Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What the NT Authors Really Cared About - Book Review

There are, of course, a countless number of New Testament survey volumes available to the biblical student. But rarely does one come into publication that has a unique approach and format. Such is the case of What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Their Writings. It is the editorial product of Kenneth Berding and Matt Williams, both holding PhDs and both professors at Biola University, and includes contributions from fifteen separate New Testament scholars.

The distinctive approach is that the material focuses on the author first and the information second. In other words the material is background oriented. The very first chapter, “Walking in the Sandals of a First-Century Jew,” sets the pace. We are introduced to what it was like to live in that first-century of Christianity.

The singular format is derived from the arrangement of the material. Typically, New Testament surveys arrange the material book-by-book and in the order of Matthew through Revelation. However, What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About arranges the books by author (hence a hint at the title). Thus, information on the book of Acts follows information on the Gospel of Luke and all of John’s writings are grouped together and so on.

Each chapter begins with a one-page summary answering the questions who, when, where and why and then launches in to the pertinent material from the point of view of the author. Each chapter ends with “Key Words and Concepts for Review,” emphasizing what the biblical writer cared about.

A couple of other observations: First, this is a reference book. Although one could read this volume through cover to cover, it is most beneficial if one is doing study on a particular book or author. Second, this book is a textbook – a refreshing breakthrough in the sometimes monotonous procession of New Testament facts. I would estimate that this would be the textbook of the future for first-year Bible college students. I would encourage Bible college professors who teach New Testament survey to utilize this volume as their primary textbook.

The final word is that this volume is excellent and quite beneficial to anyone without a seminary degree.  But it would also be a worthwhile reference for anyone with a thirst for biblical knowledge. Regardless of your theological educational level, you will add knowledge and understanding of the New Testament.

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

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Tough Questions about God and His Actions in the Old Testament - Book Review

I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch of the facts to say that most Christians have a better working knowledge of the New Testament as opposed to the Old Testament. Believers just naturally gravitate to the New Testament with its message of love and grace and mercy. And just as naturally they shy away from the Old Testament with its message of judgment and war. It’s not often that someone recommends to a new believer to begin reading in the minor prophets.

In Tough Questions, Dr. Walter C. Kaiser’s latest volume, he sets out to alleviate that disparity and demonstrate to believers how the two sections of Scripture are really complimentary. Kaiser is a longtime Old Testament scholar and president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has produced a vast arena of writing on the Old Testament.

Kaiser digs into the messy part of the Old Testament with ten questions investigating the premise of whether or not God contradicts his character by his actions. He tackles supposed contradictions such as mercy vs. wrath, truth vs. deception, and evolution vs. creation. Each chapter concludes with a summary of the main points – Conclusion – and Questions for Discussion. These are beneficial, thought-provoking, but “heavy.”

The take on Tough Questions is this: It is probably not a book for spiritual (and linguistic) lightweights. Kaiser examines a multitude of technical and linguistic points of the Hebrew language. So much so that the more Hebrew one knows the more appreciative one would be of the discussion and the resulting conclusions. On the other hand it would certainly be beneficial for any believer to read this volume. At least one could ingest some knowledge and understanding of God’s overall working in the Old Testament.

If your curiosity has ever been stirred by the question The God Who Rules Satan or the God Who battles Satan? Then you will find this volume worthwhile.

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

Friday, October 16, 2015

Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Philippians - Book Review

The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Philippians is the latest addition to this commentary series (EGGNT). Other volumes already completed are Colossians-Philemon, James, and 1 Peter. The remainder of the New Testament is scheduled for future dates.

This review is really quite easy to undertake. EGGNT:Philippians is a technical commentary with a detailed, verse-by-verse analysis and interpretation of the entire Greek text of Philippians. Naturally, in a commentary of this sort, Hellerman provides investigation of authorship, date and occasion as well as a comprehensive outline. Of additional benefit is a section on “Recommended Commentaries” which would be useful for any student of Philippians to consider.

