Book Review: Tchavdar S. Hadjiev, Joel and Amos (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary)

Hadjiev, Tchavdar S. Joel and Amos. Tyndale Old Testament Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2020. 194 pp. Pb. $25.00   Link to IVP Academic  

This new volume in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series replaces the 1989 commentary by David Allan Hubbard. Tchavdar S. Hadjiev is lecturer in Old Testament and Hebrew at Belfast Bible College as well as honorary lecturer at Queen’s University, Belfast. He has previously published two monographs on Amos and Joel, The Composition and Redaction of the Book of Amos (BZAW 393; De Gruyter, 2009, reviewed here) and Joel, Obadiah, Habakkuk and Zephaniah: An Introduction and Study Guide (T&T Clark, 2020). In this new commentary Hadjiev provides historical context and concise exposition of the Hebrew text which will be helpful for anyone reading these two important prophets.

Hadjiev, Joel and AmosIn the sixteen-page introduction to Joel, Hadjiev suggests that there is little evidence that demands an early date for the book of Joel and finds the post-exilic context helpful for understanding Joel three in particular. One of the major issues for any introduction on the book of Joel is the prophet’s use of other scripture. He provides a helpful chart of literary connections between Joel and other parts of the Old Testament. He recognizes the difficulty in identifying whether Joel intended a particular allusion. Regarding the message of Joel, he focuses on the goodness and mystery of God in the first two chapters of the book. Joel interprets a past event (a locust plague) as the Day of the Lord, God’s warning intended to draw people to repentance.

He describes Joel 2:29-3:21 [MT 3:1-4:21] as a “proto-apocalyptic vision: God’s plan for the future” and argues the symbolic use of names in Joel invite us to “denationalize the picture of ethnic conflicts” in Joel 3. “So Joel, read in the light of the New Testament, anticipates the work of Christ who triumphed over the powers of wickedness through the cross and who will destroy every ruler, authority and power, even death, the last enemy at his second coming” (15).

The introduction to Amos is longer than Joel, as expected given Hadjiev’s previous work on Amos (thirty-one pages). The first section of the introduction deals with Amos as a work of literature. He is clear, the book is “not a random collection of prophetic oracles but a complex literary work that exhibits considerable sophistication and skill” (59). He is interested in the final form of the book and does not interact with the often-complex source critical approaches to the book of Amos. This is not surprising considering the aims of the commentary series.

After outlining the structure of the book, Hadjiev engages in a “quest for the historical Amos,” supporting the traditional view that Amos was a layperson from Judah who prophesied for a brief period in the northern Kingdom during the reign of Jeroboam II (69). He summarizes the final years of the Kingdom of Israel, placing the prophetic book in the context of the Assyrian threats against Israel. He outlines briefly these socioeconomic conditions of Northern Israel society in the 8th century BC.

This background leads to the main theology of the book of Amos: the justice and righteousness of God. It is God who is on the side of the poor and the weak. God rejects the worship of the northern Kingdom and the threat of the day of the Lord is clear in the book. Yet Amos indicates Israel will repent and be restored in the future. The community which is rejected is not simply let go; Israel is going to be “reconfigured in rebuilt” (87). Here Hadjiev has in mind the booth of David passage in the 9:7-15. The restoration of the booth of David is “a worshiping community of people living in their restored cities, symbolized and led by the Jerusalem Temple” (191). The Christian interpretation of this passage in Acts 15 is based on the Septuagint, but Hadjiev cannot comment on the difference between the Hebrew Bible and the Greek translation in this brief commentary. In Acts, the restored booth of David incorporates the nations who seek the Lord in the light of the resurrection of Christ. Hadjiev concludes Acts 15 reinterprets “the military conquest of the nations… in spiritual terms, as the advance of the gospel which invites all peoples to seek the Lord in this new universal temple [the church]” (194).

In the main body of the commentary Hadjiev organizes the commentary into three sections: context, comment, and meaning. Both context and meaning are usually brief paragraphs. In the commentary itself, he precedes phrase by phrase based on the English text. Occasionally he refers to other secondary literature using in-text citations. Hebrew words appear in transliteration. Although necessarily brief given the confines of the Tyndale Old Testament commentary series, Hadjiev offers a clear exposition of the text which will be helpful four pastors and teachers preparing to present these two important Old Testament prophets to their congregations.

