Constantine R. Campbell, The Letter to the Ephesians (PNTC)

Campbell, Constantine R. The Letter to the Ephesians. PNTC; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2023. xxvi+1140 pp. Hb; $45.00.  Link to Eerdmans

Campbell is presently Professor and Research Director at the Sydney College of Divinity. He previously served as professor of New Testament studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Campbell published an exegetical survey of the “in Christ” language in Paul (Paul and Union with Christ, Zondervan 2012), and he co-edited “In Christ” in Paul: Explorations in Paul’s Theology of Union and Participation with Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Michael J. Thate (Eerdmans 2018). He serves as an Associate Editor of the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series, and recently published Jesus v. Evangelicals (Zondervan, 2023). This new volume of the Pillar New Testament Commentary series replaces P. T. O’Brien’s 2016 commentary after the publisher concluded allegations of plagiarism were credible. Campbell dedicates this commentary to P. T. O’Brien, “Teacher, colleague, mentor.”Campbell, Ephesians

Campbell begins the thirty-four-page introduction to the commentary with a discussion of the authorship of Ephesians. He gives an overview of the discussion of this controversial topic, arguments against Pauline authorship, and some evaluation of these arguments. Notice he does not “answer the arguments.” Campbell considers these as “evaluative reflections.” He concludes, “The claim of pseudonymity depends on accepting the premise that someone else could write so convincingly as Paul that they deceived everyone in the early church (10). If true, how compelling are the differences from authentic Pauline letters?

As is well known, the destination of Ephesus is missing in some early manuscripts. An additional problem in identifying the letter’s recipients is the relationship of Ephesians to Colossians. He concludes that the letter to the Ephesians was written by Paul, inspired by his earlier letter to the Colossians. The letter was sent to churches in Asia Minor, including Ephesus. Ephesus was a regional hub and strategically important for Paul on his third missionary journey. Following Clint Arnold, he briefly surveys the importance of magic, worship, and power for understanding the letter. Concerning the setting and date of Ephesians, the traditional view is that Paul wrote from imprisonment in Rome (AD 60-62). He briefly considers the possibility of Caesarea (AD 57-59) or an otherwise unknown imprisonment in Ephesus. Campbell concludes there is no compelling reason to reject the traditional answer period. Tychicus was sent with the letters of Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon around AD 62.

What is the relationship of Ephesians and Colossians? He lists a series of similarities in themes such as the cosmic supremacy of Christ, Christ as the head of the church, and the household codes. He notices similar vocabulary not found elsewhere in Paul, and both letters use Tychicus. But, once again, following Clint Arnold, he suggests the similarities should not be overstated. Ephesians lacks a real threat from the so-called Colossian heresy.

Campbell offers a series of critical themes in the letter to the Ephesians. First, making good use of his previous work on the topic is the union with Christ, or participation in Christ. Second, Ephesians emphasizes the supremacy of Christ over every ruler (1:21, for example). Third, Ephesians famously describes salvation by God’s grace through faith (2:1-10). Fourth, Ephesians discusses Jew-Gentile relations in 2:11-22 and the unification of Jews and Gentiles into the Body of Christ (3: 1-6). Fifth, a significant theme of the book is the unity of the church and the relationships of its various members. Sixth, Ephesians 6:11-20 focuses on spiritual warfare, although the theme is present in 1:20-22. Campbell sees this as a now and not yet tension. Christ is already victorious over the spiritual forces of evil, but these stark spiritual forces continue to influence. They are not yet vanquished. Finally, following Michael Gorman, Becoming the Gospel, Campbell sees mission Dei as one of the central motifs of Paul’s letters. Citing Gorman, Campbell says, “To be in Christ is to be caught up in God’s mission and thus God’s own character- indeed, in God’s very life (29).

The commentary uses the CSB translation, with occasional modifications explained in the footnotes. Campbell’s exegesis is based on the Greek, but the commentary uses English text. This will make the commentary accessible to all readers, whether they have strong Greek skills or not. There are ample footnotes dealing with lexical and syntactical issues, although many of these notes are simply the Greek text or citations of BDAG.

In an excursus on Wives and Husbands (274-76), Campbell observes that many readers want to pigeonhole a commentary as either complementarian or egalitarian, implying that one of those views is wrong. Mea culpa: this is exactly what I did. I immediately turned his comments on Ephesians 5:20-21 to see what he does with the very difficult line “wives submit to your husbands.”

