Category Archives: Review

Review: Hermeneutics as Apprenticeship

How should we read the Bible? Interpret obtuse texts with the clear texts? Should the Scripture interpret me alone? Those are helpful methods, but Starling vouches for an intertextual hermeneutic. Like the snowball which rolls down a hill and picks up more snow along the way, the Biblical authors picked up former themes and ideas when they wrote. Revelation, the last book of the Bible, has more echoes and allusions (~635) than any other NT book. That’s quite the snowball. But more than that, Starling argues that the “interpretation of the Scriptures is like a craft or a trade that must be learned if we are to draw the right connections, make the right intuitive leaps, and bring to bear on the task the right dispositions, affections, and virtues” (17). The work of the interpreter (which is anyone and everyone who reads the Bible) will require sweat, toil, and character.

The rest of his book is made up of fourteen case studies, six from the Old Testament and eight from the New. Each chapter has a specific theme (or “hermeneutic”) that is developed throughout that biblical book. If each theme was a play, Starling gives us tickets to the front row, the side balcony, and the nose bleed section. Each seat is a different angle and allows the ticket-holder the see the play, its actors, their motions, and their faces from different angles (near, far, and to the side). Some examples are Psalms (“delight”), Deuteronomy (“law”), Zechariah (“prophecy”), Luke (“fulfillment”), Galatians (“allegory”), and 1 Peter (“Empire”).

For example, in 1 Peter, how do we read the Bible and live in this world as exiles under an evil empire (no matter where we live)? Peter teaches his readers what the OT says about living as followers of Christ today (yes, even today) by having us sit in the different seats of the play Empire. We are to live with both a reverent fear/respect to those we live and serve under, and a reverent fear of God whom everyone lives under. We live under a God who has show us grace and we should show grace and good works as well to others. When we are alienated from the world we know that there is another greater One who we serve and approves of our lives. Our glorious salvation is incorruptible, greater than all the gold and social approval this world can give us. We were taken out of darkness and into light by the precious blood of Christ through a horrific crucifixion. “What is beautiful in the sight of God can—at least in principle—be found beautiful by all those who have eyes to see” (190).

The Spoiled Milk

There not much I don’t like about this book, but there are times when one of Starling’s points seems to come out of nowhere, or it’s very vague. In clarifying how Luke-Acts explains a true “gospel-centered hermeneutic,” Starling says in this third point that “the gospel preaching of Jesus and his apostles in Luke-Acts does not sit well with one-dimensional propositional accounts of the gospel speech-act, or with overly sharp attempts to pare off the response the gospel calls for and the blessing that it offers from the facts that it announces, as if only the latter were properly part of the gospel” (117). He states just before that the way Luke-Acts uses the OT contrasts with a one-dimensional use of the OT simply as a backdrop for the facts of the gospel that many people today use. But just what are these “one-dimensional propositional accounts”? What does he mean by “gospel speech-act”? What are the “overly sharp attempts to pare off” the gospel response and its offered blessings from the facts of the gospel, and who is doing the paring? I don’t know, but this is one of final main points. To give (what I thought to be) a vague expression of how we shouldn’t interpret the OT without explaining what that looks like is disappointing. Many may continue on without realizing their own one-dimensional interpretations. 

Recommended?

I would assign this book if I taught a hermeneutics class in a Bible college, and at least a few chapters if I taught this in a high school. It’s a good subset of larger Biblical theologies that keeps an eye on what the individual biblical authors are teaching their readers. They each have something specific they want to emphasize (multiple things, really), and it all fits under the heading of God’s Word.

Interpreting Scripture requires sweat, skill, and character. We work and develop the skill of learning how to read and understand it properly, and as God develops our character and shapes us into the image of his Son, we will understand better just who this God is who is working in the world around us. The fear of God which leads to godly wisdom “is a way of living with unanswered questions that still bears true witness, keeps faith with friends, maintains integrity, and hopes in God” (80). We will never get to the end of the Bible, and we will never have all the answers. But we will eventually have to make decisions in life, and what we have learned from the Bible will inform those decisions. Learn to interpret well. 

Lagniappe

Author: David I. Starling
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Baker Academic (September 20, 2016)
Podcasts: OnScript with Matthew Bates

Buy it on Baker Academic or on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Academic through the Baker Academic Bloggers program. 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.