The book tracks out to 279 pages of commentary and then includes an Exegetical Outline, Grammar Index and Scripture Index at the end. The body of the work is a phrase-by-phrase analysis of the Greek text and thus is all-inclusive.

Because of the nature of this volume, it is, therefore, not really suited for those with no knowledge of biblical Greek. However, I suppose, if one would take the time to learn a bit of basic Greek, this volume would greatly benefit one’s study of Philippians. It should definitely be on every pastor’s shelf because it contains two helpful suggestions at the end of each outline section. One is a “For Further Study” arranged by topic and the second contains “Homiletic Suggestions.”

Pastors: Secure this volume if you have Philippians on your preaching schedule.

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

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Understand Prophecy: A Biblical-Theological Approach

Okay, you may now ask the inevitable question, “What, another book on prophecy?” And, the answer is … “Yup, you betcha. A Bible student just can’t have enough books on prophecy.”

This newest addition is Understanding Prophecy: A Biblical-Theological Approach by Alan S. Bandy (PhD, SEBTS) and Benjamin L. Merkle (PhD, SBTS). Interestingly the authors are from opposite ends of the millennial spectrum – Bandy a premillennialist and Merkle a amillennialist. The volume is divided into three parts: Part 1: Introducing Biblical Prophecy; Part 2: Old Testament Prophecies; and Part 3: New Testament Prophecies.

As per the title, the authors want us to approach prophecy from a biblical-theological angle. So, in order to get a grasp on the focus of the book, you must have an understanding of how the authors define biblical theology. Bandy and Merkle explain that in Chapter 3. Therefore, I would suggest that you read that chapter initially. Then return to Chapter 1 and be prepared for a highly detailed analysis of prophecy encompassing the entire Bible.

Whenever I review a book, one of the foremost considerations is to whom will the words of the writer appeal. Can I stand in front of a Sunday School class and tell the folks, “I think you really should read this book. It will improve your understanding of _____.” Or must I be relegated to the declaration that this book is best suited for the ivory tower gang. Such is the dilemma with every volume.

One way to make this determination is by an examination of the vocabulary and terminology that is employed by the writer. A book with extensive theological jargon is quite ill placed in the hands of a Sunday School class.

With this criteria in mind I would recommend this book first to scholars and seminary professors. Second would be pastors who desire to do an exhaustive examination of prophecy. Christians who are prophecy fanatics would also enjoy this volume. However, it would rule it out for Christians who are not into the nuances of theology and prophecy.


Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by KregelPublications for a fair, honest and balanced review.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Urban Legends of the New Testament - Book Review

Some books are a whole lot easier (and fun) to read and review than others. They’re a pleasure to read and the review just flows from the keyboard. Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40Common Misconceptions by David A. Croteau is a case in point. Croteau is a professor of New Testament and Greek in the Seminary and School of Ministry at Columbia International University. With this volume he brings his Greek scholarship to fore.

Urban Legends … When you read that title applied to a volume relating to the Bible you might expect contents reflecting myths, fables and fantasies found in the Good Book. Well, for Urban Legends you would be tending in the right direction with a hermeneutical focus in mind.

We all have certain expectations and presuppositions that we anticipate for particular passages in the Bible. We just assume they will be interpreted and preached in a certain interpretive fashion. For instance, how many times have you heard a sermon or sat in a Sunday School class with the subject matter focused on the fact that Paul was a tentmaker? The passage was clearly explained and you had no issue with accepting that Paul was not only a great missionary and ambassador for God but a hardworking man as well plying his trade as a tentmaker as he spread the Gospel. But, whoa; not so fast. Perhaps Paul’s trade was more than just tentmaker. What if the Greek word and the interpreters of history ascribe more to Paul? What if Paul was also a … ?

