John: Through Old Testament Eyes

If we simply entitled this review John, it would likely elicit a palm to the forehead reaction. Are there not enough commentaries, articles, comments, notes, etc., on the book of John? The answer is apparently not. Kregel Academic has developed a new series of commentaries that will include a host of New Testament books. The series is entitled “Through Old Testament Eyes.”

Thus, we have John: Through Old Testament Eyes, authored by Dr. Karen H. Jobes. There is no need for lengthy introduction on Dr. Jobes. As far as Johannine literature is concerned, she is at the top of the class. When I need to know more on what John has written, I will always seek Dr. Jobes’ knowledge and insight.

This new “Through Old Testament Eyes” series already has one volume – Mark and there are three more promised for the near future. They will all follow a similar structure and design organized in such a way that we receive not only background information but also methods of practical application. One can only pray that the others will be so informative.

The heart of the volume is the running commentary on the Gospel of John and the fulcrum is that virtually any and all Old Testament references and allusions are explored. Selected words and phrases from chapter and verse are meticulously examined always with the Old Testament in mind. For example, we are all familiar on some level with the narrative of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4. Yet we are likely uneducated on the Jewish and Old Testament background to the story. Jobes guides us through this cultural-historical maze, selecting those portions, in a verse-by-verse format, that will aid our understanding of what occurred.

This volume (and I suspect the other volumes also) serves as an excellent resource for pastors and teachers. If you are heading into the book of John in any form of educational format, this book is well worth having at your side. Bear in mind this is a commentary, virtually verse-by-verse, and will have its maximum benefit as one studies John verse-by-verse.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Kregel Academic for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

The Parables

The parables of Jesus are without a doubt the most intriguing and challenging teaching in the history of education. Over the past two thousand years they have elicited myriad upon myriad of written and spoken material. A basic Google search on the term “Parables of Jesus” returns over 1.1 millions results. Parables of Jesus (without quotes) returns over ten million. And, of course, countless monographs have been written on the parables, specifically and within the context of New Testament commentary.

So, an obvious question would be “Why another one?” The answer: Everyone who investigates the parables does so with a slightly different perspective. Such is the case with Douglas D. Webster’s The Parables: Jesus’s Friendly Subversive Speech. Webster holds a PhD, has had pastoral experience and currently is a professor of pastoral theology and preaching at Beeson Divinity School. This combined experience does afford him a singular perspective which he shares with his readers. The book is published by Kregel Academic.

Webster examines twenty-two of Jesus’s parables taken from Matthew and Luke. Each of his discussions presents some fresh material and unique thinking. Within each parable his conclusions are based on Matthew’s and Luke’s context not just the parable as a singular unit. One may or may not agree with everything that he has to say, however, your thought processes will be stimulated.

The major disappointment is the lack of a bibliography. One would like to know which scholars might be worth investigating in private study. (It is possible to gain a selected bibliography through the footnotes provided.) He reacts and relies frequently with Klyne R. Snodgrass and Robert Capon.

This volume is highly suited for preachers, teachers and students of the Bible. And a note for using this book: Read the parable first in a couple of translations, then dive into Webster’s analysis. The Parables is well worth having on the bookshelf.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by Kregel Academic for a fair and honest review.

New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha

As anyone who has recently searched for a new Bible knows, there are a plethora of translations from which to choose. And, unless you are educated in the basics of Bible translation, the task can be daunting. Which translation is best? Which translation is best for me? These are two important questions to be answered by every Bible shopper.

So, for your information, Hendrickson Bibles has reintroduced their New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) with Apocrypha originally published in 2005. The NRSV was first published by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in 1989. Because of its ecumenical nature, it received outstanding acceptance from the Christian community at large to include Protestant, Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox. (I would refer you to this on Bible Gateway page for more detailed information.

The NRSV is an update of the Revised Standard Version, first published in 1952. Thus you have a Bible with the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, the twenty-seven of the New Testament and the Apocrypha (known in scholarly circles as the Deuterocanonical Books). What you also have with the NRSV is a highly readable translation based on the best manuscript evidence available.

This publication of the Bible is clearly an attempt to make a quality copy of the Scriptures affordable to anyone. The imitation leather version comes in four colors – white, black, blue and burgundy. It can be purchased for less than ten dollars at various on-line retailers. There’s also a softcover edition at an even less expensive price.

This particular Bible is set in double columns and has 9-point type and is claimed to be “readable.” However, 9-point type is probably not for “older” eyes as the print may appear relatively small. This is also billed as a “Gift & Award Bible.” Thus, if you have an individual in your life who desires a copy of the Scriptures, this is an excellent choice. It is also an excellent choice to present as a “spiritual surprise.”

Whatever your religious leanings may be, this publication of the Bible is a top-notch choice for either personal use or as a gift regardless of your theological beliefs concerning the Deuterocanonical Books.

Who Created Christianity?

Who Created Christianity? Fresh Approaches to the Relationship between Paul & Jesus. No doubt this is an intriguing title. Do Paul and Jesus agree on the constitution of Christianity? Well, before you sit down in anticipation of a knock-down, drag-out theological slug-fest, be aware: This volume is a festschrift “written in honor of Professor David Wenham.” Within its pages, you will find twenty-three essays with a vast approach to the relationship between Paul and Jesus. The authors of these essays are men and women in Christian academia who spend their days contemplating such questions as posed by the title. The editors are Craig A. Evans and Aaron W. White.

The book is separated into six sections covering a myriad of subjects, all investigating the relationship between Paul and Jesus in one manner or another. For example, in light of the current debate over complementarianism and egalitarianism, there is one section that is quite intriguing – “IV. Women according to Jesus and Paul.” The two essays are written by female scholars, Sarah Harris and Erin M. Heim.

Harris writes on “Gospel Women Remembered” and after six pages of preparatory information, she eventually gets to the heart of the essay. Once there, Harris deftly examines Paul’s changing view of women with an emphasis from the women from Romans 16. Then, she turns to the Gospels and Jesus’s involvement with women in his ministry. It’s an enlightening read and will certainly stimulate contemplation.

Likewise, Heim investigates the women in Romans 16 pointing out that ten of the twenty-nine people mentioned are women. Then, with great precision, she focuses with a particular emphasis on Junia or Junias. Is this individual male or female? Her conclusion is convincing. The implications of her determination carry over into her discussion of “outstanding among the apostles.” Heim then concludes with a discussion of Phoebe and her role in the early church. This is definitely an essay to be considered.

If you are someone who enjoys dabbling in the depths of theology, you will find this book most informative, educational, entertaining and certainly challenging. It is heavy-duty theology. These are scholarly essays written primarily for scholars. However, it must be considered that these essays were written in honor of a man who has spent considerable time researching and contemplating Paul and Jesus. Yet, the essays are heartfelt. One can appreciate the research and thought that has gone into each one.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Hendrickson Publishers for a fair and honest review.

Historical Theology for the Church

The title at the top should be indicatory of the content of this book. Historical Theology – thankfully a definition is not as elusive as for Biblical Theology. (See a review of such here.) Historical Theology as defined in this volume is “a process of historical inquiry that serves and supports other distinct but compatible disciplines. In other words, it feeds the other theological disciplines.” Simply, it is an examination of theology through the ages.

So, this volume does just that. It is a survey of theological disciplines from AD 100 to AD 2000. Four separate “Units” are included. Each examines the theology of various time periods such as the Patristic Era, AD 100-500. The Reformation Era gets the closest scrutiny, appropriately, with a two hundred years time span, AD 1500-1700.

The theological disciplines that are examined are selective which is to be expected. To cover all disciplines would have made the book unmanageable, not to mention weighty. The three primary disciplines examined include Scripture, considered in all four units and twice combined with Tradition, the Church and Salvation. Others include, but not all, Jesus Christ, the Trinity and, lastly, Eschatology.

The book is comprised of a series of essays by sixteen separate authors that include editors Jason G. Duesing and Nathan A. Finn, both Southern Baptist seminary PhD graduates. Therefore, expect the theology to reflect such. The publisher is B&H Academic. There are also informative name and subject indices included in the back.

All of the essayists have contributed well-crafted essays that are not overwhelming in theological jargon. Anyone with an interest in the theological history of the church will be pleased to gain historical insight concerning how we got to where we are theologically. It is a volume that should be read by every pastor regardless of his theological leanings. I would recommend this book be read in conjunction with A Survey of the History of Global Christianity. (review here)

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by B&H Academic for a fair and honest review.

40 Questions About Pastoral Ministry

It surely goes without saying that the job of a pastor is one of the most demanding positions. It may not be from a physical aspect, although that may occasionally be the case, but surely from an emotional one. Shepherding the spiritual life of a congregation is a whirlwind of emotional highs and lows often within a microcosm of time.

And, of course, there is large quantity of written material that attempts to be instructive for every situation. Some achieve the desired goal, some do not. So what would make another volume worthwhile? The answer is “practicality.” Enter 40 Questions About Pastoral Ministry.

This volume follows sixteen previous like-formatted ones in the 40 Questions series published by Kregel Academic. All the books follow the same arrangement – forty questions that are divided into categories with similar content. (You can read reviews of other books in the series here, here, here, and here.)

This volume was written by Phil A. Newton who has been in pastoral ministry for more than forty years. Newton shares his lifetime of ministry experience in a most down-to-earth manner. There are no hypothetical situations. It is all pragmatic advice covering five areas of pastoral ministry to include health, practice, preaching and church relations.

So who should read this book and keep it close at hand for ready reference? Here’s the list:

  • This should be read by every pastor, full-time and bi-vocational.
  • This should be read by every man with pastoral ambitions.
  • This should be read by every elder and deacon in every church.
  • This should surely be used in every course on pastoral ministry. It is the ideal practical textbook.

In short, there is no “getting around” 40 Questions About Pastoral Ministry if one is a pastor, wants to be a pastor, or knows a pastor. It should be destined for a multitude of bookshelves.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Kregel Academic for a fair and honest review.

40 Questions About Biblical Theology

If asked would you be able to define Biblical Theology? Better still, would you be able to do that simply? If your answer is a definitive “No,” do not feel inadequate. Even the best of theological scholars have a difficult time agreeing on a precise definition.

So, 40 Questions About Biblical Theology attempts to assist us in our understanding of Biblical Theology. It is the latest in the “40 Questions” series by Kregel Academic and it is the seventeenth in the series. (read other reviews in this series here, here, here and here.) This volume has triune authorship. Jason S. DeRouchie, Oren R. Martin and Andrew David Naselli have crafted 40 Questions in the field of Biblical Theology. Well, almost. Part 3 contains eleven questions examining various subject areas touching the field of Biblical Theology – the covenants, the serpent, the people of God to name three.

But as for a concise definition, that is elusive. In fact the opening statement in Question 1, “What Do We Mean by ‘Biblical Theology’”? Begins at this point, “Biblical Theology is a slippery term…” You know we’re in for a rocky road from there. Don’t misunderstand, there are definitions along the way, however, none are crisp.

Nine questions are consumed with “Defining Biblical Theology.” Yet, at the end, there is not an explicit definition. (I refer you to the remarks above.) However, despite the divergence away from the central question, there are a handful of questions that the everyday believer may find interesting. One, in particular, is #16 focusing on Biblical Theology and the Canon of Scripture. DeRouchie provides some intriguing information on the formation of the canon.

There are also a couple of appealing questions in Part 5: Applying Biblical Theology. One might enjoy reading about how a Christian should relate to promises in the Old Testament (#37) and the affect Biblical Theology should have on the Christian life (#38).

In the end this book is written by theologians for theologians. If you are a seasoned theologian or a budding theological scholar, you will likely find this volume of interest. It will be well received in the world of academia. This is not a book for the mass of Christianity.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Kregel Academic for a fair and honest review.

A Survey of the History of Global Christianity

What part does the history of our faith play in the demonstration of our faith? In reality, the demonstration of the faith is the history of the faith. Thus, a knowledge and understanding of the history of Christianity are critical to living out the tenets of the faith.

So, to aid in our knowledge and understanding of the history of Christianity, B&H Academic has published the second edition of A Survey of the History of Global Christianity (SHGC). The book is written by Mark Nickens (PhD), assistant professor in church history at Liberty University. Nickens is a well-regarded expert in his field.

Nickens starts us off at the beginning – 30 AD – and marches us through the history of global Christianity right up to the present. As the title states, the volume covers global Christianity, not just Christianity in the United States and/or Europe. Bear in mind this is a survey. It is comprehensive yet not detailed. While not precisely stated, SHGC is designed to whet one’s appetite for the history of the faith. For further investigation there is an excellent seven-page bibliography.

The striking element of this book is the amount of history that Nickens is able to include in such a condensed manner. It’s a testament to his expertise. He covers the major movements of the faith and the personalities that drove them. Additionally, along the historical journey, the author provides “asides” (enclosed in boxes) which cover a wide variety of subjects – definitions, miscellaneous historical facts, quotes, etc.

A Survey of the History of Global Christianity is a volume that every pastor, teacher and student of the faith should read and have in his library. It is the perfect primer for the history of the Christian faith.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by B&H Publishing for a fair and honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255.

EXEGETICAL GUIDE TO THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT: ACTS

The book of Acts can well be considered the hinge volume of the New Testament just as Joshua is for the Old Testament. In brief, it describes the growth of Christianity. Acts is a book with which every believer should be familiar.

And, as can be expected, there has been a multitude of commentaries written on the book. Now arrives Acts in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series published by B&H Academic. Properly titled, it is the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Acts. It is the thirteenth volume in this series with seven more scheduled for publication. The author of this particular volume is L. Scott Kellum, PhD, a professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

[You can read my reviews of other volumes in this series at the following: Mark, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Philippians.]

In a concise description, EGGNT: Acts is a complete examination of the Greek text of the book of Acts. But that does not do this volume justice (or any in this series for that matter). Each and every verse of the Greek text is pertinently dissected giving the reader valuable knowledge without information overload. That is a strenuous task and Kellum does it most efficiently. However, it is not just the examination of the Greek text that is so valuable, but also the “extras” that are included. Following each section of his sections, Kellum provides information on further study and homiletical suggestions. (This is a staple with the EGGNT Series.)

To get the maximum out of this volume, it would be advantageous to have a working knowledge of New Testament Greek. However, this is not an imperative. Many profitable insights can be gleaned from a reading of Kellum’s comments. And, like the other volumes in this series, this is one that should stand at the ready for pastors and teachers when they are going through Acts. It will be invaluable.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by B&H Publishing for a fair and honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255.

40 Questions about Typology and Allegory

One of the most engaging and sometimes dangerous aspects of Scripture is that it lends itself to a variety of interpretive methodology. At times this can be beneficial as it draws out a deep, rich meaning of the text. Yet, on occasion, it can lead down paths that have serious theological detours with eternal consequences around every turn.

Typology and allegory are two methods of interpretation that fall into this characterization. This is not to say that the study of types and allegories cannot be spiritually healthy to the reader of Scripture. It can certainly enhance one’s experience with the Word. However, caution must be observed. The more diligently one meditates on, investigates and examines Scripture with an allegorical hermeneutic, there exists a higher probability to wander off the theological straight path.

With that, we come to the volume at hand – 40 Questions about Typology and Allegory. It is the fifteenth in a series published by Kregel Academic that deals with a multitude of religious subjects, mostly biblical. You can read my reviews of other books in the series here, here, here, here, and here. This one is written by Mitchell L. Chase, PhD, a preaching pastor and adjunct professor at Boyce College and Southern Seminary.

As you might expect this book is divided into two distinct sections, one concerning typology, the other allegory. These two sections then have identical structures. First they deal with an understanding of the hermeneutical method, then a history and finally a how-to identify each method.

The all-embracing question that the author seems to want to answer is: Is there a place for typology and allegory in the hermeneutical practice/exercise of Scripture? Chase’s answer is obviously “Yes.” And he gets there – sort of, through an abundance of words.

Unfortunately, I was skeptical from Question 1 – What Story is the Bible Telling? I took issue with the author’s opening line: “The first time I read the Harry Potter series, …” Why would a preaching pastor and adjunct professor be so enthralled with tales about magic and witches and such? It makes one wonder about the author’s hermeneutical angle.

The most absorbing sections are those concerning the practice of typology and allegory in church history. In these the author spends six to eight pages on six areas of church history briefly yet comprehensively detailing how these interpretive methods were dealt with throughout church history. Quite informative. No doubt Chase has done a lot a study in this area.

So, unless you are a church history aficionado, I would not recommend this book to anyone who does not have at least a moderate amount of theological education. It would be quite well suited for a seminary textbook.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by Kregel Academic for a fair and honest review.