Andreas J. Köstenberger, Signs of the Messiah

Köstenberger, Andreas J. Signs of the Messiah. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2021. 188 pp. Hb; $20.99  Link to Lexham Press 

Andreas J. Köstenberger has written extensively on John’s gospel, including an exegetical commentary (BENTC, Baker Academic 2004, second edition forthcoming), a shorter commentary (ZIBBC, Zondervan 2007), a theology (Zondervan, 2009), the notes on John in the ESV Study Bible, and a short introduction (Baker, 2013). This small volume from Lexham distills his work on John into a readable introduction for laypeople and pastors reading through the book of John. He avoids technical academic discussions. As Köstenberger suggests in his preface, the book is a companion that will further illuminate John’s core message. The book originated as a series of lectures given at the “For the Church Workshop” at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Occasionally, Köstenberger says something like “this might be helpful as you teach or preach this passage.”

Kostenberger, Signs of the MessiahThe introductory chapter presents a traditional view of the authorship and origin of the Gospel of John and a short overview of John’s prologue (1:1-18). The author is “the disciple whom Jesus loved. Köstenberger identifies this disciple as the apostle John, an eyewitness to the events recorded in the Gospel. He briefly mentions a few other options (John the Elder, Lazarus, etc.) He says “sadly, it is virtually impossible in today’s intellectual climate to hold to Apostolic John authorship and be respected and accepted by mainstream academic scholarship” (22). There is a brief note on John community (p. 150, note 15), but otherwise there is only brief engagement with theories of origin or sources.

Regarding John’s relationship with the synoptic gospels, Köstenberger suggests John’s gospel is a “theological transposition” (35). The miracles in the synoptic Gospels become the seven signs, “signs which point beyond what Jesus did to his true identity and purpose” (36). John’s gospel is therefore the apex of revealing the purpose of Jesus’s coming and redemptive work.

Some scholars follow Rudolf Bultmann and outline John’s Gospel in two parts: a Book of Signs (2-12) and a Book of Exaltation (13-20), with a prologue and epilogue (1, 21). Others divide the book into several parts: a Cana cycle (2-4), a Festival Cycle (5-10), the Farewell Discourse (13-17), the Passion (18-20). Köstenberger has it both ways, subdividing the Book of Signs into two cycles, with John 11-12 as a climax and segue.

Köstenberger devotes two chapters to the Cana cycle (John 2-4). Here, John “breaks new ground” by including unique information about Jesus not found in the Synoptic Gospels (37). He argues Jesus cleansed the temple twice and John included only the earlier occurrence. Jesus is acting like an Old Testament prophet, demonstrating the coming judgment of the people of Israel; the physical temple will be destroyed because God is condemning the corrupt worship performed there. In fact, John crafted all seven messianic signs to lead people to faith in Jesus as the Messiah and the son of God.

The next three chapters cover the Festival Cycle (John 5-10, although he dispatches John 7-8 on three pages). The festival cycle is characterized by escalating controversy. John presents Jesus at three Jewish festivals where “Jesus reveals himself as the typological fulfillment of the symbolism inherent in these feasts” (118). Jewish authorities become increasingly offended at Jesus’s claim to be God, trying to find ways to accuse him of making himself God. John calls on the reader to decide: is Jesus God in the flesh? Or is he a deceiver and blasphemer?

Chapter 7 focuses on raising Lazarus as a conclusion to the Book of Signs (John 2-12) and a segue to the Book of Exaltation (John 13-21). Raising Lazarus from the dead points to who Jesus is: “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Although Köstenberger considers John 11-12 as the conclusion to the first half of John, this chapter only deals with raising Lazarus and says very little about the content of John 12.

The final two chapters cover John 13-21. First, Köstenberger describes the Farewell Discourse (John 13-17) as Jesus’s preparation of his new messianic community. The section begins with Jesus washing his disciple’s feet, symbolically cleansing the new messianic community, and preparing the reader for the passion narrative. Köstenberger covers actual discourse in only five pages. He recognizes this, calling his discussion “all-too-brief” and lamenting he does not have the space to “adequately explore the many spiritual dynamics that are in play in the Farewell Discourse” (152).

Occasional footnotes often point to more detailed arguments in his other works, but also up-to-date articles. There is no engagement with the historicity of John, although there is a brief note on the archaeology of the pool of Bethesda. As an appendix, Köstenberger includes a short list of books for further study (seven of the ten resources are Köstenberger’s other books). The book concludes with a few discussion questions for each chapter useful for a classroom or small group Bible study.