 

 

Other reviewed commentaries in third Tyndale series:

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

 

 

Was Jesus a Friend of Sinners? Matthew 11:16-19

Jesus uses the phrase “this generation” to describe the Jewish people who are hearing his preaching and witnessing his miracles, yet they refuse to believe John was Elijah and Jesus is the Messiah. This generation is a brood of vipers or a wicked and adulterous generation (12:39; 16:4) who will be judged by Nineveh (12:41).

Jesus compares this generation is like children playing in the marketplace saying, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” The Pharisees and others who opposed John and are now opposing Jesus are “like disagreeable children who complain that others will not act according to their desires and expectations” (Davies and Allison, Matthew, 2:262). They would disapprove of whatever Jesus said or did!

The point of this enigmatic saying is to contrast the ministry of John and Jesus: John came fasting, Jesus came feasting. Yet they were both were rejected. John lived an ascetic lifestyle like Elijah in the wilderness, he was neither eating nor drinking, but “this generation” declared he had a demon.

“This generation” described Jesus as a “glutton and a drunkard” because he was constantly sharing meals with his followers. But many of Jesus’s followers were “tax collectors and sinners.” To be a “friend of sinners” is an insult on a par with saying John has a demon.

Perhaps this saying intentionally contrasts John’s call to repentance as mourning at a funeral to Jesus’s call to participate in his ongoing messianic banquet, dancing at a wedding. In Matthew 9:15 Jesus referred to himself as a bridegroom, saying it was inappropriate to fast while the bridegroom was present. In that context, Jesus called the tax collector Matthew to follow him, and then Matthew hosted a banquet in his home to celebrate. The Pharisees complain that Jesus is eating with “tax collectors and sinners” and the disciples of John the Baptist ask why Jesus does not fast (like John did).

If Jesus is the like a bridegroom, then his ministry is like a wedding celebration. If this is the case, then it is inappropriate to fast. Commenting on the Markan parallel, Anderson argues Jesus is merely making a contrast between his disciples (who are feasting) and the disciples of John (who are fasting) (Mark, 107).  Cranfield suggests the disciples of John the Baptist are fasting because of the recent death of John. This would explain the contrast between wedding and funeral imagery in the saying without assigning the saying to the later church (Mark, 111).

Jesus concludes with another enigmatic saying: “Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” As with the modern saying, “the proof is in the pudding” (or better, “the proof of the pudding is in the tasting”). Matthew 11 began with John’s question, “are you the coming one?” Jesus’s answer is, “I am doing the messianic deeds which prove my claim to be the messiah.”

It is difficult to imagine that Jesus was “soft on sin.” But what made these people “sinners” in the eyes of the Pharisees is that they dd not conform to the traditions the Pharisees considered important. Jesus reached out to sinners rather than push them away. Imagine how different the church would be if this was practiced consistently!

Who was John the Baptist? Matthew 11:7-15

What Jesus said about John the Baptist to his disciples?When disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus to ask him if he was “the one who was coming,” Jesus responds that his messianic signs speak for themselves. He asks his audience, “Who did you go out into the wilderness to see?” (Matthew 11:7-8)

John the Baptist and Jesus

Large crowds went out from Jerusalem to hear John preach in the wilderness (Matt 3:5), including some Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt 3:7). Some Pharisees and most Sadducees were aristocrats, wealthy priests who controlled the Temple. What did these people go into the wilderness to see?

A reed shaken in the wind? This might mean something like, “you did not go out into the wilderness to look at the scenery!” But the image of a weak reed blown by the wind is the opposite of John’s character. He was a fiery apocalyptic preacher who did not bend himself to conform to anyone. Davies and Allison suggest reeds shaken by the wind would evoke the Exodus, so the point is something like “Did you go out into the wilderness to see a man repeat the wonders of the exodus?” (Davies and Allison, Matthew, 2:247).

A man dressed in soft clothing? John was not dressed in the trendy fashions of the elite citizens of Jerusalem. He was dressed like an Old Testament prophet in a camel hair cloak and a leather belt. John lived an ascetic life in the wilderness like Elijah. Perhaps they were looking for someone dressed like a king, like a Davidic messiah. John was not a professional, elite teacher. He was an apocalyptic prophet in the style of Elijah.

