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The 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.
The 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!
For 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!
Padilla, Osvaldo. The Acts of the Apostles: Interpretation, History and Theology. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2016. 264 pgs., Pb.; $26.00 Link to IVP
In his introduction, Osvaldo Padilla says his intention is to do for the present generation of Acts students what I. Howard Marshall’s Luke: Historian and Theologian is for the previous generation. The third edition of Marshall’s classic study was published in 1998, but the original was written in 1970. Much has changed in Luke-Acts studies in the more than forty-five years since Marshall’s book was first published. One major issue cited by Padilla is the postmodern conception of history has changed the way scholars approach a book like Acts. It is necessary to engage “broader philosophical and theological questions” before approaching some of the basic matters of introduction (14).
For most readers of this book, the main question is about the history found in the book of Acts is “Is It True?” For Padilla, Luke is a serious historian who wrote “a dependable portrait of the early church,” but he is “dependable as a historian of his age” (19). If we demand Luke conform to the modern practice of history writing of the nineteenth century, we will be confused and disappointed by the book at the historical level.
In the first chapter Padilla deals with the issue of authorship. Contra Andrew Gregory, Padilla argues the tradition Luke was a companion of Paul goes back to the early part of the second century. There are many in contemporary scholarship who are not concerned with matters of authorship, whether because of a rejection of authority intention or because narrative criticism willfully ignores the historical setting a text (33). Padilla thinks it is important to identify Luke as the author claims to be writing an accurate investigation (Luke 1:3). Since the author is using a historiographic genre, ignoring historical questions must be addressed.
Second, Padilla treats the often contentious issue of the genre of Acts. Beginning with a “brief history of Genre Theory, he surveys several proposals on the genre of Acts such as epic (Bonz), novel (Pervo), history (Haenchen). With respect to the popular identification of “novel” as the genre of Acts, Padilla points out ancient novels are parasitic. Although they may take place in a real place and time, they rarely correspond to reality.
He concludes Acts is an example of “ancient historical monograph in the Jewish tradition” along the lines of 2 Maccabees (63). The prologue in Luke 1:1-4 contains many historiographic markers common in other ancient histories, yet Acts is unashamedly theocentric and stands on the foundation of the Hebrew Bible. Like 2 Maccabees, Acts presents God as braking into history to “superintend the movement of the mission” (67). Padilla lists a series of editorial comments which indicate the action is the work of God. One example will suffice here: in Acts 5:19 Peter and John are rescued from prison by an angel if the Lord.
But how does this identification help us read and understand Acts better? A historian claims the events described in the monograph actually happened. But with respect to the book of Acts, this must be carefully nuanced to avoid reading modern historiography into an ancient historical monograph. Padilla agues the genre “ancient historical monograph in the Jewish tradition” allows a reader to view the events narrated as actually having occurred even if it does not guarantee accuracy (72). A document claiming to be a history is not necessarily accurate (historians may lie or misrepresent facts, or be ignorant of all the facts). The history may be accurate, but it is not accurate because it used the genre of history. Second, the reader of a historical monograph expects the author to have been an eyewitness or to have interviewed eyewitnesses (73).
In the third chapter Padilla discusses Luke as a theological historian. Since it is clear Luke has written a theologically motivated history, Padilla must argue this does not preclude the possibility he was also a responsible historian.
In order to show Luke was a reliable historian Padilla compares Luke’s preface to Josephus. He compares Luke’s use “terms that would have raised historiographic expectations for his readers” (77) to Josephus, specifically πρᾶγμα (deed, event), πληροφορέω (fulfilled), and αὐτόπτης (eyewitness). Although a Greek reader would find the use of πληροφορέω strange (since history is not fulfilled), Luke is writing a more theologically driven history. But Padilla illustrates this word only in Luke, so it is less important for Acts. The use of αὐτόπτης (eyewitness) intentionally bolsters Luke’s claim of credibility for history (87).
