Tag Archives: Book Review

Book Review: The Resurrection Fact

The Resurrection Fact: Responding to Modern Critiques is a collection of essay by various scholars addressing critiques and demonstrating the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus. Because the resurrection is so central to the Christian faith it resfacbecomes the bases upon which the church stands or falls. As the apostle Paul says in his letter to the church in Corinth, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” Such a significant point of the faith has not been left without evidences and these evidences should be shared if for no other reason than to exalt the Lord of glory.

What I found interesting about the book is the contributors to the volume. Each of them comes from a specialized field of study (Law, History, Philosophy, etc.) which they apply in their responses to topics such as, skepticism of the New Testament, the events of Good Friday and Easter, the role of faith and evidence for the resurrection, and the historicity of the resurrection. Each contributor is in dialogue with a modern day critic which I found to be very useful. This is not a rehashing of the same old arguments. The writers of the Resurrection Fact are dealing with contemporary critics which offers a fresh new look at these important issues.

As far a my own criticism goes I can’t think of any. However as tradition would have it they wont come to me till after I have completed the review. However, I can anticipate someone being apprehensive about reading a book on apologetics written by academicians. My response is to not be. It is important to have individuals who understand the issues write a response. That is a given. However, reading above your comfort level will only make you a better reader and thinking.

I personally rank this book a 5 out of 5.

 


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Review: Preaching Old Testament Narratives

Preaching Old Testament Narratives

Benjamin H. Walton (DMin, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

Preaching Old Testament Narratives

Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Mi 49505-6020, ISBN 978-0-8254-4258-2.


 

Why a book on teaching Old Testament narratives? Mostly because it has become a challenge for Pastors in a Church culture that expects teaching that is “practical” to provide honest reflection on the Old Testament text. Rather than gleaning from the high content already provided by Old Testament narratives the popular practice is to treat the Old Testament narratives as something like Aesop’s Fables. Instead of unfolding the history of redemption, it is assumed that the Old Testament narratives are there to show us some moral or practical life lesson.  This isn’t to say that moral or life lessons aren’t helpful. However, for Pastors the primary function is to Shepard God’s people with God’s Word and here in lies the challenge.

This way of preaching is what Walton calls “Preaching with Biblical authority” he goes on to say that this type of preaching “means that our sermons accurately proclaim and apply the message of their biblical preaching text”(29). Such an understanding realizes that our conception of reality is construed by finite understanding and thus requires an infinite God to explain His will to us. Therefore, unless the message comes from the text, we run the risk of misrepresenting God. What Walton wants to speak to is preaching whose authority is not derived from the pastor but from God’s word.

Preaching Old Testament Narratives is a comprehensive treatment of its subject matter. The 254 pages are broken up into two sections, Discover The Message and Deliver The Message. In Discover The Message, Walton provides a 5 step methodology beginning with selecting a complete unit of thought  or what Walton calls CUT(47). As the name implies this is simply choosing the preaching text. This is very helpful for obvious reasons. For Walton’s approach the objective in this stage of sermon preparation is to select a complete unit of thought so that the original theological message or OTM can be identified.

Steps 2 and 3 involve identifying the theological and historical contexts (45) and plot. Here Walton observes that Old Testament Narratives teach about God, hence the theological context. However, one further important step for Walton is the historical. Since we are looking at a different time period or era the thoughts and feelings of the people of Israel are different than those in 21st century America. Thus a proper understanding of the text looks and both these contexts of theological and historical. This leads Walton into Step 3 which is to study the plot. In order to provide thoughtful reflection on Old Testament narratives one should have a thorough understanding of the plot found in the CUT.

After arriving at the proper contexts and understanding the plot the next step seems fairly logical, discover the original theological message (OTM) and craft the take home truth. Discovering the original theological message for Walton. A complete unit of thought will have an original theological message that was intended for its original audience. The tenancy is to by pass the step and fabricate a message familiar to 21st century American experience. The problem is created when we don’t first seek to find out what that message communicated to Old Testament hearers. Once the original theological message is understood we can then move on to the next step in crafting the take home truth (THT).

The second part of the book deals specifically with delivering the message. Here Walton lays out the process of sermon preparation consisting of topics such as: creating the introduction, preaching through the complete unit of thought, stating and getting listeners to “buy” the take home truth, picture painting, making the move to Christ, and the conclusion. Each of these topics are well thought out and given a thorough treatment. Walton’s goal here is to give the reader the tools to execute on what he calls the four pillars of excellent preaching: accuracy, relevance, clarity, and inspiring.

Overall this is a pretty important book. This is an area that many pastors struggle with and Walton provides more than a foundation from which to build. Rather he walks the reader carefully through each step. There are some sections that have more to do with personal style which isn’t necessary for preaching Old Testament narratives. However the section on making the move to Christ is very well done and would prove to be helpful . I highly recommend this book for those still trying to navigate Old Testament narrative preaching or even for those who are quite comfortable with preaching Old Testament narrative and would just like a different perspective on the matter.

RATING 4 out of 5


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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BOOK REVIEW: Philosophy In The Hellenistic & Roman Worlds

Peter Adamson must be one of those rare breed of writers open to taking on any writing challenge that comes before him. Such is the case with Philosophy In The Hellenistic & Roman Worlds (PHRW). Notice the fine print at very top of the front cover that reads, “A History Of Philosophy Without Any Gaps”. Two things came to mind when I saw this. The first was “it’s about time!” The second thing that came to my mind was “how is that even possible?” To be perfectly candid it isn’t. However, I think Adamson does an outstanding job in spite of the task before him of covering subject matter often missed in academia but doing so in an entertaining way.

Adamson starts by outlining three areas of philosophy that tend not to get too much attention. They are: Hellenistic Philosophy, Pagan Philosophy In The Roman Empire, and Christian Philosophy In The Roman Empire. From these eras Adamson hones in on key disciplines such as metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, logic, ethics, philosophy of language, and the reader will occasionally come across brushes with other disciplines. So at the outset Adamson’s work highlights philosophers and their influences through a historical thematic way providing a much larger picture of the development of thought.

I was personally interested in Adamson’s discussion of Christianity in the Roman World. Adamson explains Christianity’s emergence out of a hedonistic tradition which began conceptually with a the principle of immediate pleasure in hedonism to the understanding of pleasure as a life pursuit in Epicurianism. Christian thought began to dominate the ancient world by appropriating Plato, Aristotle, and pagan thought. It isn’t till the time of Augustine that we begin to see a uniquely Christian philosophy whose impact is still felt today. Adamson points out that Augustines’s influence reaches so far out that even non-Christians today find themselves with Augustinian similarities. One example that I can think of is Bertrand Russell’s appeal to Agustine’s view of time.

RATING: 4 STARS

James

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Book Review: A Commentary On The Manuscripts And Text Of The New Testament

TITLE: A Commentary On The Manuscripts And Text Of The New Testament
AUTHOR: Philip Wesley Comfort
PUBLISHER: Kregel Academic, July 15, 2015, (416 Pages)

Having spent some time in Comfort’s new book A Commentary On The Manuscripts And Text Of The New Testament I found it to be a very valuable resources not only for the professional, or Greek student, but for the average every day Bible student like myself.

First I’d like to begin with some general information about the book. I have to admit that I wasn’t too familiar with Comfort’s writing. As it turns out Comfort has written his fair share of books in various genres. However, is specialty is New Testament having published fifteen volumes on the topic. Moreover he has spent the last 25 years of his life as a senior editor for Tyndale House.

BOOK FEATURES

I’m not the kind of guy that judges a book by its cover but I’m always appreciative of a volume that is made with good materials, well bounded, quality paper, and in this case as sewn in book mark which is particularly helpful. Some of the other features I found helpful was a listing of early manuscripts for each chapter found in the New Testament (P.11). There is also an abbreviations and works cited page (15) which ought to be standard but many times it is not. Lastly in the very back of the there is an appendix with detailed information about Nomina Sacra (or sacred names). Since comfort has much to say about Nomina Sacra this becomes an essential piece.

OBSERVATIONS

This is a reference book. For some readers reference material can be a little dry. However, as an average student of the Bible I have found this volume to be very useful in my day to day Bible study. I refer to myself as an “average Bible student” however I did study Greek and am still a student of Biblical Greek. But for the purpose of this volume one doesn’t necessarily have to have any Greek skills. Comfort has done the work of transliterating the Greek terms into English to make it more accessible to all Bible students.

However, what I think makes this volume very interesting is that Comfort does not tie himself to a particular Greek New Testament (as other volumes of this sort do). Rather this volume uses some of the earliest available Greek manuscripts most of which go back to the second and third century. This allows Comfort more space to list more variants.

This is a helpful reference tool that I would have no problem recommending to anyone who enjoys studying the Bible. It is a valuable resource which, once added to your library, can easily become a favorite.

RATING 4 Stars

James


This book is provided to me courtesy of Kregel Academic in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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BOOK REVIEW: Interpreting the Prophetic Books: An Exegetical Handbook

ITPBTITLE: Interpreting The Prophetic Books: An Exegetical Handbook

AUTHOR: Gary V. Smith

PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2014, (214 pages).

I was very interested to see Interpreting The Prophetic Books(ITPB) as part of the Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis (HOTE)series. If you have not yet been exposed to this series it is well worth considering. The HOTE series attempts to provide students of the Bible with basic interpretive skills for Biblical exegesis. The HOTE series editor David M. Howard explains that “An appreciation for the rich diversity of literary genres in Scripture is one of the positive features of evangelical scholarship” (ITPB 15). It appears that consideration over genre is fairly recent in contemporary scholarship which makes the HOTE a very timely series. Moreover, one of the important areas where genre comes in to play is the interpretation of the Prophetic Books of the Bible. It has been a long held suspicion of mine that the neglect of the prophetic books in day to day preaching and teaching today is due in part to a lack of interpretive tools necessary for a proper interpretation of the text. Prophetic books can be demanding and without some of the proper interpretive tools teaching preparation can be a very daunting task. Gary Smith has I believe successfully provided the necessary tools to help students get the best and most out of their study of the Prophetic Books.

The book (ITPB) itself is a very manageable 214 pages of well written and understandable prose. It is broken down into six chapters that deal with The Nature of Prophetic Literature explaining the prophetic genre itself, Major Themes in the Prophetic Books providing a big picture perspective of the prophetic books, and while this book is not a book on homiletics the remaining chapters Preparing for Interpretation, Interpretive Issues In Prophetic Texts, Proclaiming Prophetic Texts, and From Text to Application are in essence instruction in homiletics. Some of the features of ITPB are a helpful outline at the beginning of each chapter that lays out the direction of the discussion. There is also a very helpful glossary of about 70 common terms used in OT studies as well as scripture and subject indices in the back of the book.

In chapter 1 Dr. Smith explains the genre of prophetic literature. He explains that prophetic literature of the OT was vitally important for the NT church because of their teachings on law, the coming Messiah, and God’s kingdom. However, the challenge for modern day readers is grasping the context of the prophetic books. The difficulty is that we are not only separated from the OT prophets by time but they wrote from various political, socio-economic, and religious settings. Because of this it is an over simplification to approach the prophetic literature the same way in every case without causing a distortion of the text. In order to keep the prophets teachings in their proper contexts Dr. Smith explains the use of various interpretive concepts that emerge from the prophetic text to assist the reader with analysis. Tools such as Temporal Categories of Prophecy, Genres of Prophecy, Parallelism, and Imagery help provide the way in which the Prophetic text ought to be examined and understood.

Chapters 2 and 3 are discussions that I would categorize as “preparation”. One of the pitfalls in a book like this which seeks to help students with interpretation is to impose an interpretation. ITPB works very hard at providing the framework without providing the interpretation. So in chapter 2 for example the reader is given a broad overview of each of the prophetic books with attention to the primary themes without offering too much by way of interpretation. Chapter 3 restricts itself to only providing background information about the prophetic books to include the use of textual criticism and further resources to assist one with the study of the prophetic books.

Chapter 4 deals with the thorny complexity of Interpretive Issues in Prophetic Texts. This chapter discusses some of the errors that we tend to make in interpreting prophetic books to include: is prophecy literal or metaphorical, metaphorical interpretation of prophecy, difficulties between prophecy and its New Testament fulfillment, and is prophecy always fulfilled. This isn’t a complete list of the discussions found in this chapter but they are some that I found very helpful.

While this isn’t a book on homiletics (the method of sermon preparation) chapters 5 and 6 provide a very good homiletic outline useful for anyone in the role of teaching. Chapter 5 covers more of the process of teaching preparation while chapter 6 has more to do with the practical application of prophetic text. Chapter 6 is lengthy but very important in that this process of practical application has demonstrated itself to be challenging for modern day teachers. While most teachers want to give practical application many times it is at the expense of the text. This is where ITPB demonstrates its merits by demonstrating how one can provide practical application without compromising the content of the text.

PERSONAL REFLECTION

There is so much substance in the prophetic books. Smith makes the point that “the prophetic books were of great importance to the New Testament church” (ITPB 23). While it is quite understandable why some are apprehensive about teaching the prophetic books because of their complexity, I think the ITPB reader will be pleasantly surprised by how helpful this volume can be to them in their teaching ministry. PERSONAL RATING: 5 Stars out of 5 ________________________________________

This book is provided to me courtesy of Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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BOOK REVIEW: More Than Conquerors

More Than Conquerors (MTC)by William Hendriksen was a great read (for the second time)providing insight on the book of Revelation with a pleasant prose making it enjoyable to read for just about anyone. Originally published in 1939 MTC has been able to demonstrate its worth and legitimacy by withstanding the test of time. Still relevant even today when compared to recent scholarship yet very accessible.

For those who come from my own church background-fundamentalist evangelical-MTC is going to read very different from what we are typically used to. Hendriksen’s purpose is to amplify the original message of the book of Revelation which is very applicable to the church today. Hendriksen takes seriously the hermeneutic of Scripture interpreting Scripture as he demonstrates how the message of Revelation would have been understood by its original audience.

CONTRIBUTIONS

MTC is very applicable and arguably one of the most applicable books on Revelation. The common approach to Revelation is to create a prophetic time line of end time scenarios by decoding Revelation through the grid current events. Hendriksen’s approach is much different as he views Revelation as a book that applies to the church in every age. He properly understands Revelation as book that gives us hope in Christ as we persevere and encourages us to draw closer to God.

What was new to me in Hendriksen is his view of the external architecture of Revelation. He explains that Revelation is not linear or chronological but consists of 7 parallel accounts (also known as “Progressive Parallelism” or “Recapitulation” theory of Revelation ) of the church age and the final day of the Lord. In this view each account speaks of the evil in the world using symbolism and ends showing that God will be victorious, judgment will come upon the evil, and the persecuted saints will be protected, vindicated, and saved. This is great encouragement for the persecuted church in every age.

Lastly Hendriksen properly explains the symbols that John uses in Revelation. The common approach to symbolism is to interpret the symbols literally. Hendriksen properly shows how many of the symbols used in Revelation are taken from Old Testament symbolism that point to specific truths for the church age.
CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Hendriksen comes from a historic Protestant background so his approach to Revelation will be different than what many readers are accustomed to. However, this shouldn’t be a reason not to give Hendriksen a fair reading. His book went through more than 25 publications since 1939 because it really is that good. For decades his was one of the few commentaries on the book of Revelation that carried with it a sense of legitimacy because of its candor and its Christ centered message. For this reason alone it ought to have a place on any Bible student’s book shelf.

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