Was John a prophet? Yes, but Jesus says John was more than a prophet. He was the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1 (11:9-10). He was God’s messenger sent to Israel before the coming day of the Lord. This line could be drawn from LXX Exodus 23:20, the wording is the same. Probably Malachi drew on Exodus, God will once again send his messenger, but this time he will prepare the way of the Lord when he comes to purify Israel. “The combination of Exod 23:20 with Mal 3:1 was not a Christian innovation” (Davies and Allison, Matthew, 2:250).

Jesus quotes Malachi 3:1, the Lord will send “my messenger to prepare the way before me.” If John is the messenger, then Jesus is not just the messiah, he is the Lord coming to his Temple to purify it in the last days. The context of the line is important. In Malachi 2:17-3:5, the prophet begins by declaring the people have wearied the Lord by asking him why he does not act to punish injustice Maybe God is pleased with the evil doers? The Lord responds with the line about sending his messenger to prepare his way.

But Jesus does not quote the rest of Malachi 3:1: “And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.” The Lord is the “coming one” the messenger prepares the way for. The next verse in Malachi is a description of the apocalyptic day of the Lord. The Lord will purify the sons of Levi like a refiner’s fire or fuller’s soap, and then the offerings made in Jerusalem will please the Lord “as in the days of old.”

You can see John’s problem with Jesus. If John was the messenger of Malachi 3:1a, where is the refiner’s fire of Malachi 3:1b?

Jesus therefore claims John was the climax of the prophets (11:11-15). There are three difficult sayings in this paragraph. John is the greatest prophet of the old age, but the “least in the kingdom of heaven” is greater than John (v. 11). Who is the least in the kingdom? Although a few scholars identify the least one as Jesus, most think the least are those who are “in the kingdom,” either in the future when it finally comes, or at the present time in Jesus’s ministry.

What does it mean the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence and violent people are trying to take it by force (v. 12)? Davies and Allison say this verse is “without a doubt, one of the NT’s great conundrums” (Matthew, 2:254). The verb translated as “suffered violence” (ESV; βιάζω) and the cognate noun (βιαστής) refers to violent people. When the word appears outside the New Testament is always has a pejorative sense (BDAG). These violent people are seizing (ἁρπάζω) the kingdom, another word with violent connotations. It is not the case they are trying to violently seize the kingdom, but that they are doing so (the indicative is used).

Some suggest the violent ones are the Pharisees and others trying to keep people out of the kingdom by preventing them from hearing Jesus.

Some suggest the violent ones are Jewish groups advocating violence against the Temple aristocracy or the Romans. They are trying to force God to send the kingdom by revolutionary action. This is possible since there was Judas the Galilean led a tax revolt against Rome as early as AD 6 and Josephus does mention “social bandits” closer to the time of Jesus.

Nicolas Perrin argued the line refers to the arrest and execution of John the Baptist. Since the time of John’s preaching, the eschatological conflict as begun and “the suffering of John and of the saints after him is interpreted in terms of the messianic woes or the eschatological tribulation of the latter days” (cited by Davies and Allison, Matthew, 2:55). As Jesus made clear in Matthew 10, Jesus’s disciples will suffer violence from their own families and synagogues.

Jesus states John is Elijah, “if you are willing to accept it” (vv. 13-14), in Matthew 17:9-13 Jesus is even more clear: “Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him.” The paragraph ends with the phrase “he who has ears, let him hear” (v. 15), inviting the reader to consider the subtle allusions to the story of the Hebrew Bible now being fulfilled in the preaching of John the Baptist and the messianic ministry of Jesus.

Who was John the Baptist?  According to Jesus, he was the last and greatest of the prophets in the of the old age, and the herald of the coming Kingdom of God which is even now breaking into history in the ministry of Jesus.

Another Logos Free Book of the Month for April 2021 – Thomas Merton’s Thoughts in Solitude

Logos Bible Software usually runs a second “free book of the month” promotion that focuses on Catholic resources. This month they are offering Thomas Merton’s Thoughts in Solitude along with some discounts on other Catholic resources. Francis J. Moloney, The Resurrection of the Messiah is well worth picking up, as is Smith, Reading the Sermons of Thomas Aquinas if you have any interest in historical theology.