According to Padilla the modernism of the late nineteenth century gave rise to the “professionalization of history” (113-16). History was seen as a science dealing with raw facts and rejecting the use of narrative features to write a proper history. When applied to a theological history like Acts, Luke could hardly be accepted as a “credible historian.” More often Luke is described as engaging in a pious fraud to support church unity at a much later date than the events of the book. Postmodernism, Padilla says, allows for an understanding of Acts that is both historical, artistic and theological at the same time (116-20). Postmodernism is aware the past can never be accessed directly and that “brute facts” are meaningless without interpretation. “Creating a plot” is the way history can be best understood.
As a storyteller, Padilla argues Luke compresses his information for theological effect. His example compares Luke’s compression of four resurrection stories to a single day. But he also compresses the story by being extremely selective. Although he mentions James, Stephen, Philip and Barnabas, Luke only follows the story of Peter and Paul. Much is left unexplained, such as how the Gospel came to Rome. Padilla argues Luke has theological motivations for his selectivity. Like any other ancient historian, Luke compresses his history by epitomizing or abridging sources. For example, Acts 4:32-37 summarizes the activity of the Jerusalem community. Padilla thinks epitomizing lengthy and complicated events helps explain some of the differences between Acts 15 and Galatians 2 (although there are other ways to account for the differences).
In order to assess Luke’s historical method, Padilla devotes two chapters to the speeches in Acts. After surveying several examples from Thucydides, Polybius, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and Lucian of Samosota. Padilla shows there is a range with respect to how much creativity a historian may have in reporting speeches. For Thucydides, speeches were reported as closely to the original as possible and for Polybius it was “unthinkable to invent a speech” (135). But by the first century, Dionysius and Lucian were more creative in reporting speeches. Padilla argues Luke was conservative in his reports of speeches. In order to support this assertion, he points out Luke’s speeches are quite brief and often paired with another speech in Acts. Josephus, by way of contrast, takes a few words of Abraham in Genesis 22:8 and creates a lengthy speech. One option is Luke lacked sources, but Padilla thinks it is more likely Luke was reticent to create lengthy speeches, preferring to briefly report the theological gist of the speeches.
Second, Padilla surveys the speeches by examining the theology of the six speeches in Acts.
- The Speech of Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41)
- The Speech of Stephen (Acts 7:1-53)
- The Speech at the Home of Cornelius (Acts 10:34-48)
- The Speech at Athens (Acts 17:16-31)
- The Speech Before Agrippa (Acts 26:1-32)
Padilla finds a remarkable consistency of theological themes across these six speeches, although is emphasis is on God, Christology, Pneumatology and Soteriology. This is not a theology of Acts,” but rather a theology of these particular speeches in Acts. It is at this point in the book I expected Padilla to come to a strong conclusion based on his thesis that Luke is a conservative reporter of speeches. If there is such theological consistency in the speeches, does they represent Luke’s theology more than the original speaker? Or is there a level of unity on these particular topics? I suspect one could show some distinct contrast between Peter’s two speeches in Jerusalem, Stephen’s synagogue speech, and Paul’s synagogue speech in Acts 13 if the theological issue were something like “who are the people of God in the present age”? While he has demonstrated unity, Padilla may have need to show some diversity in order to confirm Luke’s conservative reporting of speeches.
In a final chapter Padilla enters into a “conversation with postliberalism” in order to offer a justification of Truth-Claims in Acts. First, by “postliberalism” Padilla means narrative theology represented by George Lindbeck and Hans Frei (202). In general, postliberalism sees theology as a “descriptive enterprise” rather than apologetics, an enterprise that moves away from the truth claims of foundationalism and prefers narrative theology Using the resurrection as an example, Padilla points out we do not have access to the resurrection through a reconstruction of the “historical Jesus” or our apologetic argument for the resurrection. Rather, “we only have access through God” (243).
Conclusion. Padilla’s book is a useful conservative contribution to the ongoing discussion of the genre and historical reliability of Acts. He ranges from the almost mundane matter of authorship and genre to important philosophical questions of how we can know historical truth. By limiting his investigation to the speeches in Acts, Padilla has left many historical questions unanswered, but that is the nature of a short monograph such as this.
