate yourself, subvert the gospel, and undermine the church”. The seven types are the visionary, the iron chef, the achiever, the called, the holy man, the anti-family man, and the castaway. I don’t know which is more shocking: the fact that we pastors could fall into seven such ridiculous things or that we so often have fallen into many of them! Pride shows up in several of these and the consequences of being swallowed up in them are devastating. If you don’t see that, Mr. Hartman will provide several examples.

The visionary is one of the worst because it springs directly from ego. It’s an assumption that we are destined for great things as we are coming into the ministry even though the Lord might have other plans. The iron chef is similar in that over time we begin to believe that no one preaches or teaches at the grand level we do and we kind of fall into being the iron chef over time. The achiever tries to earn and ministry ranks are filled with achievers. I was least in agreement with the chapter about “the called”, but still it was filled with some great insights.

The chapter on the holy man reminds us that real holiness is far more important than perceived holiness. The next chapter debunks the lie that we must sacrifice our home life for our ministry. He really takes us to task if were failing in this area. He gives balanced counsel to the castaway as well. There’s a short conclusion that gives three steps to take to get back on track. There’s a rather intense appendix on elder qualifications as well as a nice one on recommended reading.

If we pastors took the truths in this book to heart, our churches, our families, and our own lives would be so blessed. 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.

 

Becoming Dallas Willard: The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower by Gary Moon

 

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This biography is a joy. It has both an interesting subject and a skilled examination of the person that creates life upon the pages. If you’re tempted to think a biography of a man who is a philosopher and a college professor is too dull for pleasant reading, I challenge you to prove yourself wrong by reading this book. Dallas Willard’s life never allows the reader to become complacent. His journey twists and turns and yet follows an upward trajectory. As a reviewer, I probably come from a different vantage point than most in that as much as I love to read I’ve still never read any of Dallas Willard’s works. I suppose many readers are drawn to this biography because they love his writings, but you may be like me and have this biography entice you toward his writings.

Part one covers the first 30 years of his life in seven chapters. His Missouri upbringing deeply influenced him. His mother’s death and other family situations that required his moving around were expertly probed without resorting to psychoanalysis. As a reader, you will be emotionally attached to Mr. Willard by the end of this rendition of his first 30 years.

Part two looks at the middle part of his life. There was always some sort of gravitational pull toward the Lord and the ministry in Mr. Willard’s life. Earlier, he went to Tennessee Temple University under the direction of Dr. Lee Roberson, which was also the place he met his wife, and loved many aspects including their zeal and revival emphasis but grew to have a problem with the “view of salvation that is complete when one has publicly professed (put forward an understanding of) the gospel and which only has a past tense.” It was that middle section of his life where he developed his much-appreciated thoughts on communion with God.

The latter part of the book gave much detail on how each of his books came together. Believe it or not, that was interesting and shed more light on who he was as a person. I could not agree with every conclusion that Mr. Willard came to hold, but I found him to be genuine, sincere, and a person who would be interesting to either talk to or pray with. This biography didn’t obscure his weaker traits, whether it be his nomadic nature or his family struggles, but a man who loves the Lord shone through. I really can’t imagine how Mr. Moon could’ve made this biography any better.

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

A Clear and Present Word (NSBT) by Mark Thompson

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This entry in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series by Mark D. Thompson dives into an oft-overlooked aspect of biblical theology – the clarity of Scripture. Since this clarity, which is often called the perspicuity of Scripture, faces such widespread negligence, or even disdain, Mr. Thompson tells us why we can confidently assume clarity and use the Bible in our lives.

The first chapter is a detailed look at how rogue scholarship has victimized the concept of biblical clarity. Their attempt to render the acceptance of clarity as absurd is turned by the author as he takes their arguments and objections one by one.

The second chapter sees God as the communicator. Though some claim human words by definition obscure the clarity of what God reveals, we see that the opposite is true. The clarity of Scripture springs from the character of God. In other words, because the Almighty God has chosen to communicate, what he chooses to communicate must be clear.

The third chapter wrestles with the fact that Scripture sometimes explains that it is hard to understand. For example, such a statement is made about parables in the Gospels. This book shows us how those two ideas do not have to be mutually exclusive. We can, in fact, have a Bible that presents both the clarity that God intended while upholding his inscrutability.

Chapter 4 is on what the author calls “engaging the hermeneutical challenge”. He explains how hermeneutics have taken a life of their own, and in the scholarly world at least has created more doubt than belief in the Word. It is true that the Bible that the author argues possesses clarity also has a wide variety of conclusions by its readers. His discussion of this fact is quite helpful.

The final chapter is Mr. Thompson’s attempt to tie everything he has stated together to both restate the clarity of Scripture and give it an understandable definition. The title of the book is the hint you need to forecast what he concludes.

This book succeeds in fulfilling the aims of this series. It finds the sweet spot and expounds with scholarly, logical, and conservative aplomb. It’s a winner!

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

The Making of the New Testament

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Here’s enlightenment where we really need it. The story of the making of the New Testament all the way through canonization is a weak area for many. Coupled with our insufficiency is how this issue has grown into one that Bible critics have coalesced around. Whether you would agree with every conclusion that Mr. Patzia makes or not, this book richly repays the reader who wrestles with it. I understand that this revised and expanded edition is used by many as a textbook, but I believe it’s needed by pastors and Bible students as well.

Part 1 gives an outstanding background of the literary world of the New Testament. You will gain an overview of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Septuagint, the Old Testament Apocrypha, the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Greco- Roman literature. These things are rarely presented with any kind of balance in popular articles, so this even has a wonderful apologetic value.

