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Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the BibleThe Logos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” for April is E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible (IVP, 2012). You may recall their recent Paul Behaving Badly (IVP 2016). When I reviewed that book several people told me they had read Misreading Scripture and found it to be an excellent and challenging book. In my own teaching I have always tried to set the text in the proper context, not only the context of the Bible but also the proper cultural context. This book is a good introduction to some of the important cultural and social realities an informed Bible reader needs to understand in order to read the Bible without imposing modern, western assumptions on the ancient, eastern text.

In addition to the free book, Logos is offering Christopher A. Hall’s Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers (IVP, 1996).  EDIT: Logos changed the “almost free book of the month” to Kenneth Bailey’s  Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels.  This is an excellent book which sets Jesus’s life and ministry into its cultural context. It is also a great companion volume to Misreading Scripture.

Until April 30, you can enter (several times) to win the 29-volume set of Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Complete Set Updated Edition (ACCS).

Since Logos Basic is now free, there is really no excuse for not adding these two excellent books to your Logos library.

Image result for fortress press this risen existence by paula gooderThe Logos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” for March has an Easter theme. During the month of March, you can download This Risen Existence: The Spirit of Easter (Fortress 2015) by Paula Gooder for your Logos library. The book contains seven chapters for the weeks leading up to Easter, including one each on the four Gospels, the resurrection in the Epistles, one chapter on the ascension and a final chapter on Pentecost

In addition to the free book, Logos is offering Dennis Ngien’s Fruit for the Soul: Luther on the Lament Psalms (Fortress, 2015). This  373 page book studies the importance of the the lament Psalms for Luther’s theology. The book reviews Luther;s theological reading of Psalms 6, 51, 77, 90, 94, and 11.

Logos is also giving away one set of their Fortress Lutheran Library Expansion Bundle (30 volumes, $778 value). There are several ways to enter, but the giveaway ends April 30.

romans-debateIt is time to draw a name for The Romans Debate, Revised and Expanded Edition (1991, Baker Academic). This book is a brand new paperback (with a remainder mark) and is my own copy.

There were 24 people signed up (I allowed only one entry per person). I took each of your names, sorted randomly and then pasted them into Excel. Random.org gave me a number between 1-28, and the winner is…..

Rubén de Rus

Congratulations to Rubén, better luck next time for the rest of you. Rubén should contact me privately with his shipping info, I will get the book out tomorrow.

I at least one more book to give away, so look for another post later today.

 

 

 

romans-debateThis week I am giving away a copy of The Romans Debate, Revised and Expanded Edition (1991, Baker Academic). This collection of essays on Romans was first published in 1977 and then reprinted and expanded in 1991 by Hendricksen. The current printing of the book is under from Baker Academic. This is one of the best resources for anyone doing serious work in Romans.  The book collects key essays in the book of Romans from as early as 1962. All of the essays were published elsewhere, but this 372 page volume makes them available with a full set of indices.

This book is a brand new paperback (with a remainder mark) and is my own copy.

Same rules as last week: Enter by leaving a comment telling me which essay you will read first. On Tuesday January 16 I will randomly select one comment and ship the book out to the lucky winner. If you leave more than one comment, I will only count one comment per person for the contest.

Good Luck!

 

Table of Contents:

  • St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans–and Others, T. W. Manson
  • The Letter to the Romans as Paul’s Last Will and Testament, Gunther Bornkamm
  • Paul’s Purpose in Writing the Epistle to the Romans, Gunter Klein
  • A Short Note on Romans 16, Karl Paul Donfried
  • The Letter to Jerusalem, Jacob Jervell
  • Romans 14:1-15:13 and the Occasion of Romans, Robert J. Karris
  • The Jewish Community in Ancient Rome and the Origins of Roman Christianity, Wolfgang Wiefel
  • False Presuppositions in the Study of Romans, Karl Paul Donfried
  • The Occasion of Romans: A Response to Prof. Donfried, Robert J. Karris
  • Paul’s Rhetoric of Argumentation in Romans: An Alternative to the Donfried-Karris Debate Over Romans, Wilhelm Wuellner
  • The Form and Function of the Greek Letter-Essay, Martin Luther Stirewalt, Jr.

Part II
Section A: Historical and Sociological Factors

  • The Romans Debate, F. F. Bruce
  • Purpose and Occasion of Romans Again, A. J. M. Wedderburn
  • The Two Roman Congregations: Romans 14:1-15:13, Francis Watson
  • The Roman Christians of Romans 16, Peter Lampe
  • The Purpose of Romans, Peter Stuhlmacher

Section B The Structure and Rhetoric of Romans

  • The Formal and Theological Coherence of Romans, James D. G. Dunn
  • Romans III as a Key to the Structure and Thought of Romans, William S. Campbell
  • Following the Argument of Romans, Robert Jewett
  • Romans as a Logos Protreptikos, David E. Aune

Section C The Theology of Romans: Issues in the Current Debate

  • The New Perspective on Paul: Paul and the Law, James D. G. Dunn
  • Israel’s Misstep in the Eyes of Paul, Lloyd Gaston
  • The Faithfulness of God and the Priority of Israel in Paul’s Letter to the Romans, J. C. Beker
  • The Theme of Romans, Peter Stuhlmacher

 

bbr1The Logos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” is really a Journal.  For the month of January, you can add the first issue of the Bulletin for Biblical Research, published by the Institute for Biblical Research in 1991. According to the then editor of the journal Bruce Chilton, “the Institute for Biblical Research has launched the Bulletin for Biblical Research as an instrument for understanding the religious senses of scripture. The aim is to publish articles which are both fully critical and generally accessible to the scholarly community.”

The articles include in this issue are:

  • Robert L. Hubbard, “The Go’el in Ancient Israel: Theological Reflections on an Israelite Institution”
  • Richard S. Hess, “Lamech in the Genealogies of Genesis”
  • Ellen F. Davis, “Self-Consciousness and Conversation: Reading Genesis 22”
  • H. G. M. Williamson, “Ezra and Nehemiah in the Light of the Texts from Persepolis”
  • Jacob Neusner, “Uncleanness: A Moral or an Ontological Category in the Early Centuries A.D.?”
  • Marianne Meye Thompson, “Signs and Faith in the Fourth Gospel”
  • Darrell L. Bock, “The Son of Man in Luke 5:24”
  • E. Earle Ellis, “‘The End of the Earth’ (Acts 1:8)”

The are all substantial articles from recognized scholars. Be sure to add this volume to your Logos library. In fact, if you are interested in serious biblical research, you should consider adding all twenty-four BBR volumes!

hemer-actsFor only $1.99, you can purchase Colin J. Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. This book was originally published in 1989 in the WUNT series, this electronic version is the third printing from Eisenbrauns (2008).  The book retails for $40 and is well worth that price, let alone the mere $2 for the Logos version in January.

The contents include:

  • Chapter 1:  Acts and Historicity
  • Chapter 2, Preliminary Questions including the Unity and Genre of Luke-Acts, The Meaning of Historicity
  • Chapter 3: Ancient Historiography, inclduing a section on Luke and Josephus
  • Chapter 4: Types of Knowledge Displayed in Acts
  • Chapter 5: Evidence from Historical Details in Acts
  • Chapter 6: Acts and Epistles, including the ‘Theological Disparity’ between Paul and Luke
  • Chapter 7: Galatia and the Galatians
  • Chapter 8: The Authorship and Sources of Acts
  • Chapter 9: The Date of Acts
  • Appendix 1: Speeches and Miracles in Acts
  • Appendix 2: The ‘God-fearers’

Thanks to Eisenbrauns and Logos for making these resources available. Be sure to get the books before January 31, 2017!

