Book Giveaway – Peter Enns, Incarnation and Inspiration

I just finished my “early Fall” class. this was an Old Testament Survey class taught as an intensive (ten days, 4.5 hours a day over three weeks). To celebrate, I am giving away one book a week for the next month. Last week was Mark Edward’s recent Story of God commentary on Ephesians (Zondervan, 2016). This week I have a copy of Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation (Baker 2005). The subtitle of the book is a hint at the controversial nature of the book: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament.

Enns Inspiration and IncarnationEnns said his concern in the book was “to help readers whose faith has been challenged by critical studies, and I suggest that evangelical faith would be well served by moving beyond a predominantly defensive doctrine of Scripture to develop a positive view that seriously engages contemporary critical scholarship. My proposal is to employ an “incarnational” model of Scripture—one that recognizes and affirms both the divine and human aspects of the Bible.”  For some readers this book was a healthy look at how the Bible fits into the world of the Ancient Near East, for others this book represents the demise of the evangelical doctrine of inerrancy. Greg Beale, for example, wrote The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism (Crossway, 2008). Enns participated in a dialog at a national ETS meeting with Al Mohler, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Michael Bird and John R. Franke (published as Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, Zondervan, 2013). I did not attend this session because I was presenting at the same meeting to three people who apparently could not wedge themselves into the room for the discussion.

Whatever your stand on the theological issue of inerrancy, and whether or not you agree with Enn’s conclusion, this is a book you ought to read. Enns challenges the reader to think through what the Bible actually says about itself.

To have a chance at winning this book, leave a comment with your name. I will randomize the names from the comments and select one winner at random. I will respond to your comment informing you you have won the book, but you will need to contact me with shipping information.

I will announce the winner on August 28, 2019 (one week from now). Good Luck!

Book Giveaway Winner! Mark Roberts – The Story of God Commentary on Ephesians

Last week I offered up a free copy of Mark Edward’s recent Story of God commentary on Ephesians (Zondervan, 2016). To have a chance at winning this book, people left a comment with your name and their favorite commentary on Ephesians. Harold Hoehner (Baker, 2002) led the list of favorite commentaries, although a couple of people mentioned Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee. Among the others mentioned were Clint Arnold (ZECNT), Ernest Best (ICC), and P. T. O’Brien (PNTC).

I will randomize the names from the comments and select one winner at random. I will respond to your comment informing you you have won the book, but you will need to contact me with shipping information.

David Nash is the winner this time around. Now he has Mark Robert;s commentary to read along side is favorite, S. M. Baugh’s EEC commentary. So everyone congratulate or curse his luck. I will post another giveaway this afternoon, so keep an eye out for that.

 

 

Another Logos Free Book of the Month – Craig Morrison, 2 Samuel (Berit Olam)

2 Samuel Commentary by Craig MorrisonI thought it was an anomaly when Logos offered “another free book of the month,” but not in the middle of the month they are giving away a volume from a very good Old Testament commentary series, Craig Morrison’s 2 Samuel in the Berit Olam series (Liturgical Press, 1998). Morrison is professor of Aramaic and biblical exegesis at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. In her review of the commentary for The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Barbara Green said “Morrison’s 2 Samuel makes a wonderful addition to the Berit Olam series. He demonstrates considerable literary sensitivity in discussing a book as rich as biblical prose narrative gets. The series’ specialization in Hebrew narrative and poetry is thus well met.” Commenting on the Jobling commentary on 1 Samuel, a CBQ reviewer said:

“Written for lay people, Bible scholars, students, and religious leaders, this multi-volume commentary reflects a relatively new development in biblical studies. The readings of the books of the Hebrew Bible offered here all focus on the final form of the texts, approaching them as literary works, recognizing that the craft of poetry and storytelling that the ancient Hebrew world provided can be found in them and that their truth can be better appreciated with a fuller understanding of that art.”

For an additional $4.99, you can add David Cotter’s Genesis volume; for $6.99 add Konrad Schaefer’s Psalms commentary in the series; for $8.99 you can add David Jobling’s 2 Samuel commentary. So it will cost you about $21 to add four excellent commentaries to your Logos library.

