Book Review: Romans, 2nd ed. (BECNT), Tom Schreiner

Tom Schreiner Romans second edition book review

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The Baker Exegetical Commentary series aims to be both readable while paying careful attention to important Greek exegetical matters. Each volume is written with pastors and teachers in mind so they can teach God’s uniquely inspired word. Tom Schreiner is the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of NT Interpretation and Professor of Biblical Theology (1997) and the Associate Dean of the School of Theology at SBTS. Schreiner has been a NT and Pauline scholar for almost 40 years now. His first volume was published in 1998, and has been a massive help for many who have studied, taught, and preached through Romans.

Schreiner’s commentary is attuned to understanding Paul’s flow of thought, which is very important to understand anything Paul says in any of his letters. No verse is an island, and each reflects an aspect of Paul’s theology throughout the full letter. Twenty years later, Schreiner has reworked his commentary, changing his mind on a few bigger issues and on numerous smaller issues. 

Key Issues

As stated above, Schreiner has changed his view on a few key issues.

  • Romans 1.16-17, formerly he understood God’s righteousness as being both transformative and forensic; now he understands it as purely forensic.
  • Romans 2.14–16: The “doers of the law” are Christian Gentiles who fulfill the law by having the Spirit (Rom 8.5).
  • Romans 5.12: Romans 5.12-19 supports original sin and original death, but “it is established on different grounds than those defended by Augustine” (278). Rather than all people sinning because they enter the world spiritually dead (Romans 1.0), Schreiner understands the second half of Romans 5.12 to mean that all people die because they sin “individually and personally” (282). They sin and die because of Adam’s sin and their own. 
  • Romans 7.7–21: Schreiner previously interpreted this passage as the Christian Paul looking back at his pre-Christian experience, then, after being convinced by Will Timmins’ interpretation, he now understands Paul to be speaking about the Christian’s experience.

Smaller Interpretations

But, besides these, Schreiner has changed his interpretations on much smaller points too. In Romans 6.5, he once took ἐσόμεθα as a genuine (or “predictive”) future (“we shall be united in the likeness of his resurrection”), but now takes it as a logical future (“we are united in the likeness of his resurrection”). The first sees Paul telling the Roman believers to live holy lives because they have been and shall be united with Christ in his resurrection life. The latter understands Paul’s command to be based in the fact that Christ’s death and resurrection presently affects our lives. Schreiner says, “Those who are baptized (i.e., converted) experience the impact of christ’s death and resurrection in their present existence” (314). Ultimately, Schreiner’s argument in both commentaries revolves around the now-and-not-yet concept of God’s salvation, but this new edition bears the fruit of twenty years of thinking on Paul.

More briefly, in his first edition Schreiner understood “law” in Romans 7.21 and 23 to refer to the Mosaic law (376), but he now understands it to mean something akin to “principle” (375).

Revamped and Reworked

Bibliography

Being written twenty years later means that Schreiner’s bibliography has been revamped. It is now 76 pages long and has been updated to 2016, with the exception of Timmins’ work (2017), Peterson’s Romans commentary (2017), and Thielman’s forthcoming Romans commentary (2018). In some places that means that Schreiner’s arguments are updated; in other places it means that Schreiner’s arguments remain the same but notes with whom he does or does not agree. That means that if you’ve read Thiessen’s Paul and the Gentiles, you can see that Schreiner disagrees with Thiessen’s view that Paul in Romans 2.17 is speaking of Gentiles who see themselves as Jews. He agrees with Caneday (2.15), who is partially the reason for Schreiner’s change of view on this passage. He disagrees with Jipp on Romans 1.17 (70n20), but agrees with him that we are sons who are comparable to the Son in 8.15. I could go on, but basically—Schreiner has reworked his commentary, updated much… and has read a lot.

Footnotes

Of course, and I don’t want the head to deceive you, but much is still the same. It’s not as if every paragraph has been reworded. But things have been changed, even if only in a minor way.