 

Holladay, Carl R. Acts: A Commentary. NTL; Minneapolis: Westminster John Knox, 2016. lxiv + 608 pages; Hb. $75.00.  Link to Westminster John Knox Press

There have been several significant contributions to the New Testament Library series from Westminster John Knox in recent years (Marianne Meye Thompson on John and Eugene Boring’s 1-2 Thessalonians, for example). Carl Holladay continues this tradition with this readable and useful commentary on the book of Acts. Although several new commentaries on Acts have appeared in recently, including Keener’s massive four-volume work, Holladay’s commentary provides a balance of exegesis and background to the Acts without overwhelming the reader with details which may not illuminate the text.

holladay-actsA seventy-page introduction covers more than the usual authorship and date issues. Holladay considers Luke and Acts as a literary unit from a single author “possibly, but not certainly, Luke the physician” (5). He does not proved evidence for the literary unity until the end of the introduction, offering a few themes which run through both Luke and Acts. He does not engage any recent challenges to the literary unity of the books (Patricia Walter, for example) or the canonical problem that Luke and Acts do not seem to have ever circulated together. He simply points to the (obvious) evidence which supports the consensus view Luke and Acts were intended to be read as a unity.

The author is a “devoted Paulinist who was not only an admirer of Paul but also a strong advocate for his pioneering role in the church’s formative period” (6). Although any date between A.D. 60 and 180 is possible, he assumes sometime after the fall of Jerusalem, possibly sometime in the 80s. If Acts reflects knowledge of Josephus, the date would have to be closer to A.D. 100. With respect to genre, Acts is a history, but “we must be cautious against simply historicizing the Acts account” (13).

Holladay devotes sixteen pages to the textual history of Acts, identifying the major textual witnesses to Acts and classifying them into four categories. His fourth category is essentially the expansive Codex D (Bezae). This version of Acts dates to about A.D. 400 and is about 10% longer than the Alexandrian text. Sometimes the text is expanded to edify readers, other times there is a theological motivation (anti-Judaism, for example). But most often Codex D simply fleshes out details absent in the other textual traditions. This has led to the suggestion of two textual traditions for Acts. For some both were written by Luke (the shorter being the final, edited form, perhaps made after Luke’s death), or only the shorter comes from Luke with the longer expanded by incorporating notes on Acts into the manuscript. Holladay concludes that neither the short or long texts are directly traceable to Luke, but the short text is earlier (30).

With respect to literary structure, Holladay admits a three-stage geographical outline for the book makes sense, but it oversimplifies matters. Acts 1:8 indicates the disciples will be witnesses in “Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth,” foreshadowing chapters 1-7 (in Jerusalem), 8-12 (in Samaria and Judea) and finally 13-28 (the Pauline mission to the rest of the world). What this common structure overlooks is Paul’s back-and-forth movements from the east to the west, eventually returning to Jerusalem before being sent to Caesarea for two years and then on to Rome. Holladay suggests the story line of Acts is God’s activity beginning in Jerusalem as the center of Christianity to Rome as the “symbolic center of the gentile church” (32). But the focus is also on only some of the apostles, “effectively eliminating Johannine Christianity.”

Holladay argues Luke’s literary style is a clue to his theological purposes. Beginning with Luke’s redaction of Mark, Holladay points out that Luke consistently rewrites Mark’s colloquiums in order to appeal to more educated readers. Like other contemporary writers, Luke likes to use rare words, subtle Geek grammar and syntax, and litotes (emphasizing something by intentionally understating it, such as calling Tarsus “not an insignificant city). Luke frequent imitates the Septuagint as he narrates stories. The use of the phrase “it came to pass,” for example, reflects the Septuagint’s translation of the common Hebrew verb used to introduce a new story.

Since as much as 30% of Acts are speeches, Holladay offers a short introduction to Luke’s literary and theological strategies implied by his use of speeches. Ancient historians regularly included speeches woven into their narratives which often convey the writer’s own agenda. The example of Eleazer’s speech at Masada in Josephus’s Jewish War is a prime example. Josephus could not have any eyewitness of what was actually said, so the speech reflects the gist of what must have been said to achieve the known result. Although Luke did not have to create speeches out of nothing (as Josephus did in this example), the speeches in the book are theological summaries of how the apostles preached to the Jews, or how Paul approached gentiles living in Athens. Often Christological titles are embedded in speeches which imitate the language of the Old Testament (43). For Holladay, “each speech is composed ‘in character’ to fit the respective portraits of Peter and Paul (46).