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Review(s): “Paul’s New Perspective” & “The Earliest Christologies”

IVP graciously sent me Garwood Anderson’s new book Paul’s New Perspective: Charting a Soteriological Journey. Is this just another book on the New Perspective of Paul (NPP)? No, not quite. “To put it simply, the argument of this book insists that both ‘camps’ are right, but not all the time,” or at least, not at the same time (5). Anderson actually thinks that the “New Perspective” was Paul’s old/earliest perspective, and the “Old/Lutheran/Reformed Perspective” was Paul’s new perspective. Anderson means to say that Paul’s early letters (e.g., Galatians), with their use of such terms as “works of the law,” reflect what the NPP says is wholly Paul. But Paul’s later letters (e.g., the prison epistles) reflect what the OPP says is wholly Pauline. And Anderson says, yes.

“Paul’s discourse [in Galatians] is conditioned by an urgent, on-the-ground crisis of how, against apparent scriptural testimony to the contrary and overcoming the skepticism of Jerusalem apostles, Gentiles can be admitted to covenantal membership apart from Torah observance, especially circumcision” (12).

But, like all people, Paul’s theology developed. Anderson in no way says or means to say that Paul’s earlier theology was wrong. But as new situations arose, Paul, like all people, had to think through these new issues with a gospel worldview, one that believed Jesus was the Son of God who died for our sins, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, rules and reigns at the right hand of God, and will return to save his people and vanquish his foes. Anderson says that Romans was Paul’s turning point, and that Paul’s argument has a transformation of its own. Basically, what began with the crisis of Gentiles being included into membership apart from the law would eventually move to having a “vertical” reconciliation with God, by faith, apart from works of any kind.

“In particular, the question has become not how Gentiles gain a place in the covenant but how, the Gentiles’ place in the covenant being assumed, the unity of Jew and Gentile can be preserved without subverting the salvation-historical priority of Israel. And that question, salient in its own right, is ultimately tributary to the even larger question of God’s own rectitude in the outworking of the divine plan” (13).

Why write a book like this? Garwood says, “The project originates in the sobering observation that Paul’s students too frequently nourish contention, not least in the learned study of their mentor’s accounts of how enmity and its causes have been overcome” (3). And, unfortunately, this is true. Paul taught reconciliation with God and from God, and it should be received and given by his people to each other. Yet, looking at the different Pauline schools, there does not seem to be nearly as much fence-mending going on as Paul would have liked to have seen.

Outline

Before we can get to the real meat (chapters 6-8), some real work needs to be done. Anderson’s first five chapters take us through the gritty debates, but it takes some grit to get through them. Anderson examines some of the issues of the NPP (ch1), gives three examples of how Paul is uncooperative in either “camp”: Phil 3.1-11, Rom 3.21-4.8, and Eph 2.1-22 (ch2), and examines the theology of Dunn and Wright, Watson, Campbell, Bird, and Barclay to see if there’s a way through the NPP (ch3). In chs 4-5 Anderson lay out his “itinerary” on the dates of Paul’s letters, and he argues against the deutero-Pauline hypothesis and for Pauline authorship of all thirteen of Paul’s letters. The problem here will be that if some of Anderson’s arguments don’t work (e.g., a pre-Acts 15 date; a southern Galatian provinence), his theory will have a harder time holding together. It’s not impossible, but a bridge becomes harder to hold up without some of its suspension cables.

Chapters 6-7 deal with Paul’s movement from works of the law to works and his movement from justification language to salvation. Important topics that are hit are also grace, salvation (again), and reconciliation. In chapter 8 Anderson shows the similarities and, more importantly here, the distinctions between Galatians and Romans. Romans is not just an extended edition of Galatians. The second half of the chapter looks how impotent works are redeemed and become “good” in Paul’s later theology.

The Spoiled Milk

My main complaint is that it takes a long time (225 pages) to get to the meat of the book’s main argument, and the language in those first five chapters is very clunky. Anderson uses imagery and metaphor to draw pictures in his language, but sometimes it’s too confusing and makes for a slow read. I often asked myself if it was worth it working through the first five chapters of this book. Chapter 6-8 are definitely worth a read, but only those who are skilled in the discussions of the NPP & OPP will really find chapters 1-5 worth their while.

Recommended?

Unfortunately, this might be the first book I’ve read that specifically deals with the NPP. So for me, though I knew aspects of the NPP and OPP, I haven’t read much at all to begin working through the issues. I taught 2 Corinthians twice in Bible college, and besides Wright’s article on 2 Cor 5.21, there’s not much discussion (that I know of) on the letter from the NPP side. However, for those who are looking to go deeper into the N/OPP debates, Anderson’s book is a must read. His nuanced arguments shows that he has read both sides carefully (from what I can tell) as he tries to refrain from making grand, sweeping allegations. I too must agree with Anderson’s wife, he “should write more” (x).

Lagniappe

  • Author: Garwood P. Anderson
  • Hardcover: 457 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (October 28, 2016)

Buy it from IVP Academic or Amazon!


What did the early church believe about Jesus Christ? Were there really competing views over who Jesus was? Did the view that Jesus was both human and divine (what Papandrea calls “Logos Christology”) become the mainstream view through silence and oppression? Or was this the mainstream view because it was truly what his followers believed about him? In his short book The Earliest Christologies, James Papandrea introduces his readers to the five most common views of Christ with in the post-apostolic age and why Logos Christology won the day. This book focuses on each groups’ “christologies—drawing out what they believed about the person of Jesus Christ, as far as we can know. Then we will address the relationship of christology with soteriology (salvation) and also its relation to [their] lifestyle” (13). What we believe has a profound impact on how we live, and our lifestyle shows what we really believe.

The five christologies are:

  1. Angel Adoptionism: Jesus was a human anointed by God but indwelt by an angel.
  2. Spirit Adoptionism: Jesus was a human who, like the OT prophets, was inspired by the Holy Spirit who left him while he hung on the cross.
  3. Docetism and Docetic Gnosticism: Christ was a phantom who took on the appearance of a human.
  4. Hybrid Gnosticism: “The one who appears as Jesus is not really human but rather a semitangible being posing as a human” (69).
  5. Logos Christology: Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully divine.

The book ends with a continuum chart comparing the aberrant views with Logos Christology. The chart moves from the views which emphasize Christ’s humanity (to the neglect of his divinity) to Logos Christology (in the center) to those views which emphasize his divinity (to the neglect of his humanity).

Recommended?

Papandrea does a good job introducing the reader to the other aberrant views that skewed important aspects of Jesus Christ at the end of the first century and into the second century. As he points out, there’s not much to go on with some of these views. Unlike Christianity which wrote extensively (a la the New Testament, copies of the New Testament, and other helpful letters to the churches), the other views wrote very little, and much of what remains of their writings are only fragments. Because of this it is difficult to know with certainty what these other views precisely believed.

Lagniappe

  • Author: James L. Papandrea
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (April 24, 2016)

Buy it from IVP Academic or Amazon!

Disclosure: I received these books free from IVP 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.

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Review: A Modern Grammar for Biblical Hebrew & Workbook

Learning a language is not easy. You have to learn a new set of vocabulary, a new way to structure sentences, and new syntactical and grammatical rules just to be able to speak to somebody! It’s a bit different with Hebrew and Greek, as many student only learn to recognize and read the languages (unfortunately-languages stick better when you learn them through speaking and listening too). Duane Garrett (the John R. Sampey Professor of Old Testament at the SBTS) and Jason DeRouchie (Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology at Bethlehem Seminary) have come together and revised Garrett’s previous Hebrew textbook.

Outline

  1. Orthography (the conventions of spelling) and Phonology (chs 1-4)
  2. Basic Morphology and Syntax (chs 5-26)
  3. Detailed Study of the Qal Verb (chs 27-30)
  4. Detailed Study of the Derived Stems (chs 31-35)
  5. The Masoretic Text, Detailed Study of Syntax, and Poetry (chs 36-41)

Upon finishing chapter 41, the reader will have learned nearly all words that appear 79 times or more in the Hebrew Bible, 510 core vocabulary, 155 proper names, and will have translated over 300 verses of biblical text (along with many practice sentences). A CD is included with audio files for the alphabet and vocabulary.  

The Chocolate Milk

I’ve found Garrett/DeRouchie’s grammar to be a helpful guide. Most chapters are packed with information (though this can be a double-edged sword), which is helpful for self-study and for after-class-need-more-time-to-let-this-soak-in-study. In chapter six, “Hebrew Verbs,” the authors give a very helpful discussion on verb tense, mood, aspect, and voice. 

  • Tense tells us if the “situation expressed by the verb is past, present, or future” (35).
  • Mood tells us whether the action (expressed by the verb) is real/actual (“was,” “is,” or “will”) or possible (“may,” “would,” “could”).
  • Aspect “relates to how a speaker portrays the action” (35). Are we told “it [the whole event] happened” or that “it was happening” (as a process)?
  • Voice “tells us whether the subject of a verb acts or is acted upon” (36). This is seen in active verbs (“The dog bit the man”) and passive verbs (“The man was bitten by the dog”).