Conclusion. Köstenberger’s Signs of the Messiah is a brief introduction to the Gospel of John, which will guide a layperson or pastor as they read and study John. As he himself observes, the book is occasionally frustratingly brief, but that results from the book’s goals and Köstenberger has written extensively elsewhere for students who want to read more deeply on the fourth gospel. The book has an attractive design and is well edited for the non-specialist. Like most of Lexham’s books, Signs of the Messiah was simultaneously published digitally for Logos Bible Software.

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Logos Free Book of the Month for August 2022 – Everyday Theology

Logos 30% off saleLogos Bible Software has a bunch of great sales for August, including a Back-to-School Sale –  30% of Logos 9 & up to 50% off academic resources. If you have not upgraded to Logos 9, now is a great time. Here’s just a sample of what’s on sale:

  • 30% off Logos 9: Get new features and add books to your library.
  • 50% off Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (NA28): The standard and globally preeminent critical edition of the Greek New Testament.
  • 40% off Lexham Hebrew Bible with Morphology (LHB): Get Logos’s in-house Hebrew Bible for the best integration with the most Logos databases.
  • 40% off Zondervan Reference Collection (30 vols.): Get vital preaching resources, Bible reference works, and more
  • 40% off Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (12 vols.)
  • 40% off Kregel Exegetical Library Series Collection (9 vols.)
  • 40% off Christ Centered Exposition Commentary Series Collection  (31 vols.)

There are many more back-to-school deals this month, poke around and see what you can find.

Logos Free Book of the Month

The Logos Free Book of the Month for August 2022  Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends, edited by Kevin VanHoozer, Charles Anderson and Michael Sleasman (Baker Academic 2007).

  • Charles F. Pfeiffer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible, 99 cents
  • Warren Wiersbe, Index of Biblical Images: Similes, Metaphors, and Symbols in Scripture, $1.99
  • Warren Wiersbe, Old Testament Words for Today: 100 Devotional Reflections from the Bible, $2.99
  • Michael Horton, Introducing Covenant Theology, $3.99
  • Tremper Longman, III, Understanding the Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 4.99
  • Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought: Completely Revised and Expanded Edition, $5.99
  • R. T. France, Luke (Teach the Text Commentary Series), $6.99
  • Peter J. Leithart, 1 & 2 Chronicles (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible), $7.99
  • Wesleyan Bible Commentary, Vol. 4: Matthew–Acts, $8.99
  • Richard Mueller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, 2nd ed., $9.99
  • Pre-Order Robinson, and Rodrigues, World Religions: A Guide to the Essentials, 3rd ed., $33.99

A little something for everyone this month. If you do the math, you can add on ten more books valued at $270, all for less than $55! Head to the Free Book site and grab as many as you want.

If you do not already own Logos Bible Software, check out the base packages. You should at least get Logos Fundamental ($49.99) or Basic (free) packages and take advantage of the free Logos Book of the Month promotion (check out my review of Logos 9). Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the free / cheap packages. All it takes is a Faithlife account, and you can read your books using the iOS or Android app, the Logos web app, or the (much more powerful) desktop version for both Windows or Mac.

All the deals go away on August 31, so be sure to check out all the Logos deals right away!

 

 

 

 

Biblical Studies Carnival 197 for July 2022

Welcome to the 197th Biblical Studies Carnival for July 2022. July is the slowest time of the year for BiblioBloggers. Academics are well know for taking the whole summer off and doing nothing. Heck, that is why I got into academics in the first place. Even though most BiblioBloggers were sunning themselves on a beach at some swanky resort, a few managed to post some high quality material during in July. Hopefully I did not miss many, feel free to add your post in the comments.

Next month Ben the Amateur Exegete will host the Biblical Studies Carnival, so follow Ben on Twitter, @amateurexegete. I still need a volunteer for September 2022 (Due October 1), November 2022 (Due December 1), and December 2022 (Due January 1).  Or, if you are into long term planning, any month in 2023.  If you have thought about hosting, now is the time to step up and contact me via email, plong42@gmail.com or DM on twitter (plong42) to discuss hosting a summer Biblical Studies carnival. If you are a new BiblioBlogger, this is a good way to get your blog some recognition. And, to quote Jim West, “They are fun to do!”