NB: Thanks to Intervarsity Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.
Provan, Iain. Discovering Genesis. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2016. 224 pp. pb; $22. Link to Eerdmans
Discovering Genesis by Iain Provan is the first Old Testament volume in Eerdmans new Discovering Biblical Texts series (Discovering Matthew and Discovering John are currently available). The Discovering series attempts to apply author, text and reader based methods to the biblical text in a complementary way in order to invite students into a theological and historical discussions raised directly by the text. As with other contributions to this series, Provan lists and evaluates interpreters, often focusing on reception history.
After a short introduction to the structure and plot of Genesis, Provan devotes two chapters to “reading strategies” for Genesis, using the Renaissance as a dividing point for the two chapters, but he divides his history of interpretation into four major sections: up to A.D. 476, medieval readings 476-1350), Renaissance and Reformation (1250-1648) and modern readings (1648-today). Prior to the modern period, Provan gives examples from both Jewish and Christian commentaries showing how serious readers of Genesis tried to make the book apply to a new situation. For the most part, this involved allegorizing the text, but there are examples of writers who did take the stories at face value. What unites all these Jewish and Christian pre-modern readings of Genesis is an assumption of the authority of the book of Genesis.
By the modern period, Enlightenment thinkers had eroded the authority of Genesis. Baruch Spinoza, for example, famously declared that a plain reading of Scripture was not worth of a reasonable person’s assent (34). The study of history and geography, along with the rise of Darwinism, had a major impact on the study of Jesus. Post-Enlightenment commentaries reject allegory and return to the text, often with positive results. For example, prior to the modern period, Jacob is a model of virtue. By actually reading what the text says it is clear Jacob is a scoundrel (159)!
Provan surveys briefly Source, Form, and Redaction criticism. Although he does consider the emphasis on genre to be a positive contribution of Form criticism, Provan finds these methods problematic. Provan is skeptical about our ability to objectively reconstruct the documentary or oral sources behind the text of Genesis and he expresses his lack of interested in what lies behind the book (50).
In addition to these three, Provan comments on Muilenberg’s Rhetorical Criticism and Structuralism as a bridge to the now-popular Narrative Criticism. Provan thinks Narrative Criticism provides a “more satisfying resolution of the ‘difficulties’ in a text than that of which Wellhausen was capable” (44). He includes short sections on Social Scientific Criticism and Feminist Criticism. With respect to Social Science, Provan offers Norman Gottwald as an example, although he concludes “Gottwald does not illuminate the text at all; he suppresses it” (46). Finally, he briefly introduces Brevard Childs and Canonical Criticism, concluding that Childs’s method offers “a framework in which man previously illumination f the text through the ages . . . can be brought into fruitful conversation” (48). One element missing from this short survey of approaches to Genesis is a Theological Reading of Genesis, perhaps illustrated by James McKeown in his Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary on Genesis.
The third chapter locates the “word of Genesis” in its proper time and place. Although this is perhaps the most important “reading strategy,” the chapter is tantalizingly brief. Since modern study of Genesis focuses on the literal sense of the text, it is necessary to place the text in the proper historical, social, and literary context. For Provan, the world of the Ancient Near East included complex cultures which worshipped many gods in temples within emerging city states ruled by divine or semi-divine kings (52). By the sixth century B.C. these foundational beliefs were being questions by most cultures. Provan considers Genesis to be the response of Mosaic Yahwehists to the kinds of questions many cultures were asking about the “old religion” (55). Genesis develops a cosmology in which there is one God who rules as king of the universe and creates the cosmos as his sanctuary (56). Humans are marked out as his image and given dominion over the cosmos to rule on behalf of the divine King, God.
The next four chapters cover the first eleven chapters of Genesis. It may be surprising at first almost forty percent of Provan’s book is devoted to only these chapters of Genesis.. But since most of the theologically rich passages in Genesis are in the first eleven chapters appropriate Provan spend significant space unpacking the often difficult theological questions of Genesis 1-11. Anyone who has taught Genesis knows students have more questions about creation, the Fall and the Flood than any other section of book.
Provan treats the problem of two creation stories by suggesting a single author who wrote the stories in order to highlight the transcendence of God (60). Many (especially evangelical) readers approach Genesis with scientific questions, but Provan sticks to the text in order to argue the creation accounts are about God ordering chaos. God blessed his good creation, but after the human rebellion he curses the creation, creating conflict between humans and their environment. In these chapters Provan does cover many of the common questions asked about the first few chapters of Genesis, although given the brevity and purpose of the book, he can only hint at possible answers.
The final three chapters of the book are devoted to the Patriarchal narratives (Abraham, Sarah and Isaac. Jacob, and Joseph). Abraham and Sarah and placed in the context of the Ancient Near East. For example, Abraham’s lie about Sarah and the use of a hand maid to produce an heir can be illustrated in the culture of the second millennium B.C. Since the stories are far less controversial, he does not need to interact with scholarship as often as the first few chapters of Genesis
Provan makes use of rabbinic texts and early church commentaries to demonstrate how early readers received the text of Genesis. Frequently he makes reference to medieval commentaries, art and literature. What is more, he often refers to modern interpretations of the stories and Genesis in contemporary art and literature. Most of these are classical references, although he does include Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited as in contemporary allusion to the sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis chapter 22 (149). Most of these allusions are simply mentioned, however the footnotes tend to treat these allusions in more detail. A helpful addition would be a website collecting photographs the art referred to in the text.
Conclusion. Discovering Genesis is a short introduction to the study of Genesis ideal for use in a seminary class on the Pentateuch or a more specialized class on Genesis. Provan presents the material in way which will also be useful to the general reader interested in the theological and historical issues for reading Genesis with accuracy. As an introduction, the book is often frustrating in its brevity, but this is to be expected given the goals of the book and the Discovering series.
NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.
Blenkinsopp, Joseph. Abraham: The Story of a Life. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2015. 256 pp. Pb; $29. Link to Eerdmans
In this book, Joseph Blenkinsopp offers what he calls a “discursive commentary” on Genesis 12-22, the life of Abraham. In the preface he states his in this book goal is to write an exposition of the text which is “basically historical-critical” but also sensitive to the general theological and human interest found in the biblical text itself (xi).
The introduction to the book surveys the character of Abraham in the canon of the Hebrew Bible. In this book, Blenkinsopp assumes the stories reached a final form fairly late, in a “time of uncertainty” as a response to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (21). The promise of land repeated throughout these stories would have been important to the struggling post-exilic community as would Abraham’s tenuous hold on the Promised Land. That God remained faithful to Abraham during his struggle to live in a land promised to him would have encouraged the post-exilic community.
The life of Abraham is divided into ten chapters, extending to the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. There are few technical details in the text, the few times he references the Hebrew text words appear only in transliteration, and interaction with literature on Genesis appears in the footnotes. This makes for a readable text without too much distraction from technical details.
Occasionally he deals with theological readings of the text. For example, he discusses the sacrifice of Isaac (the Aqedah) foreshadowing the death of Jesus (155-8). Although the New Testament does not specifically connect the story in Genesis 22 to the crucifixion, “it was practically inevitable” the story would be seen as prefiguring Jesus’ death. That Paul would call Jesus “our paschal lamb” (1 Cor 5:7) may be the New Testament connection to the Aqedah. The Second Temple book of Jubliees associates the sacrifice of Isaac with the Passover. According to that book, the story begins on the twelfth of Nisan. Since the journey to Moriah took three days, he arrives at Moriah on the fifteenth of the month, the day Passover will begin later in history. Every year after the events on Moriah, Abraham celebrated a seven day “feast of the Lord.” Although there is no explicit New Testament connection between Genesis 22 and the death of Jesus, Romans 8:32 says “God did not withhold his own son” (cf. Gen 22:16). Blenkinsopp suggests the Isaianic Servant is also dependent on the Aqedah.