The final section of the introduction is a twenty page survey of Luke’s theological themes in Acts divided into five categories. First, Holladay describes Luke’s interest in the fulfillment of God’s purpose and intent. This is a continuation of the promise-fulfillment scheme prominent in Luke. The community which formed around Jesus the messiah is a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (50). But Luke does not see the church as a “new Israel” or is the category “Israel” used to understand the church (51). Second, Acts presents the church as faithful Christian witnesses in both the context of early Christian preaching and in scriptural promise-fulfillment. Third, Luke presents the early church as politically harmless yet socially redemptive (56). Roman authorities see the church as an extension of Judaism (a sect of the Nazarenes) who are often peaceful victims of violence. Christianity is portrayed as a socially constructive community which has characteristics appearing to culturally sophisticated Hellenists (57). Fourth, the church as an extension of Jesus’s ministry as it suffers persecution as a result of preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ. Finally, Luke describes the church as divinely favored. The “God who acts” works through Holy Spirit to foster a generous community of the Holy Spirit (67).

The body of the commentary present each pericope as translated by Holladay with lexical and textual notes following. All Greek appears in transliteration and syntactical issues are minimal. Holladay’s exposition sets the text in historical context. For example, when introducing Paul’s time in Ephesus, Holladay offers two pages of background material necessary for understanding the story Luke tells. Recent commentaries on Acts have tended to expand this background material beyond what is necessary, much of which can be found in a quality Bible Dictionary in the first place.

Footnotes in the body of the commentary cite parallel biblical material, lexical notes, parallel ancient works (for example, Josephus), geographical notes, and occasional reference to secondary literature. Since the New Testament Library focuses on the interpretation of the text rather than surveying various opinions in other commentaries, reference to secondary literature rare in the commentary. This lack of constant reference to other commentaries makes for a reading commentary and ought not to imply the author has no knowledge of “the literature” on the book of Acts. Holladay has certainly done the work required to read the text of Acts with clarity.

Because there are three versions of Paul’s conversion in Acts, Holladay offers a nineteen page excursus on Saul’s conversion/call (203-222). He recognizes the event has elements of both a conversion and a prophetic call and uses the double expression throughout the excursus. Although there are variations between the accounts, Holladay points out four key common elements (Paul as a persecutor, the Damascus Road experience, the risen Lord’s commission to Saul and Paul’s subsequent preaching activity). He compares this composite narrative to the version of Paul’s conversion found in Galatians 1:13-24. There are several differences, especially in terms of Paul’s response to his vision. In Galatians he immediately preaches in the Synagogues and for three years in Arabia before finally coming to Jerusalem to briefly become acquainted with the Apostles. Holladay considers this “quite remarkable” (216) and he tends to follow Stendahl’s suggestion that in Galatians Paul presents his experience as a prophetic call while Luke emphasizes the Damascus Road experience. More important that sorting out the historical data is Luke’s theological understanding of Paul’s conversion/call. Luke understands the story of Saul’s persecution as authentic and his preaching as originating from the moment of his calling. For Holladay, although Paul is not formally called an apostle, he is accepted by the apostles and his mission to the Gentiles comes out of Jerusalem as opposed to Antioch.

Conclusion. Carl Holladay has made a significant contribution to the study of the book of Acts, although falling short of the recent encyclopedic commentaries on the book. The result is a commentary useful for both professionals and laymen as the preach and teach the book of Acts

 

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

Published on December 18, 2016 on Reading Acts.

Dunn, James D. G. The Acts of the Apostles. Foreword by Scot McKnight. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2016. 421 pp. Pb; $32.   Link to Eerdmans  

Dunn Epworth

Seriously?