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about hosting a Carnival this summer (or fall). Check out the Biblical Studies Carnival Master List at the top of this page to visit past carnivals.

 

Hebrew Bible

Erica Lee Martin, “How Lovely Are Your Tents, O Jacob” – Balaam’s Fertility Blessing at TheTorah.com

Claude Mariottini on Egypt, The Land of the Pharaohs. Claude also posted a collection of links to previous posts on God answering prayer in the Old Testament.

Pete Enns Ruins Numbers (podcast). Tl;dr There’s lot of wandering in Numbers. I think they should have called it “wandering” instead of Numbers. — @peteenns

Bob MacDonald made a few comments on the small twitter war over David and Bathsheba – rape or adultery? James McGrath has a summary of the tweets and points out a few blog posts on either side of the argument. Paul Carter at TGC calls it rape, Andrew Perriman says “we may have to conclude that the question of whether Bathsheba was “raped” or was complicit or even ambitious cannot be answered definitively,” they commented no one is blaming Bathsheba and added another post on Amnon and Tamar. I think Perriman is right, “Bathsheba is the ewe lamb in Nathan’s parable and therefore an innocent victim of violence,” but I do think calling it a rape in modern teaching situations is appropriate. Claude Mariottini also commented on this issue, “I believe the facts in the text seem to indicate that it was David’s fault that this sordid affair took place. Readers should sympathize with Bathsheba, not with David.”

Weekend Fisher at Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength posted twice on Psalm 119: The meditative, contemplative act of worship and A Deep Dive into Different Aspects of the Word of God, which the Psalmist praises.

Judith Newman on Jonah and Prayer.

Cynthia Shafer-Elliott, The Geographical Context of Ancient Israel, Part 1: Ancient Israel’s Place in the Ancient Near East.

We all have wondered, What has William Ross been up to in 2022?

Targuman made it to Z… “Z is for “Zeal.”

The Bible Mapper provides maps for biblical events.

Controversy Rages Over ‘Jerusalem Curse’ Inscription. James Tabor has a few things to say about the “Jerusalem Curse” (with a collection of links).

Dots between words in Northwest Semitic inscriptions.

On OTTC (a blog for Old Testament Textual Criticism), Drew Longacre posted a link to HebrewPal, the Hebrew Paleography Database. Follow the link and browse the database.

Jonathan Orr-Stav asks, “Can the Hebrew word למו ever be translated in the singular?” In the comments, Bob MacDonald answers. Orr-Stav’s blog, Notes by Autumn Light, focuses on Hebrew translation.

Balashon-Hebrew Language Detective investigates Hebrew – Biblical, Talmudic, Medieval and Modern – including slang; related languages like Aramaic, Arabic, Akkadian and Yiddish; and how foreign languages like Greek, Latin and English have entered Hebrew – and how Hebrew has affected those languages as well. For example, in July they posted on the etymology of olar, “pen knife.” I did enjoy the piece on falafel, Fascinating stuff.

At Early Christian Texts, Brandon Scott on The Difficulties and the Art of Bible Translation.

 

New Testament

Last Supper Book Deal

Bill Heroman discusses Receptive Chronologizing in Mark 1-3.

Philip Jenkins discusses The Stichometery of Nicephorus in Gospels That Were Lost, And Some That Were Not Lost At All.  Jenkins also celebrated the Feast of Mary Magdalene (July 22) with a post on Creating the Myth of Mary Magdalene.

James McGrath has been walking In the Footsteps of John the Baptist.

He also gathered some great links on Samaritans. John MacDonald linked to an interview with James McGrath on John the Baptist on the Mythvision podcast (link goes to YouTube, the whole video is about two hours).

Καταπέτασμα discusses When demoniacs win: The triumph of Christ’s apocalyptic spirit

Ian Paul, Wealth becomes a rival god in Luke 12.

David Turner commented on John 2, The Blessed Virgin, a Wedding Party with Problems, and a Lesson on Prayer, with a video of David teaching the passage.

Heather Anne Thiessen at Matters of Interpretation studies John 14:15-29.

B. J. Oropeza interviewed Matthew Novenson, author of Paul, Then and Now (Eerdmans, 2022). Part Two of the interview is here.

Richard Beck, Economies of Death: Thoughts on Ananias and Sapphira.

Perry Kea at Bible Search & Rescue, “Translating Words – Does It Really Mean “Homosexual”?

Stephen Unthank at A Place for Truth, Romans 8: Christ is Our Life.

