Jesus the Hero

Jesus the Hero: A Guided Literary Study of the Gospels is the fourth in a series of six volumes written by Leland Ryken and published by the Weaver Book Company. You can find my reviews of the first two volumes here and here.Jesus the Hero

The emphasis with each book is a guided literary study of a particular biblical category or genre. Each volume guides the reader through a definitive training with a view towards a literary evaluation. Jesus the Hero focuses on the Gospels.

Ryken holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon and is Professor of English Emeritus at Wheaton College and a literary expert extraordinaire. He has written over fifty books with the majority emphasis on studying the Bible as literature.

With Jesus the Hero Ryken escorts the reader on a tour of the genres found within the Gospels. I’ll speculate that only a relatively few know there is such a rich quantity of literary genres found in the four Gospels. There’s a lot more than narratives and parables. Chapter 2, a discussion of the “Biography and Hero Story,” is the beginning of what is worth a comprehensive read.

Some of Ryken’s literary analysis of the Gospels might lead the reader to think “So what?” But with some careful study and reflection, it will become apparent that such detailed analysis serves to increase one’s understanding of the life of Jesus.

One of the appealing elements of this book and the others in the series is that Ryken does not just give us some academic literary analysis. Rather, within each chapter (usually at the conclusion), he gives the reader a “Learn By Doing” exercise, where we get to put into practice the analysis he has explained. I found this to be most useful in learning what he is trying to teach. It’s worth taking the extra time to work out the problem.

If you want to deepen your understanding of the Gospels, this short volume (just 136 pages) is worth a complete study.

Disclaimer: This volume was provided to me by the Weaver Book Company for an unbiased evaluation.

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.

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.

The Cradle, the Cross and the Crown

This is the second edition of The Cradle, the Cross and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament by B&H Academic Publishers. The authors, Andreas Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum and Charles Quarles, are all experts in the arena of the New Testament. There is no lack of New Testament scholarship.The Cradle.png

This is a “big” book – literally and figuratively. This volume is a massive undertaking. It is big literally because it encompasses 1130 pages (not including an excellent map section in the back) and weighs nearly four pounds. It is probably not a volume to be carried any great distance in your backpack.

It is big figuratively due to its importance. It is comprehensive in that it deals with virtually every area of the New Testament but not exhaustive hence a wide-ranging bibliography at the end of each chapter.

The book begins with a two chapter Introduction on “The Nature and Scope of Scripture” and “The Political and Religious Background of the New Testament.” These chapters will educate and should inspire any New Testament pupil. Chapter 3 is a 106 page examination of “Jesus and the Relationship Between the Gospels,” encompassing nearly every issue that might challenge the student. Following chapter 1-3 is a book-by-book introduction to each of twenty-seven books of the New Testament.

Every chapter begins with a “Core Knowledge” section describing the knowledge expected at a Basic, Intermediate and Advanced level – an excellent tool to determine where one stands concerning the subject matter. Subsequent to this each chapter concludes with a series of study questions which would serve well on a final examination (thus the classification as a textbook).

While this is primarily a textbook, it is at the same time a ready reference for the New Testament. For any serious student of the New Testament this should be a go-to volume. If you love the Word of God, this is a book that should be on your bookshelf and referred to frequently.

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

What Happened in the Garden

Sometimes you might think that Satan is attacking the Bible in book-chapter-verse order. It might take him a while to accomplish his purpose as there still is a remnant who believe and are willing to fight for the veracity of the Scriptures. But, eventually he gets a foot in the door and that’s all he requires. Case in point Satan has already had widespread success in his attack on Genesis 1 and 2 with the attack coming from both outside and inside the walls of the church. Once Satan slithered through the doors of the church in his attack on Genesis 1 and 2, he began on the next chapter – Genesis 3. What about this whole incident in the garden? Did it really happen? Were Adam and Eve real people? And whoever heard of a talking serpent?what-happened-in-the-garden

These issues (well, almost all of them) are what this volume engages. What Happened in the Garden: The Reality and Ramifications of the Creation and Fall of Man is a scholarly, technical defense of Genesis 3. The book consists of a series of focused essays that is divided into three parts: 1. Reality of Genesis 2-3, 2. Theological Ramifications of the Creation and Fall, and 3. Worldview Ramifications of the Creation and Fall. The volume is edited by Abner Chou, professor of biblical studies at The Master’s College and Seminary and published by Kregel Academic. The contributors are all experts in their various fields.

Chou readily admits that the content of the essays is technical by demand but that there was an attempt to make the material understandable to the lay reader by placing “technical detail in the footnotes.” Unfortunately, this goal had limited success. Virtually all of the essays contain various amounts of technical detail. But that is not to infer that the lay reader cannot digest the material. All of it is well-written and all of the arguments are presented logically. The technicality of the book is its nature. Each essay is specialized.

For example, if one is scientifically minded, Taylor B. Jones’ contribution entitled “Thermodynamics and the Fall – How the Curse Changed Our World” is a moderately technical examination of how the laws of thermodynamics were affected by what happened in Genesis 3. It will appeal to the science buff. Jo Suzuki engages the gender debate. John MacArthur provides the concluding chapter “A Sin of Historic Proportions,” one that will be liked by theologians and Bible students.

Bottom line: Regardless of your field of study or expertise, if you have even a passing interest in Genesis 3 and the importance of its literal interpretation, I would recommend that you examine this book even if you concentrated on the essays that attract your interest.

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

A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the OT & NT

Since these two volumes were provided as a set and since they have a common theme and format, I thought it best to review them in one review.

Like all other subject areas of the Bible there is no shortage of Old Testament and New Testament Introductions. Most serious Bible students likely have a couple on their shelves. Introductions primarily concentrate on historical issues such as authorship, date, purpose, textual questions and the like. Generally there is also a synopsis of the book’s content. These two volumes include that material.A Biblical-Theological Intro OT

Let’s begin with the proper titles. One is titled A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised and the other A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized. The OT is edited by Miles V. Van Pelt and the NT by Michael J. Kruger. All of the entries are written by current or former professors of the Reformed Theological Seminary who have done extensive study on their subject matter. All the contributors have a reformed theological viewpoint; however, I found that perspective not to be blatant or obtrusive.

The order of the books for the NT volume is the same as our English Bibles while the OT order follows the Hebrew Bible. (Consult the “Introduction” to the OT for the reasoning.) Concerning format each entry follows an identical pattern of Introduction, Background Issues, Structure and Outline, and Message and Theology. Under each of these headings the authors were free to discuss matter appropriate to the understanding of the book. There is also a Select Bibliography at the end of each chapter that is valuable for further reference.A Bibical-Theological Intro NT.jpg

Bear in mind that these books are likely not to be read straight through but rather used as a reference. With that in mind as an example, I “referenced” the Psalms written by Mark Futato, a leading scholar on the book. I found his discussion instructive and fascinating and is an essential for anyone preaching or teaching the Psalms.

These are two volumes that absolutely must be in the library of every individual who preaches or teaches the Word of God. You will undoubtedly be able to find much of the information in other introductory volumes, but I found these to be written in such a manner that everyone, layman to scholar, can quickly digest and extract the information easily and readily.

Disclaimer: These two volumes were provided to me by Crossway for a fair and honest review.