He follows recent commentaries by Arnold (ZENTC) and Cohick (NINTC) by beginning with the observation that submission in the first century was not a pejorative term. Submission needs to be understood within the context of the stratified Roman social world (242). Does submitting to one another refer to a symmetrical or asymmetrical relationship? It cannot mean “generals submit to sergeants,” for example. Many relationships are, by definition, asymmetrical (parents and children, for example). Campbell points out that relationships are always asymmetrical in the ancient world. If Ephesians has a symmetrical relationship in mind, then it is our only example.

Another controversial issue in this passage is the definition of headship in 5:22, “the husband is the head of the wife.”  Does “head” refer to authority or source? Campbell first deals with the lexical issues, including secular ancient Greek, where headship more often refers to source. Citing Moises Silva with approval, “head” does not convey authority or superior rank. “The headship of the husband is counter-culturally expressed in his self-giving love towards his wife, just as the headship of Christ is expressed through his saving the church” (251). Maybe Paul is countercultural, or perhaps he is not. Whatever the case, Ephesians 5:21-24 does not imply a return to a “1950s-style domestic bliss” (276).

I agree with Campbell’s warning that the terms complementarian and egalitarian are unfortunate and often misleading. And usually leads to some form of tribalism. It’s essential to “uphold the dignity of submission as a noble duty of all followers of Jesus” (275). And I heartily endorse his desire to respect the details of the text and “let the chips fall where they may.” This is precisely the role of sound exegesis: to shed light on the meaning of the text using the contributions of historical and social studies of the first century and all the linguistic tools available. Campbell does this, and although he is clear on his preference for these details, he allows other scholars to synthesize his exegesis into their own pigeonholes.

Conclusion. Campbell’s commentary on Ephesians is excellent and highly recommended for academics, pastors, teachers, and students. Rarely does a commentary deal with exegetical issues yet remains a pleasure to read. It is a worthy successor to O’Brien’s ill-fated Pillar commentary.

One additional note that has very little to do with the commentary. First, Campbell is an excellent jazz musician. You can stream some of his music on his website. I listened to Pirates of Piraeus while writing this review. I doubt Campbell will read this review, but Pirates of Piraeus is excellent (and I bought a copy!)


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


Mark Strauss, 40 Questions about Bible Translations

Strauss, Mark L. 40 Questions about Bible Translations. 40 Questions and Answers Series. Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel, 2023. 352 pp. Pb; $24.99. Link to Kregel Academic

In 1998, Mark Strauss wrote Distorting Scripture? The Challenge of Bible Translation and Gender Accuracy (IVP; reprinted by Wipf & Stock 2010). Since then, he has co-edited The Challenge of Bible Translation (Zondervan 2003) and co-authored How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth (Zondervan 2007).  In addition to numerous articles published in peer-reviewed journals and magazines on Bible translation, Strauss currently serves as the vice-chair of the Committee on Bible Translation, the group of scholars responsible for the New International Version. This new contribution to Kregel’s 40 Question series deals with the theory and practice of Bible translation and the history of the English Bible and contemporary Bible translations.     Bible TranslationsThe first section deals with the necessity for and the goals of Bible translation. Strauss contrasts the two dominant methods used today, formal equivalence with functional. He provides ample illustrations drawn from various Bible translations of both methods and questions 31 and 32 offer examples of modern English translations in each category. Formal equivalence tends to be more literal, and the method aims to reproduce the form of the original Hebrew or Greek text. Functional equivalence (also known as dynamic equivalence) seeks the sense of the text to reproduce the meaning of the original Hebrew or Greek. Strauss offers a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of both methods., Although functional is the dominant translation method today, both styles have their place.

The second section deals with preparing to translate. The two main questions are canon (what books to include in the translation) and which manuscripts to use. Both issues are worth exploring further (see, for example, Kregel’s 40 Questions about the Text and Canon of the New Testament).

The third unit is the longest and is divided into several subsections. He discusses how translators deal with words and combinations of words, figurative languages, and idioms. For example, should translators translate the idiomatic expression “opens the womb” (which is what the words are) or “firstborn” (which is what the phrase means)? Compare Exodus 13:2 in the NKJV and the NIV. Translators struggle to reflect the artistry of Hebrew poetry in English. How does a translator reflect irony in the original text? What about sarcasm?