Marg Mowczko, posted a “a work in progress” on Kephalē (“head”) as Metaphor in First-Century Texts. Examples from Philo, Josephus Plutarch, etc. Earlier in the month, she posted on Colossians 3:18 (wives) and Colossians 3:19 (husbands).

Ken Schenck has been working on Hebrews, including a lengthy Introduction to Hebrews and several posts of  Explanatory Notes — Hebrews 11:23-40,

James Tabor wonders if we can recover the original Jewish version of the Book of Revelation.

 

Theology

Studying Theology

W. Travis McMaken says John Calvin as Old Testament Interpreter: A Bundle of Contradictions. Technically, this is an excerpt from T. H. L Parker, Calvin’s Old Testament Commentaries (Westminster/John Knox, 1993), 6–7.

Jeffrey Stivason on the Incomprehensibility of God.

Peter Goeman asks, “Are All Cultures Equal? A Biblical Paradigm” at The Musings of a Bible Sojourner

Vincent Pontius at Classical Theology posted on The Flight of Gregory Nazianzen and the Challenge of New Beginnings as a reflection on his own move to pastor at The Plains UMC.

Bradley Bowen at Secular Frontier engages Kreeft and Tacelli’s arguments for the divinity of Jesus (basically the classic trilemma from C. S. Lewis). This is a long series of posts, this link drops into the middle of the conversation.

Richard Beck at Experimental Theology asks, “What Comes First? Virtue or Practice?” Part two is here, using white fragility as an example.

Just in time for the Fourth of July, Thoas Kidd discusses The Jefferson Bible and the Faith of an American Founder.

Ken Schenck on Wesleyan philosophy, specifically proofs for the existence of God.

 

Book Reviews

Anthony Keddie, Class and Power in Roman Palestine: The Socioeconomic Setting of Judaism and Christian Origins. Cambridge University Press, 2019. (Reviewed by Taylor M. Weaver)

Adam Copenhaver and Jeffrey D. Arthurs, Colossians, Philemon (Kerux Commentary) Kregel 2021. (Reviewed by Phillip Long)

Duane Garrett and Calvin Pearson, Jeremiah and Lamentations (Kerux Commentary) Kregel 2022. (Reviewed by Phillip Long)

Joan Taylor and Helen Bond, Women Remembered: Jesus’ Female Disciples. Hodder & Stoughton, 2022. (Reviewed by Suzanne Fagence Cooper)

Todd R. Hains, Martin Luther and the Rule of Faith: Reading God’s Word for God’s People. IVP Academic, 2022. (Reviewed by Jim West)

Michael J. Gorman, Romans: A Theological and Pastoral Commentary (Eerdmans, 2022) (Reviewed by Phillip Long)

Élcio Mendonça, O primeiro Estado de Israel: redescobertas arqueológicas sobre suas origens. São Paulo: Recriar, 2020. (Reviewed by Airton José da Silva)

Geoffrey Fulkerson and Joel Thomas Chopp, eds., Science and the Doctrine of Creation: The Approaches of Ten Modern Theologians. IVP Academic, 2021. (Reviewed by Josh Reeves)

Jonathan T. Pennington, Jesus the Great Philosopher. Brazos, 2020. (Reviewed by Phillip Long)

James M. Hamilton Jr., Psalms (2 Volumes; Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary) Lexham, 2022. (Reviewed by Phillip Long)

Other

Nijay Gupta asked, “Why Get a Doctor of Ministry?” and “Should I Do a PhD with the Academic Job Market So Bad?” the tl;dr answer, “If you are thinking about doing a PhD, here is my quick and basic advice: (1) Is this a calling? (2) Is your family/community supportive? (3) Do your mentors/teachers affirm that you have the chops and skills for this? (4) Are you willing to risk the money/time?  If you’ve “counted the cost,” then I will cheer you on.”

No pronouns in the Bible? Just dumb enough to earn Jim West’s highest honor, the Dilly.  Although this one would qualify as well:

 

Jonathan T. Pennington, Jesus the Great Philosopher

Pennington, Jonathan T. Jesus the Great Philosopher. Rediscovering the Wisdom Needed for the Good Life. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos, 2020. 230 pp.; Pb.; $18.99. Link to Brazos

Many writers have lamented the rise of the Nones, people who mark “none” for their religious affiliation. Pennington suggests the problem is the loss of Christianity as a whole life philosophy, in the view that Jesus is a great philosopher. Yet in an ancient church in Dura Europos a mosaic portrays Jesus as a philosopher, and Justin Martyr set up a Christian philosophy school. People describe Jesus as a wonderful teacher, a religious guru, but rarely as a philosopher.