Thoughts in Solitude shares the author’s reflections on a solitary life, as well as the importance of quiet reflection. Merton writes that inner solitude is closely tied to personal integrity, and thus implies responsibility and freedom.

Here is the full list of deals in the “another free book” promotion:

  • Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude – Free!
  • Michael Barber, Singing in the Reign: The Psalms and the Liturgy of God’s Kingdom – $1.99
  • Francis J. Moloney, The Resurrection of the Messiah: A Narrative Commentary on the Resurrection Accounts in the Four Gospels – $5.99
  • Randall Smith, Reading the Sermons of Thomas Aquinas (A Beginner’s Guide) – $7.99
  • Lawrence Feingold, Faith Comes from What is Heard: An Introduction to Fundamental Theology – $11.99

So you can spend as little money as you want, but take advantage on these great deals on Catholic resources for your Logos library. Be sure to check out the collection of evangelical commentaries for free (or almost free) available through April 2021.  

If you do not have Logos Bible Software yet, take a look at the Fundamental ($49.99) or Basic (free) packages.

 

Logos Free Book of the Month for April 2021 – Dru Johnson, The Universal Story: Genesis 1–11

Lexham Press is the featured publishers in this month’s Free Book of the Month promotion from Logos Bible Software. This sale samples a little bit of every kind of commentary Lexham has to offer: short Bible studies, pastoral commentaries, historic commentaries (Spurgeon) and academic commentaries. Lexham is this month’s giveaway: a 64-volume collection of Lexham commentaries, a $1649.99 retail value. There are four ways to enter, so enter early and enter often.

Dru JohnsonThe first three on the list are in the Transformative Word series. In my review of the Deuteronomy volume in the series, I said the series “was designed for a personal devotion or a small group Bible study. As such it should satisfy most readers. It is thoroughly theological reading of the book of Deuteronomy, seeing the book through the lens of Jesus Christ and the New Testament. It does not deal with any of the details of the Law in a historical or exegetical way.” The same is true for the three on offer here, although I have not read Dru Johnson on Genesis 1-11. Heath Thomas wrote the Two Horizons commentary on Habakkuk (Eerdmans, 2018; reviewed here), so I anticipate it is an excellent contribution to the Transformative Word series.

Grant Osborne, James Verse by Verse is an excellent expositional commentary. I have reviewed most of the volumes in the past and found them to be good commentaries for the busy pastor. They are exegetically engaged, but not really academic commentaries. Osborne does not go into details on the Greek text or interact with a great deal of secondary literature, but offers basic insight into the meaning of the text.

The highlight in this sale is JoAnna M. Hoyt’s Evangelical Exegetical Commentary on Amos, Jonah, & Micah (reviewed here). Even at $19.99 this is a great deal on one of the better exegetical commentaries on these three Minor Prophets (850 pages, retail is $54.99). Andreas J. Köstenberger’s Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary on 1–2 Timothy and Titus is good, but it is not new; Lexham picked up this series from Broadman and Holman and the volume was published with a different cover in 2017. Steve Runge, High Definition Commentary: Galatians is a great deal at only $9.99.

Here is a list of the deals from Lexham Press for April 2021:  

  • Dru Johnson, The Universal Story: Genesis 1–11 (Transformative Word) – Free!
  • Heath Thomas, Faith Amid the Ruins: The Book of Habakkuk (Transformative Word) – $1.99
  • Adrio König, Christ Above All: The Book of Hebrews (Transformative Word) – $2.99 (Reviewed Here)
  • Charles Spurgeon Commentary: 1 John – $4.99
  • Grant Osborne, James Verse by Verse (Osborne New Testament Commentaries) – $7.99 (Reviewed Here)
  • Steve Runge, High Definition Commentary: Galatians – $9.99
  • J. Betts, Nehemiah: A Pastoral and Exegetical Commentary – $14.99
  • JoAnna M. Hoyt, Amos, Jonah, & Micah: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary– $19.99 (Reviewed Here)
  • Andreas J. Köstenberger, 1–2 Timothy and Titus: Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary – $24.99 (Daniel in this series reviewed here)
  • John Kleinig, Wonderfully Made: A Protestant Theology of the Body – Pre-order for $19.99

So you can spend as little money as you want, but take advantage on these great deals on evangelical resources for your Logos library before the end of April 2021. 