At the end of each chapter is a short reflection entitled “Filling in the Gaps.” These sections draw on the post-biblical legends about Abraham found in Second Temple sources such as Jubilees, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Philo. He often summarizes the Genesis Rabbah or other later Jewish traditions which interrogate the biblical narrative “probing fractures and fissures” (25). He omits these legends in the commentary on the text since is goal is accurate exposition of the story of Abraham, yet these “illuminations of the text” provide insight into the way later faithful readers of the text understood the story of Abraham. As he points out at the very end of the book, most of these retellings of the Abraham story developed in a time when there were no Christians or Muslims, although they are the paradigm for both Christian and Muslim expansions of the text (210).
A welcome addition to the story of Abraham is a chapter on Abraham’s “other beloved son” Ishmael. Despite the brevity of this chapter, Blenkinsopp deals with some of the historical problems associated with the Ishmael stories, but also the theological problem of “setting aside the firstborn.” Although not considered the firstborn of Abraham, Ishmael “is still recipient of blessing and inheritor of the promise made to Abraham” (167), as is demonstrated by the genealogy of the twelve Arab tribes in Genesis 25. He briefly traces the history of these tribes into the Second Temple period and beyond into the legends included in Qur’an.
Conclusion. As Blenkinsopp states in his introduction, book is a theological exposition rather than a detailed exegetical commentary. Blenkinsopp achieves the goal of presenting the story of Abraham in a way that is both faithful to the text and theologically insightful.
NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.
Former atheist Alister McGrath has a doctorate in molecular biophysics has been nothing if not a prolific writer since becoming a Christian. Most of his books would be apologetics and often concern the relationship of science and religion. He is the Andreas Idreos Professor in Science and Religion in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford and has written or edited dozens of books. Logos is offering his book, Why God Won’t Go Away as a free download in the Logos Library for the month of May. Thomas Nelson published this 200 page book in 2011.
As an added bonus, you can purchase McGrath’s response to Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion for $1.99. The book was written by Alister and Joanna McGrath and answers Dawkins’s claim that faith intellectual nonsense and that science and religion locked in a battle to the death. This short 119 page book was published in 2010 (originally by SPCK in England and IVP Academic in America).
Both books are challenging, but like most apologetic from Christian publishers, they are intended to be read by Christian laypeople. This means McGrath is not as rigorously philosophical and technical as he could be in his presentation of the merits of Theism. Usually people who already believe in God will find these books convincing and those who are equally entrenched in their atheism will remain unconvinced.
As always, Logos has a giveaway related to their free (and almost free) book of the month promotion. This time you can enter to win a ten-volume SPCK collection of McGrath books. So head over to Logos, get the free books for your Logos Library, and maybe win the collection!
The 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!
I 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!
The 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.
Be 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.
The Logos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” is Mikeal C. Parsons Acts commentary in the Paideia series from Baker. Mikeal Parsons is a top Acts scholar and the Paideia series pays close attention to the cultural and educational context from which it emerges. Parsons see Acts as a charter document explaining and legitimating Christian identity for a general audience of early Christians living in the ancient Mediterranean world
In addition to the free book, Logos is offering Charles Talbert’s Ephesians and Colossians volume in the Paideia series for only $1.99. I have always enjoyed reading Talbert’s work (especially his Reading Acts, which I still maintain I did not know about when I named this blog…) As always, Logos is running a giveaway for the month, this time for the whole twelve volumes of the Paideia series. Head over to Logos and enter the contest as many times as you possibly can, these commentaries are all worth owning.
Logos is also running a “back to school sale” (which is not unusual since it is back to school time and Logos runs sales about every three hours). Each week they will be offering a new book, and this week it is Claus Westermann’s Continental Commentary Series: Genesis 1-11 (Fortress, 1994). This free book is not exactly free, you have to share the sale on twitter or Facebook to download the book. Spamming your friends is a small price to pay for this classic commentary on Genesis.
Check the “back to school” sale next week for another offer.
Logos Bible Software returns to the classics for their “Free Book of the Month” promotion. For the month of January you can download the first volume of The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Genesis, by H. E. Ryle. Ryle was appointed Dean of Westminster in 1910 and began services at Westminster Abbey the following year. During World War I, Ryle personally led special services at the Westminster Abbey.While he is known primarily as an Old Testament scholar, during his time at Cambridge he won every distinction open to students of theology. He is the son of J. C. Ryle, the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool and author of many commentaries on the New Testament.
The commentary is very brief because the book is a companion to one’s reading of the book of Genesis, although it is nearly 500 pages the book was originally printed in a small, handbook format. I only have one physical copy of a Cambridge Bible in my personal library, Daniel, by S. R. Driver, which pre-dates Ryle’s Genesis. The book includes a number of pages of advertising for the series as was the fashion of the day. The Church Sunday School Magazine said of the whole series: “We cannot imagine any safer or more helpful commentaries for the student of the Holy Scriptures” (this advert appears on the Logos Website as well).
As I browse Ryle’s commentary now, he comments on key phrases in the text, offering textual and linguistic comments, with occasional comments on the history presented in the text when necessary. Sometimes this is very brief, Gen 45 is covered in only five pages. As most students of Genesis have discovered, the earlier stories are far more complicated and take up much more space in a commentary!
The commentary has five appendices. First, “Babylonian Myths Of Creation” offers some illustrations from Ancient Near Eastern literature. Second, “A Legend Of Lamech” is an illustration of Jewish Haggadah. Third, “The Duplicate Account Of The Flood” is a reprint of Chapman’s Introduction to the Pentateuch (74-81), also in the Cambridge Bible series. The fourth appendix is a brief introduction to “The Tel El-Amarna Tablets” which were discovered in 1887 and only just being used in biblical studies. Ryle includes a very brief note on the Apuriu mentioned in the Inscriptions of Thothmes III (1501–1447 B.C.), Finally, the fifth appendix offers a chronology of Israel in Egypt. These are all of historical interest, although there has been much work done on the history of Genesis since the commentary was written.
This raises an objection. Someone might ask why we should be reading a commentary on Genesis originally written in 1914 and published in 1921. It is certainly true some Ryle’s use of the documentary hypothesis seems antiquated: sections are designated J or E, occasionally P, and R (for the final redaction). It is obvious a commentary written after the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered will have a much more clear understanding of Hebrew and Aramaic. This is all true, but the commentary is an artifact reflecting the time it was written. Ryle (and the other writers in this series) were master exegetes and worked very hard at their scholarship to present the Scripture to the Church in England. Like J .B. Lightfoot’s recent commentary on Acts, Ryle’s commentary is valuable because the man himself was committed to a scholarly life dedicated to the study of the Scripture. This book should probably not be your “first off the shelf” commentary on Genesis, but it has retained value in the 100 years since it was written.
In addition to this free book, Logos is also offering an “almost free” book, An Introduction to the Pentateuch by A. T. Chapman. Like Ryle’s commentary on Genesis, this book is an introduction to the Documentary Hypothesis. He presents a method and argument for the following propositions:
- The chronological order of the codes being JE, D, P, the steps would be J and E, each containing records of the early history, were combined D, when accepted as a law book, would be added to JE
- Deuteronomic recension of Joshua and the history in Judges-Kings
- Efforts during the exile to preserve the ancient traditions embodied in the book of the Law brought by Ezra
- When accepted incorporated with JED Joshua probably separated
So for 99 cents you can have two excellent books reflecting the state of Pentateuch scholarship about 100 years ago. But Logos is also giving away the whole 58 volume set of The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. This is about 15,000 pages of commentary on the Old and New Testaments as well as some of the Apocryphal books. Even if you do not win a set, the Cambridge series appears in several Logos base packages.