Jesus the great PhilosopherPennington suggests four reasons for this. First, Christian faith is disconnected from other aspects of life. Second, we look for alternative gurus for wisdom on how to live a flourishing life. He specifically mentions people like Nick Offerman or psychologists like Jordan Peterson. Third, we stopped asking big questions this scripture wants to answer. Oddly, a high view of scripture might lead to not asking the right questions about life the universe and everything.

Fourth, this limits the Church’s witness to the world. Christians failed at addressing questions the world wants answered, and Nick Offerman has succeeded: people learn hard work and common sense outside of the church. Pennington refers to The Good Place, a popular TV comedy which seamlessly welds philosophical ideas (ethics, epistemology, metaphysics) with religious ideas about the afterlife and what it means to be a good person. Those two worlds were not meant to be separate (34).

After setting up the idea of Christianity as a philosophy, the book moves through four sections. First, the Bible as philosophy. Here he covers the big ideas in the Old Testament, and the New Testament. How does Scripture answer questions about metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, or politics? Pennington summarizes New Testament philosophy as helping humans “enter into what it means to be fully human” (78).

Pennington then covers three topics philosophy addresses: emotions, relationships, and happiness. There three are what it means to be human: we are emotional creatures developing relationships and seeking to be genuinely happy in life. Each topic contains two chapters, the first summarizing Greco-Roman philosophy (usually Aristotle, Epicureanism, Stoicism) and a brief look at modern thinking on the topic. In the second chapter, he describes how Christianity addressed the issue. Pennington creates a mini-biblical theology on the topic, surveying the whole canon. For example, commenting on Christian relationships, “every book of the New Testament contains instructions for the new Christian politeia, life together” (173).

Some Christians think philosophy and Christianity are opposite ends of a spectrum, so that anything a philosopher says is suspect (or assumed wrong). Because they are both dealing with the most basic questions of life, ancient philosophers sought answers to the same questions Scripture addresses. What is remarkable is how close a biblical view of emotions or relationships is to ancient philosophy.

Under the heading, “Being Human and Happy” Pennington describes Christianity as a sort of “pursuit of happiness.” Christianity is about living a whole, meaningful, and flourishing life. By flourishing life, Pennington means nothing at all like the “health and wealth gospel” or happiness, as defined in contemporary American pop culture. He does not mean Christianity promises someone will be a wealthy, successful person if they are just “spiritual” enough. The problem with the modern pursuit of happiness is that “happiness has been defined as health, wealth, possessions, status, etc. they will flourish in the place where God has called them.

It might surprise some readers to find Christianity described the way to live a happy life since contemporary American Christianity seems dissatisfied with life and is often cranky about other people’s sins (while secretly enjoying them). But that is not biblical Christianity!

In some ways, Jesus the Great Philosopher is like Pennington’s book on the Sermon on the Mount (reviewed here). In that book he suggested the Sermon is concerned not simply with theological questions but also with the important the existential question of “human flourishing.” By “human flourishing” Pennington means happiness, blessedness, or shalom, a true flourishing which is only available through fellowship with God revealed through his Son and empowered by the Holy Spirit (14).

Conclusion. Pennington’s Jesus the Great Philosopher is an excellent introduction to what the Bible has to say about being human and living in a Christian community. The book is written for a popular audience, Pennington draws from a wide range of pop cultural to illustrate his points and avoids technical jargon of philosophy. Jesus the Great Philosopher should appeal to both Christians and non-Christians.

 

NB: Thanks to Brazos for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Adam Copenhaver and Jeffrey D. Arthurs, Colossians, Philemon (Kerux)

Copenhaver, Adam and Jeffrey D. Arthurs. Colossians, Philemon. Kerux Commentaries. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Ministry, 2021. 281 pp. Hb. $29.99   Link to Kregel Ministry  

Adam Copenhaver (PhD, University of Aberdeen) pastors Mabton Grace Brethren Church in Mabton, Washington, and teaches biblical studies courses for the Ezra Bible Institute. Reconstructing the Historical Background of Paul’s Rhetoric in the Letter to the Colossians (LNTS 585; Bloomsbury, 2018) and Translating Colossians Clause-by-Clause: An Exegetical Guide (2016). Jeffery Arthurs (PhD, Purdue University) is Robinson Chair of Preaching and Communication and Dean at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and published Preaching with Variety (Kregel 2007) and Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture (Kregel 2012). He contributed the preaching section to the Kerux commentary on Ephesians (Kregel 2021, reviewed here).