Each chapter has a section on vocabulary, and beginning with chapter nine the reader is presented with a guided reading from Psalm 1, Numbers 1.24–35, Psalm 14, and various texts from Genesis. The authors cover the expected grammar of Hebrew: nouns, adjectives, adverbs, prefixes, etc. But Section E has six chapters, one on Masoretic marks, and five covering syntax and literary structure, discourse analysis, and poetry. These chapters give important advice on sentence clauses, speech, embedded discourse, paragraph markers, and more. There is a case study in historical discourse in Genesis 37.2–11 which will benefit any who put the time into understanding it. It’s not enough to know vocabulary and to be able to parse; you must know how to read sentences and paragraphs and to know how the sense units function in relation to each other. This is a large task, and Garrett and DeRouchie faithfully guide their beginners through these ravines.

The Workbook is excellent. Each chapter comes with many sentences to translate and many verbs to parse for extra practice. It’s unfortunate that the reader isn’t required to translate from English in Hebrew. It actually helps to reinforce what was taught in the chapter. Bonus: The workbook has an answer key (I’ve actually seen some books that do not have an answer key, which boggles my mind).

The Spoiled Milk

As I said above, almost every chapter is is packed with information, which can be a real benefit. But when I open A Modern Grammar I feel like I’m drowning in words. Though helpful, it can really be overwhelming.

The flip side to my praise of the chapter on verbs (ch 6) is followed up by my distaste for the chapter on verbs. Right off the bat, I’m a paradigm guy. I’ve seen that there are some people who have really appreciated that the chapters on verbs didn’t list paradigms. I’m not one of those people. That’s just not how my mind works. So even though I had already had a semester of Hebrew, this chapter still threw me for a loop.

The chapter quickly introduces the reader to the verb יִפֹּל (yippol) and it’s meaning, gloss, and alternative translations. The first verb reader meets is a weak verb. On the next page the reader is given six more verbs, and again, all are weak verbs (which are more difficult to properly recognize than the strong verbs). Then יִפֹּל (yippol) is described as an imperfect verb, what Garrett refers to as the yiqtol (יִקְטֹל) verb. קָם (qam) is a perfect verb, or a qatal verb. My point? יִפֹּל doesn’t look like יִקְטֹל, and קָם doesn’t look like קָטַל. The vocabulary list at the end of the chapter contains 15 verbs; two are strong. The rest are weak (and, thus, act differently).

Why not explain the perfect verbs (קָטַל) by strong verbs that actually like like the verb קָטַל? why use a weak verb with only two radicals (or ‘letters’) instead of three? Weak verbs are difficult enough to understand. Why begin verbs with them?  

In fact, I found all/most of the chapters on verbs to be at least somewhat confusing. On the one hand, the explanations are excellent, but the format of the chapters (and lack of paradigms, though they are in a back appendix) was unhelpful.

Recommended?

Yes, though in a number of ways I still prefer both Allen Ross’ grammar (which you can find free lectures here) and Van Pelt/Pratico’s grammar. Part of that is because I’ve worked through both of them (and Ross’ in Hebrew I & II). I also think both grammars are laid out  better than this one. This one has a lot of good information in it, but it does require a lot of reading. Some chapters also try to get too far ahead of themselves by providing a brief look at a grammatical rule that will be examined in a later chapter.

Chapter 1, when learning about vowels there’s a brief section about how nouns in construct can change their vowels. Yet this topic won’t be covered until chapter 12. Why not just leave it until then? Had this been my introduction to Hebrew, seeing vowels change in this way would have felt like a burden.

I still think that Garrett and DeRouchie have put together an excellent grammar, one that tries to give the reader all the information they need to understand the language. But this wouldn’t be the first grammar I reach for, nor the first I recommend as I don’t find it the simplest grammar to go through, but with self-discipline and patience one can surely make it through this grammar with a firm understanding of both beginning Hebrew and syntax.

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Duane Garrett & Jason DeRouchie
  • Hardcover Grammar: 432 pages
  • Paperback Workbook: 320 pages
  • Publisher: B&H Academic (July 1, 2009)

Buy the Grammar from B&H Academic or on Amazon!

Buy the Workbook from B&H Academic or on Amazon!

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.

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Review: Paul the Ancient Letter Writer

Dear Jack,

School is a wreck. I’m smashed with work, I failed my last exam, my roommate and I aren’t getting along, and the kids in my nursery class do whatever they please. My teachers have been piling on the homework, and midterms are next week!

Love, Jill.

