John (NTL) by Thompson

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This commentary on the Gospel of John is one of the latest in the New Testament Library (NTL) series published by WJK. This volume is designed to be a major mid-length commentary for those who study in the Gospel of John. It is aimed more at those who teach than scholars. You will find it quite suggestive on many passages.

Marianne Meye Thompson explains in her preface that she has worked 17 years on this commentary. That’s a lot of time for mature reflection. It’s also fair to say that this is one of the more conservative volumes in this series. She chooses not to debate the historicity of the stories in John’s Gospel, but just comments on the text that we have.

I could not agree with her that the John of this Gospel was not the John, who was the son of Zebedee. Still, the Introduction to John’s Gospel she gave was filled with helpful insights. You could sense a love of the gospel of John as you read her comments. She makes some great comments on how John is different than the Synoptic Gospels. The discussion of Jesus as the son of God in both the Introduction and a later excursus (excursus 2) showed that this was an area of the author’s expertise. I thought her explanation of how matters affecting ritual purity were absent from John was well-made as well.

The section on structure was rather short though competent, and her opinion on the dating of John landed at the conservative position of the 90s. She stated that this commentary “focuses on the gospel’s account of Jesus of Nazareth: what he said, what he did, how is life ended, and what happened after his death.” To my mind, this commentary achieves the goals the author set out at the beginning.

Though it was not as in-depth as some of the major exegetical commentaries out there, I thought the commentary proper was both interesting and helpful. She wrote in a clear way that was easy to understand. I could not agree with all her conclusions, but I appreciated the way she wrote. I checked several passages in this commentary, and the quality was consistent throughout.

If you’re looking for an additional voice in your studies of John’s Gospel, you would do well to cure this volume for your shelves. I recommend it.

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

A Theology of Mark’s Gospel by David Garland

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This book is the equivalent of a whole shelf of books on the Gospel of Mark. Veteran commentator, David Garland, has written an ideal volume here. Think of it as a book that summarizes all the issues and themes that scholars often talk about involving Mark’s Gospel to put beside your commentaries on Mark. Fortunately, Zondervan is putting out a whole series called the Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT) in eight volumes to cover the New Testament. Authors in the series are required to have already written a commentary on one of the books in their section. Mr. Garland has already written a commentary on Mark in the NIVAC series. Though its stated audience is for upper college and seminary-level students, I found it, as a pastor, accessible and easier to read than many volumes of its kind.

The book is divided into two parts, though that division is a little skewed. Part one only has two chapters covering introductory matters while the rest of the whole book is on major themes in Mark’s theology. While those first two chapters on introductory matters were well done, I feel part two is where the immense value of the book comes out.

Do you know why I find chapters 3 through 14 so valuable? It’s because all the issues that I’ve encountered in commentary reading on Mark’s Gospel get discussed in a clear, suggestive summary of what’s been believed and straightforward reasoning behind conclusions Mr. Garland offers. Some of these subjects were ones I’ve tried to get smaller individual volumes on, but was thrilled to find them all here.

He discusses what the introduction of Mark 1:1-13 means. He covers the Christological titles of Jesus, such as the Son of Man. Other standout chapters were his explaining the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Mark. He made great sense of the secrecy motifs that you so often hear of in regards to Mark’s Gospel. Another subject that you hear about so often is the prominence of discipleship and he covered it in great depth. Don’t miss chapter 10 on the requirements, costs, and rewards of discipleship – that chapter is quite perceptive. He makes clear what the atonement means in Mark’s Gospel, and as you might expect, covers Mark’s eschatology. The last chapter is on the debate over the end of Mark’s gospel, and though I find the longer ending more accurate, he well covers the issues.

As I said before, I can’t believe how many volumes I’ve looked for that could be replaced by this one volume. For my money, it’s quite a bargain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read other articles in this series, click here.

Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (3rd Ed.)

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William Klein, Craig Blomberg, and Robert Hubbard, Jr. have teamed to give us one of the best hermeneutics textbooks that is in print today. It’s been popular with students since it was first written in 1993 and this third edition ensures its use for years to come. It has an attractive hardback cover to complement its substantial contents. I’ve perused several of these volumes on biblical interpretation that’s on the market today, and find this book to be one of the top choices.

Coming in at over 600 pages, this book deserves the label of in-depth. It might be a little tough to those who have never studied hermeneutics before, but those who have will love this volume. Don’t misunderstand me – it’s well-written, accessible, but covers a lot of information.

Chapter 1 on the need for interpretation drew a nice portrait of why hermeneutics are so important in studying the Bible. Without proper hermeneutics, the Bible gets to mean what anyone wants it to mean. When that happens, it means nothing. The next three chapters on history, literary and social-scientific approaches, and the canon and translations were not as interesting to me as what followed. In fact, some of the social scientific approaches gave credence to groups whose voice is off-base in interpreting the Bible. If those things are your interest, you will find those chapters well done.

Chapters 5 and 6 serve to allow the reader to see his or herself in the process of interpretation. Chapters 7 through 10 are the heart of the book. Those chapters cover the nuts and bolts of hermeneutics. There are a few things discussed the strike me as splitting the hair a little too fine, yet every hermeneutics textbook will discuss these things today. You will appreciate the choice writing that illuminates some rather technical information. There’s good help for interpreting different parts of the Bible and in both Testaments.

After chapter 11 delved into what we gain from proper interpretation, chapter 12 discussed the immensely important subject of application. Without application, interpretation is a hollow exercise. The authors did a good job in giving hints at how to make application after interpretation is done.

I’ve had the chance to study this subject in great detail, and I picked up a few key points in this book that I really appreciate. I don’t see how you can go wrong getting this book and I highly 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.

A Minister’s Obstacles–An Awesome Reprint

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

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

Your pastor would likely be blessed by a copy too.

Click here to find on Amazon.

Luke (ZECNT) by David Garland

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With every new title in this Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series that I delve into, I find my appreciation growing. This series is well conceived and this entry by seasoned-commentator David Garland adds to the laurels of the series. In addition to commentaries on a few New Testament epistles, Mr. Garland has already produced a volume on Mark in the NIVAC series. He is equally at ease in either the Gospels or the epistles.

In his Introduction to Luke, Mr. Garland discusses the authorship of Luke and Acts. In accepting Luke as the author, he strives to dig a little deeper into who Luke actually is. He keeps his discussion of Luke’s sources mercifully brief and jumps on into the genre of Luke and Acts. He sees Luke as both an historian and apologist. The next section is called “date, provenance, and the readers of Luke-Acts”. Unlike some other commentaries I’ve read, he discusses those three issues together rather than separately. There’s even in that section some great information that some others might put in the category of structure. He makes some nice, valid points about Luke’s purpose in writing this gospel. The only disappointment in the Introduction is that his section on structure is only an outline.

I found the commentary proper of even more value. That’s not to say I didn’t disagree with him on some points. For example, the meaning of the word “inn” in the birth of Christ is much more conducive to the traditional meaning that Mr. Garland seems to believe. Most other commentators would not agree with him on that one either. Still, the commentary is of extraordinary value. Every passage I surveyed offered the kind of things I’m looking for in a commentary.

Mr. Garland appears comfortable with the ZECNT format. In each passage, he discussed the literary context, stated the main idea, offered his own translation, explain the structure and literary form, and gave an exegetical outline before launching into a detailed explanation of the text. That is followed by a theology in application section that helps preachers bridge the gap between exegetical information and the sermon.

Having reviewed the volumes on Mark and John, and now reviewing this volume on Luke, I’m amazed at the quality this series has given us on these three Gospels. This volume is ideal for pastors. Think of it as being helpful like the NAC series with a little more depth. 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.

Luke (NAC) by Robert Stein

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Robert Stein has written a quality volume for the New American Commentary series. I have long felt that the NAC series is a top choice for pastors in terms of content and price. Though the volumes are slightly shorter than some of the other exegetical commentary series, the help these volumes provide is still top-notch. This volume on Luke is one of the better volumes in the series.

The Introduction is succinct, power packed, and covers an amazing amount of information in its pages. In just a few pages he covers the authorship of Luke by examining internal evidence, church tradition, and the “we” sections and, to my mind, unanswerably proves that Luke was the author. He surveys well the various opinions on the date of Luke. He reminds us that Acts was never intended to be either Paul or Peter’s biography, but sought to tell the story of taking the gospel to the world. Though such things are highly suspect to me, he covers scholarly opinion on the sources of Luke. Though he finds outlines rather arbitrary, he provided a good one.

I fully agree with his conclusion that the purposes of Luke ought not be pigeonholed into a single purpose. He explains what he believes to be the four main purposes of Luke and provides a great deal of detail in explaining his case. I thought it was effective. His section on the theological emphases in Luke was also highly suggestive. By the time you get to the fine map that ends the Introduction, you may feel as I did that it was the kind of Introduction that really helps a pastor.

I found help in the many passages I reviewed in this volume. He was never trite, and he provides real assistance to one who preaches the Gospel of Luke. I highly recommend this volume to all my fellow pastors out there. You won’t be disappointed.

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

Old Testament Exegesis by Douglas Stuart (4th edition)

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Subtitled “a handbook for students and pastors”, this volume has been a standard in the field for many years. Now in its fourth edition, it is poised to continue its usefulness for many more years. Mr. Stuart is a highly-respected Bible scholar, who has written several outstanding commentaries. I’ve enjoyed using several of them myself. In this volume, he goes through his process of performing exegesis on Old Testament passages. This book is especially valuable for those new to exegesis.

The structure of the book, with every section and subsection numbered, makes using it as a reference at any point of the exegetical process very efficient. After you work through the volume initially, you will find it easy to go back and check certain elements where you may be confused. There’s even a handy analytical table of contents at the beginning to help you zip to the needed location. While you might not have his exact method, you must think of everything he addresses at some point in the exegetical process. I don’t personally do everything in the exact order he says, but I found him to be engaging and suggestive. It even struck me as I read that there were some elements of the exegetical process that I could improve.

Chapters 1 and 2 are aimed more at students doing exegetical papers in seminary. Not only does he explain the process well, but he also illustrates his point with scriptural passages on several occasions. Chapter 3 shortens the process for pastors creating sermons. He takes the process even through application and sermon. Chapter 4 is a fine bibliographic chapter suggesting books for each phase. The suggestions are quite extensive.

The only downsides I could see in the book is that it reduced the process to such a science that the art was lost. Further, some of the language work he suggested is realistically not going to be done by pastors. Finally, if the student or pastor is just beginning, it would take years to build the library he recommends. In his defense, I’m sure he was suggesting buying one good book in each category.

You might want to check out a similar volume on the New Testament from the same publisher. Don’t miss the list of common Old Testament exegesis terms and the list of frequent hermeneutical errors in the back of the book. As a guide or refresher, I recommend 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.

The Gospel of John (NICNT) by Michaels

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J. Ramsey Michaels has provided us with a massive commentary on the Gospel of John in the New International Commentary of the New Testament series. This volume replaced the much-used and much-loved commentary by Leon Morris in that series. I had read good things about this book, and even had a few people say it was their favorite, so I was happy to delve into it for myself. Though I was ultimately convinced that I must give this book a high rating, I did find a few things not in its favor.

The Introduction, in my view, was not up to par for commentaries of this size. In defense of Mr. Michaels, he purposely kept it short and feels that Introductions would be better written after the fact. It almost read like a few reflections he wanted to share when he was finished. There’s not a lot of background either, but he also chose not to go that direction. He feels such background makes better sense in specific passages. The first part of his Introduction on the nature of John’s Gospel was interesting. He commented most on the authorship of the Gospel of John and was sympathetic to the traditional position, but choose to keep it anonymous since the author’s name is not mentioned. He almost sees anonymity as a trait of this gospel. He speaks only briefly of truth claims, the relationship of John to the other Gospels, and the structure of John’s Gospel, which I thought was the most lacking in the Introduction. He barely spoke of textual issues, and his section on theological contributions, which was good, was only four pages.

One other issue I had with the volume was that what he called the first tier of commentaries that helped him write his was Bultmann (!), Schnackenburg, Brown, and Barrett. At least Morris, Carson, and Keener were in his second tier. I felt at times that his first tier had too much influence on what he said. On the other hand, I would agree with many others who say that he came up with his own unique, fresh perspective.

You may ask why I would still rate this a five-star commentary considering the issues I have stated I have with it. Why must I? It’s the incredible, thoughtful content in the commentary itself. Every passage I interacted with taught me things that I had read nowhere else. Even though there might be a sentence that I disagreed with, in the next paragraph he would tie the passage into the larger context of John, or tie it into some other passage in John, or give some amazing exegetical insight that I found extremely helpful.

All in all, while this may not be my first choice on the Gospel of John, it is one that I will always consult going forward. A book that gets me thinking and opens other side paths in grasping a passage’s meaning is a winner in my book. I recommend it.

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

A Biblical History of Israel (Second Edition)

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Iain Provan, V. Philips Long, and Tremper Longman, well-respected scholars all, have extensively updated this book for its second edition. Apparently, the first edition raised the dander of the extreme left side of scholarship. There’s even an appendix that you might want to read first called “In Praise of Critical Thought” that addresses the misunderstandings and over-the-top criticisms leveled at the first edition. To my mind, some of these criticisms were so absurd that trying to answer them was tantamount to killing those you have already slain.

Part one covering five chapters and 150 pages tackles history, historiography, and the Bible. That section can best be summarized as explaining and refuting the worst that extreme, radical scholarship has thrown at the credibility of Bible history. For the scholar who needs that interpretive history outlined and answered, you will love that section. Others may already feel a complete confidence in the credibility of biblical history.

I found Part Two, which covers the different phases of Old Testament history in order, to be much more beneficial. In fact, these pages will make a nice reference when studying the various passages. Again, the authors laid out the scholarly attacks against the history in each of these epochs clearly and answers them. Archaeology, historical detail, the biblical text, and logic are all brought to bear to prove the point that Old Testament narratives are historically trustworthy.

The detail presented is incredible. For example, when studying the historical time period of the days of Joshua, some great detail on Jericho, Bethel, and Ai was brought out that showed some scholarly conclusions that are often crammed down our throats are not all they’re cracked up to be. Again, you will find here some fine material to reference in your studies. The book just goes through the Exile and after, meaning this history just covers the Old Testament.

This book is a more advanced biblical history of Israel than many on the market. Many other volumes just go through the material almost as a historical survey and ignores the broadsides from the critical camp. This volume respects those scholars enough to interact with their views. To handle its goal, the material is more challenging than some others. Without a doubt, though, scholars will love it.

Despite the circuitous route it must take, this volume lands at many conclusions where a more conservative student of the Scriptures would agree. It succeeds in what it sets out to do, and so is a voice to be reckoned with in the scholarly world.

 

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.