The Dawn of Christianity

One of my favorite subject areas in the realm of Christianity is history. So, when the possibility to review this volume arose, I quickly accepted. However, the book was not quite what I anticipated. Yet, at the same time, it was not disappointing.The Dawn of Christianity

Robert J. Hutchinson’s The Dawn of Christianity: How God Used Simple Fishermen, Soldiers, and Prostitutes to Transform the World is definitely an interesting read. He is the author of six of books primarily concerning Christianity. He is a student of Hebrew and has a graduate degree in New Testament.

This volume has three primary areas of focus: Jesus’ Ministry, Jesus Resurrection and the Early Church. Thus, it begins with Jesus gathering those who would eventually carry on His mission and ends with the Jerusalem Council. Hutchinson fills in the details with his own narrative built on the biblical account.

What makes this book interesting is that it is more than just Hutchinson’s retelling of the story. Throughout the entire volume he weaves in archaeological, geographical and biographical information that assists the reader in developing a greater appreciation for what’s happening in the story line. Virtually every page has additional material for our cultural understanding.

The Dawn of Christianity also has extensive and beneficial end material to include a “Time Line,” a “Who’s Who,” extensive End Notes and a decent Bibliography.

This is not a scholarly work (nor was it intended to be so). Rather, it is well suited for a Bible study group or a Sunday School curriculum where discussion is encouraged. (It should require a Bible to be read side-by-side). With its wide-ranging background information, it is essential material for those who are skeptical of the Gospels and Acts.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by Nelson Books of Harper Collins Christian Publishing for a fair and honest review.

Biblical Doctrine

It takes a lifetime to be able to write a volume on Doctrine or Theology. So say John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue in the Preface to Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth. That’s why “We … have waited until the ‘evening hours’ of our own lives to undertake this theology volume.” For most evangelicals MacArthur needs no introduction. In short he is the pastor at Grace Community Church In Sun Valley, CA and founder and president of The Master’s Seminary. Mayhue is the Research Professor of Theology at The Master’s Seminary.Biblical Doctrine

The title of this volume is aptly descriptive. It includes virtually all of the areas of Biblical Doctrine or Theology. “The Introduction: Prolegomena” is an extensive discussion of the subject of theology in general answering all of the What, Why and How questions. There are also 39 Tables/Charts that catalogue and organize material into a succinct form.

The chapter that captivated my interest was the first – “God’s Word: Bibliology.” It encompasses all of the usual and expected subject areas – Inspiration, Authority, Inerrancy – but it also includes areas that are all too often neglected in many systematic theologies – Preservation, Preaching and Teaching and Obligation. These areas are well worth the reader’s attention.

Biblical Doctrine is a massive work extending over 1,000 pages when you include the extensive General Index and Scripture Index and the end. But, this is not just a theologian’s theology book. My estimation is that it is perfectly designed for the pastor yet appropriate the every Christian. It is easy to look up theological subject matter and, considering the fact that it is a theology book, it is written in a prose that the layman can easily digest. It is also helpful to note that Biblical Doctrine is written unapologetically from a very conservative theological viewpoint.

I could continue to rave about this work, but whether one is a theologian, pastor, teacher or avid Bible student, this is a volume of systematic theology that should be included in everyone’s library. If you’re going to invest in one theology volume, this is it.

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

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.