Translators need to deal with cultural issues such as euphemisms. For example, in 1 Kings 18:46, Elijah “girded up his loins” (KJV). Should this be translated as “tucked his cloak into his belt” even though none of those words appear in the Hebrew Bible? Translators must also decide what to do with the weights and measures found in the Old and New Testaments (cubits or feet?) This is especially a problem with money. Should a translator translate a word talent “75 pounds” or even “a sum of money”? For the famous widow’s mite, the word in Mark 12:42 is literally lepton, a Roman coin with very little value. Should this be translated as “two small copper coins” (ESV, NIV, NRSV), which make a “penny” (ESV, NRSV) or “a few cents” (NIV)? Or should the word be translated as a mite (KJV) worth a farthing (KJV)? Maybe the translators should use lepton and explain the coin in a footnote.

One of the most controversial issues that translators must deal with concerns translating gender the Bible with gender-inclusive language. Strauss devotes an entire chapter to the history of NIV revisions. Why is this an issue? Hebrew and Greek nouns have gender, but this is not true in English. In addition, a word like “man” can refer to a male person (John 1:6), but it also can refer to a person (Mark 7:15, “nothing outside a man” means “nothing outside a person,” both male and female). Translators must decide whether to translate man as humanity, fathers as ancestors, brothers as brothers and sisters (when it clearly refers to the entire congregation), and sons as children (when it clearly refers to both genders).  Most modern translations have some level of gender-inclusive language, and Question 20 treats over-inclusive translations.

The fourth section of the book deals with the history of the English Bible up to the King James version. Strauss asks if the King James Version is the most accurate Bible. He suggests it was when it was first translated. However, the presence of archaic language leads to many inaccuracies, and there are problems with the manuscript evidence available to the translators of the King James Version. He reviews the history of revisions of the King James version, which attempted to deal with these shortcomings. This unit also briefly summarizes various Roman Catholic translations and summaries of modern “natural language translations” such as Weymouth, Moffatt, and the popular The Message. Strauss gives examples of Bible translations using formal and functional equivalence. Question 36 discusses “radical recontextualizations.” Some of these are fun, like the Cotton Patch Version (a paraphrase using a Southern dialect). But others may, in fact, be dangerous. Strauss mentions the Passion Translation, which makes so many changes to the original text’s meaning that it was removed from This section could be improved with more critique of the Passion Translation and a note on Bibles like the New World translation, which was made by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to support their own doctrine.

Conclusion. 40 Questions about Bible Translations answers many common questions about how scholars translate ancient Hebrew and Greek texts into readable, contemporary language. He also provides ample illustrations drawn from various Bible translations. Strauss’s answers are not overly technical, so most readers will find this a helpful primer on Bible translation methods.

Strauss maintains a website, Engaging God’s Word.

Other books reviewed in this series:

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



Brandon D. Smith, The Biblical Trinity: Encountering the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Scripture

Smith, Brandon D.  The Biblical Trinity: Encountering the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Scripture. Lexham Press, 2023. 180 pp. Hb; $22.99. Link to Lexham Press

Serving as assistant professor of theology and New Testament at Cedarville, Brandon D. Smith is a co-founder of the Center for Baptist Renewal and host of the Church Grammar podcast. He recently published The Trinity in the Book of Revelation: Seeing Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in John’s Apocalypse (IVP Academic, 2023; reviewed here). Over the years, Smith taught hundreds of students Trinity, church history, and hermeneutics. This little book is the fruit of that ministry.Biblical Trinity

Smith’s premise in this book is that the doctrine of the Trinity rises from the fullness of what the whole Bible says about God. To understand this doctrine, we need to follow “the logic and grammar of scripture” (1). He offers basic reading strategies and demonstrates those strategies using select passages. The book provides a canonical, theological reading of scripture. He argues the doctrine of the Trinity is rooted in the canonical biblical story. God does not change into a Trinity in the New Testament, nor is the Trinity absent from the Old Testament. The doctrine of the Trinity is received in Christian tradition as a faithful reading of Scripture’s presentation of God.

Smith discusses fifteen New Testament passages that contribute to the doctrine of the Trinity. For example, in the synoptic Gospels, he discusses Matthew 9:1-8 (Jesus forgives sin) and the trinitarian commission in Matthew 28:18-20. There are three chapters on key passages in John (1:1-18; 5:17-28; 8:58). Among several Pauline texts are 1 Corinthians 8:6 (“a New Shema”), Ephesians 1:1-14 (“A Triune Salvation”) and Philippians 2:5-11 (Equality with God). Although he wrote a book on the Trinity in Revelation, he only includes Triune Worship in Revelation 4-5.

