NIV Faithlife Study Bible

In a Christian publishing world that is awash in “Study” Bibles, it is a herculean task to publish one that is a standout. There are topical, themed, theological, chronological, popular-pastor … well, you get the idea … study Bibles. So when the NIV Faithlife Study Bible came my way, I was quite curious. I have known of Faithlife (formerly Logos) for several years as a user of their software. Faithlife has been stirring up the digital Bible world for twenty-five years. Logos Bible Software is their flagship product. With the success of their Bible software, they have expanded significantly, almost all within the Bible scholarship arena. For a number of years they have been “working on” the Faithlife Study Bible as a digital product, adding and editing as time progressed. In fact, you can get virtually all of the information in NIV Faithlife Study Bible at  https://faithlifebible.com/. The major difference will be the Bible translation – you’ll get the Lexham English Bible on line.NIV Faithlife Study Bible

Now you can get that digital project in print. Faithlife has teamed with Zondervan to publish the  NIV Faithlife Study Bible. The combination makes for a dynamic Bible study tool. Faithlife has used their wide range of digital resources to produce a Bible that is more than just another “Study” Bible. At first glance it may look like a typical study Bible, But do not be deceived; it is the visual content of this publication that makes it so beneficial.

What makes this “Study” Bible so special is the multitude of charts, graphs, tables, lists, timelines, etc., that are appropriately placed with the biblical text. For example, at the start of every book there is a timeline pertaining to that book or collection of books (such as Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther). This is a tremendous aid to the understanding of the historical context.

Of course, with all of these study aids and extra “goodies” comes a bit of bulk. There are 2304 pages included in the two inch thick volume and it weighs in at 3.8 pounds – perhaps a bit heavy to be toting everywhere you go. But, putting aside the bulk, this Bible is well worth the investment.

If you are a “I want to feel the Bible in my hand to read it” person, this is the version of the Faithlife Study Bible to have. In fact, this may be THE “Study Bible” to have.

Disclaimer: I was provided this volume by Zondervan for a fair and honest review.

Katharina and Martin Luther

I would propose an estimation that most Christians with a sense of Christian history or just history in general would know that 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther published his 95 Theses, thus sparking the Reformation. (Many believe he actually nailed them to the door of the church in Wittenberg.) With this 500th anniversary, of course, arrives a number of books on the event and the personalities involved. Almost all of these volume focus on Luther or the Reformation. Very few tell the story of the personal life of Luther, specifically his marriage to Katharina.

katarina-martin-lutherThat void has been masterfully filled by Michelle DeRusha with her latest volume Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk. It is a publication of Baker Books. She is also the author of 50 Women Every Christian Should Know.

As expressed in her Preface, DeRusha spent hours of painstaking and intense research to produce a factual account of the lives of the Luther’s. But this book is more than a collection of historical facts gathered together in chronological order; it is a love story. DeRusha has expertly told the story of how Martin and Katharina evolved a marriage of convenience into a marriage of love and respect.

She skillfully moves back and forth between the lives of Martin and Katharina until the two unite in marriage and then continues the narrative by demonstrating how Katharina efficiently ran the household while Martin was involved with theological battles. It’s a fascinating story and DeRusha’s style makes the reading move along at a brisk pace.

Here is my recommendation for this book: Read it as soon as you possibly can. It will greatly enhance your appreciation for the personalities involved in the Reformation especially the woman behind the man. Surely it will also motivate you to go further into the history of our faith.

Thanks, Michelle.

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

Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature

Let’s begin with the basics. Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook is the latest in an eight volume series on Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis edited by David M. Howard Jr. This volume is written by Richard A. Taylor, senior professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. It is published by Kregel Publications under Kregel Academic.interpreting-apocalyptic-literature

Suffice it to say that Apocalyptic Literature is a genre of the written word that is unfrequently considered, although according to the author, it is one that is now gaining attention. It would be fair to say that the reason for the lack of consideration is that it is hard to define. This is even admitted by the author, “Of all the literary genres employed in the Bible, none is more difficult to define than the apocalyptic genre. Scholars have not found it easy to reach a consensus on what exactly is meant by the world apocalyptic.” (p.27) In a basic but useful Glossary at the end of the book Taylor provides his definition: “Ancient literature that contains a significant proportion of those features that define an apocalypse, whether or not the writing in question itself fully qualifies as an apocalypse.”

With that dilemma to consider the problem of how to interpret the genre becomes a daunting task. What are the features that define an apocalypse? What if the writing does not qualify as an apocalypse? Must we then assign it to another genre? The questions begin to multiply. Nevertheless, attempting to tackle these questions, Taylor does an admirable job. But let me warn you, it is intense reading.

Perhaps the most useful chapter is “Preparing for Interpretation of Apocalyptic Literature.” (ch.3) Taylor provides several sections that are applicable to interpreting any genre of literature. Interesting also are the final two chapters in which the author moves from the theoretical to the practical dealing with Daniel 7 and 8 and Joel 2.28-32. These discussions provide some application to the theory.

By admission Taylor states that this volume is geared to scholars and seminary students. He is most certainly correct. It may also find use with a pastor preaching in this genre. This is not a volume to be picked up for light reading.

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

Inductive Bible Study

Inductive Bible Study is all the rage. The fact is, if you read your Bible and take a few notes, you are engaging in some form of Inductive Bible Study. It may be a simple form or a modified form but it still falls within the parameters – observe, interpret and apply. Of course, if you so desire, you can get much more detailed in the three areas.inductive-bible-study

And, as you might well expect, there is no shortage of books and other communicative materials to assist you in learning the process. That is why there is a need to categorize these books into three areas – beginner, intermediate and advanced.

That leads us to the volume at hand – Inductive Bible Study: Observation, Interpretation, and Application through the Lenses of History, Literature, and Theology. The subtitle alone should provide a hint of the scope of this book. It is written by Richard Alan Fuhr, Jr. (Liberty University) and Andreas J. Kostenberger (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) and is published by B&H Academic.

Fuhr and Kostenberger provide a highly detailed methodology for Bible study. In their discussion of the observation stage we receive instruction on common sense observation described in theological jargon. That continues to a greater degree in the interpretation arena. Fortunately, the application arena is more practical.

At times this volume has the feel of being a sequel to a book previously co-authored by Kostenberger: Invitation to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology. You’ll discover that immediately if you are a footnote aficionado.

Mostly this book presented the Inductive Bible Study method as being very structured. While an orderly system or method must be adhered to when doing Bible study, one must be cautious not to stifle the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is a precautionary note, but must be kept in mind.

With this all written, if you are serious about Bible study, this is a volume to have at your disposal. My recommendation is that the book is good for theologians and pastors but you will need to have a firm grasp on the Inductive Bible Study method before embarking on this volume. It is definitely not for beginners. It definitely falls into the advanced category of Inductive Bible Study volumes.

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

The Essence of the New Testament

In a world that is awash in volumes concerning New Testament Surveys and Introductions, we have a new entry (well, it’s a second edition entry) – The Essence of the New Testament: A Survey. It was published by B&H Academic. It is outstanding!the-essence-of-the-nt

So with such a multitude of surveys, what would make this standout from all the others?

The editors and contributors. This volume is edited by Elmer Towns and Ben Gutierrez. Towns, of course, is a well-known figure in evangelical circles and a prolific writer (over 170 books plus countless articles) and a co-founder of Liberty University. Gutierrez is a Ph.D. and professor at Liberty. The seven contributors (along with Towns and Gutierrez) are all conservative scholars and professors.

The quality and conciseness. One of the trends in New Testament survey books is an overabundance of information that might be more suited for advanced study. But not with The Essence of the New Testament. The authors have obviously made a determined effort to filter the extraneous and present vital and essential information without trying to weigh down the reader.

The book opens with four chapters on introductory material leading with “How We Got the New Testament.” Each entry on the twenty-seven books of the NT contains the standard biblical background information – author, recipients, occasion and date, and outline. This is followed by a brief commentary entitled the “Message” that follows the structure of the outline adding to the smooth flow of the book and ease of understanding.

The end of each book has study questions and a brief bibliography and there are also a multitude of pictures and a number of charts that further facilitate the explanation of the particular NT book.

The viability for Christians. One of the most attractive qualities of this book is that it will have appeal to a majority of believers. It is straightforward and easy to follow – no linguistic tricks and no ivory tower theological language. It is a reference volume that the inquisitive Bible student will want to have at the ready when studying any book of the New Testament. (I have a vison of someone studying Colossians with the Bible in front, a notepad to one side and The Essence of the New Testament on the other.)

This is a must-have volume for every Christian especially teachers and preachers. It is a double must-have volume for new believers and first year Bible college students. It is a classic Bible educational tool. This volume will pique the student’s curiosity for more information.

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

2016 Books Reviewed

Here is a list of books I have reviewed in 2016 with a link to that particular review. They were all published in 2016. The list is in reverse chronological order as I posted them. If you have a thought or comment, just drop it in the “Comment” section.

The Christ-Centered Expositor

Engaging Exposition

Remember & Returnremember-return

Greek for Everyone

The Cradle, the Cross and the Crown

What Happened in the Garden

Unlocking the Bible

The Message of the Twelvethe-message-of-the-twelve

Exalting Jesus in Ecclesiastes

EGGNT – Ephesians

The Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible

The SBC in the 21st Century

Going Deeper with NT Greek

A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the OT & NT

Rescuing the Gospel

They Were Christians

The Inerrant WordSweeter Than Honey

A Peculiar Glory

Sweeter Than Honey, Richer Than Gold

The Miracles of Jesus

The Heart of RevelationHow Bible Stories Work

How Bible Stories Work

Illustrated Life of Paul

Bible Revival

What the NT Writers Really Cared About

Let Food Be Your Medicine

The Christ-Centered Expositor

B&H Academic has published two books on the subject of preaching that have been released virtually simultaneously. Engaging Exposition was reviewed in our last post. It’s an excellent text for aspiring preachers. Now we will tackle volume #2 on the subject of preaching: The Christ-Centered Expositor: A Field Guide for Word-Driven Disciple Makers. (Apparently hyphenated words are important for book titles.) This volume is written by Tony Merida, pastor and preaching professor. Once again it is with some trepidation that a preacher reviews a book on preaching written by a preaching professor. Merida teaches at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.the-christ-centered-expositor

The Christ-Centered Expositor is divided into two “Parts.” They can be summed up as the “Who” and the “How.” The order of the two parts is significant. It is vital that a preacher understands his task before he undertakes his task. Merida is excellent in presenting this significance.

Merida begins where Engaging Exposition left off – encouraging and challenging the spiritual life and outward testimony of the preacher. That’s “Part 1: The Expositor’s Heart.” His tone is one of inspiration emphasizing a love of the Scriptures and prayer. Virtually every chapter in this part contains a list of some sort.

“Part 2: The Expositor’s Message” is the how-to portion of the book. Merida is meticulous in his presentation of how an expository message should be developed from the moment the preacher decides on the text to the final delivery of the message. If one is learning the art of preaching, these 110 pages are worth serious and thoughtful study. Lists, charts and preaching projects are in abundance. That is not an objection or condemnation, but rather an attestation to the great value of this section.

There are questions at the end of every chapter which is a dead giveaway that this volume is to be used as a textbook – and it should be. It’s value as a textbook is also found in an eleven page bibliography which obviously includes a host of preaching volumes.

I would expect that The Christ-Centered Expositor will become a standard and required text in every Southern Baptist Seminary. For aspiring preachers it is must-read.Engaging Exposition

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by B&H Publishing Group for a fair and honest review.