For another two weeks you can also add Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants: A Concise Biblical Theology (Crossway, 2015) for free. This is a concise version of their Kingdom Through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (Second edition; Crossway, 2018). Since the larger volume is just under a thousand pages, this concise edition does not mean small: the book is over 300 pages long. For $1.99 you can add another mammoth book from a SBTS professor on biblical theology, James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Crossway. 2010). Hamilton contributed a short primer, What Is Biblical Theology? and With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology (NSBT 32; IVP Academic, 2014). For $2.99, you can add Gerald Bray, God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology (Crossway 2012). Christopher W. Morgan of California Baptist University says  “God Is Love is a warm, conversational, and contemporary systematic theology written by one of evangelicalism’s leading thinkers. But it is much more. It is biblically saturated, historically rooted theological wisdom for the people of God.”

Logos Bible Software 8 is a significant upgrade to this powerful Bible study system. I did a “first look” review of Logos 8 here. The software runs much more efficiently than the previous version, that alone is worth the upgrade. Everything seems to run faster than Logos 7 and the upgrade is well worth considering. As always, there are less expensive paths to upgrading that will keep you from mortgaging your home. At the very least, download the free Logos Basic or the $99 Logos 8 Fundamentals (currently on sale for 20%). With either minimal package you can download and use the free book every month and build your Logos library.

These three and almost free books of the month are only available through the end of August.

Book Giveaway – Mark Roberts – The Story of God Commentary on Ephesians

It is the end of the summer, and like most full time educators I am mourning the end, but looking forward to a great new semester. To celebrate, I want to give away one book a week for the next month. First up is Mark Edward’s recent Story of God commentary on Ephesians (Zondervan, 2016). Roberts is a pastor, author, retreat leader, speaker, and blogger (although he has not posted in 2019).

Since 2015, he has been the Executive Director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Seminary. The commentary series combines academic insights with a pastoral heart. I had the opportunity to meet Mark this summer and thought he was the ideal person to write this kind of commentary. He is a scholar who has spent much of his career in some sort of pastoral ministry. I have read through the commentary and it is quite useful.

To have a chance at winning this book, leave a comment with your name and your favorite commentary on Ephesians. I will randomize the names from the comments and select one winner at random. I will respond to your comment informing you you have won the book, but you will need to contact me with shipping information.

I will announce the winner on August 21, 2019 (one week from now). Good Luck!

Book Review: Grant Osborne, James: Verse by Verse

Osborne, Grant R.  James: Verse by Verse. Osborne New Testament Commentaries; Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2019. 204 pp.; Pb.  $19.99  Link to Lexham Press    Link to Logos Version

The latest addition to the series of verse-by-verse commentaries by the late Grant Osborne is the Book of Acts. Lexham Press publishes this series simultaneously in both print and electronic Logos Library editions. Eleven commentaries are now published or announced: Luke, John, Romans, Acts, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon, Philippians, 1-2 Thessalonians and  Revelation.

James is an unusual book in the New Testament. Although it is one of the most popular book for personal and group Bible Studies, it has not always enjoyed this status. For most Christians today the letter is very clear and practical. But as is well known, Luther called the letter an “epistle of straw” since it lacked a clear Christology and seemed to contradict Paul.

For Osborne, James is the earliest letter in the New Testament, dating to the mid-40s. In the twenty-page introduction to the commentary he argues in favor of the common tradition that James the brother of Jesus wrote the letter. Although James is an example of early Jewish Christianity, James is not a Judaizer nor is there any conflict with Paul’s gospel as presented in Galatians and Romans. By dating the letter so early, Osborne is able to argue James wrote before the Pauline mission to the Gentiles began. It is therefore impossible for him to be addressing a perversion of the Pauline Gospel.

Osborne takes the address of the letter literally, the twelve tribes in diaspora refers to Jewish Christian who are facing oppression from “ungodly land owners.” Some commentaries on James suggest the oppressors are (early) zealots in Galilee, but Osborne does not detect any hint of the rebellion against Rome in the book. He suggests James sent the letter to Jewish Christian synagogues in Syrian Antioch or Asia Minor.

With respect to genre, the book is similar to both wisdom literature and a homily (paraenesis, like a synagogue sermon). He does not spend much time on genre and ultimately does not settle on one form for the book. Writes such as Martin Dibelius argue the book was a loose collection of isolated ethical meditations, others have developed an outline which reflects several topics (suffering, poverty and wealth, speech). These themes are introduced in James 1:2-11 and cycle through the book. Osborne sees the book structured like Matthew, in a series of triads (10). In his short summary of the theology of the letter, Osborne comments on God as the central theme, but also trials, eschatology (future judgment), wealth and poverty, wisdom and practical Christianity, speech and Law and Grace.

This last point is one of the main issues commentators on James must address. Does James’s statement “faith without works is dead” assume Paul’s gospel of salvation apart from the works of the Law? In his comments on James 2:1-17 Osborne dismisses the possibility James is responding to Paul (or as he says, some perversion of Paul’s gospel) primarily on the basis of his argument the letter was written in the mid-40s, before Paul’s mission to the Gentiles began. This assumes Paul did not preach a law-free gospel before Acts 13-14 (the first time Luke describes his gentile mission). However, it is entirely possible Paul did preach to gentiles prior to the late 40s, and it is likely he gentiles the same thing he would later teach the gentiles in Galatia. In addition, James’s words are so close to the later Pauline formulation it is hard to imagine he does not have a Pauline theology in mind. Although I agree with Osborne, the letter of James written before the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, it is more likely he has some report of Paul’s law-free Gospel in mind in James 2:14-17. Like most evangelicals who offer a solution to this problem, Osborne suggests James and Paul are looking at two sides of justification: Paul addresses regeneration and James addresses “the Christian life and professing faith” (84).

Although the letter has little Christology, Osborne points out many examples of the use of a Jesus tradition. For example, commenting on James 1:12, Osborne alludes to the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12. Commenting on promised rewards in 1:12, he alludes to the Sermon on the Mount, especially the “meek shall inherit the earth” (39). The teaching of Jesus is assumed in the letter, even if it is not directly cited as the teaching of Jesus. He frequently draws parallels to the teaching of Jesus in the body of the commentary although there is no discussion of what James’s sources were.

Like other commentaries in this series, Osborne’s exposition is based on the English text with rare comments on specific Greek words when necessary. As the title suggests, he comments on each verse by offering light explanations of the text. He does not interact with other commentaries and scholarly literature, although he is clearly informed by them. This make for a distraction-free the commentary which is enjoyable to read.

Conclusion. As Osborne suggests, “if you can’t preach James, you can’t preach” (20). The same is true for writing a Bible-study oriented commentary on James. This Verse-by-Verse Commentary will serve pastors and teachers as they prepare sermons on the text of the Bible, but will also be a guide for laypeople as they read through James.

 

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.

Book Review: Heath A. Thomas, Habakkuk (Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary)

Thomas, Heath A. Habakkuk. Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. 243 pp. Pb; $25.   Link to Eerdmans

Following the methodology expressed in his Manifesto for Theological Interpretation (written with Craig Bartholomew, Baker 2016), Thomas attempts to use academically rigorous exegetical, historical, sociological and literary dimensions of the text in order to draw out theological implications for contemporary readers. In other words, this is “biblical criticism recalibrated within the larger aim of hearing God’s address through the prophetic book” (4). Later in the introduction to the commentary, Thomas calls this a dialectic between systematic and biblical theology which he considers a “hard-won ‘thick’ analysis of a biblical text” (34).

Heath Thomas, Habakkuk CommentaryIn his 55 page introduction Thomas observes the obscure prophetic of Habakkuk is sometimes dismissed as too “hellfire and brimstone.” Rather than a “ragbag collection of unintelligible material,” Thomas suggests the book is theologically rich and “extraordinarily pertinent” to contemporary church life and culture (3).

Thomas reviews the “drama of Scripture” in order to introduce the historical context of the prophet. The commentary assumes the context claimed by the book: Habakkuk is living in the final years of the kingdom of Judah, specifically during the reign of Jehoiakim just prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE (26). Thomas considers an earlier context in the reign of Manasseh or just after the death of Josiah. That the book mentions the Chaldeans and the imminent threat of exile favors a date around 587 BCE. He therefore understands the wicked and righteous in Habakkuk 1:2-4 are wicked Judeans oppressing the righteous.

Theologically, Thomas says, this context “pits the faithful prophet against his own people and culture” (27). A major theological point made by Habakkuk is that wicked nations will be swallowed up in their wickedness and “Yahweh will but them to rights. This is true…whether that nation is Judah, Babylon, or the United States” (30). Thomas revisits this interest in applying the words of the sixth century BCE prophet living through the final years of the kingdom of Judah to contemporary experience throughout the commentary. These asides are usually vague, allowing the reader to draw out the implications for their own time and cultural context. Habakkuk’s critique of evil in the leadership of Judah or Babylon is universal and speaks to every political climate in history.

The introduction concludes with a section on Habakkuk and the church. Here Thomas offers short surveys of the use of Habakkuk in the apostolic era (Romans and Galatians), patristic, Medieval, Reformation and modern periods, concluding with “Habakkuk today.” This final section includes one or two international commentaries, but this section could have been more robust. Although this would not fit into the Christian theology of the Two Horizons commentary series, the reception of Habakkuk in Judaism would have been a helpful addition especially given the interest in Habakkuk at Qumran.

The body of the commentary devotes one chapter to each of Habakkuk’s three chapters, Thomas sub-divides the material into several paragraphs in order to treat individual issues in the text. He comments on the Hebrew text and all Hebrew appears in transliteration. For the most part he only lightly touches on lexical and syntactical issues, although occasionally he draws on cognate languages for obscure vocabulary (Ugaritic, for example).

Two excurses appear in the body of the commentary, one on power of silence and the second on the power of memory. I comment only on the first excursus. Drawing on Habakkuk 2:20, “be silent, all the earth, before him,” Thomas offers a short reflection on “The Power of Silence (135-38). He suggests Habakkuk 2:20 is a “call for his people to recognize God’s power to vindicate the righteous and judge the wicked” (136). He moves quickly from this observation to the importance of contemplation as a spiritual discipline, “contemplation centers the church within God’s life so that she might live authentically as the body of Christ, rather than be conformed to the idolatrous patterns of this present word” (137). This is quite true and there is much to be said for the practice of silence as a spiritual discipline, especially in the context of suffering and injustice. However, in the context of Habakkuk 2:20, the climax of God’s judgment on the nations, perhaps this silence is “An overt eschatological hope is formulated whereby “the wicked are silenced in darkness” because “the LORD will judge the ends of the earth” (1 Sam. 2:9–10)” (G. K. Beale, Revelation [NIGTC; Eerdmans, 1999], 446). Rather than “be still and know I am God,” this text seems to say, “stand in silence before the Lord who judges from his holy temple.” Thomas’s interest in drawing theological implications from Habakkuk may go beyond the meaning of the text.

The final third of the book collects three essays on the theological horizons of Habakkuk. The first is somewhat typical of a biblical theology in that Thomas sets out the main theological themes of the book of Habakkuk: the destructive power of sin, waiting on the Lord, righteous suffering and God, Israel and the Nations. This unit also includes the New Testament use of Habakkuk, including a short interaction with Richard Hays’s view that Paul has an apocalyptic reading of Habakkuk 2:4b which makes the “righteous one” a messianic title. Thomas disagrees, arguing (briefly) Habakkuk 2:4b is not a prediction of a messiah but rather a pointer to the incarnation of God’s faithfulness in this present age. For Thomas, Habakkuk focuses on “faith in the faithfulness of God” (164). By this phrase he wants to draw attention to God’s faithfulness as the one who both judges the wicked and vindicates the righteous. With this emphasis “Habakkuk presses toward and eschatological hope” (168).

The second theological essay, “Centering Shalom: Habakkuk and Prayer” is in large part re-telling of the “drama of scripture common to the theological interpretation of Scripture. The bulk of the chapter describes shalom as the orderliness of creation, then shows how sin has destroyed the shalom of the original created order. Habakkuk’s laments are desperate cries to a Holy God in a world full of injustice because sin remains powerful. Yet “Habakkuk’s prayers do not shake an angry fist at God in the fashion of a petulant teenager moaning about the injustice of having to carry out the rubbish to the bin at the parent’s request. As Christian Polke rightly says, ‘To lament is not to whine’” (188).

In his third essay “Dead Ends and Doorways: Habakkuk and Spiritual Formation” Thomas addresses two common issues which prevent people from spiritual formation or even coming to faith in the first place. For many, the violence of God on display in a book like Habakkuk leaves no room for faith, and the silence of God in the face of great suffering in this world is the biggest stumbling-block to faith. Thomas argues that the book of Habakkuk addresses both of these issues by leading the reader to an overlooked form of worship, the lament. Although common in the Old Testament, lament is rarely practiced in the modern church. Thomas believes if the church slowed down and worshiped God through the form of lament it would avoid both “blissful naiveté” and “sterile ambivalence” (209).  By following Habakkuk’s lead in lament as worship, the church will see suffering through the cross and be open to a divine response.

Thomas’s Two Horizons commentary on Habakkuk is a model for the method of theological interpretation of Scripture. He does serious exegesis and pays attention to the historical and cultural context of this obscure prophet and is able to draw out implications for how the lives and breathes in contemporary culture.

 

 

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

 

Save Up to 40% on John Walton Resources for Logos

Logos has been running an Author Spotlight special the last few months. For August 2019 John Walton’s books and Mobile Ed courses are up to 40% off. This means you can add the “Lost World” series for 30% (about $10 per volume). This sale includes books Walton edited, such as the Zondervan Counterpoints book, Four Views on the Historical Adam and the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary volumes (the whole set is $139.99, or get individual volumes). These are good (although brief) commentaries focusing on cultural and historical backgrounds and are richly illustrated with full color photography. Unfortunately I do not own these in Logos so I cannot comment on how easy it is to use the illustrations in your presentations, although I have had no problems with copying out of Logos and pasting into PowerPoint.

The real highlight is Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible, Second Edition (Baker 2018). Walton surveys Ancient Near Eastern literature to set the Old Testament into the proper historical context. Behind the Scenes of the Old Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts edited John Hilber and Jonathan Greer (Baker 2018). This is a a 600+ page book with essays by a wide ranges of ANE and OT scholars. Like ANE Thought, the book is illustrated with black and white photographs and line drawings. (The first edition of Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament is also listed, do not make the mistake of buying them both). Walton’s Old Testament Theology for Christians: From Ancient Context to Enduring Belief (IVP 2018) is also available at 30% off.

Logos has a deal on John Walton Mobile courses as well, the Background of the Old Testament Bundle (2 courses, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine and Old Testament Genres) or get individual courses: Old Testament Genres (4 hour course); Origins of Genesis 1-3 (4 hour course); Book Study: Genesis (9 hour course). These include video lectures along with course material (syllabus, midterm and final exams). I have quite a few of these course, most have very brief, focused lectures, sometimes only a few minutes. Along with the video lecture and a transcript of the lecture, there are suggested reading in the Bible and other Logos resources (links to Bible Dictionary articles and Logos Topical Guides).

Don’t forget the Logos Free book of the Month for August 2019: Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants: A Concise Biblical Theology (Crossway, 2015) for free. This is a concise version of their Kingdom Through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (Second edition; Crossway, 2018). Since the larger volume is just under a thousand pages, this concise edition does not mean small: the book is over 300 pages long. I agree with Thomas Schreiner’s assessment this book is “a third way, a via media, between covenant theology and dispensationalism” by suggesting neither theological systems is informed by biblical theology. Gentry is an Old Testament professor and Wellum is a professor of Christian theology; both teach at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

For $1.99 you can add another mammoth book from a SBTS professor on biblical theology, James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Crossway. 2010).  For $2.99, you can add Gerald Bray, God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology (Crossway 2012). Christopher W. Morgan of California Baptist University says  “God Is Love is a warm, conversational, and contemporary systematic theology written by one of evangelicalism’s leading thinkers. But it is much more. It is biblically saturated, historically rooted theological wisdom for the people of God.”

If you do not have the Logos software, you should at least download the free Logos Basic or the $99 Logos 8 Fundamentals (currently on sale for 20%). With either minimal package you can download and use the free book every month and build your Logos library. Logos Bible Software 8 is a significant upgrade to this powerful Bible study system. I did a “first look” review of Logos 8 here. The software runs much more efficiently than the previous version, that alone is worth the upgrade. Everything seems to run faster than Logos 7 and the upgrade is well worth considering.