I’ve adapted this from an example Weima uses in his introduction, and for all of us this looks like just another having-a-hard-time-in-college letter between two lovebirds. But for Tom, this letter is quite different from Jill’s other letters to him. She always writes “Dearest Tom,” she begins her letters with her fondness for Tom before getting into the tears and sweat of school, and she always ends her letters with “Love, Jillie.” Tom realizes this letter is much more terse and a lot less friendly. What would seem normal to another set of eyes is dramatic, perhaps even overwhelming, to Tom.

Jeffery A. D. Weima, professor of New Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary for 25 years and author of Neglected Endings and 1-2 Thessalonians (BECNT), makes the case that we should not only be looking at the content of the Bible but also its form. This isn’t exactly a new idea, but Weima, who has studied Paul’s letters for over 30 years, compares all of Paul’s letters to understand the purposes and contents of his writings and the function they play in his persuasive purposes.

The Layout

Paul the Ancient Letter Writer is made up of six chapters.

1. Introduction: After using the above example of Jill’s letter to Jack, Weima explains his method of interpreting Paul’s letters (“epistolary analysis,” broadly called literary criticism). This means Weima reads Paul’s letters as they are—letters—which involves learning how to read their structure. Weima, contrasting epistolary analysis with the methods of thematic approach and rhetorical criticism, writes, “But though Paul employs [rhetoric], it would be wrong to conclude . . . that he was a rhetorician who constructed his letters according to the rules of ancient speech” (9). Instead, “the most important source for understanding the apostle’s letters must naturally be the letter-writing practices of his day rather than the rules for oral discourse” (9).

2. The Opening: Whereas most Bible readers (and commentators) overlook the opening verses of Paul’s letters, Weima sets all of Paul’s opening statements side by side and examines how Paul presents his apostolic position in relation to his readers “so that his purposes . . . are strengthened and enhanced” and foreshadows key themes in the letter (12).

3. The Thanksgiving: These sections in Paul’s letters are too long to place side by side, but Weima skillfully shows the differences between a few of Paul’s Thanksgiving sections. There are five parts to the Thanksgiving section, but some letters are missing one of the parts. Weima spends a few pages on Galatians, which is missing the entire Thanksgiving section!

4. The Body: Easily the longest chapter in the book, Weima spends 74 pages working his way through thirteen different forms that appear throughout his thirteen letters (e.g., appel, confidence, prayers, inclusios, etc.) and their functions.

5. The Closing: Paul’s closings usually receive equal (or less) attention than his openings (usually because people are ready to finish the letter by this time). But again, Weima shows that Paul’s closing sections pick up themes from within the letter and recapitulations the apostle’s concerns.

6. The final chapter is a test case of Paul’s literary techniques which Weima has covered in chapters 2–5. He shows how Paul’s persuasion can be most easily seen in the short letter of Philemon. All of the chapters are of high quality, but this was by far my favorite.

The Chocolate Milk

Paul the Ancient Letter Writer is an excellent resource for anyone who is studying Paul’s letters. Weima can be quite detailed, but the effort is not without its payment. In each chapter, after Weima introduces the form of a passage and it’s function, he gives its interpretive significance.

For example, Weima says that the apostolic parousia “refers . . . to the presence of Paul, whether this is experienced by means of a future visit from the apostle, the arrival of his emissary, or the letter itself” (114). All three of these instances are seen in 1 Corinthians 4.14–21.

First, Paul wrote to the Corinthians (v14) to admonish them as his “beloved children.” He loves them as his children, but they must obey him as the one who fathered them in Jesus Christ through the gospel.” Second, he sent Timothy (someone they knew well) to them to represent Paul’s ways. Timothy is described as Paul’s “beloved and faithful child” (v17). Paul imitates Jesus. Timothy imitates Paul. The Corinthians should see Paul represented in Timothy, imitate Paul, and thus image Christ rightly. Third, Paul stresses that he will come to them again (vv18–21). As their father, which would they prefer: Paul to come with a “rod” of discipline or in a spirit of gentleness?

The Spoiled Milk

The only negative I could find in this book came in chapter 5 on Paul’s closing sections. Three times Weima picks up the last few verses of 2 Corinthians, but the last two times (13.12a, 13) almost completely rehash the information used in the first discussion of 13.11. There is some new information, but too much that was repeated.

Recommended?

Weima shows just how important a close reading of the text is. While he doesn’t create a whole theology out of every nuance, he doesn’t brush them aside either. Would all of his readers noticed if a particular section was missing from his letter? It’s difficult for us to know for certain. However, while Paul’s original audiences would not have been able to compare all of his letters, we can, and by doing so we can get a bigger glimpse into the mind of Paul by seeing what he did and didn’t write. This semester, my Old Testament professor has been drilling into us the importance of the literary structures of the biblical books. Weima only confirms that importance by showing how to read Paul’s letters rightly. This is a must have for all who study Paul’s letters. 