Colossians CommentaryThe introduction covers both books. Colossians and Philemon were both written by Paul during an Ephesian imprisonment A. D. 52-55. They present the usual arguments for and against the traditional authorship of the letters and offer answers to objections. They argue Paul wrote the letters from an otherwise unknown imprisonment in Ephesus, although this has become a more common view. This solves problems of Onesimus’s escape: a one-hundred-mile trip to Ephesus is more reasonable for an escaped slave than a long journey to Rome. As Copenhaver says, the main problem with this view is the stubborn fact that no direct evidence exists for Paul being in prison in Ephesus (38). The introduction includes a brief comment on the origin of the Colossian church, the history, and geography of Colossae. There is also a brief note on slavery in the Roman world, which could be expanded given the context of Philemon.

As is necessary in most commentaries on Philemon, Copenhaver offers a brief reconstruction of the situation behind the letter. Onesimus encountered Paul in prison in Ephesus and was converted to Christ. Paul then found him useful in his ministry. Paul sent Onesimus back to his master with the letter to be read at a church meeting in Philemon’s home. Near the end of the volume is a long sidebar, an “epilogue” to the book of Philemon connecting Onesimus to the tradition that he became the bishop of Ephesus.

Colossians therefore offers a broader context for Paul’s appeal to Philemon. Colossians establishes Paul’s relationship to the church since he did not establish the church. He feels an apostolic responsibility towards those believers and offers some theological correction and pastoral encouragement. Copenhaver points out several exhortations in Colossians which set up Paul’s appeal in Philemon. For example, put aside anger and forgive one another (3:8; 13-15). “Surely the entire church had eyes on [Onesimus] and Philemon when they heard these instructions” (44). In fact, the theme of reconciliation is present in both letters. Paul establishes this theme early in Colossians: Christ has reconciled all of creation to God through the cross (1:20-22). Paul tells the church to do all things that bring about reconciliation one with another (3:8), and be bound by love (3:14)

The commentary divides Colossians into thirteen preaching units and three for Philemon. As with other volumes in the Kerux series, each preaching unit begins with literary and structural themes (an expanded outline) followed by exegesis of the unit. Greek appears without transliteration, although syntactical details in the main text are rare. The exegetical section includes two types of sidebars. First, word studies dig deeper into lexical data. Second, a translation analysis usually examines a difficult element of Greek syntax. These are rare, however, and some of this kind of information appears in the commentary’s body.

Following the exegesis is a short section entitled Theological Focus. This sums up the key themes of the unit and serves as a transition to the Preaching and Teaching strategies. Arthurs provides a Haddon Robinson style preaching idea for each unit and then makes a series of contemporary connections (What does it mean? Is it true? Now what?)

As with other commentaries in this series, there are sidebars covering theology, culture, and application. For example, there are several sidebars on slavery in Colossians 3:22-4:1—Aristotle’s definition of a slave, slaves and sincerity (citing Columella), do slaves serve two masters?, slaves and inheritance. Finally, Arthurs offers a few paragraphs in creativity in presentation. These include basic illustrations or activities to enhance a sermon or Bible lesson. There are several lists in sidebars in the preaching tips section (for example, “Ten ways parents provoke their children”; “One another commands in the New Testament”). Arthurs includes a wide range of contemporary voices, including John Steinbeck, Martin Luther, F. F. Bruce, Tim Keller and even Jim Gaffigan.

Given the importance of slavery as background for Colossians and Philemon, there is less background material on slavery in the Roman world than expected. Perhaps it is unnecessary to write several hundred pages as in the 588 pages Philemon commentary by Markus Barth and Helmut Blanke (Eerdmans, 2000). But some interaction with John Byron (Recent Research on Paul and Slavery, Sheffield, 2008) or Scott Bartchy.

Conclusion. Copenhaver and Arthurs are successful in their goals. They do indeed provide quality exegesis necessary to preach and teach the text of Colossians and Philemon. The preaching strategies will point pastors to creative ways to present these two books.

 

NB: Thanks to Kregel for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Other volumes reviewed in this series: