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Beitzel, Barry J. and Kristopher A. Lyle, eds. Lexham Geographical Commentary on the Gospels. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2017. 583 pp.; Hb.  $49.99  Link to Lexham Press

As Professor Emeritus of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Barry Beitzel has a well-deserved reputation in scholarship for his contributions to biblical geography. He edited the The New Moody Atlas of the Bible (Moody, 2009; reviewed here). His new edited volume contains forty-eight essays written by fifteen New Testament scholars who have contributed to the field of New Testament geography.

The chapters are roughly chronological, beginning with the infancy narratives, baptism and temptation before moving on to the ministry of Jesus. The book could function as a “Harmony of the Gospels” since each of the forty-eight chapters include Gospel parallel passages when available. A chapter on John 4 appears early in Jesus’s ministry, chapters on John 7:37-39 and John 9 are placed in a series of chapters on the teaching of Jesus.

Some of the essays in this book concern geographical problems. For example, Benjamin Foreman’s essay on the location of the baptism of Jesus. Todd Bolen assess the evidence for the location of the “drowned pigs” in Matthew 8:28-42 (Gadara? Gerasa? Gergesa? Kursi?). Benjamin Foreman examines evidence for the burial of Jesus, comparing the Holy Sepulcher to the Garden Tomb and concludes the Holy Sepulcher is more likely even if there is value is far more spiritually uplifting to for Protestants. But most of the essays describe locations which are less controversial, such as Perry Phillips on the Well at Sychar or Todd Bolen’s contribution on the Temple, “Magnificent Stones and Wonderful Buildings of the Temple Complex.”

Other essays in this collection deal with elements of cultural in the background of various stories in the Gospels. Elaine Phillips’s article on domestic architecture in Capernaum, Carl Laney on “Fishing the Sea of Galilee” and Chris McKinney’s “Pig Husbandry in Israel during the New Testament.” Aubrey Taylor’s chapter on the “Historical Basis of the Parable of the Pounds” deals with Roman taxation. (As a side note, this chapter does not have a single illustration in the print version of the book.)

A few of the chapters make a connection between a geographical location and a theological issue. Gordon Franz contributes a fascinating essay on the Valley of Hinnom as a metaphor for Hell. In this revised paper first read at the national Evangelical Theological Society meeting in 1987, Franz points out the earliest reference to Hinnom as a garbage dump comes from A. D. 1200. He therefore argues the word is not based on a Second Temple reality (a garbage dump), but it refers to a place of eschatological judgment (325).

Each article in this Geographical Commentary is well researched and written. Each has detailed bibliography pointing interested readers to detailed studies on the topic considered. The book can be used as reference or as a running commentary as one is reading through one of the Gospels. Since the articles are rich in details, the book would be an excellent companion for someone traveling to Israel for a study tour.

iPad Screen Shot

Logos Bible Software Version

Like most Lexham publications, this book was published in both print and Logos Library formats. The electronic version of the book makes full use of the Logos system, including indexed searching and linking key words to other resources. For example, all biblical text is linked to your preferred Bible, or users can hover over the reference to read the text.

The electronic version of this book has many more images and graphic than the book and cab include videos. For example, in the five-page section entitled “Millstones in Capernaum” (Matthew 17:24-18:14), the print edition has two photographs. The Logos format book has a map of Galilee, an info-graphic of the synagogue at Capernaum, and links to two videos, a walk-through of Capernaum which plays in the Logos software itself and a link to a seven-minute video, “Capernaum: Jesus’ Base of Operations in Galilee” on FaithlifeTV.com. This video is from The Cultural Context of the Bible series with David A. deSilva (although the narration sounds like it was produced with speech-to-text software). Maps, photographs and other graphics can be copied and pasted into your own documents (Word and PowerPoint, be sure to cite your source!). Many of the inforgraphics and other resources appear in many other Faithlife resources.

The electronic version includes all the same footnotes and bibliography as the print version, and includes a “see also” section which lists all the links appearing in the section. One advantage to the electronic version is the ability to cut/paste these references into a document, or to copy them to BibTex for use in bibliography management software. Usually Logos resources are tagged to open a resource if you owe the book, but I noticed Anchor Bible Dictionary articles are not tagged to open the article within Logos.

One feature missing in the electronic version is page numbers. Since the Logos version was published first and was initially intended as a fully interactive multimedia resource, there was no need for page numbers. Now that a “real book” has been published, Logos could enhance the value of this resource by adding page number tags to the text in the electronic version. Since Logos Bible Software does an excellent job assisting users to properly cite their sources, it would be an improvement to sync the print pages to the text in the electronic book. One other minor quibble, there are a few repeated graphics; this is forgivable in the electronic version but a waste of limited space in the print version (the millstone on page 112 and 311).

Conclusion

The Lexham Geographic Commentary on the gospels is a joy to read. The articles are stimulating and well-illustrated.  This book will make an excellent addition to the library of any student of the Bible, but especially for those visiting Israel. Lexham has a second volume on Acts through Revelation in production; hopefully additional volumes on the Old Testament will follow.

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.

Bock, Darrell L. and Mitch Glaser, eds. Messiah in the Passover. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 2018. 379 pp. Pb. $16.99   Link to Kregel

Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser have edited several recent books on the topic of Israel, including To the Jew First: The Case for Jewish Evangelism in Scripture and History (2008), The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 (2012), The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel (2012), and Israel, the Church and the Middle East (2018), all published by Kregel. This volume collected essays from the staff of Chosen People Ministries, an evangelistic mission to Jews led by Glaser.

In the introduction to the collection, Mitch Glaser asks “Why Study the Passover?” For a Jewish person, Passover is a celebration of God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt. The feast celebrates the symbols of Sinai, Torah, and redemption. For a Christian, celebrating Passover is an opportunity to deepen one’s appreciation for the Jewishness of the Gospel. For Glaser, this “common experience” can better communicate the Gospel to Jewish friends (20).

The first set of essays gather the biblical foundations for Passover. Five essays survey portions of the canon which mention Passover: Passover in the Torah (Robert Walter), the Writings (Richard H. Flashman), the Prophets (Gordon Law), the Gospel of Luke (Darrell L. Bock), the Gospel of John (Mitch Glaser). The weakest of these chapters is the section on the prophets, simply because there are virtually no references in either the former or latter prophets to the Passover. Law could have included references to a “second Exodus” (Isaiah 40-55, for example) in this section, but instead he focuses his short chapter on the links between Elijah and the modern Seder. There are certainly links between Moses and Elijah, but many of these are post-biblical traditions. Both Bock and Glaser deal with the problem of the Last Supper as a Passover meal. Both weigh the evidence and conclude it was in fact a Passover meal, although there are several outstanding difficulties with the conclusion. The final essay in this section also argues the Last Supper was a Passover meal. Brian Crawford examines several passages in 1 Corinthians to conclude Paul used the Passover to deepen the Corinthian church’s experience of the Gospel (109). Communion is therefore passed on Passover tradition.

The second section of the book collects three essays Passover in Church history. Scott P. Nassau deals with the Passover in the early church (“Passover, the Temple, and the Early Church”). Early church history is tangled with post A.D. 70 Jewish Christianity. Hagg includes the Ebionites and Nazarenes as examples of Christian (or better, semi-Christian) groups who continued to keep Passover well into the Christian era. Of special interest is Melito of Sardis, a Hellenistic Jew who converted to Christianity and wrote Peri Pascha, “Concerning the Passover.” Although Melito created a Christian Haggadah, by the time of the council of Nicean there was a clear movement away from Passover in Christian practice. While Nassau only briefly mentions the Quaterodeciman debate, Gregory Hagg introduces the “Passover Controversies in Church History” with the Quaterodecimans. The name means “fourteen” and refers to Christians who chose to celebrate Easter on Passover (14 Nisan). Citing Ignatius’s letter to the Philippians, any Christian who celebrates Passover with the Jews “is a partaker with those that killed the Lord and his apostles” (132). By the time of Nicea, the Quaterodecimans were persecuted. While Hagg’s article begins to deal with Christian anti-Semitism (specifically blood libel), Olivier Melnick traces Christian attitudes toward Jewish people through the modern era.

A pair of essays forms the third until of the book on Jewish Tradition and the Passover. First, Zhava Glaser collects references to the Passover in Rabbinic Writings (the Mishnah, Talmud, Tosefta). It is in this vast literature that many of traditions now part of a Passover Haggadah began to develop. But many of these practices are rooted in biblical texts. For example, the first mention of four cups of wine is in the Mishnah, but Glaser follows Baruch Bosker in arguing the cups drawn on biblical imagery in the Torah itself. After the loss of the Temple, the Passover Haggadah was transformed into a celebration of the sacrificed Lamb which looked forward to a future redemption of Israel (168). Second, Daniel Nessim discusses the fascinating tradition of the Afikoman at Passover. I first ran across the practice in Craig Evans’s Word Commentary on Mark 8:27-16:20 (p. 390; Evans cites Daube, who appears in Nessim’s essay). The word אפיקומן is from Greek ἀφικόμενος, “he who comes.” Nessim argues the word is an acronym for seven elements of the Passover meal (see the chart on page 172). What is intriguing about the practice is the possibility

In the fourth section of the book focuses on the communication of the Gospel through Passover. First, Michael Cohen discusses what the Passover says about atonement. This seems strange since atonement is not mentioned in connection to Passover in the Torah, but it is the backdrop to the New Covenant and the sacrificial lamb does foreshadow Jesus’s once-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11-12). He then traces the theme of atonement through four stages represented by the Passover mean. Second, Larry Feldman offers several examples of the Gospel in the Passover Seder. He begins with the karpas, the dipping of the parsley into saltwater. The parsley is dipped twice into the sale water to remind participants of both the tears shed while in slavery in Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea. More significant, the parsley is related to the hyssop used to sprinkle the blood of the lamb. He suggests viewing the Seder in the light of its fulfillment in Jesus reminds the Christian of the time when God will wipe away all tears (Rev 21:4) as well as the redemption we have in Jesus (Rom 6:22-23). The section includes two brief sermons, “Jesus, the Lamb of God” (Richard E. Freeman) and “The Third Cup” (David Secada).

Finally, the fifth section of the book has four essays on celebrating Passover as a Christian. First, Cathy Wilson offers some practical advice on keeping Passover in a Christian home. She is clear that in the original Passover the shed blood of the lamb was central. The re-telling of the Passover story, the Christian ought to focus on Jesus as “our Passover lamb” (1 Cor 5:7). She narrates a Christian Haggadah similar to the “Messianic Family Haggadah” from Chosen People Ministries (Chapter 18). Although both follow the traditional order of service (seder), there are frequent references to New Testament when appropriate. Rachel Galilstein-Davis supplements this with “Passover Lessons for Your Children.” She begins with the observation that children are the most important part of a Passover celebration since the point of re-telling the Exodus is to re-inforce the story to the younger generation. She offers are new children’s lessons with crafts and other activities which highlight key aspects of Passover and teach a few Hebrew words along the way.  Finally, Mitch Forman offers a few comments on Passover foods and even shares some recipes (including gefilte fish and roast brisket).

The book includes nine appendices over twenty-three pages, a ten-page glossary of terms, nineteen pages of recommended reading and bibliography, and twenty-one pages of indices. Some of the appendices are valuable, for example “Passover Observances in Biblical History” and “Last Supper Sayings Compared,” of which are in charts. However, a list of the “Jewish and Protestant Canons of the Bible” and a map of the Exodus do not seem like a good use of space.

Conclusion. Glaser began this book with an argument in favor of Christians celebrating Passover, or at least incorporating elements of Passover into their Christian worship. Christians ought to not simply be aware of the Jewish roots of Christianity, but to drink deeply in the waters of the Hebrew Bible. In doing so, they will more fully understand how God has worked in the past, how he is working in the present and will work in the future. However, there is some risk when importing the practice of Passover back into Christian worship. As Glaser himself admits, we really do not have any idea how much Jesus’s practice looked like a modern Passover celebration (24). It is possible some (gentile) Christians can become overly attracted to modern Jewish practice to the point they misunderstand the Body of Christ in the present age.

This book is an excellent contribution to a Christian understanding of both ancient and modern Jewish celebration of Passover.

 

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

 

Osborne, Grant R.  John: Verse by Verse. Osborne New Testament Commentaries; Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2018. 542 pp.; Pb.  $19.99  Link to Lexham Press

This short commentary on the Gospel of John by Osborne is part of his series from Lexham Press published simultaneously in both print and electronic Logos Library editions. Six commentaries were published in 2017 (Romans, Galatians, Prison Epistle, Revelation) with three more due in 2018 (Luke, Acts, 1 & 2 Thessalonians).

In the introduction to the commentary, Osborne argues for the traditional view John the apostle is the single author of the fourth Gospel. He also adopts the traditional view that the beloved Disciple is the author of the book, John. Although there are some other suggestions (Lazarus, a fictional character), Osborne does not find the objections sufficient to overturn the traditional view. Nor does he accept the once-popular “Johannine circle” view made popular by Raymond Brown. For Osborne, John was a brilliant writer who carefully constructed his Gospel to simply present the gospel of Jesus, but with a depth and complexity which is unrivaled in the New Testament. Osborne dates fourth Gospel dates to the early A.D. 80s from Ephesus. He argued in his Revelation commentary John the apostle also wrote Revelation in the early 90s from Patmos.

With respect to the purpose of the Gospel, Osborne is persuaded by the recent discussion among Gospels scholars dismissing the idea that the Gospel writers addressed issues within their own local communities. Rather, the Gospels were written for the church as a whole. Osborne sees John’s Gospel is particularly evangelistic, citing John 20:31 as primary evidence. He also points out the frequency of salvation language (faith, believe, eternal life, truth, etc.)

Osborne briefly comments on the historical reliability of the Gospel of John in his introduction, but often deals with John’s reliability in the body of the commentary. Even in the early church John was considered to be a “spiritual gospel.” Historical reliability is a problem for Johannine studies since John’s Gospel is so different than the Synoptic gospels. For example, in Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus’s Temple action takes place in his final week, but it occurs early in John 2:13-25. Although this seems like a singular event, Osborne accepts the recent suggestion from Craig Blomberg that Jesus made two protests in the Temple, one early in his career and a second one in his final week (p. 66). For Osborne, the emphasis on chronology in the fourth Gospel indicates it comes from an eyewitness who was interested in writing an accurate account of Jesus’s ministry.

The body of the commentary is divided into twenty-nine chapters following the outline in commentary’s introduction. Since one of the goals of the commentary series is to provide study notes for devotional reading or a small group Bible study, each chapter is limited to about fifteen pages. Although the series is subtitled “a verse by verse commentary, it is almost impossible to comment on every verse for a book the length of John and retain Osborne’s goal of a readable book for a small group. Usually his comments are on whole paragraphs, and this is almost always sufficient. There are some sections which need a word-by-word study (John 1:1-3, 3:16, for example).

Osborne includes a bibliography of important John commentaries he has used in the preparation of the commentary, but he rarely cites these secondary works and footnotes are used for additional information or cross-references (and are also quite rare in the book). This is not to say Osborne has not read widely on John. The simple, readable style of the commentary precludes the kind of detailed interaction expected in an exegetical commentary. He occasionally refers to the Greek text, but words appear in transliteration. Specialized vocabulary appearing in the glossary are printed in bold. Each chapter ends with a summary drawing theological and practical implications from the text.

Conclusion. As with the other commentaries in this series, Osborne’s Verse-by-Verse Commentary will serve pastors and teachers as they prepare sermons on the text of the Bible. Osborne certainly achieves his goal of helping pastors to “faithfully exposit the text in a sermon.” Although scholars may find the brevity of the commentary frustrating, this commentary will be an excellent guide for anyone who desires to read John’s Gospel with more insight and understanding.

 

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.

Hamer, Colin. The Bridegroom Messiah. London: Apostolos, 2018. 80 pp. Pb; £4.99.   Link to Apostolos Publishing

This short, inexpensive book distills Colin Hamer’s Chester University dissertation (published as Marital Imagery in the Bible, Apostolos Old Testament Studies, 2015). In that detailed study he surveys the development of the metaphor of marriage and divorce across the whole canon, beginning with Genesis 2:23-24. In his larger work he applies this material to the problem of divorce and remarriage in the New Testament. Hamer covered some of the same ground I did in my dissertation, published as Jesus the Bridegroom (Pickwick, 2012) and we have interacted several times over the last few years on the topic of marriage imagery in the Bible.

In this new popular work, Hamer uses the marriage metaphor to tell the biblical story of God’s relationship with mankind (chapter 1). He begins by surveying the common Old Testament use of the marriage metaphor for God’s relationship with his people. Hamer describes Israel’s covenant at Sinai as a marriage covenant and Israel’s relationship with God was a “difficult marriage.” He argues the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C. and Jerusalem in A.D. 70 indicate this marriage covenant was “terminated by God” (p. 11). Does this “divorce” mean Israel can never be restored as God’s bride? This might be implied by the divorce procedures in Deuteronomy 24. If a man divorces his wife for infidelity he can remarry anyone except his first wife.

Yet the prophets look forward to Israel’s restoration in the future (for example, Hos 1:11, Isa 54; Jer 3:18-22). How can Israel return to her husband if her husband has divorced her? One option is to argue the exile was not really a divorce (See Anderson and Freedman, Hosea, 218-90 or my Jesus the Bridegroom, 120). Hamer solves this problem by demonstrating that Jesus is the Bridegroom Messiah (chapter 2). He uses John 4 to support his view that Jesus’s ministry is an offer of a remarriage to Israel. But that offer is rebuffed and Jesus announces the divorce of Judah in Matthew 23:37-39. This is Hamer’s contribution to the discussion of the marriage metaphor in Jesus’s ministry. Although Israel was divorced in 722 B.C. when Samaria fell, Hamer does not think the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. is a divorce of Judah. It is not until Judah rejects the ministry of the Bridegroom Messiah that she is finally divorced.

If this is the case, Hamer argues, then the New Covenant is a new marriage between God and all people (chapters 3-4). As he did in his Marital Imagery, Hamer argues Genesis 2:23 and Genesis 2:24 refer to two kinds of marriage, 2:23 is a miraculous union (“one flesh”) made without the need for a covenant, but 2:24 is a “marital infinity union” in which the partners choose to become what they were not, form a new relationship (family) by means of a covenant. Israel had this kind of relationship with God, but the church has the first kind of relationship. The New Covenant is the goal of Jesus’s death on the Cross, sweeping away the old Mosaic covenant and replacing it with a new marriage which will be consummated at the end of time (p. 51). Although this might sound like a kind of replacement theology, Hamer is clear this New Covenant involves all people, both Jew and Gentile. This is a canonical argument since he connects the Edenic experience of Adam and Eve to the new Eden of the final consummation (p. 62).

Hamer concludes this book with a few reflections on the cross as the way God restored his relationship with his people. For Hamer, the cross with not about paying a price for the broken Mosaic Law but rather the way God chose to restore a relationship. God did something to deal with the sin which keeps humans out of the Garden of Eden. Although underdeveloped in this short book, Hamer’s view seems to be the New Heaven and New Earth in Revelation 21 is a restoration of Eden and therefore a restoration of the original relationship between God and Man.

Since Hamer’s goal in this book is a popular presentation of the marriage metaphor in the Bible, he often makes broad statements which merit further evidence. At several points in the book I expected some further reference a more detailed study or more evidence to support an assertion. This is to be expected in a sort book like this, interested readers ought to consult his scholarly contribution, Marital Imagery in the Bible.

 

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

Kelley, Page H. and Timothy G. Crawford. Biblical Hebrew: An Introductory Grammar. Second Edition. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. 529 pp. Pb; $40.   Link to Eerdmans

Kelley, Page H., Terry L. Burden, and Timothy G. Crawford. A Handbook to Biblical Hebrew: An Introductory Grammar. Second Edition. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. 249 pp. Pb; $28.   Link to Eerdmans

Page Kelley’s original Biblical Hebrew textbook was published in 1992, the year I first taught an undergraduate Hebrew class. At the time, there were not many introductory Hebrew textbooks available and I will admit to choosing an Eerdmans book since my students could get copies at a discount at the now-defunct Eerdmans Bookstore. I have used Kelley’s textbook every time I have taught Hebrew and have always found it to be student friendly while pushing students toward mastery of the Hebrew text.

This second edition has been faithfully revised by Timothy G. Crawford, dean and professor of Old Testament and Hebrew in the College of Christian Studies, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Belton, Texas. As he explains in his preface, he used Kelley’s textbook as it was being written and was able to discuss the lessons with the author as they were being produced. In addition, he collected notes as he was teaching from the book over the years, developing an extensive list of corrections which needed to be made. After Kelley’s death in 1998, Crawford approached Eerdmans on the possibility of a revision of the textbook. Since 1992 several excellent Hebrew introductory grammars have been produced and Kelley’s book was in need of a revision.

Although this grammar is a second edition and has revisions on nearly every page, the overall pedagogy remains the same. The new edition contains the same 31 chapters in the same order, and most of the subheadings in the table of contents are identical. Only a few minor changes in order have been made. For example, Kelley’s short discussion on segholate nouns has been moved from the beginning of lesson ten to the end of lesson seven.

The first five lessons deal with the alphabet (vowels and gutturals) as well as wide range of diacritical markings which affect pronunciation (dagesh forte, dagesh lene, etc.) Following these introductory chapters, Kelley introduces nouns and adjectives along with pronominal suffixes (lessons 6-11). By beginning with nouns students are able to translate phrases and verbless clauses from the Hebrew Bible almost immediately. Lessons 12-21 treat the strong verb in all forms: perfect and imperfect, each stem (Qal, Nifel, etc.), and grammatical function such (negations, infinitives and participles, etc.) Once the student has mastered the entire strong verb system, Kelley devotes a lesson to each of the ten weak verb patterns (lessons 22-31).

Following the explanation of each new grammatical concept, Kelley offers several kinds of exercises. Concepts are reviewed through fill-in-the-blanks or multiple choice exercises. Sometimes the fill-ins review the stem or parsing of forms, others review by filling in pronouns for verbs, etc. Following three or four sections or this kind of review, Kelley gives a series of Hebrew lines with the English translations (with references) in columns. I have usually assigned the objective assignments then reviewed the sentences in class. This allowed me to talk through the concepts as we encountered them in real biblical Hebrew. Often I would instruct students to cover the English column and try to work off the Hebrew text, especially if we were reviewing the section. Kelley’s grammar provides copious exercises for classroom use.

A short vocabulary section follows the exercises. These are used in the illustrations in the lesson, so the student who pays careful attention in the exercises usually has a handle on the vocabulary for the lesson. Unlike other textbooks, Kelley does not include usage statistics, something which may offer encouragement to students as they memorize long lists of vocabulary.

One major improvement is the change in labeling sections of the grammar. In the older edition, a lesson might contain several topics. Each topic was numbered so that lesson five, for example, began with section 13. In the new edition, section numbers appear in the margins and are based on the chapter (5.1, 5.2, etc.) This will greatly assist students in finding a particular section of the textbook. Following the lessons is thirty page vocabulary list, eleven verb charts (the strong verb and ten weak verbs), and a personal pronoun chart. A twenty-four page glossary defies key terms found in the book.

Crawford worked with Terry Burden to produce A Handbook to Biblical Hebrew: An Introductory Grammar (Eerdmans, 1994). This companion volume included a complete answer key to the exercises in the grammar, practical helps, footnotes, word lists, test suggestions, and other helps for both teachers and students. Crawford also worked with Daniel S. Mynatt and Kelley on The Masorah of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: Introduction and Annotated Glossary (Eerdmans, 1998). This text is a handy guide to the wide variety of textual comments in the margins of the BHS and likely needs to be updated as well.

Conclusion. This update to Page Kelley’s textbook is welcome. As with any detailed linguistic work, many unintended errors can creep in and Crawford’s hard work has eliminated many of these.  Most of the elements of the original grammar remain, which is good for Hebrew professors who have used Kelley’s textbook and do not like to change things in their classes. It is this retention of the original pedagogy which might give some Hebrew professors pause. It is possible busy professors will be attracted to a grammar with flashy teaching aids, test banks and videos. Kelley’s grammar has stood the test of time, but may need some digital help to compete in the twenty-first century.

Nevertheless, Kelley’s Biblical Hebrew is still my first choice for and introductory Hebrew class.

 

 

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

Hubbard Jr., Robert L. and J. Andrew Dearman. Introducing the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. 560 pp. Hb; $40.   Link to Eerdmans

This new textbook from Eerdmans intended to be an up-do-date and user friendly textbook usable in both undergraduate and graduate level classes. In fact, EerdWorld has already published Ten Reasons to use Introducing the Old Testament in your classroom. Robert L. Hubbard Jr. is professor emeritus of biblical literature at North Park Theological Seminary. He wrote the commentary on Ruth in the NICOT series (Eerdmans, 1988). Andrew Dearman is associate dean for Fuller Texas and professor of Old Testament. He wrote the commentary on Hosea in the NICOT series (Eerdmans 2010) and Jeremiah and Lamentations in the NIV Application Commentary series (Zondervan, 2002).

Two introductory chapters at the beginning of the volume. The first is a short introduction to the volume, the second intends to set Old Testament history in context. The authors provide an overall sketch of ancient Near Eastern history and briefly explains how historians date ancient events. They discuss how ancient history selects and interprets events using the Omride dynasty in Israel. The modern historian must draw on several streams of data (biblical texts, Assyrian and Moabite texts, archaeology) to understand this history more fully. The introduction deals with the contentious debate between “minimalist” who dismiss textual evidence in favor of archaeology and “maximalists” who favor the written record. The authors chart a middle course and argue for a 1250 B.C. Exodus, followed by no more than 150 years of tribal life before some form of monarchy emerging about 1100 B.C. The book concludes with a final chapter on the canon and text of the Hebrew Bible and a four-page glossary of key terms.

For each unit there is an introductory chapter for each unit (for example, “What is the Torah”). “What is Hebrew Poetry” is added to the unit on the prophets along with a chapter on the prophets in general, the unit on poetry has “What is Wisdom?” The authors provide a chapter on each book in the Hebrew Bible, although Genesis divided into primeval (Gen 1-11) and patriarchal history (Gen 12-50) and all the two-part books in the English Bible are combinesd. The twelve Minor Prophets are combined into four chapters of three books each. The authors re-order the Minor Prophets into logic units such as the three the eighth century prophets (Hosea Amos and Micah) and the three post-exilic prophets.

Each book is set into the context of the story of the whole Hebrew Bible using timelines charts and maps. Following a summary of the contents of the book the authors provide reading assignments with though provoking questions. For example, after reading 1 Kings 22, the student is asked to respond to the idea of God sending a “lying prophet.” How might this affect one’s view of God? (p. 190). For Leviticus, the student is asked to connect the instructions of Leviticus to God’s mission in the world: will these commands advance or impede God’s mission? (p. 82). These questions are well-designed for short papers or discussions in a classroom on online forum. Following the questions is a short bibliography directing students to more advanced studies.

The book is illustrated with a variety of tables, diagrams, maps and timelines. In addition, there are color photographs illustrating key archaeological finds and many examples modern art to illustrate a concept. For example, Vanitas Still Life by Hendrick Andriessen (1650) is used in Ecclesiastes. Too many times an introductory textbook is over-illustrated with photographs, sacrificing actual text. This is not the case for Interpreting the Old Testament.

With respect to content, although the authors do engage with modern scholarship, most of the material in this book will fit well in any classroom setting. They often simply avoid extremely controversial issues. For example, they discuss potential parallels between the creation and flood stories and other ancient Near Eastern myths. But there is no engagement of the highly charged issue of creation and science or the historicity of Adam. The bibliography points students to Walton’s Lost World of Genesis, but also Kenneth Matthews’s commentary on Genesis in the conservative NAC series. They do present Isaiah as a compendium written over 350 years (p. 282) but invite the student to reflect on why (or why not) this may be an important issue.

Any survey of the whole Hebrew Bible is open to the criticism of brevity. With so much material to cover, some chapters are less than ten pages including study questions and bibliography. Considering the book is printed with wide margins and frequent illustrations, some chapters are very brief indeed. Given the importance of Genesis 1-11 for the rest of the Hebrew Bible, there is less than six pages of actual text, and this is broken up by several illustration. However, this brevity allows the classroom teacher to fill-in material according to their own preferences.

Introducing the Old Testament achieves its goal to provide a readable and user-friendly textbook for an introduction to the Old Testament class. But the book ought to be useful for any individual or small group which desires to understand the overall flow of the story of the Old Testament as well as gain sufficient background to read these books with clarity.

 

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

 

Lee, John A. L. Douglas. Basics of Greek Accents. Grand Rapids, Mich. Zondervan, 2018. 110 pp. pb; $14.99. Link to Zondervan

Rarely does an introductory grammar devote much attention to Greek accents. For example Croy (Eerdmans 1999) lists five common rules occupying about a half-page. Although other rules exist and should not be ignored, Croy suggests they are best learned as they are encountered. In his extremely popular beginning grammar published by Zondervan, Mounce relegates the rules for accents to the “advanced information” section and only describes the three accents. For the rules, he suggests students consult his arcane Morphology of Biblical Greek. J. W. Wenham’s Elements of New Testament Greek (Cambridge, 1965) states accents “are to be completely ignored except on rare occasions (which will be mentioned as they arise)” (23). Someone might argue Greek accents are unimportant sine they do not appear in the earliest manuscripts (this was the opinion of an author who submitted an article to a journal I edit). On the other hand, D. A. Carson attempted to rehabilitate Greek accents in his Greek Accents: A Student Manual (Paternoster, 1981; Baker 1985). With 38 lessons over 167 pages (plus exercises), most students of New Testament Greek will slip into despair before mastering accents. At 472 pages (and $245 retail) it is unlikely anyone outside of a Ph.D. student will track down and read Probert’s Ancient Greek Accentuation (Oxford, 2006). Probert did publish a shorter guide (Bristol Classical Press, 2003), a mere 160 pages on ancient Greek accents.

John Lee’s new Basics of Greet Accents falls squarely between the view “accents are not all that important” and Carson’s manual. Lee is a Senior Research Fellow (honorary) attached to the Ancient History Department at Macquarie University where this little book had its origin. Lee suggestions “true competence in Greek cannot be attained without competence in Greek accents” (7). As someone who works regularly in the Greek New Testament, there is some truth to the statement. Greek simply looks wrong if it is printed without accents, and it is very difficult to pronounce properly unless the student pays attention to how the word is accented.

There are eight lessons in this manual, although the eighth contains advanced information rarely encountered in the New Testament (accenting optative, Epic and lesbian dialects, etc.) The first chapter covers the basic rules found in most basic grammars, Lessons 2, 3 and 5 deal with verbs, nouns and adjectives. Lesson 4 focuses on “function words” (demonstratives, articles, etc.)  Lessons 6 and 7 deal with contractions and enclitics. Each lesson has several examples for class discussion followed by an in-class exercise and a homework assignment. Each section has six lines of unaccented Greek words, the student should employ the rules and provide accents for each word. Later lessons contain a short paragraph. I looked over a few examples, and immediately went looking for the answer key in the back of the book (pages 73-85).

The book concludes with four examples drawn from ancient Greek manuscripts: Homer, Iliad 8.433, 435-47 (first or second century papyri); LXX Isaiah 13:3-8 (sixth century Codex Marchalianus); Romans 14:22-23, 16:25-27 (Michigan Ms. 34, fourteenth century); Demosthenes, On the Crown, 119-120 (an 1807 manuscript). Lee provides a photograph of the manuscript followed by a few paragraph of comments and a transcription. This wide range of dates allows the student to track the development of accents and other diacritical marks. These four illustrations are fascinating although I would have preferred additional examples from New Testament papyri given the target audience of this book. It would also be useful for Zondervan to host high resolution photographs for professors to use in a classroom.

Conclusion. Basics of Greet Accents is a handy guide to accents and is an inexpensive add-on to any first year course in biblical Greek. Most New Testament scholars will find this book a helpful refresher and set of exercise to sharpen Greek skills.

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

Hudson, Robert. The Monk’s Record Player: Thomas Merton, Bob Dylan, and the Perilous Summer of 1966. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. 249 pp. Hb; $23.99.   Link to Eerdmans

In his foreword to this new book, David Dalton confesses that his first impression of a book on Thomas Merton and Bob Dylan was “just plain perverse or at the very least willfully paradoxical.” Pairing two polar opposites sometimes generates intriguing discussion, but are Thomas Merton and Bob Dylan “opposites”? They seem like they inhabit different universes. On the surface, writing a book on the two seems so strange and to subtitle the book “the Perilous Summer of 1966” seems oddly specific.

There will be some readers who love Thomas Merton but have no idea what to think of Bob Dylan and his nasal tones. There will be other readers who are intimately familiar with Bob Dylan’s career but will need to spend some time on Wikipedia to figure out who in the world Thomas Merton was. Both have a fiercely loyal fandom, both have generated significant secondary literature studying every word they have written from every conceivable angle.

I will admit, I am solidly on the side of the Bob Dylan fanatics. I remember hearing Dylan when I was a child and being captivated with his lyrics and strange mystery tramp image. I remember a fifth grade teacher having the class sing Blowin’ in the Wind, “How many times must the cannonball fly?” One of the first records I bought as a teenager was the live album Hard Rain, and like most people my age his Blood on the Tracks was a favorite. Dylan’s spiritual awaking in the late 1970s paralleled my own. As an adult I have seen Dylan in concert twenty-five times, purchased all his albums in several different formats and tracked down elusive bootlegs and “field recordings.” I have been asked to lecture in a popular music class on the impact of Bob Dylan on American culture.

But Thomas Merton was a mystery to me before reading Hudson’s book. I had a vague idea he was an important writer in Catholic circles, but I had never read anything by him, nor would I be likely to given my Protestant commitments. When I first saw the promotional material for this book, my only thought was “he was a monk, right”? He was, but he was so much more. Beyond his voluminous spiritual writings, Merton was a poet, he wrote on social issues including atomic weapons and the Vietnam War, he was interested in Buddhist monasticism and building bridges between Catholicism and eastern religions. And in 1965, he discovered Bob Dylan’s music and he was immediately hooked. In fact, Dylan influenced Merton to write Cables to the Ace, a collection of poetry which might perplex a Merton fan, but would be quite familiar to Dylan fans in 1965.

Merton and Dylan never met, although Merton reached out to him several times. Even so, Hudson tracks Merton’s fascination with Dylan during a period in Merton’s life which included his retreat to a hermitage but also his well-known affair. At the same time, Dylan was imploding after becoming the new “voice of a generation” in the early sixties. Dylan “went electric” in 1965 and embarked on a world tour which tested his limits. After a near fatal motorcycle accident in 1966, Dylan too retreated to a farm in Woodstock to raise his kids and contemplate his life and fame.

Both Merton and Dylan struggled to live out a contemplative life. Although Merton thought he was called to live as a hermit, Hudson narrates Merton’s struggle to be separate from the world, including an affair with the much younger Margie Smith. Merton also met Vietnamese Zen master and peace activist Thích Nhất Hạnh. In 1966, Joan Baez and Ira Sandperl visited Merton and encouraged him to teach at Sandperl’s Institute for the Study of Nonviolence. Dylan’s time on his farm in Woodstock was also a struggle since his longtime manager pushed for new material. Dylan wrote dozens of songs and collaborated with The Band in a series of recording sessions. The result was the first real bootleg album, the Great White Wonder, prompting the release of Dylan’s Basement Tapes and the Band’s Music from the Big Pink. Hardly a contemplative life on the farm!

So there are some parallels, and Hudson masterfully narrates the last years of Merton’s life, including his obsession with Bob Dylan. Merton was no desert monk, he had a record player in his hermitage and he played three Bob Dylan albums (Another Side of Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde). Like many people who have encountered Dylan’s music and lyrics, the words resonated with Merton where he was at the time and shaped some of his poetry as well as opening up his thinking to new ways to communicate.

Hudson’s book is a good introduction to Merton for non-Merton readers, and might encourage a few non-Dylan fans to pick up some of Dylan’s early recordings. Although the book seems like an odd mash-up of unrelated characters, Hudson’s narrative invites the reader into the word of the mid-1960s as Merton deals with his own passions through the lens of Bob Dylan.

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

Verhoef, Pieter A. The Books of Haggai and Malachi. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. 364 pp. Pb; $40.   Link to Eerdmans

Pieter Verhoef’s commentary on Haggai and Malachi was originally published in 1987 as part of the NICOT series. Verhoef was replaced in the series by Mignon R. Jacobs in 2017 (reviewed here). Still a valuable and oft-cited commentary, Eerdmans has moved this to their Classic Bible Commentaries series.

The Haggai commentary runs about 150 pages, Malachi about 200 pages. Since Verhoef is South African scholar he interacts with more South African, Dutch, and German secondary literature than most commentaries published in North America. Most of the bibliography pre-dates 1984, but this is less of a problem since there have been only a few major commentaries in the last 35 years on these two obscure prophetic books. Until Mignon R. Jacobs replacement volume in the NICOT, the best commentaries for these books were Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers on Haggai and Andrew E. Hill on Malachi (both in the Anchor series), Richard A. Taylor on Haggai and Malachi (NAC) and Hans Walter Wolff  in the Continental series (published in 1986 in German; 1987 in English).

For both books, Verhoef provides an introduction with the usual introductory material. Not much can be said about the prophets as individuals, and Malachi may not even be the name of the prophet (the name means “my messenger” and can be understood as a title rather than a personal name). For both books Verhoef deals with matters of authorship and unity, concluding the books do reflect the preaching of a real prophet and arguing for the unity of the over against source-critical theories.

Verhoef places each book into the context of Ezra-Nehemiah. For Haggai, he is active prior to the restoration of the Temple and his prophecies are dated to 520 B.C. For Verhoef, Malachi is likely the last prophetic voice in the Hebrew Bible. The prophet was active between the two visits of Nehemiah, shortly after 433 B.C. In his sketches of the background of these two prophets, Verhoef provides the necessary context to understand the prophetic encouragement to restore the Temple and for the people to devote themselves to wholehearted obedience.

The body of the commentary begins each section with a translation of the pericope with detailed notes on the text (citing variations found in the LXX, Peshitta, Targumim and Vulgate). A short section follows setting the pericope into the context of the book, then Verhoef proceeds through the text phrase-by-phrase. All Hebrew appears in transliteration and he often deals with matters of syntax and grammar. Footnotes cite secondary literature, although he often agrees with various commentaries on a particular issue.

One of the main problems in Haggai is the status of Zerubbabel as the Lord’s signet ring (Hag 2:20-23). These final words of the book are often described as an apocalyptic hope for the restoration of the kingdom of David. If this is true, then Haggai appears to be a failed prophet since there is no restoration of a Davidic Kingdom and Zerubbabel more or less disappears from the history after 520. Verhoef deals with this problem by reading Haggai 2:20-23 as a kind of typology foreshadowing the first and second coming of Christ (p. 149).

Verhoef reads these two prophets from a Christian perspective, often drawing some conclusion at the end of a section which illuminates the New Testament. Some scholars would say Haggai has no Christian theology, a view Verhoef strenuously denies. For example, in dealing with marriage and divorce in Malachi 2:10-16, he comments briefly on Jesus’s view of divorce in Matthew 19 as well as Paul’s teaching on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 and the “profound mystery of marriage” in Ephesians 5:22-33.  Although these short conclusions are not really “guides for preaching Haggai,” they do serve as canonical bridges, opening up the possibility of a Christian reading of these two prophetic books.

There are not many exegetical commentaries on Haggai or Malachi. Unfortunately commentaries in the Minor Prophets are often brief and published in one or two volumes. Although now an older work, Verhoef’s commentary on these two overlooked prophets remains a valuable resource for students of the Minor Prophets and the early post-exilic period.

 

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

 

Osborne, Grant R.  Revelation: Verse by Verse. Osborne New Testament Commentaries; Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2017. 417 pp.; Pb.  $19.99  Link to Lexham Press

This short commentary on Revelation by Osborne is part of his series published by Lexham Press in both print and Logos Library editions. As of December 2017, six of the commentaries have been published. I have also reviewed Osborne’s Romans, Galatians, and Prison Epistle commentaries.

Osborne wrote the Baker Exegetical Commentary on Revelation (Baker 2002) and his interpretive methodology to Revelation is similar in this shorter commentary. In the 2002 commentary he stated on the first page of the introduction his approach would use elements of both preterism and futurism. Preterism takes the symbols of Revelation as referring to events in the recent past or present of the original readers. Futurism takes most of the symbols in Revelation as predictions of events in a coming tribulation period just prior to the return of Jesus. Idealism interprets the symbols as referring to the general struggle between good and evil and the ongoing challenge for the church in society.

For example, Revelation is talking about the Roman Empire, but it is also talking about the future judgment the ultimate Roman Empire. In his exegetical commentary, Osborne defined apocalyptic as “the present is addressed through parallels with the future” (p. 22). But Osborne also sees value in a third approach to Revelation which interprets the symbols generally as referring to the ongoing struggle of Christians in an evil world (usually called “idealism”). By combining all three of these interpretive strategies to Revelation Osborne demonstrates Revelation had a clear application to the original readers as well as readers who live closer to the Second Coming of Christ, but also to all Christians in any historical and cultural context.

With respect to other often debated issues in Revelation, Osborne accepts the traditional view that the John of Revelation is the apostle, John the son of Zebedee. He dates the book to the reign of Domitian (A.D. 81-96) rather than to the reign of Nero. The earlier date has become more popular in recent years, especially among preterists who argue Revelation refers to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. During the reign of Domitian the province of Asia Minor experienced a surge of pro-Roman sentiment as well as further development of the imperial cult. As with his earlier commentary, Osborne sees this as background for many of the symbols in Revelation.

As with the other volumes in this Verse-by-Verse Commentary series, Osborne provides an outline in the introduction which becomes the chapters for the rest of the book. In general, this works out to one short chapter of commentary for each chapter of Revelation. He then works through the chapter commenting briefly on each verse. Although his comments certainly reflect an understanding of the Greek text, he limits his comments to the English text of Revelation. Likewise, he has certainly read secondary literature, but there are no footnotes to other commentaries on Revelation. When he contrasts several views he does so generally. For example, commenting on the 1000-year kingdom in Revelation 20, he contrasts premillennialism with post- and a- millennialism. His brief explanation is clear and does not need to be supplemented with citations of representatives of each view. This makes for a very readable commentary for the layperson using the book as a supplement to personal Bible study or in a small group context.

There are many symbols in Revelation which generate extensive discussion and debate. For the sake of this review, I will use an example drawn from Revelation 13, the mark of the beast. Osborne explains the practice of using letters for numbers and offers four possibilities for interpreting the number 666. In the 2002 exegetical commentary he offered five options, in the shorter he omits taking the number as chronological, linked to some future empire. He suggests the number refers to a world leader, likely Nero Caesar in Hebrew, but he is not dogmatic in the issue since there is merit to the view 666 is a repetition of a number symbolizing man’s failure. With respect to interpretation, Osborne points out John’s original readers would have seen the name and number of the beast as an allusion to the imperial cult (a preterist view), but all Christians ought to be warned against false teachers (“antichrists”) are remain vigilant as the world turns against the church (an idealist view). But he also says this will “culminate in a final ‘great tribulation’ (7:14) at the close of human history when the antichrist appears and establishes an ‘unholy Roman Empire’ with the false prophet the head of a ‘one-world religion’” (p. 236). This is a clear statement of a futurist interpretation of the mark of the beast.

This blending of approaches will not satisfy everyone. Interpreters of Revelation who are entrenched preterists will reject Osborne’s futurism, but futurists (especially classic dispensationalists) may find Osborne’s references to the Roman Empire or Imperial Cult distracting. In the end I think Osborne balances the three approaches to Revelation in a way which grounds the book in the real world of first century Asia Minor with clear application to the present experience of the church. This avoids dangers of a thoroughgoing futurism which makes the book irrelevant for the church today.

Conclusion. As with the other commentaries in this series, Osborne’s Verse-by-Verse Commentary will serve pastors and teachers as they prepare sermons on the text of the Bible. Osborne’s goal for this book is “to help pastors faithfully exposit the text in a sermon.” Osborne achieves his goal of providing a scholarly yet readable commentary on Revelation.

 

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.

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