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!

Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption (ESBT) by Morales

book ex old

This title by L. Michael Morales is my first foray into the new Essential Studies in Biblical Theology (ESBT) series. Coming from the same publisher (IVP) as the highly-regarded NSBT series, it takes a different aim. Rather than narrowly focused topics that shine incredible light onto a precise point (NSBT), this series (ESBT) takes steps to re-approach with the same depth greater swathes of theology. Such synthesis is a refreshing onslaught that I applaud.

As for this title itself, I judge it an all-around success. If you read widely in theology, you will see that the Exodus motif crops up often. The average Bible reader never gets past the Exodus in Moses’ day but “exodus” is an exquisite painting of redemption that shows up throughout Scripture and provides a big picture understanding of the overall theme of Scripture. You can imagine, then, just how profitable a study like Morales delivers here can be.

The book is in three parts: the historical Exodus out of Egypt, the prophesied second exodus, and the New Exodus of Jesus. The historical Exodus is presented thoroughly and with great insight. The second part uses the Prophets to highlight the Exile and the exodus from the Captivity with equal skill. As it should be, the book climaxes with Jesus in the ultimate exodus. I gained many points of understanding in this volume but the big picture was always in view.

This book is a great help and encourages us to believe we might be having a real barn burner of a series taking off here!

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.

Joel and Amos (TOTC) by Hadjiev

This latest replacement volume in the time-tested Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series tackles the two important minor prophets of Joel and Amos. While this title follows the format of all the recent replacement volumes in the series, it runs substantially more toward academic concerns than pastoral ones. I fear that this volume might not be as precisely aimed at the target audience of this series as usual.

The author’s previous work on these prophets have been about their composition and redaction. He seems to see the genre as the key to understanding. To be honest, it colors the whole work. Even the introduction dives straight into structural patterns without even an introductory paragraph! Other works in this series address these issues but they do not become as overarching as here. When you think genre is so important and then conclude that these prophets have mixed genres you inevitably will have interpretative issues in several passages. You will notice that throughout the commentary proper as you are introduced to all kinds of good information but sometimes the sum of the parts is substantially less than all the parts you get.

In no way has the author failed to put substantial study behind this work. I don’t want to be overly critical, but his bibliography leans toward much more critical works. I wish more conservative studies and commentaries were better represented.

To be fair, if you were a young scholar trying to wrestle with these particular issues that he stresses you might love this commentary. I even think that if the author were to write a commentary in another series that is aimed primarily at scholars and the issues that currently have captivated the scholarly world, he would probably deliver a highly rated work. On the other hand, I will have to remove a star for pastors and Bible students who would be more interested in what the text means, whom I also envision this series to be produced for. If you are a scholar, you can add the star back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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