Croteau’s volume contains 40 bite-sized encounters to the conventional wisdom (urban legends) of interpretation. There are sixteen from the Gospels and twenty-four from the remainder of the New Testament. Each one is short, about 4-6 pages, but well explains Croteau’s reasoning for challenging the urban legend.

The wonderful aspect of Urban Legends is that it is a suitable read for every Christian. You don’t have to be an ivory tower, Greek scholar to read, understand and appreciate Croteau’s hermeneutics. You may not agree with everything he has to say, but you will be challenged.

The bottom line: Invest in this volume and stretch your Christian thinking.


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


Saturday, July 18, 2015

40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper - Book Review

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are celebrated in virtually every Christian denomination, Protestant and Catholic. But they are observed differently in virtually every Christian denomination, Protestant and Catholic. 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper attempts to dissect, breakdown and unpack the why’s and the how’s as a whole and within each denomination. It accomplishes that goal very well.

This volume is written by two professors from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, John S. Hammett, Ph.D. and Benjamin L. Merkle, Ph.D. But don’t assume that because of their Southern Baptist affiliation that their assessment is slanted. Hammett and Merkle are eminently fair and balanced in their evaluation concerning how Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are celebrated within other denominations.

This book is part of a series likewise titled “40 Questions About …” Thus far there are volumes such as The Historical Jesus, Creation and Evolution, The End Times, and Interpreting the Bible. You can find the full list at Kregel Publications.

There are three separate sections to 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Part 1, the shortest of the three, engages both ordinances answering such questions as “Are They Sacraments or Ordinances?’ Parts 2 and 3 cover each ordinance separately with Introductory Questions, Denominational Views, Theological Issues and Practical Aspects.

All questions are dealt with thoroughly and impartially. While you won’t be an expert scholar on the subject upon completion, you will have a complete understanding of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper regardless of your theological relationship.

In a short summary the book is 40 questions you thought you might like to ask or never thought to ask about Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. All Christians at one time or another are involved in these ordinances/sacraments, but few ever grasp the history and meaning. This volume will equip you with that knowledge.

If you have never done a study of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, this is a must have book. If you are a pastor, this is definitely a reference work you want to have available to answer the inevitable questions that will arise on these subjects. It’s a volume every Christian should have in his library.


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

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mormonism 101 - Book Review

We are commanded by Scripture to be ready to give an answer. We are compelled to defend our faith. This, of course, involves both offense and defense, sometimes both at the same time. One of the battle fronts that concerns both offense and defense involves the cults. At times it seems like we cannot do enough to defend the faith especially against those forces that tend to look and smell Christian.

With that in mind the more resources we have available for our reference the bettered armed we will be  for the fight. Of course, some weapons are bigger and better than others. Mormonism 101 is one of those that is a very good sized weapon.

The book is written by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson and is an update of their 2000 volume.

This is a detailed account of the Mormon beliefs covering virtually every area of the religion. The authors provide detailed quotes from Mormon literature and documents as well as quotes from LDS leaders' speeches. They then follow up with documentation from Christian theology. You get to make the comparison. Mormonism 101 is not a rehash of other cult books with a rearrangement of the material. If you are familiar with books like Kingdom of the Cults, you will be pleasantly surprised to get a different approach to the defense. We are also provided an extensive bibliography for further reference and study.

I think there are three ways to approach this book. First, you could just read through it to get an understanding of the history and beliefs of the Mormon faith. Certainly this would be a good approach and it would certainly get you through the 400+ page book in reasonable time. You would have a sound overview of Mormonism.

Second, you could engage this book by doing a detailed study of this volume chapter by chapter. This would afford you the opportunity to develop the skill to defend your faith vigorously in the face of false teachers.

Or, you might consider combining this volume with other research material in an effort to become an expert in cult apologetics.

Whatever way you go, you will not be disappointed with Mormonism 101. It will provide you with invaluable information on a cult many criticize but few know why.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of the book by Baker Books for a fair and honest review.