Lagniappe

  • Author: Jeffrey A. D. Weima
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (November 15, 2016)
  • Previous Posts: The Closing of 2 Corinthians

Buy it on Baker Academic or on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Academic through the Baker Academic Bloggers program. 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.

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Review: Hebrew I (Zondervan Online Lectures)

(See bottom of my review for the Discount Code)

As I’ve mentioned before, I took Elementary Hebrew at SBTS this fall semester. Before I started the course, I knew two things about my teacher, Peter J. Gentry. First, he was brilliant at Hebrew. Second, he was tough. This was a graduate course, and he treats it as such. Zondervan had just begun to have online courses (35 now), so I spent the rest of my summer going through these videos.

The Zondervan Academic Online Course for Hebrew I is taught by Miles Van Pelt. Van Pelt teaches at Reformed theological Seminary, has contributed to the new A Biblical Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, but is most known for his Basics of Biblical Hebrew works.

The course is self-paced, but it must be completed within 12 months. It is 16 units long with each unit following a four-part structure: Overview, Study, Review, and Assess, and ends with a midterm. Hebrew II is also made up of 16 units and ends with the final.

Class Lectures

  1. Alphabet and Vowels
  2. Syllables and Pronunciation
  3. Nouns
  4. Definite Article and Conjunction Waw
  5. Prepositions
  6. Adjectives
  7. Pronouns
  8. Pronominal Suffixes
  9. Construct Chain
  10. Numbers
  11. Introduction to Verbs
  12. Qal Perfect – Strong
  13. Qal Perfect – Weak
  14. Qal Imperfect – Strong
  15. Qal Imperfect – Weak
  16. Waw Consecutive

In these videos, Van Pelt take you through morphology and helps answer the question: “How does this language work?” Rather than rote memorization, he shows how the grammar works. Why do certain vowels change when a word becomes plural? Which vowel does a consonant take? Why? Beginning Hebrew with this understanding makes Hebrew much more possible.

After taking a physical class (50 minutes, 4x a week) with a physical teacher directly in front of me, one value with these videos is that you can replay them as many times as you want. I usually understood what was going on in my class, but there was one particular class (#16) that boggled my mind. After coming home and watching one of the lectures, I saw the subject from a different angle, and it all made sense. 

The red shows you what is new in the lesson.

Time: 30-40 minutes.

The lectures are front-loaded with information so that when you begin learning Verbs you know all of the morphological rules for many of the changes you will see. Working on the nouns will make the verbs easier (as they can look very similar). As you progress, the tiny rules really begin to add up when you start translating sentences and the Bible. Some rules seem too small to deserve any room in your memory, but let me assure you—they are not insignificant. Those initial rules are the most important. If you don’t memorize them in the beginning, when you do realize you were mistaken, you’re going to be in deep (and you’ll have to learn all of those rules anyway). 

I say this because, with Hebrew being my first biblical language, and being the first language I learned where morphological rules were taught to me, I thought, “Big deal? This can’t be too difficult to remember.” Even though I did take the time to learn the rules, I am still constantly having to refresh my memory over these minute details. They are crucial, and Van Pelt is excellent at explaining the rules of Hebrew morphology and grammar.

Vocabulary

The vocabulary program used was developed by Cerego. It shows you the vocabulary word, lets you hear the pronunciation, and it tracks which words you are strong in and which ones you are weak in. I found the system to be pretty fun, actually. Each unit ends with a quiz. There is a keyboard system to know how to type each consonant and vowel, but it has a steep learning curve and is pretty clunky if you don’t know all of the hot keys. 

Audience

Those who will do this will either need to be self-learners or motivated enough to become self-learners. These could be pastors, students, or anybody who wants to learn/re-learn biblical Hebrew. You could use this for yourself, as a group study, or a class at church. Professors could use it and integrate it into their classrooms alongside their courses or as a new online program. As classes are slowly going the way of online learning, schools can implement these courses too. 

Recommended?

  • Pros:
    • You can rewatch the videos, which is helpful when you still don’t understand a topic
    • The examples are written out and explained in front of you
    • There is often a fuller explanation given than what is found in the book 
    • Van Pelt is clear in his teaching, and by teaching morphology, the later grammar makes more sense.
  • Cons:
    • As far as I can tell, you can’t ask questions
    • Sometimes I think they focus more on small matters that may not matter much
    • Costs more than buying the Grammar + Workbook.
    • You have access to the course for only one year.