In a footnote on Romans 8.10, In Romans 1.0 Schreiner said, “Fee… doubts that the Spirit is ever the agent of the resurrection, but I have suggested that this is the most natural reading of Rom. 8:10” and notes James Scott’s Adoption as Sons (1994). In this edition, he says, “Fee… doubts that the Spirit is ever the agent of the resurrection, but Rom. 8:10 suggests otherwise” noting that he agrees with Scott and now also Greg Beale in his A New Testament Biblical Theology (2011). At the end of his footnote Schreiner directs the reader to Yates’ The Spirit and Creation in Paul (2008) “for further criticisms of Fee’s view.” The main argument remains the same, but there has been some fine-tuning throughout all of the commentary.

Margins and Additional Notes

The section on Romans 8.5–11 has also been expanded, and verse headings have been added in the margins. In the same section in Romans 1.0, there were no verse headings in the margins. If you were looking specifically for Romans 8.9, you would have to search through all of the paragraphs in that section. Now it is much easier to find the discussion on that verse. Only a few sections are like this (cf. Rom 1.1-5; 8.35–39). Margin verse headings are left behind in those smaller sections (1.1-5; 11.26-27) so that Schreiner can better group his discussions together, but this is rare. 

Many of the additional notes (see that of 5:1) have been expanded; the font has been changed, decreased, and put into bold.

The Spoiled Milk?

There’s really not much to complain about with this volume. Overall, it’s much more pleasing to the eye in terms of font size, style, and layout. No one will agree with all of Schreiner’s interpretations, and there are some matters that I still have questions about, which I’ve noted in my posts below.

Due to his brevity in some places (or because of my own ineptitude) I don’t understand some of Schreiner’s arguments that God’s righteousness is to be understood only forensically (read my third point on it being a gift from God along with my conclusion here). Neither have I quite figured out his interpretation of 2.15 with the “accusing and excusing thoughts” of gentiles believers and how they are two different groups (believing and non-believing gentiles- see here too).

But those are minor issues. The text as a whole is very readable, though academic. And really, no one should rely on one commentary alone but on a few (such as Moo, Longenecker, Jewett) alongside one’s own study.

Recommended?

Certainly scholars will want to pick this up again for Schreiner’s changed positions, his updated nuances, and the additional bibliographic entries. But what about pastors and teachers who already have the first edition? At the risk of being rebuked by Michael Bird, if you have the first edition and you aren’t sure if you should get the second, just sell the first and buy the second (unless your loved one lets you keep both). Arguments are tightened, reworked, and carefully thought through again. The commentary is large, but it is shorter than other Romans commentaries, especially the multi-volumes.

Schreiner’s volume is perfect for examining the flow of thought along with other interpretive and exegetical matters. But for all that allotted space, other matters must be left for other commentators. I may not be given the details of a particular word, but I at least understand how it is used in Paul’s flow of thought. Schreiner has published a plethora of works since his first edition, and as a result he has sharpened his thinking on numerous matters. This comes highly recommended. 

Lagniappe

  • Series: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
  • Author: Thomas R. Schreiner
  • Hardcover: 944 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic; 2 edition (October 16, 2018)

Buy it on Amazon

Explore Schreiner’s Commentary

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. 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.

Book Review: Political Church (Jonathan Leeman)


What is the local church? Or, perhaps, what is the church? Is it a body of believing Christians? Is it all of God’s people, his temple? Do we “go to church” or are we “the church”? How does the church live within the political sphere? Are they truly separate entities? In Political Church, Jonathan Leeman makes a case for the political nature of the local church and argues that it is possible to be political and a Christian. In fact, everything we do is political. “The local church and its members constitute a political community that exists according to Jesus’ explicit authorization in Matthew 16, 18 and 28… The purpose of this political community, then, is to publicly represent King Jesus, display the justice and righteousness of the triune God, and pronounce that all the world belongs to this King. His claim is universal” (294). 

Jonathan Leeman is the editorial director for 9Marks. He is an adjunct teacher for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and currently serves as an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He has both an MDiv and PhD in theology, both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science, and began his journalism career as an editor for an international economics magazine. Political Church is the third (?) volume in the Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture, edited by Daniel Treier and Kevin Vanhoozer, which brings together Scripture, Christian doctrine, and the issues of our day. Leeman, using biblical theology (here, the flow of the Bible’s storyline), looks at the overall storyline to understand how Christians should think about the political sphere, something which touches every sphere of life (just turn on the news or get on Facebook or Twitter).

