Book Giveaway Winner – Peter Enns, Incarnation and Inspiration

Enns Inspiration and IncarnationLast week I offered up an a copy of Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation (Baker 2005). There were fifteen entered, so I used Random.org to spin up a random number and the winner of this book is Derek DeMars. Everyone congratulate Derek and tell him how much you envy him reading this book.

I will announce the third book “back to school” book giveaway this afternoon so be sure to check that out!

Book Giveaway – Peter Enns, Incarnation and Inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review: Grant Osborne, James: Verse by Verse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

Book Review: James Edwards, Between the Swastika and the Sickle: The Life, Disappearance, and Execution of Ernst Lohmeyer

Edwards, James R. Between the Swastika and the Sickle: The Life, Disappearance, and Execution of Ernst Lohmeyer. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2019. 341 pp. Hb; $30.   Link to Eerdmans

James Edwards is a New Testament scholar with major commentaries on the Gospels of Mark (2001) and Luke (2015) in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series and Romans in the New International Biblical Commentary (1992). Between the Swastika and the Sickle recounts Edwards’s fascination with a “baffling reference” in the introduction to Lohmeyer’s German commentary on Mark in the Meyer Commentary (first published in 1936). Edwards read the 1967 edition which included a fifty page Ergänzungsheft (a short supplement updating the original commentary) written by Gerhard Sass in 1950. Sass enigmatically says Lohmeyer was not able to update the commentary himself because “a higher power carried him off to a still-unresolved fate” (p. 8). Edwards could find nothing on this “unresolved fate” but remained fascinated with the mystery after he completed his PhD and began his first teaching assignment in North Dakota. In the late 1970s he became active in a ministry which supported believers in East Germany and found himself in Greifswald where he learned Lohmeyer was executed by the communists as an enemy of the state. Over the next twenty years Edwards continued to research Lohmeyer’s life, resulting in a 1996 article on Lohmeyer in the journal Evangelische Theologie and this new book, Between the Swastika and the Sickle.

Who was Ernst Lohmeyer? Lohmeyer (1890-1946) was a prominent German New Testament scholar who resisted the Nazis before World War II. Edward’s description of Lohmeyer’s academic output before and during World War I is impressive. Unfortunately, very little of Lohmeyer’s work has been translated into English. Had his life not been cut short, his scholarly reputation may have risen to the level of other German scholars such as Rudolf Bultmann.

Edwards traces Lohmeyer’s life as a scholar and pastor, focusing especially on his years at the University of Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland). Edwards does include many of the details one expects in a biography, but he is more interested in Lohmeyer’s intellectual development. He briefly summarizes Lohmeyer’s many publications and tracks his relationship with other intellectual movements in Germany between the wars.

Lohmeyer’s opposition to Nazism and anti-Semitism is the important element of the book. While at Breslau Lohmeyer publically clashed with both university administration and students over the treatment of Jewish professors and the developing Ungeist (antispirit) of National Socialism. Lohmeyer wrote to Martin Buber in 1933 that “the Christian faith is only Christian as long as it retains in its heart the Jewish faith”

In 1933 Gustav Walz, a “staunch National Socialist” according to Edwards, was appointed president of the university. After several clashes with the administration, Walz wrote to the minister of science, art and public education demanding the unconditional dismissal of Lohmeyer. The student body also demanded his immediate termination. As a result of his anti-Nazi activity, Lohmeyer lost his professorship at Breslau and was transferred to University of Greifswald. Although far less prestigious, than Breslau Lohmeyer continued to opposed Nazism while producing solid academic work.

During World War II Lohmeyer served in the Wehrmacht as an officer on the German East front 1939 to 1943. As Edwards narrates this period of his life, Lohmeyer was put into an impossible situation. He was German officer on the Eastern front, but also a Christian opposed to the war and the government which waged the war. He had to balance being a commander and helping those who were deeply affected by the ravages of war. By Edwards accounting, Lohmeyer was not guilty of any war crimes even if he was haunted by his participation in the war.

After the war Lohmeyer was selected as president of University of Greifswald now in the communist German Democratic Republic. He worked tirelessly to re-open the university after the war and thought he was relatively safe since he supported the city of Greifswald’s capitulation to the Russians at the end of the war. To his great shock, he was arrested on the eve of the re-opening of the university and executed on September 19, 1946 after several months in Soviet custody. Although his death was not confirmed by the Soviets until 1957 and his case was not rehabilitated by the Russian government until 1996.

Edwards’s account of the mystery of Lohmeyer’s death in a compelling and engaging fashion. He includes several personal stories and reflections on his own journey tracking down the truth about Lohmeyer. Lohmeyer’s stand against Nazism and anti-Semitism is an important challenge in the present climate of Western Christianity. Christian theologians and biblical scholars must stand up against anti-biblical trends in the culture even though it costs them prestige. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the struggle of faithful Christians against National socialism and the anti-Semitism of the Nazis. Sadly, this book is still relevant in the early twenty-first century.