Van Pelt writes out what changes occur in forms of words (e.g., from nouns to adjectives) and why they occur.

The best way to learn any language is to have a teacher right in front of you who can answer every question you might have, but those who aren’t able to go to seminary have to rely on books to learn Hebrew, and you can’t ask books questions. This is a good midway. Van Pelt writes out rules and words in front of you and helps you see why changes happen. I’ve seen Van Pelt clearly explain an few unclear sections from his book—something I would have remained perplexed on my own. Most of the grammar that you would find in the Grammar book is found here, but you will need the Workbook so that you can practice, practice, practice. The Workbook has helped me immensely in my own class this semester.

Lagniappe

This course discount code will get you 15% of of the course price: SPENCER

Disclosure: I received these lectures 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.

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Review: The Apache Wars

After finally being convinced by Mari to watch Dances With Wolves, I became somewhat enamored with wanting to know more about Native Americans. This meant putting every book on Native Americans that I found on an Amazon wish list. When I ran across The Apache Wars, I thought that I should expand my blog a bit and review something in a non-theological category.

This book begins with a young boy (Felix Ward) being kidnapped by a group of Apache Indians, which sets off a chain of events with the US army leading to the longest war in American history. Felix was a half-Irish, half-Mexican who was, basically, adopted by the Apache Indians. Later renamed “Mickey Free,” he often acted as a mediator between his people(s), both the white man and the Apache. This book is comprehensive and extremely detailed (roughly 70 pages of endnotes). There is an impressive amount of names, locations, and people groups in this book. TAW is full of treacherous battles, treacherous attacks, and treachery. Welcome to the 1800s. 

This book is certainly gruesome at times, yet the gruesomeness of the imagery sheds light on how life was back in the mid to late 1800s. And besides a few good representatives, neither side had many admirable heroes. America had political figures who were as corrupt as they come now, but there were those who made a good name for themselves and represented America well. They treated the Indians as humans. This isn’t a retelling of history from the standpoint of white Americans versus Native Americans. Some “white eyes” liked and appreciated the resourcefulness, cleverness, and intelligence of the Indians (some groups at least), and some Indians in different groups did like the “white eyes” too. Unfortunately, those people were few and far between. Most wanted nothing but to exterminate the Apache Indians, which didn’t bode will with the Apache. 

I found the book hard to follow? There is a main story, but there is a smattering of names, tribes, and locations. Every time a new mountain range was introduced, I was impressed at Hutton’s breadth of knowledge, humiliated at my lack of geographical knowledge, and lost within the vase details. Dates and information jump back and forth in order to tell the story in a particular way, but in terms of chronological order, it’s difficult to keep up with . . . unless you know your American history. 

Recommended?

If you are a novice in American history, then this should not be your introduction to it. I found it difficult to keep up with each Indian tribe, what they did, what their routine and lifestyle was, and even with the Americans they dealt with. I also found it difficult to follow the main story because of all the other side stories. However, my Dad, who is a history buff, really enjoyed this book. If you enjoy American and Native American history, then this book is recommended for you. If not, you should start elsewhere and then later make your way over to TAW.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Paul Andrew Hutton
  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing; 1st edition (May 3, 2016)

Buy it from Penguin Random House or Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Crown Publishing. 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.

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Review: “Theology as Discipleship” & “Biblical Theology”

When I say the word “ice cream,” what comes to your mind? Creamy smooth mint chocolate chip? Graeter’s Black Rasberry chcolate Chip? The feeling when it slides down your throat and cools your insides on a hot summer day? What do you think of when I say “theology”? Desks? Boring classrooms? An old professor talking about Paul’s missionary itinerary at 7 in the mourning?

Keith Johnson wants to put an end to that. God could have created a flat, cream-colored world where we ate creme-colored squares (tofu?) with our cream-colored, blockhead human next to us. Instead he gave us colors, mountains, valleys, blue skies, green grass, yellow perennials, and orange oak trees in the fall. He gave us Hawaii and Alaska; Iceland and Botswana; Germany and Colorado. He created men and women, blondes and redheads, tall and short. If theology is knowing God, and our God is this creative, why does theology often seem like licking dust?

Johnson makes his case from all of Scripture. After spending a chapter recovering theology, Johnson spends the first chapter showing how we serve the God who created the earth, came to earth in the flesh, died for his people, and was raised from the dead in a glorious new body as the first in the new creation. We have a place in God’s eternal plan, and we as Christians are united to this Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Chapter three goes into more detail about how to live in union with Christ by the power of his Spirit.