This is not a new commentary from Dunn, but a reprint of the 1996 Epworth commentary. Unfortunately the book has been out of print for many years and is often outrageously overpriced from some book sellers (this is not the case for any other out of print Epworth commentary as far as I can tell). I happened to buy my copy at a local store for a reasonable price, but for most the commentary has been inaccessible. Some material from that commentary ended up in Dunn’s Beginning at Jerusalem (Eerdmans, 2009).

When I published my Top Five Commentaries on the Book of Acts in 2012 I included Beginning at Jerusalem simply because it was more comprehensive and easer to purchase than the Epworth volume. With the reprinting of this Dunn-Acts-of-the-Apostlescommentary students of the book of Acts have access to a deceptively simple commentary on Acts. This is a commentary which provides what is necessary to understand the book of Acts without becoming overwhelmed a thousand details.

As McKnight says in his introduction, there are several massive commentaries available, including the exhaustive four-volume set by Craig Keener (Baker, 2012-2015). It is something of a shock to realize Dunn’s commentary is less than 10% of Keener’s page count, and Keener’s volumes are larger in page size. One might ask in the post-Keener world of Acts commentary, is anything left to say? Simply put, Dunn wrote before Keener was first published, so one might ask, was there anything left to say after Dunn? Although his commentary does not have the encyclopedic breadth of the Keener commentary, it is the sort of commentary a pastor or Bible teacher can use to prepare sermons and Bible studies. Dunn’s commentary is more like what commentaries looked like before publishers became willing to print 4000 pages on a book like Acts.

Every section begins on the same page as the earlier volume, so students will be able to check this new edition even if the older edition is cited. I noticed some very small differences in the typesetting where a single word or two at the end of a page runs over to the next, but this will not affect citation. After spot checking ten chapters late in the book, I noticed the copyright page indicates the book is retypeset and new maps added, but pagination is the same. In fact, this is neither a “second edition” nor a revised edition, it is a reprint of the original with very little change. The introduction is about a page longer (using Roman numerals), updating the bibliography to include many of the major commentaries which have appear since 1996.

In his brief introduction to commentary, Dunn recognizes Luke is a history, but not a history in the modern sense of the word. Luke went beyond simply reporting and passing along tradition; he felt free to elaborate, expand and interpret those traditions. This is not to say Luke has created unadulterated fiction. With respect to the speeches, Dunn concludes Luke followed the ancient conventions used by Thucydides and other historians. Like the Gospel of Luke, the theology of the book reflects early Christian preaching, but theology filtered through Luke’s unique concerns.

The body of the commentary progresses through the book in small units, sometimes a few verses other sections include whole paragraphs. His commentary is on the English text and he does not interact with the Greek at all. There are no footnotes or in-text citations in the commentary. This may be a cause for concern given recent plagiarism controversies, but this was the style of the original commentary. This makes for an extremely readable commentary. Since Dunn is not concerned with the minutiae of the text, one could read this commentary like a monograph. Although occasionally brief, Dunn using gives enough detail to help the reader make sense of what Luke is saying.

Conclusion. I agree with McKnight’s very brief forward to this volume recommending this short yet powerful commentary. Eerdmans is to be applauded for bringing this commentary back into print.

 

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

Orlando, Robert. Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe. Eugene Ore.: Cascade Books, 2014. 174 pp. Pb; $23.   Link to Wipf & Stock

A “Polite Bribe” refers to Paul’s collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Robert Orlando’s thesis is that Paul needed the approval of Jerusalem in order to continue to preach the Gospel. He therefore agreed to give a gift to the Jerusalem church in exchange for their approval to preach his Gospel to the Gentiles.

Orlando understands one of the main problems for Paul was his continual “battle with this sense of legitimacy as an apostle and as a missionary to the Gentiles” (xxiii). As Polite Bribeevidence for this is the Galatians 2, Paul’s conflict with “men from James” and the subsequent rejection of table fellowship by Barnabas and Peter. Orlando paints a vivid picture of Paul’s Gospel as radical and “counterintuitive” to the majority of early (Jewish) Christians (29).

There does seem to be a deep division between James as a leader of the Jerusalem church, Peter as a missionary along the fringes of Judaism and Paul, who was appointed by Jesus to go directly to the Gentiles. In Acts, Luke does tend to smooth over these divisions in favor of presenting the early church as more united than perhaps it really was. The Antioch Incident (Galatians 2), the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s arrest after he returned to Jerusalem with the Collection (Acts 21:17-22:29) are all evidence of a sharp struggle between Paul and other early Christians who considered the Law as required even for Gentiles. This is especially a problem when Jews and Gentiles shared meals and celebrated Communion together.

At the heart of Orlando’s thesis is his assumption Paul needed (or wanted) approval from the original apostles. There are two problems with this assumption. Is there any evidence the original Twelve or James had an interest in appointing additional apostles? When Judas died he was replaced, but this is prior to Pentecost (Acts 1). After James the son of Zebedee is killed in Acts 12, there appears to be no effort to replace him as one of the Twelve. When there is need for leadership among the Hellenistic Jews in Jerusalem, they are told to appoint their own leaders (who are not called apostles, Acts 6). It is not as though the Twelve constitute a governing body for the church who have the authority to authorize preachers of the Gospel.

Second, a fair reading of Galatians 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 10-11 should be enough evidence to indicate Paul was not overly concerned what the Jerusalem church thought of his mission to the Gentiles. He claims an independent apostleship based on his encounter with Jesus. I agree he would have preferred to have the “right hand of fellowship” from Jerusalem, but he does not seem to have ever claimed to be working under the authority of Jerusalem, the Twelve, or James.

Orlando’s most remarkable suggestion that James and the original apostles required a monetary gift in exchange for their approval of Paul as an apostle. He describes this as a kind of Temple Tax imposed on Gentiles to assist the poor, James had his followers in Jerusalem (59). It is true James asked Paul to remember the poor, the very thing Paul was “eager to do “(Gal 2:10). It is even probably the case James understood the “poor” to be his Jerusalem church which was still living in common in anticipation of the return of Christ. But to describe this as a price paid for authorization to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles runs far past what the evidence could prove. Paul does not hurry back to Jerusalem in Acts 20-21 in order to offer a bribe to James, but to arrive on the day of Pentecost with a gift from the Gentile churches. He wants to evoke memories of the Day of Pentecost from Acts 2 when the Spirit of God was first poured out on the Jewish believers. For Paul, the Collection is a first-fruits offering from the Gentiles to those who were followers of Jesus from the beginning.

Orlando is indebted to the old History of Religions view that Paul adapted Greek and Roman myth better present the Gospel to Gentiles. For example, he says on several occasions Paul used the dying and rising god myths from Greek mystery religions (85), stating that Paul need “secret wisdom in order to avoid critique: in the public square. As a result this commitment to Paul’s adoption of Mithraism, he often misses the Jewish foundations of Paul’s theology. One result of the explosion of studies in the tradition of the New Perspective on Paul is an awareness of just how Jewish Paul remained after his so-called conversion. Orlando’s presentation on circumcision, for example, is described in terms of modern practices which were not necessarily present in the first century (metzizah b’peh, for example).

There are several bold assertions which would be hard to support from evidence. Orlando explains Paul’s desire to launch a final journey to Spain, the “end of the known world” as an attempt to “trigger the second coming of Christ” (84). For Orlando, this is in fact Paul’s motivation for dispensing with food laws and circumcision for Gentiles, God was about to “dissolve the distinctions between Jew and Greek in the Kingdom” (37). It would be very difficult to support this assertion from the letters of Paul or the book of Acts, and “dissolving the distinction between Jew and Gentile” is not part of any Second Temple period Jewish expectations for the coming Kingdom! Fourth Ezra, for example, sees no future for Gentiles in the Kingdom at all (nor for most Jews, for that matter).

According to Orlando, Paul was dispatched to Antioch to work as a protégé under Barnabas in Antioch (35), although in Acts Barnabas seeks out Paul because Gentiles are responding to the Gospel in Antioch (Acts 11:25-26). For some reason Orlando omits the mission to Cypress in Acts 13. Luke uses the symbolic miracle, Paul’s blinding of Bar-Jesus, to indicate a shift from Barnabas to Paul. Luke then follows that miracle with a detailed synagogue sermon which presents Paul’s understanding of what God is doing in the present age. Rather than focus on this data, Orlando describes a breach between Paul and Barnabas: “he’d had enough” of Paul and returned to Antioch where he eroded Paul’s relationship with the church (44). It is not Barnabas who leaves Paul, but John Mark. Paul and Barnabas continue as partners through the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and only split when Barnabas insists on restoring John Mark to the ministry team.

Assuming an imprisonment in Ephesus, Orlando asserts Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from prison in a state of despair, “possibly a loss of faith” (93), which he suggests is akin to a “nervous breakdown” (the title of the chapter, although he never quite states his in the text). To describe Paul’s ministry in Ephesus as “two or three years immobilized, probably ‘lying there and rotting’” (93) completely misunderstands how Luke presents Paul in Acts 19. Although Paul may have been imprisoned for a time in Ephesus (and he probably wrote Philippians during that time in prison), he evidently spent at least two years teaching and preaching so that “all Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:9-10). Rather than “lying there are rotting” Paul established churches and trained people to plant additional churches (Epaphras and Colossae, for example).

Orlando is a film-maker and not a New Testament scholar. He tells the story of Paul in narrative fashion with little awareness of scholarship on Luke-Acts or Paul. Often his source for a particularly striking idea is not the text of the New Testament or a published commentary or monograph, but an interview from his film, A Polite Bribe. This would be unacceptable in a scholarly monograph, but since this book is a companion to the film, it is less problematic.

Sometimes his sense of story-telling goes beyond the evidence. He presents his idea of starting the story of the church with Paul rather than the Gospels as a new and groundbreaking idea. This is not exactly news to biblical scholars, especially those who focus on the writing of Paul. For example, Jens Schröter contributed an article to Paul and the Heritage of Israel (LNTS 452; T&T Clark, 2012) on “Paul the Founder of the Church: Reflections and Reception of Paul in the Acts of the Apostle sand the Pastoral Epistles.” Certainly Reformation theology stands on the foundation of Paul and his epistles.

One additional concern: the book seems to breathe the air of conspiracy. This is a byproduct of the presentation of the book as a film, since a documentary which claims to uncover some dark secret suppressed by the Church is likely to be more popular. For example, Paul’s Jewish opponents “hatch a conspiracy against him” in Corinth (73). This was more or less a standard Roman lawsuit and not a “conspiracy.” It was common problem in Roman culture and Paul treats it 1 Corinthians 6. Orlando detects a “shipboard conspiracy” against Paul on the trip to Jerusalem forcing them to return to shore (107). There is not much evidence for this in the text; Orlando does not cite the book of Acts, but rather an interview with Robert Jewett in his film.

Conclusion: A Polite Bribe is an interesting approach to the difficult problem of Paul’s relationship with James and Jerusalem. Orlando should be commended for taking Paul seriously and attempting to get behind the scenes of Acts and the Epistles, although there are many assertions in this book which will not stand up to close scrutiny. His narrative method makes for easy reading, although his non-scholarly approach seems to create some problems which erode the value of his main point.

 

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

LuzThe Logos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” is Urlich Luz’s excellent Matthew 1-7  in the Hermenia series from Fortress Press and for a mere $1.99 you can get the second volume (Matthew 8-20).  These volumes retail for $75 each! Luz taught at Göttingen University and the University of Bern in Switzerland until his retirement in 2003 and is one of the premier interpreters of Matthew.

Typical of the Hermenia commentary series, this is a highly detailed exegetical commentary which interacts fully with the text of Matthew as well as the best in critical scholarship. Luz provides detailed bibliographies for each pericope, analyzes the structure and redaction history (especially important for the Sermon on the Mount). The exegesis often takes into account the history of interpretation (see, for example, on the “Golden Rule” in Matthew 7:12). He concludes with a “meaning for today” section.

As is typical, Logos is running a giveaway- the entire Hermenia series (nearly $1400 retail!) This includes not only the Hermenia volumes, but the Continental commentaries that fill out the Hermenia series. This one is worth entering as many times as they allow!

Sacra paginaI noticed only recent Logos gives away free books through Faithlife’s Verbum brand as well. This month they offer Wilfrid Harrington’s Revelation in the Sacra Pagina series for free, and John Donahue & Daniel Harrington’s Mark commentary in the same series for only 99 cents. The Sacra Pagina is written by the best in Catholic scholarship, but this should not limit their usefulness Luke Timothy Johnson on Acts in this series is excellent, I have used Richard’s commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians in the series and found it very useful.

Faithlife also has a Classics brand, Noet. They are giving away Caesar’s Gallic War. This is the two-volume Loeb Classical Library edition and includes both the Latin text and an English translation by H.J. Edwards. It is an older translation (and available around the Web in various forms). If you have the Perseus Project through Logos, you may already have this set. For 99 cents you can add Caesar’s Civil Wars to your library as well. You can enter a giveaway through Noet this month for the entire 20-volumes of Pliny’s Natural History in the Loeb Library.

All of these books are usable on any Logos platform (PC, Mac, mobile devices, etc.) You can build your Logos Library up with several excellent resources for very little money this month, so click the links and download the books!

 

Amos, Gary SmithThe Logos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” is Gary V. Smith’s Mentor Commentary on Amos published by Mentor in 1998. The book was originally published by Zondervan in 1989, this is a “revised and expanded” edition. In the preface, Smith says the revisions are some developments in his own thinking about Amos especially as it relates to the “Sociology of Knowledge.”

You may recall Gary Smith’s recent Interpreting the Prophetic Books (Kregel, 2015) which I reviewed in May, or his commentary on Isaiah in the NAC series from Broadman & Holman. After this Mentor commentary was published, he contributed Hosea, Amos, Micah in The NIV Application Commentary  (Zondervan, 2001). He has also contributed sections on Isaiah and Esther in Jason DeRouchie, What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About (Kregel, 2014).

In addition to the free book, Logos is offering Irvin A. Busenitz ‘s Mentor Commentary on Joel & Obadiah for only $1.99. Busenitz was at Talbot Theological Seminary before becoming a founding member of The Master’s Seminary. This commentary was published in 2003.

Both Smith and Busenitz represent conservative voices on the prophets, so there is little in these commentaries discussing sources for the prophecies or potential revisions (such as those suggested by Wolff in his Hermenia commentary on Amos, for example). Smith gives a brief overview of composition theories for Amos and conclude these theories risk “stripping the heart” from the message of the prophet. With respect to Joel, Busenitz dates the book early, about 860-850 B.C., although he does recognize there is no “easy solution” to the complex problem of dating this particular prophet. Likewise, he dates Obadiah to the reign of Jehoram and before Jeremiah rather than the later Exilic date.  Both commentaries represent careful exegesis from a conservative perspective from scholars who are experts on the Hebrew language.

Kaiser, Promise-PlanBe sure to get both books during the month of September and enter the contest to win all 16 volumes of the Mentor series ($370 value).

As a bonus, Zondervan is also giving away a book in the Logos library: Walter Kaiser’s The Promise-Plan of God (Zondervan, 2008). This is a “biblical theology of the Old and New Testaments.” Like Goheen and Bartholomew’s The Drama of Scripture (Baker), this is a college level textbook which offers an overview of the story of the whole Bible. Anything Kaiser writes is worth your attention.

 

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