Part 2 describes the making of the Gospels. The first section describes the Gospels going from oral to written status. In mentioning form criticism, he is more than fair in describing its shortcomings. There’s another discussion about why the Gospels were written before he dives into how they were written. I can’t follow all he had to say about the synoptic problem, source, or redaction criticism. More helpful is his explanation of our fourfold gospel collection. He will give us both a positive argument for these four while suggesting why others are spurious. He covers the history of their acceptance as well.

Part 3 takes Paul’s letters on a similar journey to the one he did with the Gospels in the previous section. There are some additional debated points like Paul’s use of a secretary or that some scholars champion pseudonymity. The best part, again, is his taking Paul’s letters through their collection acceptance. Part 4 takes all the other parts of the New Testament through the same process.

Parts 5 and 6 are invaluable. They describe how the canon came together and counteracts the tilted scholarship of folks like Bart Ehrman. Paleography, types of materials used for writing, the forms of books like the roll and the codex, the actual writing of New Testament manuscripts, and the transmitting of them. I found less value in Part 7 on his explanations of textual variants and textual criticism.

This book is a major success. It’s now one of my favorites on the subject of canonization. I give it the highest recommendation!

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 (EEC) by Baugh

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Here’s another fine, helpful, conservative volume in the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (EEC) series published by Lexham Press, this time on Ephesians by S. M. Baugh. It dives deep into the scholarly issues while retaining readability. Along with the other volumes released so far in this series, this book encourages you to believe that this series when complete will be a major asset and will live up to both the “evangelical” and “exegetical” labels.

Mr. Baugh begins the Introduction by discussing the authorship of Ephesians. He explains that no one doubted Paul as the author until the mid-19th century. He provides a listing of the five main issues that critical scholars use to attack the authorship of Paul. The fifth issue (“the Greek style of Ephesians versus the other Pauline Epistles”) is one where he will make an in-depth, scholarly contribution to the discussion. His explanation of the Greek style in Ephesians might be more than some pastors will care to get into but they must appreciate its erudition that will be hard for critical scholars to dodge. That discussion makes up the bulk of the Introduction.

He also discusses the date and place of writing, the occasion of the letter, and recipients. His section on theological emphases is surprisingly short, and he also gives a thorough explanation of how he will explain Greek verbs and syntax in the commentary. His outline is followed by a select bibliography.

In the commentary proper, every passage is given an introduction, an outline, a rendering of the original text in Greek, textual notes, translation, detailed commentary, application and devotional implications, and a selected bibliography for the passage.

When I checked out some of the more controversial passages of Ephesians, such as the household code, I found him to be very cautious on his way to reaching conservative conclusions. His commentary work was still thoughtful, and I often caught myself saying “I hadn’t thought of that before”.

We have several outstanding commentaries on the Book of Ephesians available today – add this one to that category. As one of the most important New Testament letters, you will want at least a few of the great ones. I suggest you make this volume one of them.

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.

I Corinthians (ZECNT) by Gardner

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This latest release in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (ZECNT) series on I Corinthians by Paul Gardner grows my appreciation for this series. It is at once warm and pastoral as well as showing excellent scholarship. This volume is a candidate for the first choice among pastors!

The Introduction is briefer than many I’ve seen in this series. What we have is well done, but it lacks a section on, for example, structure. Every passage in the commentary proper addresses structure, but there’s not an overview of it like has been an emphasis in others of this series. His conclusions are conservative: he sees Paul as the author without reservation, he follows the traditional outlook of Paul’s ministry and dates the letter at AD 54. He digs into the church divisions present in the epistle since that has been widely debated in scholarly circles. He dismantles some of the attacks on the integrity of the letter because so many of the theories floated are hopelessly subjective. He presents a balanced take on the city of Corinth and explains the social and religious context. After discussing the rhetorical and literary context, which he probably sees as covering structure, he returns to defining the divisions mentioned in the letter as the key to its interpretation.

His commentary is where my appreciation blossomed for this commentary. He used the typical format of this series and in my opinion excelled in the “explanation of the text” section. That’s probably the section most used by commentary uses too!  As you know, there are several highly-debated passages in this epistle and he was at his best in each of them. Not only did I often agree with what he said, but also did I find his thoroughness, logic, and argumentation done with more care than many others. In fact, I reviewed another good, conservative, major commentary on this letter recently, and was surprised to see how completely Mr. Gardner surpassed that work.

In many places, he added special “in-depth” sections in shaded boxes that were superb. He wasn’t afraid to take some conservative viewpoints that are less in vogue these days. I loved it!

I Corinthians is blessed to have several excellent commentaries on its contents. This one is as good or better than any of them: I give it the highest recommendation.

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.

Preaching by the Book: Developing and Delivering Text-Driven Sermons (Hobbs College Library)

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Here in the second installment of the Hobbs College Library series aimed at those in the ministry we have help with developing and delivering text-driven sermons. It’s another small, attractive hardback of quite-manageable length that is well done. It gives a grand overview that covers preaching from picking the text to giving the invitation.

As I read, it struck me that this book would especially appeal to two groups: 1) those starting out in the ministry, and 2) bi-vocational pastors. Still, even as one who has been a pastor for several years, I would catch myself thinking as I read– I need to remind myself to quit being sloppy here!

The book begins with a great chapter on inspiration for preaching and what preaching really is, as well as why textual preaching is so valuable. The next chapter shows a process of sermon development that begins with prayer and the first work of study. Part II includes chapters 3 and 4 on the framework that includes how to study and draw out what’s needed for the sermon from the text. Part III gives four chapters on what he calls the finishing touches. These touches include the importance of a good introduction to draw people in, the effective use of illustrations to captivate attention, and the crucial aspect of giving a good invitation. There’s a short, challenging conclusion to conclude the book.

If this book is an indication of what’s to come in this series, we have a tool to look forward to. This book is helpful, encouraging in the places where it’s most needed, and should be a boon for preaching to those who read 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.