If you do not have Logos Bible Software yet, take a look at the Fundamental ($49.99) or Basic (free) packages

 

 

Biblical Studies Carnival 181 for March 2021

Ben the Amateur Exegete has posted the March Biblical Studies Carnival, thirty links for thirty days in April. Which is cool, even though his carnival covers March, which has 31 days. Maybe Ben has weird knuckles. Maybe the number thirty is an apocalyptic number, symbolic of the state of the blogging world this March. Whatever the reason for thirty, Ben has put together a very nice carnival, with several blogs that are new (to me at least). Head on over and check out the Amateur Exegete’s blog and click all the links.

Check out the Biblical Studies Carnival Master List at the top of this page to visit past carnivals.

Here is a list of the upcoming BiblioBlog Carnival hosts  2021, at least through June. But there is still plenty of time for you to get your name on the list for hosting a biblical studies carnival in 2021.

if you want to be a part of the BiblioBlog world (or Carnival cult, whatever), contact me via email, plong42@gmail.com or DM on twitter (plong42) to discuss hosting a carnival in 2021. I would love to see some veteran bloggers volunteer for a month in 2021. If you are a new BiblioBlogger, this is a good way to get your blog some recognition. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about hosting a Biblical Studies Carnival in the second half for 2021.

 

Did John the Baptist Doubt Jesus? Matthew 11:2-6

People of a certain age will remember sea monkeys. Ads for sea monkeys appeared on the back of comic books and promised you could send a dollar to the address below you could have a kingdom of sea monkeys in your fishbowl. The original ads claimed you could “own a bowl full of happiness—instant pets!” The illustration showed these monkey-like creatures, the king was wearing a crown and had a robe and scepter, etc. If you sent in your money, you got a small box of dry brine shrimp which, when rehydrated, were “alive.” But they looked nothing at all like the drawing in the ads.

Although the analogy is not ideal, John the Baptist built up considerable anticipation for Jesus as the Messiah. He and his followers were convinced Jesus was the Messiah and he would begin the eschatological judgment and set up a new Davidic Kingdom expected by the Prophets. Jesus was the “coming one,” as in Psalm 118:26, “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” But after his baptism, Jesus did not take up the winnowing fork and judge the aristocrats in control of the Temple nor did he seem at all interested in reviving David’s kingdom. John and his disciples may have been “underwhelmed.”

Jesus and John the Baptist

John sent a few of his disciples to ask Jesus if he in fact the messiah. In Matthew 4:12 Jesus heard John had been put into prison. John was arrested by Herod for preaching against his divorce and marriage to his sister-in-law. Matthew 14:1-12 narrates John’s death at the hand of Herod Antipas (cf., Antiq. 18:116-19).

John heard about the “deeds of the messiah,” but Jesus’s teaching and miracles were not quite what John and his disciples had expected. The “deeds of the messiah” refers to Jesus’s miracles, but also his proclamation to Galilee that the Kingdom of Heaven is near, or fully present in Jesus’s mission.

There may have been growing doubt among the disciples of John about Jesus. In Matthew 9:14 the disciples of John question Jesus about his non-practice of fasting. It may be these disciples were not satisfied with Jesus’s response (that Jesus is the bridegroom, so it is time to celebrate, unlike John’s ascetic lifestyle). Perhaps these disciples related their own doubts to John in prison and are sent back to Jesus to question him more directly. It is about 100 miles from Machaerus to Capernaum in Galilee, so a round-trip is a significant journey.

In Matthew 3:14 John the Baptist recognized Jesus as “the one who is coming,” But now in 11:3 he wonders if Jesus is really the “coming one.” John’s own preaching in Matthew 3 condemned the Pharisees as a brood of vipers who are not producing fruit in keeping with repentance. He told them the “ax is already at the root” to cut off the trees that do not produce fruit. The bad trees will be “thrown into the fire” (Matt 3:7-10).