The first two chapters asks what “politics” and “institutions” are. Because these two chapters are the most technical, Leeman gives his readers a “get out of jail free” card and tells them that they should “feel free to skip them” (32). They are technical, and I certainly didn’t understand a lot of the political language, but I was stretched and I think I have underlines on almost every page. “Politics” is “public-wide and coercive governance,” an “order-enforcing agency” (60, 61). The local church’s institutional authority is the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 16, 18, 28), and the state’s institutional authority is found in “the sword” (since they are, as Leeman argues above, an “order-enforcing agency”). Putting it another way,

institutions tell you how to act, and they give you opportunities to act. They help to define relationships, giving them purpose and direction. They even shape aspects of your identity. Consider just a few examples listed by the sociologists: marriage, the contract, wage labor, the handshake, insurance, the army, academic tenure, the presidency, the vacation, attending college, the corporation, the motel and voting.46 These are very different kinds of institutions, but all of them, in various ways, contain rules and opportunities for action, shape a relationship, and impinge upon identity. (108)

The state builds the platforms of peace and justice so that the church can “hang signs with Jesus’ name over right beliefs, right practices, and right people—the repenting and believing citizens of Christ’s kingdom” (15).

Chapter three looks at the politics of Creations, particularly that as governed and ruled by the triune God. The Christian’s Godthe Father, Son, and Holy Spiritis one of a unified relationship and provides the basis for people to be committed to care for their close neighbors. Husband/wife, parent/child, employer/employee, and neighbor-to-neighbor are the relationships that make up the fabric of society. There are relationships of affirmation and submission. “Good government works according to principles of righteousness, justice and love; and good government works best when ruler and ruled are perfectly in sync” (153).

Chapters 4-6 cover the Politics of the Fall, the New Covenant, and the Kingdom. The “the local church is a political institution because it has been authorized by a King to borrow and wield his own office keys for declaring who is and who is not a citizen in the ‘age of new covenant’” (295). The local church is an extension of God’s kingdom; it is not God’s kingdom, but an embassy for it. It “represents one nation inside of another nation… and it protects the citizens of the home nation living in the host nation. Embassies do not make people citizens of a home nation, but they do formally affirm who is and who is not a citizen of the home nation” (296).

Just as Jesus was ‘under’ the authority of Pilate and submitted to his decrees, Christians are not higher than their governments and must submit to their decrees. However, just as Jesus’ kingdom was elsewhere, Christians are members of the Creator’s kingdom, and he has given them a particular authority to preach the gospel, make disciples, and display love, peace, justice and righteousness. Everyone worships something—either God or idols. Christians are ambassadors for God (2 Cor 5.20); they mediate his covenantal rule to the world around them and call them to submit to Christ the King. 

Recommended?

The volumes in this series are more advanced than what I usually review, and one should have some knowledge of the political sphere to get the most out of this book. But yes, I do recommend it, especially because Leeman works through the Bible’s covenantal storyline. “The church’s life is held together by justification by faith alone, the most powerful political force in the world today for flattening hierarchies and uniting one-time enemies” (14). You may not be a political expert, but you will benefit from reading Leeman’s work. It is slow work, but it is a rewarding read.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture
  • Author: Jonathan Leeman
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (March 26, 2016)

Buy it on Amazon or from IVP Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. 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.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Book Review: Romans (EGGNT), John Harvey

The Exegetical Guide to the Green New Testament (EGGNT) series seeks to bridge the gap between the Greek NT and the many tools available to study said Greek. Once intermediate students learn the ropes of syntactical terms through various intermediate grammars, where do they go from there? What do they do when their favorite commentators disagree on matters of syntax, grammar, and a text’s structure? This is where one intermediate grammar in particular gave massive help to students. Going Deeper with New Testament Greek (review here) gave students a chance to work through a text at the end of a chapter while seeing how the authors themselves worked through that text. The EGGNT series seeks to do much the same and more.

Here, John Harvey, Dean and Professor of New Testament at Columbia Biblical Seminary in Columbia, SC, leads the reader through each passage of Romans. In his Introduction he believes Paul to be the author, the letter was most likely written from Corinth near the end of Paul’s third missionary journey (AD 57), written to a mixed-but-Gentile-prominent church to “introduce himself to the church in Rome, clarify the nature of his ‘gospel to the Gentiles,’ and correct the attitudes and behavior of the Jewish and Gentile believers in the church” so that they would rally alongside Paul and support his missionary endeavors to Spain (4).

Each section begins with a brief explanation of Paul’s flow of thought, followed by a structural outline.

In Romans 6.2b-6 (in the larger section of 6.1-11), Harvey has spaced out the text to show his readers that the double use of ἐβαπτίσθημεν encompasses the two εἰς prepositional phrases. Other lines are indented to show subordination (the black an colored lines are my own doing). The outlines are only a visual key; they do not explain outright what kind of subordinate clauses the section has, or how certain lines relate or do not relate to others. One must go to the phrase-by-phrase explanation to understand that.

There, Harvey takes apart the text and examines it phrase by phrase. As others have noted, these books are not a reading guide. Only rare or difficult verbs are parsed, along with participles and infinitives.

Harvey does not explain syntactical terms but assumes his reader either already knows what they are or can look them up himself. For example, in Romans 6.4, Harvey writes that συνετάφημεν is an ingressive aorist. It explain the dative of αὐτῷ, which refers back to Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν in verse 3. When a preposition comes before a word in a particular case (v. 4, διὰ + genitive), Harvey explains its function in that instance (“intermediate agency”). What is immensely helpful with this book is how Harvey brings together the thoughts of key commentators (Cranfield, Dunn, Käsemann, Longenecker, Moo, Schreiner, Stott) and grammars (e.g., Wallace). Sometimes he gives the commentators’ thoughts on a phrase, other times he merely notes the page number you will find their opinion on.When he gives different interpretive options for understanding a passage, sometimes he indicates his opinion with an asterisk (*), and other times he does not. Instead of having six commentaries spread about with you having to spend much time looking back and forth for their opinions, Harvey puts it in front of you in one paragraph. This won’t give you every answer, but rather the most likely way to understand the text’s syntax.

At the end of each section, Harvey lists a host of bibliographic references for further study according to relevant topics (95 total) found in that section. Concerning the “I” in Romans 7 (7:7-25), Harvey lists 27 different references. He lists 25 different references under the topic Predestination and Election (8:29), 21 under “All Israel Will be Saved” (11:26), and 17 under Adam/Christ Typology (5:12-21). Not all topics have so many references, but all are a massive help. If you’re writing a paper or a sermon on a particular topic, begin by looking here.

The next section offers Homiletical Suggestions for the pastor/teacher. These won’t always fit depending on how you’re structuring your sermon, but they are a helpful for seeing the text divided up a different way from your own conclusions (since you will be doing your own exegetical work first, right?).

Recommended?

Those well into the intermediate stage of Greek would do well with this. The structural outlines, numerous bibliographic sections, and homiletical suggestions alone make this worthwhile for teachers and preachers. This does not replace learning koine Greek itself. While the book has been helpful for me, I have forgotten a lot on syntax, so his syntactical notes always lead me back to various grammars. I usually look at Harvey’s syntactical notes first just to give me a springboard to bounce off from. If he notes that a word is an ingressive aorist, I’ll write it down and then look up the different ways the aorist tense functions and see if I agree. For those further along than me, Harvey cuts down a lot of your preparation time (though you do still need to translate the text). A multifunctional book like this gives a lot of information to chew on and to incorporate into one’s teaching. I think Harvey has done a great service for pastors and teachers with this volume.

Lagniappe

Buy it from Amazon, Adlibris, or B&H Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. 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.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Book Review: Honoring the Son (Snapshots), Larry Hurtado

In Lexham Press’s Snapshots series, one that contains short books on various topics such as the atonement, transformation as the heart of Paul’s gospel, and the church and Israel. Now Lexham has added another volume by the eminent NT scholar Larry Hurtado, emeritus professor of New Testament language, literature, and theology at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He has written numerous books on the early church’s devotion to Jesus, such as Why on Earth did Anyone Become a Christian in the First Three Centuries?, Destroyer of the gods, One God, One Lord, and How on Earth did Jesus Become a God? In Honoring the Son, Hurtado distills the last 30 years of research into one small book (82 pages).

After a Foreword by David Capes, Hurtado’s Introduction previews the plan of his book and then briefly reviews 20th century scholarship on how Jesus received cultic (“religious”) devotion. A certain Wilhelm Bousset wrote a book asking whether worship of Jesus originated with Jewish Christians, or, as Bousset argued, “in diaspora settings such as Antioch and Damascus, where he posited believers were more subject to pagan influences in which divinized heroes and multiple deities were more acceptable than in Roman Judea” (6). Basically, Bousset argues that Jews didn’t worship other gods; they worshiped Yahweh alone. So it must be that some Jews further out in Antioch (modern-day Turkey, quite a ways from Rome) were influenced by other pagans to add “divinized heroes” on to their toolbelt of deities to whom to pray. Thus, being influenced by their culture, they ‘divinized’ Jesus and began to worship him. There is more to the history of research, but I’ll let you read the rest of that.

In brief, chapter 2 covers worship in the ancient world. Worship was “the heart of Roman-era religion” (21). They viewed gods as the guardians of homes, towns, nations, and the Roman Empire. While you would have your own god(s), when you went to other towns you would worship and ‘honor’ other gods. To refuse to honor gods “might provoke them to retaliate, or at least to take offense” (22). It was irresponsible (and antisocial) to refuse to worship other gods. Chapter 3 looks at ancient Jewish monotheism, where all people honored each others gods, well, except for the Jews. It’s not that they didn’t think there weren’t other gods or spiritual beings (see Deut 32.8-9, 17; Ps 82; 1 Cor 10.19-21), but they didn’t worship them. They worship only one God, Yahweh.

Chapter 4 brings us to the early Christian “mutation.” Jews died for their belief that they worshiped one God alone. How did Jewish Christians come to incorporate Jesus into their devotional practices? Paul regularly refers to Jesus as “Lord” (Rom 10.9-13 // Joel 2.32; Phil 2.9-11 // Isa 45.23; 1 Cor 8.4-6). Chapter 5: Jesus in Earliest Christian Devotional Practice presents the different ways in which Jesus was worshiped, honored, and revered not as a second god, nor at God’s expense, but with God as a recipient. Prayers, calling on Jesus’ name, the place of Jesus in baptism and the Lord’s supper, prophecy, and hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs all feature the uniqueness of Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, in the New Testament time. Honoring the Son ends with a Conclusion and an Appendix against Bart Ehrman’s ideas in his How Jesus Became God.

Thoughts

This is a great resource and an excellent distillation of Hurtado’s previous books. I’ve only read one of Hurtado’s books, but I’ve heard a good bit about his thoughts, so it was very helpful to read this thoughtful compression of thoughts. Every chapter was good, and it was especially helpful to have the brief overview of Greco-Roman thought when it came to religious worship. The Jews stood in stark contrast to them, with many being mocked and martyred for their beliefs. For Paul, the other NT authors, and the early churches to view Jesus so highly would be in stark contrast to the Jewish way of life, while still fitting with the Old Testament! The historical context Hurtado presents gives even greater meaning to those of us Christians today who just assume that it was obvious Jesus was divine so there shouldn’t have been a problem worshiping him. As Paul hows from the OT Scriptures, Jesus was closely associated with Yahweh, having received the “name above all names” (see the above references).

It should be said that the writing here is still very academic. It means Hurtado can be as precise as he needs to be to get his point across, but it will be made to less people. One example of the book’s academic nature can be seen in a certain change of terms. Hurtado once described this new devotional pattern (worshiping God the Father and the Son) as “binitarian.” He now describes this Christian development as “dyadic,” but he doesn’t explain what a dyad is. According to Wikipedia, “In sociology, a dyad is a group of two people, the smallest possible social group. As an adjective, ‘dyadic’ describes their interaction.”

Now granted, I could have looked up that word immediately upon seeing it for the first time, and I should neither expect books to explain all complicated words to me (dictionaries are still around for a reason). Nowhere in the book does Hurtado express that this is meant for the person in the pew. I do hope many pastors and teachers will pick this up to show the historical significance of Jewish Christians worshiping Jesus and calling on his name to be saved.

Hurtado’s book helps to affirm the divine position of the Son of God. I hope this book will be read widely.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Snapshots
  • Author: Larry W. Hurtado
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Lexham Press (June 27, 2018)

Buy it from Amazon, Adlibris, or Lexham Press

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. 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.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Book Review: Philippians (Verse by Verse), Grant Osborne

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Grant Osborne, former professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, has decided to finish his academic career by writing a commentary on every book of the NT specifically for the layperson. His three main intended uses are for devotional aids, for use in Bible study groups, and as sermon helps. The church needs teachers so that they don’t commit heresy, but studying the Bible doesn’t need to be a”a tedious duty we have to perform” (xi). Osborne wants studying the Bible to be a joy, not a burden.

As I’ve mentioned before, commentaries don’t need to be so difficult. Grant Osborne is doing pastors and teachers a big favor with his commentary series. Clocking in right at 200 pages, Osborne’s commentary on Philippians is easy to read and understand. Though written by an academic, this series is not ‘academic.’ It is not filled with terms from another language, the reader does not have to choke on reading about source-, form-, or redactional criticism (a la Bob Stein’s BECNT commentary on Mark, which I critique here), nor does the reader need to know what every other scholar thinks about a passage (if he wanted to know, he would buy their commentaries). Too many commentators give a few options without expressing their own opinion on what the text is saying. Osborne does spends some time, albeit little, on what others think about specific passages in Philippians, but he always offers his own interpretation of any passage. When he does present other views, he represents them carefully with grace.

Osborne understands the apostle Paul to be the author of Philippians, which could have been written probably in the early 60s AD during Paul’s Roman trial and imprisonment, as “the circumstances in the first three imprisonments do not fit well with what we actually see in the Prison Letters” (4). Osborne takes the genre of Philippians to be both a single “letter of friendship” and a “word of exhortation.” While he explains the circumstances leading up to the letter, he doesn’t describe the social setting of the church, such as the kind of people who lived in Philippi and how and why they were devoted to the Caesar and emperor worship (which would put pressure on the Philippian believers). He believes there are four groups of opponents confronting the church: (1) preachers opposing Paul [1.15–17], (2) Roman citizens [1.27–30], (3) Judaizers [3.2–3], and (4) Gentile libertines (3.18–19).

Osborne gives three-and-a-half pages on the theology of the letter. All focused on Christ, he presents the doctrine, the gospel, the church, and the return of Christ. The commentary ends with a two-page glossary in the back and a two-page bibliography.

Interpretive Matters

1.19: Paul’s ‘salvation’ has a double meaning. Either he will be released be with the Philippians or he will be released to be with the Lord. Either way is a deliverance to Paul.

1.21: Paul, a ‘slave’ (1.1) to Christ, knew that all value in this life or in the next was in Christ. So no matter what happened to him, he would glory in Christ.

1.28: The ‘sign’ is for both groups. The unbelievers who accepted the gospel would see that their persecution leads to God’s judgment and that believers will be vindication. Osborne states that “both outcomes—judgment and salvation—would be accomplished by God” (60). The sign was meant for all people to understand, but those who reject the gospel would remain blind.

2.7: Jesus’ emptying of himself refers to his incarnation, but he did not rid himself of his divine powers and attributes when he was on earth. Jesus ‘assumed the form/nature of a slave and served humankind’ and died on a cross to save humankind (80).

2.17: Paul’s being ‘poured out as a drink offering’ refers to his possible martyrdom.

3.1: Osborne believes that as Paul was writing his letter he may have received the message that the Judaizers were infiltrating Philippi, which led to the strange shift between Philippians 3.1 and 3.2.

Recommended?

Pastors and teachers will be pleased with Osborne’s commentary. Osborne wants to lead his readers to a knowledge of Christ that expresses itself in joy, awe, and obedience in all matters of life. Osborne is faithful to Scripture, and I would highly recommend anyone who wants to study the Bible to pick up any of Osborne’s commentaries: laypersons, pastors, and teachers. Osborne will be a great conversation partner for most who want to study the New Testament.

Lagniappe

▪ Series: Osborne New Testament Commentaries
▪ Author: Grant Osborne

▪ Paperback: 224 pages
▪ Publisher: Lexham Press (August 2, 2017)

Buy it from Amazon, Adlibris, or Lexham Press

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. 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.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Book Review: 1 Corinthians (ZECNT), Paul Gardner

Paul Gardner has written the newest volume in the ZECNT series on 1 Corinthians, a book that always requires a massive undertaking to study, teach, and exegete. Gardner agrees that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, probably around 54-55 AD. Looking at the history and culture of Corinth, Gardner, agreeing with David Garland, says that while Corinth, a seaport city, was very much sexually immoral, much of its sexual reputation came from earlier accounts before the Roman conquest on Corinth (146 BC).

The pervasiveness of temples meant that every part of life dealt with religion. To deal or trade with someone meant considering one another’s patron god. It meant receiving invitations to dinners where food would be offered which had been sacrificed to the particular god. Gardner provides some insight into a Corinthian lifestyle. The “main underlying issue that Paul addresses concerns the possession of wisdom and knowledge…. [T]he Corinthians regarded these as spiritual gifts and gave them a significance that caused spiritual arrogance among some” (36). As a result, “Paul’s response is to return to the humbling centrality of the gospel message in which Christ is preached as the crucified Lord” (36).

Commentary Set-Up

The Literary Context shows how, say, 1 Corinthians 1.18–25, fits in between the previous section and the next. and a short explanation of it’s position in the broader context. A Progress Bar with an outline is added at the end. The Main Idea is a simple, one- or two-sentence statement on the passage. The Translation and Graphical Layout is Gardner’s translation of the Greek text represented in a sentence phrasing diagram as to how each clause relates to each other. (See my review of the ZECNT’s Matthew volume for an example of the Graphical Layout)

The Structure describes Paul’s flow of thought in 1.18–25.

The Exegetical Outline gives a detailed outline for the chapter.

In The Explanation of the Text, Gardner examines words, ideas, rhetoric, the social context, and/or biblical theology. So in 1.18, Gardner explains why the cross was “foolishness” to so many people “who are perishing,” and how “those who are being saved” are being done so by God’s power.  The highlight for many pastors and teachers, the Theology in Application section discusses how 1.18–25 contributes a piece of theology to the overall meaning of the book and provides some suggestions for application to the church. It will be incredibly helpful to the pastor/teacher in drawing out the text’s implications for the Christian community founded on solid exegesis.

With 15.20–28, Jesus is the conquering King who saves us from death, the great enemy of all people from the very beginning (at least since the third chapter). Paul writes of “Christ” (Messiah) four times, and this Christ represents his people who belong to him by being in him and are in his kingdom. He is currently destroying all powers and authorities, and he will destroy death itself. Thus, sin cannot be treated lightly. It must be preached so that Christ’s saving power over broken relationships, death, diseases, and corruption can be longed for.

In-Depth

Gardner also has many In Depth sections where he takes a deeper look at a particular topic, such as “The Theme of Stumbling” in 1.18–25 (101-104). Some In Depth sections are quite long, with “What Was Paul’s Attitude to ‘Speaking in a Tongue’ and What is the Phenomenon?” extending to 7 pages (593-600). Don’t miss the ever-interesting In Depth question asking if there is support for three resurrections (“Jesus, Those in Christ, and Others Who Have Died,” pp. 681-83). Though I agree with his position, Gardner doesn’t say much about the “others who have died” and where their resurrection will show up in the schema of things.

Interpretations

Though there is much to say, here are brief comments on a few of Gardner’s interpretations.

4.3–4: Paul does not preach the gospel according to “human wisdom” (2.13), and he will not be judged by a human court. The Corinthians are not to judge how ‘faithful’ Paul has been; that is the Lord’s prerogative.

1 Cor 10: Food sacrificed to idols should not be eaten in a temple/religious setting but can be eaten in “a nonreligious context,” for then it is eaten as food and not as a sacrifice (464).

10.28–29: “Even though this is not a religious context, if the eating is suddenly given religious significance, they should not eat” (466). This is an instance of one of the ‘strong’ asserting his ‘knowledge’ that he can eat this food before others. Paul says in this instance all Christians should not eat. “To eat at this stage would be to confirm the informant in his arrogance. It would be bad for their ‘self-awareness’ and add to their false sense of confidence that is altogether based in the wrong things” (466). Gardner provides a helpful paraphrase of the text that shows how Paul’s “for” statement in 10.29b fits into the context.

14.33c–35: To use Gardner’s summary, “wives are told not to judge or question publicly any prophecies emanating from their own husbands. Such action might bring shame upon the marriage” (629). Gardner provides a helpful In Depth look here. He does not believe it forbids all women from speaking in the gathered assembly.