Chapter four explores God’s relationship to us through the text of the Bible and how we can interpret Scripture within the community of Jesus Christ. Chapter five describes what this kind of interpretation looks like. If it doesn’t lead us to love God and our neighbor more and to humble ourselves more, then we’re doing something wrong. This leads to chapter six which gives us a practical outworking of participating in the mind of Christ: our actions should be defined by obedience and humility.

Chapter seven gives nine aspects which should characterize theologians as they practice theology within the life and community of Jesus Christ.

Recommended?

TAD comes highly recommended, though with a caveat. Johnson hopes his books will be beneficial not only to the academy but also to pastors and laypeople (12). On the one hand, Johnson’s work is so steeped in theology that he draws together many aspects of God word and shows how we can participate in union with Christ while we live in this wilderness. However, for others, this language may not be simple enough for them. That’s the trouble with writing a book both for seminarians and laypeople, the crossover doesn’t always cross over. But, with attention and care, the person in the pew can find much to be pleased about in this book. I hope many will take the time to read this book and can be refreshed and encouraged over the God who we are joined with in Christ through the Spirit.

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord (Jer 9.23-24).

Lagniappe

  • Author: Keith L. Johnson
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (December 9, 2015)
  • Book Excerpt: What difference does theology make to our lives?

Buy it from IVP Academic or Amazon!

(Special thanks to IVP Academic for sending me this book!)

bt-goldingay

This is the first book by Goldingay that I’ve ever read. Before this, I’ve heard that he’s an evangelical who sits on the border of the nonevangelical world. Given that, I just never bothered to read him. While I can’t speak for his other works, I was pleasantly surprised with his new Biblical Theology. More often than not I could nod in agreement.

Goldingay reminds me a bit of Leithart in that, even in this academic work, Goldingay really shows in his work. When I read a Leithart book, Leithart’s name wouldn’t even need to be on the cover and I can tell it was written by Leithart. Leithart exudes from his own writing. It looks like Goldingay is the same, and I like it.

This work is a biblical theology, but not in how I expected it to be. When I looked at the Table of Contents, this sure looked like a work of systematic theology to me, but Goldingay assures the reader it is not. “When a theology student in his first term [semester] heard that I was writing a biblical theology, he inferred that it was therefore a systematic theology. It isn’t. Systematic theology works out the implications of the Scriptures in a way that makes sense in it’s author’s own context, using the categories of thought that belong to that context” (15).

Outline

In Goldingay’s Biblical Theology, everything revolves around God.

  1. God’s Person   [his character]
  2. God’s Insight   [his Scriptures]
  3. God’s Creation   [his world and all that is in it]
  4. God’s Reign   [his kingdom]
  5. God’s Anointed   [his Son]
  6. God’s Children   [his people]
  7. God’s Expectations [his people’s way of living]
  8. God’s Triumph   [his story’s fulfillment]

Each chapter has 3-6 sections, each having their own numerous subsections. Each of these sections and subsections don’t give a full-blown look at what all of the Scriptures say, but different from the book-by-book biblical theologies that have been coming out, Goldingay draws together central elements of the story (in a systematic way?) and fleshes out the story (in a biblical theological way). It’s quite interesting, quite different, and I think many could learn from what he’s doing here.

Recommended?

 For those who’ve read enough biblical theologies, this might be handy to pick up I don’t think you’ll learn much “new,” but the way Goldingay writes might be enough to draw you in. This is recommended, but it won’t fall at the top of my list for biblical theologies. I would still assign any of the theologies by Tom Schreiner, Jim Hamilton, Geerhardus Vos, and Graeme Goldsworthy and here (see also Alexander, Gentry/Wellum, Beale, Kaiser) first, because I know more of what they say in general. There was a lot I agreed with, but there were parts of Goldingay’s BT that I didn’t agree with, though generally nothing more than a few sentences were said. The first example isn’t as serious as the other two. For example, he seems to hold to the New Perspective on Paul (pp. 114-118), says that Daniel didn’t author Daniel (pp. 229-230), and says that in God’s house with many rooms we may meet people “who have not believed in Jesus. . . . Perhaps you will, perhaps you won’t; the Scriptures don’t address that question (p. 547).

Still, I was intrigued, and I was glad to learn a bit about Goldingay himself along the way. I hope more authors will take a similar tac(k/t) and show more of themselves in their own writings. Let the reader understand the man behind the curtain.

  • Author: John Goldingay
  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (November 20, 2016)

Buy it from IVP Academic or on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP 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.

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