The one who is coming will render that judgment: he will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (3:11). John agrees with Peter in Acts 2, the new age will begin with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on God’s people (Acts 2:14-21; citing Joel 2: 28-32).  

The one who is coming has a winnowing fork in his hand and he is ready clear the threshing floor (3:12). The harvest is a metaphor for apocalyptic judgment. When the kingdom of heaven finally arrives, the wheat will be gathered into the barn, the weeds will be destroyed on the fire.

Because Jesus has not (yet) rendered apocalyptic judgment on the Pharisees and the Sadducees, John asks if Jesus is “the one to come” (ὁ ἐρχόμενος). This phrase was not a messianic title in first century Judaism, but Matthew uses it to refer to the Messiah.  In Matthew 3:11, John talks about the “one coming after him.”

At the baptism, John assumed the coming one was Jesus, yet after hearing about the messianic signs. John has heard something about Jesus’s ministry, his deeds and his teaching. But that ministry is not exactly what he was expecting. He is bewildered: could it be that he was mistaken? Jesus is not the messiah he was expecting.

In response to John, Jesus points to his miracles. Matthew illustrated all of these messianic deeds in chapters 8-9.

  • The blind receive sight, Matthew 9:27-34; Isaiah 35:5-6.
  • Lame walk, Matthew 9:1-8; Isaiah 35:5-6.
  • Lepers cleansed, Matthew 8:1-4; Isaiah 35:5-6.
  • Deaf hear, Matthew 9:27-34; Isaiah 35:5-6.
  • Dead are raised up, Matthew 9:18-26; Isaiah 26:19.
  • Poor have heard the good news preached to them, Matthew 5:3; Isaiah 61:1-2.

Jesus therefore claims to be the “coming one” who fulfils messianic expectations.

He adds a beatitude: “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (v. 6). This implies John may have not understood these signs as proof Jesus is this messiah. Where is the winnowing fork? Why are the Pharisees not being cast out into the fire? The verb σκανδαλίζω can have the sense of shocked or angered. In Matthew 15:12 the Pharisees are offended by Jesus calling them hypocrites.

Answering John’s disciples as he does, Jesus confirms he is the “coming one,” the messiah. If Jesus is the messiah, then who was John the Baptist?

Book Review: Darian R.  Lockett, Letters for the Church

Lockett, Darian R.  Letters for the Church: Reading James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude as Canon. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2021. xii+232 pp. Pb. $30.00   Link to IVP Academic  

Darian Lockett (PhD St. Andrews) serves as professor of New Testament at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. In his Letters from the Pillar Apostles: The Formation of the Catholic Epistles as a Canonical Collection (Pickwick, 2016; see this 2016 review from Lindsey Kennedy) he argued the title “catholic epistles” did not refer to a genre. They are not general epistles tucked away into the “other” category of the New Testament Canon, but these letters are an intentionally curated collection with consistent theological interests. Although this book uses the more common title Catholic Epistles, Lockett’s occasional use of the title Pillars Collection focuses on James, Peter and John as the “pillars of the church” (Galatians 2:9).

Lockett, Letters for the ChurchEarly in the book Lockett asks what sets the Catholic Epistles apart from the other literature in the New Testament. He suggests they are a complementary, non-Pauline witness to early Christian practice and belief (p. 5). Two things are important about this description. First, these letters do not address the same sort of theological issues Paul does, nor do they address the same problems Paul encountered in his churches. Second, Lockett says the letters are complementary to the Pauline collection. For some in academia, The Pillars Collection was collected as a canonical balance to the Pauline collection, perhaps even a corrective.  For example, David Nienhuis and Robert Wall argued the Catholic Epistles were added to the canon “in order to keep readers from falling into a Paulinist fideism” in Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John & Jude as Scripture (Eerdmans, 2013; p. 35; reviewed here). Since Lockett’s goal is to show canonical unity, both within the Pillars collection and within the overall canon of the New Testament, he is less likely to see serious differences between Paul and James, for example.

It is possible to describe the Pillars collection as addressing distinctively Jewish Christianity issues, especially in the light of the association of the Pillars with early Jewish Christianity in Jerusalem. Lockett recognizes the recipients of James were Jewish Christians, although he suggests the word diaspora in 1 Peter is a “metaphor for Christians living in hostile territory” (p. 53). Although he recognizes Karen Jobes’s argument in her commentary on 1 Peter that 1 Peter’s audience was primarily Jewish, he concludes a gentile audience is “most plausible” (p. 56). However, Lockett offers a list of thirteen similarities between James and 1 Peter (p. 52). This list may also be evidence 1 Peter’s audience was primarily Jewish Christian, like James? Lockett recognizes Jude writes to a “predominately Jewish Christian group” (p. 190). Although the epistles of John provide little evidence one way or another, the letters can plausibly be read in the light of a more Jewish form of Christian than Gentile.

Each chapter begins with setting the letter into the canon of the Catholic epistles. Lockett does this by pointing out keywords that drawing the canonical unit together. The next two sections of each chapter deal with basic introductory material: authorship, audience, occasion, and setting. For the most part Lockett presents one or two options and concludes the traditional view of authorship, occasion and date is most likely. For example, although the 1 John is anonymous, Lockett argues it is most likely written by the author of the gospel of John and Revelation, the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee. The same is true for James; although there are other options, James the Lord’s brother is the most likely.

Following the introductory material, the bulk of each chapter is a commentary on the letter under examination. This commentary is based on the English text and only interacts lightly with contemporary scholarship in footnotes. Lockett’s comments are clear and helpful for understanding the overall flow of the argument of each letter.

Lockett identifies five theological points uniting these letters: the love command; enduring trials; the relationship of God in the world; faith and works; dealing with false teaching. Throughout the book there are occasional side-bars highlight the theme in the book under examination and in his short conclusion, he reviews his five themes in summarizes the overall teaching of these letters. In addition, each chapter includes short excurses entitled “Going Deeper.” For example, Lockett discusses two ways theology in James, James and Paul on justification the meaning of “water and blood in John 5 and the Comma Johanneum, Suffering in 1 Peter, 2 Peter as a Testament, the relationship of 2 Peter and Jude, and Jude’s use of 1 Enoch.

Each chapter ends with a section entitled “Further Reading.” He identifies technical commentaries and rates some as recommended or highly recommended. Adding a section of questions for further reflection would have enhanced the book’s value for classroom use.

Conclusion. Letters to the Church is an excellent introduction to the letters associated with the Pillars. Although I see these letters as reflecting early Jewish Christianity than Lockett does in this book, the introductions provided in this short book are helpful. His comments on the content of each book cover all the important issues and will provide a foundation for students who want to study these letters more closely.

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

Commentary Series Sale for Logos Bible Software

Zondervan Exegetical Commentary Sale

Logos Bible Software’s March Matchups voting is over and all the deals are live!

This year various commentary sets went head-to-head in a March Madness bracket style vote. People voted for their favorite, and the winners advanced and the discounts went up. The winner was the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary Collection (19 volumes, 60% off). I reviewed Frank Thielman’s Romans commentary and Buist M. Fanning on Revelation and have profitably used Garland’s Luke and Schnabel’s Acts volumes.  

Second place in the March Matchups was Lexham Research Commentaries, so that series is now 57% off. I have only reviewed the volumes which appeared as a free book of the month in March 2020, where I said “The idea of these Research Commentaries is similar To Allan Ross’s Creation and Blessing, a commentary on Genesis which often pointed out what a pastor or teacher needs to sort out before actually teaching the text.”

Lexham Academic’s Evangelical Exegetical Commentaries are 55% off. These are extremely detailed commentaries which focus on the Hebrew or Greek text, but the authors have a commitment to the inspiration and authority of the biblical text. I reviewed Mark Keown’s two-volume Philippians and JoAnna Hoyt’s commentary on Amos, Jonah, Micah.  I have J. Paul Tanner’s Daniel commentary in the series (to be reviewed soon), and Herb Bateman’s massive 480+ page Jude commentary is well worth consulting.

One of the cool things about these sales is Logos does not charge you for books you may already own. All three of these series have been part of the Free Book of the Month program in the past, so you might have added two or three volumes on the cheap already. If you have a few volumes as part of a “package” purchased a few years ago, then that cost will be deducted from the sale price.  

Click through to the Logos sale page to see the discounts on all the March Matchup commentary sets.  

Also available in the month of march is Logos Publisher’s Spotlight. There are some great deals on Wipf & Stock Publications this month including the finest book Wipf & Stock ever published, Jesus the Bridegroom. This is your chance to buy my book in the Logos library for only $4.99 (cheaper than one of those fancy coffees you like so much).  If you purchase the book through Logos, I would really appreciate you leaving a review on the Logos site and Amazon. 

Finally, there is only a week left to get the Logos Free Book of the Month for March 2021: Markus Barth, Ephesians 1-3 and Jerome H. Neyrey, 2 Peter, Jude in the Yale Anchor Bible Commentary. There are many other deeply discounted books from the Yale Anchor Bible Reference library, so check out my comments on the sale.

 

 

Do Not Be Afraid of Those Who Persecute – Matthew 10:26-31

In Matthew 10:16-25, Jesus tells his disciples they are sent out like sheep among the wolves and they will suffer on account of their testimony for Jesus. Everyone will hate the disciples because of their witness about Jesus and they will suffer in the same ways Jesus will suffer. Jesus tells the disciples they do not need to be afraid with this persecution comes.

Martyrs Eugene Thirion

 

First, the reason the disciples do not need to fear of those who persecute Jesus and his disciples is that the persecutors will be judged publicly (Matt 10:26-27). This is less clear than the parallel in Luke 12:2-9, and 8:17, but Jesus tells the disciples they have no need to fear their persecution because what might seem to be secret or hidden will be made known at the final judgment.

Part of the evidence for this is the possible parallels between this part of the discipleship discourse and Matthew 25:31-46; the hidden deeds of the sheep and goats will be revealed, and they will be judged appropriately.

Rather than let their fear silence them, Jesus’s disciples will speak boldly. Jesus has taught the disciples privately, but they are to proclaim Jesus’s message in public (in the light, from the housetops). Jesus as a private teacher might be looking ahead to Matthew 13, the secrets of the Kingdom of God are given to the disciples. It is not that the disciples are being taught in secret, but that they are being taught secrets which will eventually be proclaimed publicly.

A second reason the disciples do not need to be afraid is they are are precious to God and he will protect them (Matt 10:28-31). If the disciples are boldly speaking the message Jesus has taught them in public, they will be persecuted. But the disciples should fear God only, not those who persecute them because God is the ultimate judge.

The persecutor can only harm the body, but not the soul. This is a clear allusion to the physical punishment faced by the disciples in Acts, and their eventual martyrdom (according to tradition for most of them).

In contrast to human persecutors who can kill the body, God can destroy the body and soul in hell. The shift from kill (ἀποκτείνω) to destroy (ἀπόλλυμι) is important, and there is a temptation to hear God can annihilate the soul.” The parallel with Matthew 25:31-45 is again instructive since the goats go away to eternal punishment in the hell create for the devil and his angels. Jesus is not thinking of a kind of conditional immortality where the unrighteous dead are not resurrected, but rather the same kind of perpetual punishment other Second Temple Jews expected (Dan 12:2, the wicked go to everlasting contempt; Jude 7; 1QS 2:8).

In addition, the soul is destroyed in Gehenna (γέεννα), not hell or the lake of fire. In later Judaism, Gehenna is “Jewish popular belief, God’s final judgment was to take place” (BDAG).

To illustrate how valuable the disciples are to God, Jesus compares them to sparrows. God cares for sparrows, birds with almost without economic value. A sparrow (στρουθίον) is an analogy for something that has little value to anyone. Two sparrow costs a penny, an assarion (ἀσσάριον) is a Roman coin worth about one sixteenth of a denarius, perhaps “less than an hour’s work.” Luke 12:6, five sparrows are sold for two assarion. An assarion was the cost of a piece of bread, minimal daily substance.

As the disciples endure persecution for their testimony, it is possible they would think God does not care about them. That is what most people do when they start to suffer, question whether God really cares about them. But if God is aware of the lives (and deaths) of the smallest of birds and has intimate knowledge of his disciples, he will certainly care for them when they bear witness before the synagogue rules and Gentile kings. But what about disciples who do not acknowledge Jesus when they are persecuted? In the next section focuses on the importance of acknowledging Jesus when persecution comes.