The final chapter offers three rules for “reading trinitarianly.” First, Christ is the center of the Canon. Developing Jesus’s claim in Luke 24: 44-45, all Scripture refers to him. Smith sees this as the Christological depth of Scripture. Second, the spirit gives understanding 2 Corinthians 3:4-17. We cannot recognize when the Old Testament speaks about Jesus without the Holy Spirit. Third, the Trinity is the biblical grammar of Scripture. Although Smith wants to read the whole canon of Scripture through the lens of the Doctrine of the Trinity, his chapters focus on New Testament texts. He does look back to the Old Testament in every chapter, but his focus is on New Testament passages that contribute to a biblical doctrine of the Trinity.

The chapters in this book are brief and intentionally written as a devotional reflecting on specific passages. Smith often cites or allusions to early church writers (since the Trinity is developed in early church theological reflection). Occasional endnotes refer to commentaries and other essential studies on early Christian doctrine.

Conclusion: This small book does not pretend to be a detailed scriptural argument for the Trinity, nor a history of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity in church history. Although it contains those elements, the book is better described as a primer on theological interpretation of Scripture.

The book is an attractive small hardback, 5×7 inches, with a dust jacket. It would be an excellent book for a small group Bible study or personal devotional text.

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.


Best Commentaries Sale for Logos Bible Software

Best Commentary Sale

Starting on September 15, Logos has a great sale on individual commentaries and bundles of commentaries. Follow that link, and you will see there are two drop-down menus so you can select an Old Testament or New Testament book you want to study. Then you have a choice of bundles: expositional, exegetical, applicational, and “best.” The bundle is five to seven books in the category. Scroll down a bit; you will see other commentaries on the chosen book. Not all the individual commentaries are on sale, but many are 30% off. Because the bundles are small, they are not extremely expensive, especially if you already own one or two in the bundle.

Don’t forget that you can get William S. Lamb, Scripture: A Guide for the Perplexed (T&T Clark, 2014) for free during September 2023. Lamb is Vice-Principal and Tutor in New Testament Studies, Westcott House, Cambridge. T&T Clark’s Guide for the Perplexed series features excellent primers on complicated topics. In this volume, Lamb discusses “the questions posed by biblical criticism to the enterprise of Christian theology and the place of scripture in the life of the contemporary church.” Logos has several recent ICC volumes on sale this month, such as C. K. Barrett on 2 Corinthians. There is a nice mix of biblical, theological, and historical studies on offer here.  So head over to the Free Book of the Month page and buy as many as you like.

The Logos September Sale has got some great deals. Maybe too many. This is a rare time when you can save 25% on BDAG, the best Greek Lexicon available. It is still pricey but well worth the money. I glanced through the list. There are quite a few expensive bundles and some individual volumes, which are great deals. Poke around the sale and see what you can find.

If you do not already own Logos, check out my first-look review of Logos 10. Starting September 15, you can save 20% off Logos 10 Silver (and up). Current users have various upgrade paths, from “Not expensive at all” to “Who needs food?” and everything in between. You can still get Logos Fundamental ($49.99) or Basic (free) packages and take advantage of the free Logos Book of the Month promotion. 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 and Mac.

All the links are Logos Affiliate links. If you are planning on buying Logos books, use this link and out Reading Acts.

These deals go away on September 30. So shop early, and shop often.


Gerald R. McDermott, ed. Understanding the Jewish Roots of Christianity

McDermott, Gerald R., ed. Understanding the Jewish Roots of Christianity: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Essays on the Relationship between Christianity and Judaism. Studies in Scripture and Biblical Theology. Lexham Press, 2021. xv+271 pp. Pb; $29.99. Link to Lexham Press

Gerald McDermott previously edited a collection of essays, The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel and the Land (InterVarsity Press, 2016), and published a popular presentation of his ideas as Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land (Brazos, 2017, reviewed here). This contribution to Lexham’s Studies in Scripture and Biblical Theology collects essays on the Jewish roots of Christianity.Jewish Roots of Christianity

After McDermott’s short introductory essay, Mark S. Gignilliat asks, “How Did the New Testament Authors Use Tanak?”  He surveys the current state of research in broad brush strokes. To give but one of his examples, the logic of the parables is based on Isaiah’s portrayal of deafness and hearing as metaphors for judgment and redemption (9). Does the New Testament exist without the Old Testament? Like the two natures of Christ, he suggests that scripture has a two-testament character. Gignilliat concludes Christians must expel any latent Marcionism from the church.

Matthew Thiessen answers, “Did Jesus Plan to Start a New Religion?” The obvious answer to this somewhat click-bait title is “No.” Thiessen argues that Jesus, his earliest followers, and Paul all stayed well within Judaism. All we know about Jesus comes through the synoptic gospels, so it is anachronistic to talk about Christianity as a religion in this context. Jesus did not reject Judaism and become a Christian (a sentence so anachronistic I find it difficult to write). He examines Jesus’s view of the temple, ritual purity, and sacred time to demonstrate his point. He shows that Jesus is consistent with the Judaism of his time.

David Rudolph addresses a similar question in the fourth essay, “Was Paul Championing a New Freedom from—or End to—Jewish Law?” Did Paul argue that something (specifically, Christ) superseded the law? What is the law made superfluous by Christ? Or was Paul indifferent toward the Jewish law? Rudolph suggests Paul thought of Jewish identity and law observance as “a matter of calling and covenant fidelity” (50). Paul remained a Torah-observant Jew, faithful to Israel’s law and customs. He interacts with Acts 15:22-29, 21:17-26 (Paul’s claim to Torah faithfulness), and 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 (Paul’s rule on circumcision). The key assumption of this essay is that Paul’s view of the Jewish law observance was for the Jewish people, not Gentiles.

In the fifth essay, David M. Moffitt discusses “Jesus’ Sacrifice and the Mosaic Logic of Hebrews’ New-Covenant Theology.” Some argue that the idea of the New Covenant in the book of Hebrews represents a decisive break with the Jewish roots of early Christianity. Moffitt says no, these interpretations fail to understand the covenantal framework of the writer of Hebrews and the analogies between Jesus’s work and the new covenant. Hebrews is informed by the Mosaic covenant, and the book never repudiates it (52). To demonstrate this, he shows that the author of Hebrews sees Jesus’s death as a sacrifice that inaugurates the new covenant, but his ascension maintains the new covenant.

Matthew S. C. Olver examines the “Missed and Misunderstood Jewish Roots of Christian Worship” in the sixth essay. What Jewish worship practices really influenced early Christian worship? He suggests sacrifice is “the most overlooked and important legacy that Christian cultic practice received from Judaism” (72).  He begins by examining four common influences which he determines are false. For example, it is sometimes suggested that the synagogue was a place of worship like a church building. Olver points out that synagogues were not always physical buildings, and not every community had one. Additionally, the influence of the synagogue increased after 8070. He offers three important Jewish influences on Christian worship, participation in temple worship and daily prayers (which may have influenced Jewish daily prayers). But he suggests that “sacrifice is the thread that binds Christianity to Judaism” (82). To support this assertion, he examines the book of Hebrews, which argues that Jesus is the great high priest and brought an end to sacrifice: so how can this be? He surveys sacrificial language in the New Testament and in the early church documents such as Didache, Polycarp Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus. He concludes that the earliest form of the Eucharist was understood as a form of sacrifice (102). He concludes with a citation of John Chrysostom, “Do we not offer sacrifices daily?”

Isaac W. Oliver discusses the so-called “parting of the ways” by asking, “When and How Did the Ekklēsia Split from the Synagogue?” He begins by defining what he means by ekklēsia and synagogue. He argues there were no differences for the earliest followers of Jesus. So when did they “split” into two different things? As long as Jesus’s followers remained within Judaism, “it is misguided to speak of a split” (110). There were Torah-observant followers of Jesus well into the 2nd century, even after the Bar Kokhba revolt. Although he recognizes that this is a convenient date, it is not as if there was a definitive time when the synagogues split from the ekklēsia. For Jews, Jesus’s followers were a radical sect who preached A controversial message, specifically that Jesus was the crucified Messiah. This was also a politically dangerous claim in the Roman world. Jewish Christians were eventually excluded from the ecclesia as much as they were excluded from the synagogue. With the resurgence of messianic Judaism, he concludes his essay by observing whether the ways ever really part?

In the eighth essay, Eugene Korn surveys the relationship of the church and Judaism from Constantine to the Holocaust. He begins with the observation that there were certainly theological issues, but there were many empirical realities of how each treated the other from a political, social, and moral perspective. This article contributes valuable insights from rabbinic and Jewish thinkers on Christianity and concludes with the theological potential to move forward in the future. He traces anti-Judaism and overt anti-Semitism through church history. He often illustrates this with photographs of Christian art, which depicts synagogues as blind, in contrast to the church. But rabbinic attitudes towards Christians were also dismissive. Christians were idolaters and not pure monotheists at all. Some later Jewish writers, however, were more positive. In recent years, Messianic Judaism and Christian Zionism (to use McDermott’s term) have given hope for bringing Jews and Christians closer.

Jennifer M. Rosner’s essay on “Post-Holocaust Jewish-Christian Relations” suggests that the post-Holocaust era has seen many official Christian statements charting a new way for Jewish-Christian relations. She focuses on Karl Barth and his doctrine of Israel and the church. Barth’s theology “left no room for a de-Judaized savior nor a supersessionist church” (153). But Barth did not adequately deal with the implications of a Jewish Jesus. For a Jewish perspective, she examines Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption. She argues that he saw neither Judaism nor Christianity as fully possessing the whole truth, although the idea of a Jewish Messiah remains a problem. But other more recent writers have extended the trajectory away from Judaism to Christianity as mutually exclusive terms (167).

In the tenth essay, Sarah Lebhar Hall surveys “the (Largely) Untold Story” of Anglican support for Jewish communities beginning with The London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews (LSJ), founded in 1809. She praises the Anglican community for recontextualizing the gospel through “thoughtful use of language, worship style, and architectural space” and empowering Jewish believers through outreach into Jewish communities. This includes early English missionaries to Jewish communities that built long-lasting relationships.

Mark S. Kinzer shows how Messianic Judaism and recovering the Jewish character of the Ekklēsia. He begins his essay by observing that there are really three parties in discussions on the parting of the ways: the Jewish community, the emerging gentile church, and the Jewish members of the ekklēsia (190). It was not as though there were only Jewish Jews in the synagogue and gentile Christians in churches. As this essay points out, there are still Jews who believed in Jesus, like the modern messianic Jewish community. These messianic Jews are not found just among evangelicals but also in Catholic and Orthodox traditions. He suggests that the early rupture between Christians and Jews was not inevitable. He cites Daniel Boyarin, calling the parting of the ways a “partitioning of territory” one shared without border lines.

Archbishop of the Anglican church in North America and General Secretary of the Global Anglican Fellowship Conference Foley Beach answers the question, “What Difference Does the Jewishness of Jesus Make?” The article summarizes much of the evidence for a Jewish Jesus born into a Jewish world, raised by Jewish parents, and lived out his life as a Jewish man. All of this is very clear and obvious, but so what? Beach suggests first that there should be no anti-Semitism among followers of Jesus. Second, modern followers of Jesus ought to desire to understand the Hebrew roots of their faith. Third, they ought to value the Jewish Bible, and fourth, they ought to seek to understand Jesus in the light of his Hebrew background. 5th, Christians ought to seek to share Jesus with their Jewish friends. Lastly, they must realize the debt Christians owe to the Jewish people.

In his concluding essay, McDermott asks what difference an understanding of the Jewish roots of Christianity makes for Christian theology.  After summarizing the preceding essays, he makes several key points. First, the word Christ ought to be replaced with the word Messiah. In the New Testament, and especially in John’s gospel, the word Jew ought to be understood as “the Judean leaders of the temple establishment.” This avoids anti-Semitic readings of the gospel of John, which paint all Jews as enemies of Christians (which was never the case). Christians need to understand the law as the apostle Paul did, and finally, they need to understand the Kingdom of God as the Second Temple period century Jews did.

Conclusion. This collection of essays demonstrates the importance of reading Jesus, Paul, and the early church in its Jewish context. This is not anything new for scholars working in the areas of Historical Jesus or Pauline theology. But for many Bible readers, it may be surprising to learn just how Jewish the earliest church was. More importantly, these essays trace out several theological and practical implications of the Jewish roots of Christianity. Certainly, they could have gone further. For example, some recent contributions to “Paul with Judaism” might suggest that Paul was not even a Christian. Matthew Thiessen comes the closest in this collection.


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.