Recommended?

There are an overwhelming amount of 1 Corinthian commentaries one could buy. There is no ‘right’ commentary. Excellent commentaries have been written by Fee, Garland, Hays, Blomberg, Ciampa/Rosner, Thiselton, with most of these (especially Ciampa/Rosner) being pretty long. Gardner has provided one that is worthy of purchase and could be paired with Schreiner’s upcoming volume in the TNTC series, which is shorter than most of the above. 

Gardner provides explanations, the main points, flow of thought, and a commentary that abounds with application sections. Gardner is to be commended and his volume recommended. His volume is an excellent addition to the ZECNT series.

Lagniappe

Buy it from Amazon or Zondervan

Disclosure: I received this book free from Zondervan. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. 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.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog. 

Book Review: Making Sense of God (Tim Keller)

In 2008, Tim Keller, former pastor of Redeemer church in NYC, wrote The Reason For God, which addressed the doubts of both skeptics and believers. Now, eight years later, his Making Sense of God: Finding God in the Modern World makes a case to skeptics that Christianity is relevant and brings “meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, justice, and hope.” Being more or less a prequel to The Reason For God, Making Sense is written primarily to skeptics of Christianity, but Keller’s audience certainly includes Christians too. He writes to give them the knowledge to discuss confidently with other skeptics.

Making Sense is made up of three sections.

  1. Why does anyone need religion?
  2. Religion is more than you think it is
  3. Christianity makes sense

He first explains that in the 1800s, humanists thought the world’s citizens would become more human as religion died away, which would lead to a decrease in wars and conflicts. Wars and conflicts have not ceased, and neither has racism nor eugenics. But clearly we can’t believe in Christianity since we can’t empirically prove its claims. But can that sentence be empirically proven? If we evolved, and survival is of the fittest, why love one another instead of (metaphorically) eating one another?One wants to feed the poor while the other wants to trample on them while climbing up the corporate ladder. Whose life meaning is correct?  Keller states that the concept of “natural” human rights came about in Medieval Christianity. All people, regardless of their status, class, gender, or vocation are owed some things. While taking care of the poor didn’t originate with Christianity, the Christian ideas of caring for the marginalized because all are created in God’s image permeate our society. We have a view of people being equal because of Christianity.

If all people are created to love and serve God, putting anything else will be a futile effort for nothing can satisfy us, and everything will disappoint and frustrate us. Our children will not always follow our dreams for them, our spouses will fail us, our bodies will break now, our houses will need repairing, we are replaceable. We are limited. We cannot do everything we want. Saying ‘yes’ to one person means saying ‘no’ to 10 others. Saying ‘yes’ to one woman means saying ‘no’ to all others at all times. People want to be “true to themselves,” but we are all connected. If everyone lived in a way that was “true to themselves,” where would the heroes be? Who would sacrifice themselves for others? No one wants to be a slave, but in being completely independent from all people and opinions one is a slave to independence. As Keller says, “You are a slave to it, because it forces you to stay uncommitted, and, probably, pretty lonely” (111).

Keller finishes his book showing how it is reasonable to believe in God and Christianity. He looks at the cosmic and intellectual design of the universe, morals, reason, beauty, and consciousness. Keller then looks at the sources for what we know about Jesus (the four Gospels), his character, wisdom, claims, freedom, the conundrum of Jesus (how a human was considered divine), and his resurrection.

Recommended?

Reviewing a book by Keller is always difficult for me. First, I think they should sell themselves. Second, there’s too much information to gather for a book review. I found this book fascinating and helpful in flipping the world’s claims around and seeing how they (at least those presented in the book), don’t make sense. Unlike The Reason For God though, occasionally a chapter felt like it dragged on, but this was uncommon. The writing is both readable yet dense, at times requiring the reader to slow down to absorb the arguments. Christianity is not merely a feel good religion. “Feeling good” requires knowing God himself and that he is wise and all-knowing. He is logical and loving. He is trust-worthy and faithful, and we can put our full confidence in him, even though we won’t have every answer.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Timothy Keller
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (March 20, 2018)

Buy it from Amazon, Adlibris, or Penguin Random House!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Penguin Random House. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. 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.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog.