Category Archives: Review

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!

(Special thanks to Crown Publishing for sending me this book to review!)

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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!

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

 

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Review: The Book of Isaiah and God’s Kingdom (NSBT)

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.

Isaiah 6.1-5

Unlike Jeremiah and Ezekiel, why does God not show up in a grand display until Isaiah 6? What does this say about Isaiah’s historical setting? Its literary placement? What does it tell us about God’s kingship, his kingdom, and his people?

As the fifth longest book in the OT, and having been written by an Israelite almost 3,000 years ago, it might be redundant to say that Isaiah is a difficult book to read. The way a book is organized is just as important as what a book says, but for most of us—Isaiah is just too long, and it’s difficult to get a grasp on the entire story and on each section.

Layout

Andrew Abernethy, Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, while not refraining from the historical details of Isaiah, focuses on the final literary form to show the reader what the book of Isaiah teaches us today. In doing so, he gives a thematic-theological approach to Isaiah’s varied portraits of God as King in each of the three sections of Isaiah (1–39, 40–55, 56–66), with each of those sections incorporating different aspects of God.

In Chapter 1, he is seen in poetry, narrative, and prose. He is the God who judges (Is 6; 24) and the one who saves (25; 33; 36–37). The book of Isaiah bears a message of judgment and hope from the beginning (1–6) to the end (66). Isaiah 1–12 focuses on how God will judge Israel and Judah through Assyria, while “Isaiah 24–27 looks to an eschatological time when the heavenly king establishes his rule in Zion” (31). In Isaiah 33, God’s reign has implications for his people: they can gaze on the beauty of their Lord and be protected from their enemies. Isaiah 36–37 present a snapshot of the unrivaled King who stands against the mighty Assyrian army. This is the unrivaled king of all ages who is more than able able to stand against all mighty armies.

Chapters 2–3 present God as a saving warring, international, and compassionate King. In Isaiah 40–55 Israel has been led out into the wilderness (40.1), which “symbolizes Zion’s desolation” (57). The “good news” is that God will be the great shepherd King who carries his people close to him in his bosom (40.11).

Chapter 3 covers Isaiah 56–66, represented in by a chiasm. Zion’s glory is the centerpiece of that chiasm (E), and it can only be understood in light of Yahweh’s coming as the warrior king (D/D’) who sees the injustice in Israel and will come to take action. Because of his just and righteous actions, the nations will flock to him and give gifts to him, and he will show compassion on all of his people.

In Chapter 4, Abernethy points us to the “lead agents” in each of the three sections, though he is not certain that these agents (of Yahweh) are understood to be the same individual. “Instead of forcing all of these lead agents into one mould, it is better to allow the uniqueness of each figure to emerge” (120). He examines the Davidic ruler (1–39), the Servant(s) of the Lord (40–55), and God’s messenger (56–66). This does not mean Abernethy doesn’t find these figures fulfilled in Jesus. He says, “The claim here does not undermine the New Testament’s application of all three of Isaiah’s figures to Jesus; instead, it displays the grandeur of Jesus and the surprise of recognizing how one person, Jesus Christ, can take on the role of all three figures, while also being the very God of these agent figures” (169). If Isaiah didn’t express these three figures as being one figure, this helps explain the Second Temple period’s emphasis on the coming Davidic Messiah, their lack of emphasis on a suffering servant, and the Pharisees confusion over Jesus.

Chapter 5 seeks to answer to questions, “Where is God’s kingdom? And, who are the people of God’s kingdom? . . . God’s kingdom is ‘placed,’ if you will, with people in the midst of it” (171). In this reality, God rules the entire cosmos, but he will also rule from Zion. God’s people are a purified, redeemed, obedient, just, national and international community which trusts God.

After each section in each chapter, Abernethy gives a summary and some canonical reflections of the content. The canonical reflections always look forward to Jesus, which is especially helpful when it comes to preaching and teaching through the book of Isaiah. Abernethy draws our eyes from the King who sits above the heavens in Isaiah to Yahweh in the flesh, who preached the kingdom of God, lived the kingdom of God, and was the Davidic king who suffered and died for the people of God. He created the world, commands destinies, and builds his temple brick by brick, person by person. He is the servant king whose glory Isaiah saw (Jn 12.41; Isa 6). 

Recommended?

There is so much more that could be said about these five chapters, and even more to be said about God’s kingship in Isaiah. He is the ruling, judging, warrior, loving, compassionate, caring, shepherd King who is watching out for his people, who will return and care for them, and will dine with them on his great mountain (Is 25.6–8; Rev 21.1–5). Abernethy’s book is recommended for all sorts, especially pastors and teachers. Be warned, this is not light reading. Abernethy’s work is mighty detailed and is best read with your Bible open and a pen in your hand (unless you don’t want to remember pivotal details). Abernethy has written an excellent resource on grasping on of the main themes of Isaiah (if not the main theme), and even provides two preaching outlines in an appendix at the end. You would be well-served in reading this book. Highly recommended.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Andrew T. Abernethy
  • Series: New Studies in Biblical Theology
  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (November 19, 2016)

Buy it from IVP Academic or Amazon!

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

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Review: The Message of the Twelve

Who said it first?

  1. “I will make your grave, for you are vile.”

2. “And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place.”

3. “I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them.”

4. “What’s love got to do with it?”

5. “And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.”

6. “Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?”

If you could only answer #4 (Tina Turner), then congratulations(!), you’ve found yourself in the midst of the Minor Prophets. The Book of the Twelve is a wild ride, however, because we are so far removed from this culture and history, even the harshest critiques preached against Israel (see #1, Nahum 1.13) put many right to sleep. What hope is there for the modern day mother with kids to understand the hope found in Zechariah? What conviction is Joel supposed to bring to the busy husband who is tired from a long week of work? Richard Fuhr, Jr. and Gary Yates have written The Message of the Twelve: Hearing the Voice of the Minor Prophets with the purpose of unveiling some of the mystery that shrouds the Twelve from our eyes. Fuhr and Yates aim to present to the reader of the the individual voices that make up the Twelve.

Layout

There are two parts to the book.

Part 1

  1. The World of the Twelve sets the reader within the history of the Minor Prophets. Which kings were in play? Why were they important? Who was the ruling superpower of the day (e.g., Assyria, Babylon, Persia, etc)? What was wrong with Israel at this time? The authors give a brief overview of Israel’s history in the promise land after the death of Solomon to the exile of Israel up through to the return to the land. Knowing Israel’s history is pivotal to understanding the Minor Prophets, and the authors do a good job of showing what was going on during the preaching of each prophet.
  2. The Role of the Twelve: The prophets were forth-tellers and foretellers. They taught the heart of God to his people, and, at times, they were given insight into what God would do in the future.
  3. The Words of the Twelve reminds us that the Minor Prophets are poetic texts (with prose included). The prophets’ words can be separated into three broad categories:
    1. Announcements of judgment
    2. Oracles of salvation
    3. Calls to repentance.
      Each of these have their own categories. The prophets were skilled in getting the attention of their audience, and they did so with the use of metaphors, parallelism, repetition, irony, sarcasm, rhetorical questions, and wordplays.
  4. The Book of the Twelve doesn’t always seem to be much of a unity at all, but Fuhr and Yates show the reader that through chronology, catchwords, and themes there is a strong unity between the twelve books. Some of those themes are Israel’s failure to repent in response to the prophetic word, the Day of the Lord, and the broken and restored covenant.

Part 2

The next twelve chapters are summaries of each of the Twelve’s books. After introducing the book and giving some of the historical background information, the authors present the structure of the book, showing that each book was purposefully written. None of them were just thrown together (although Hosea is difficult to outline). The authors then give a brief commentary on each section, ending with a Theological Message and Application of ___ section where the message of the book is condensed into a few paragraphs and its significance throughout the canon of Scripture (and primarily in the NT) is brought to light.

Conclusion

This book is a plea for the church to renew their interest in the Twelve. It remains part of God’s inerrant and inspired word. There are four ways the Twelve continues to speak to the church. (1) It gives a distinctive portrayal of God, (2) it gives an ethical call for God’s people to “act justly, love faithfulness, and walk humbly” with God (Mich 6.8), (3) it shows ways God deals with his people and the nations, and (4) it comforts the church with its message of comfort, restoration, and the kingdom of God that is coming in full.

Recommended?

For twelve books that many of us have a difficult time reading and understanding today, Fuhr and Yates have provided the church with an important work. They provide the literary structure of each book. They show wordplays that we miss in English translations, and connections within the literary structure from from the repetition of certain words. They clearly explain each section of each book, and finish it off with it’s application for believers today. This is a solid work for the student, pastor, and teacher. This is the perfect primer to use when studying the Minor Prophets. This should be read with a Bible on your desk and a pen in your hand.

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Fuhr / Yates
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: B&H Academic (September 1, 2016)

Buy it now from B&H Academic or Amazon!

(Special thanks to B&H for sending me this book to review!)

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Review: God’s Faithful Character (Lectures)

The use of the OT in the NT is a huge topic today in biblical studies. With books like 3 Views[], The Commentary on the NT Use of the OT[], Hay’s Echoes in the Letters of Paul[] (and now the Gospels[]), studies on intertextuality, (Jguo) intertextuality. There are positions on whether the authors are properly using the OT contextually, out of the original context, and now the position that the authors were recreating Israel’s story. Why should we consider what Watts’ has to say? As you may know, I’m taking my M.Div. at SBTS, and I enjoy reading works like these (in my small spare time) so that I can expand my knowledge of the Bible’s depths.

Rikk Watts, who used to teach at Regent College (lectures here), contends that the connection between the OT and the NT is God’s faithful character. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Why is such a dense subject so important?

As you’ll see in the outline below, Watts spends the first two and a half lectures going through the history of interpretation, looking at the views of writings and interpretations from before the time of Jesus and afterwards. While the task may seem arduous, Watts immerses the class through these writings and interpretations so that they may know where we have been and where we are going. Watts affirms that the NT was not written in a bubble, and neither are the ways scholars interpret the Bible today completed in a bubble. There is a history to both, but he is able to draw out how the NT authors use the OT while differing from the other Jewish and Greek writings that encompassed them.

In the rest of the lectures, Watts spends his time showing just how the NT authors showed how God’s character from the OT was the same in the NT. They did more than just interpret the OT in context. They believed that Jesus fulfilled the OT. Just as God worked in the OT, so he will work in the NT. The biblical authors recognized the patterns, and seeing Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s plan, they showed the unity of God’s word through the way they interpreted the text.

Table of Contents

  • Issues, History, and Current Research (Part I)
  • Issues, History, and Current Research (Part II)
  • Issues, History, and Current Research (Part III)
  • First Century Interpretation
  • When Jerusalem Becomes Like the Nations
  • Conjoining Texts
  • Some Striking Divergences
  • God’s Exodus Plan Completed
  • Purpose of the Parables
  • The Law and Faith (Part I)
  • The Law and Faith (Part II)

Watts’ handout is brimming with incredible (and technical) information. The above outline is only the bare-est of bones of the whole class. Each section is filled with information. You can see a brief example in these two posts.

Watts is an incredible, engaging teacher. His application is always spot on and penetrating. He truly cares about Christ and his bride. He is not some ivory tower academic, but he draws his applications to the real world. He desires to show the world a church that loves and follows after Christ as seen through their actions. The handout that comes with the lectures is particularly detailed and wonderfully helpful.

Yet as a course for doctoral students, Watts often travels down a number of rabbit trails. There were many times I didn’t know where we were because the path went on for some time. On occasion, moments after getting back to the text, there was yet another diversion. Sometimes Watts would say, “If only we had time, we could go into this subject,” yet if it weren’t for the tangents he would have had at least some extra time.

In Mark 1:1-3, while talking about Mark’s allusion to Isaiah 40, Exodus 23, and Malachi 3, Watts brings his listeners to John 14 where the disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father. Knowing Jesus means to know the Father, but, though interesting and not entirely irrelevant, in discussing it in the middle of Mark’s content, it was difficult to follow the train of thought.

As a doctoral seminar, I thought there would have been a bigger focus on technical issues and how the NT uses the OT. Application is important, and it must derive from a proper interpretation of God’s word. However, these lectures were difficult to follow.

Recommended?

Teachers especially would benefit from the content found in the first three lectures, and the notes that go with the rest of his lectures would be well served. But the tangents may dissuade many from listening through all of the lectures. I wouldn’t recommend this as someone’s primary resource on understanding the NT’s use of the OT. Watts has written a chapter on Mark’s Gospel in the Commentary on the New Testament’s Use of the Old Testament, and he’s written Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark. These are dense works, and one should be well read in this type of study.

When it comes down to his premise that God’s faithful character is what toes the NT’s use of the OT together, I don’t agree that it is the main idea, but I do think it is one of them. Watts shows how our God is faithful and committed, and it is seen throughout all of the Bible. Our God can and should be trusted to fulfill his promises to those who are in his Son Jesus Christ. Watts guides the student into seeing how in all our ways we should acknowledge God (Prov 3.6a). We are to put our whole weight onto him, for he is faithful to his people. 

Lagniappe

  • Teacher: Rikk Watts
  • School: Regent College
  • Time: 20hr, 47 min

Buy God’s Faithful Character by Rikk Watts

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(Special thanks to Regent College for sending me these lectures to review!)

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Review: Unceasing Kindness

uk

For such a short book, I’ve always found the book of Ruth to be quite perplexing. Why does she remain with Naomi, the “bitter” woman? Then she meets Boaz, and for some reason is at his feet very late at night so of course she asks in a roundabout way if he will marry (“redeem”) her. But there’s a closer relative who could be the kinsman redeemer. He doesn’t foot the bill, so Boaz takes Ruth to be his wife, and eventually we get King David. And, of course, Christ is our kinsman redeemer. Why? Just because Boaz marries (and redeems) Ruth and now she has a child and land? How do we see that in what Christ does? In the book of Ruth, everything occurs ever so naturally. It’s too natural.

As a new volume in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series, Lau and Goswell’s volume on Ruth does what commentaries don’t have space to do. They look at Ruth in light of it’s canonical placement(s)yes, there are three different placements where Ruth is found in various manuscripts. Lau and Goswell focus “on the meaning of the text as intended by the author for [the] original hearers, but mindful of the fact that the book as we have it is set within a wider context of Scripture” (1). These include not only the books around Ruth, but the entire biblical canon. Both major and minor themes from Ruth are examined, with many reoccurring in multiple chapters. These major themes are redemption, kingship, and mission; the minor themes/motifs are kindness, wisdom, famine, refuge, seed, doxology, and the hiddenness of God and human agency.

Peter Lau (PhD University of Sydney) is lecturer in Old Testament Studies at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia and an honorary research associate at the University of Sydney. He is the author of Identity and Ethics in the Book of Ruth (BZAW) and co-editor of Reading Ruth in Asia (IVBS). Gregory Goswell (PhD University of Sydney) is academic dean and lecturer in biblical studies at Christ College, Sydney. He is the author of Ezra-Nehemiah (EP Commentary Series).

Summary

Chapter 1 sets the goal for the book: focusing on Ruth as the author intended and through the wider lens of Scripture (as the Author intended), setting Ruth up against Jesus, “the midpoint and endpoint of salvation history,” and discussing Ruth’s themes in light of the canon of Scripture (3).

In Chapter 2, the authors examine how those in the early restoration period (during the time of Ezra-Nehemiah) would have read Ruth. Some scholars argue that Ruth contradicts Ezra and Nehemiah, due to their insistence on breaking up exogamous marriages and their using Torah to exclude, restrict, and threaten the Israelites. By placing Ruth next to Ezra-Nehemiah and actually looking at what the text says, these issues fall apart. We also see how Ruth encourages Israel with the promise of the Davidic king, God’s seemingly-silent but all pervasive presence, and that they are not left to their own devices, but God is with them and is sovereign above the Persians.

Chapters 3-5 portray themes in relation to the OT contexts. At these angles, we can see similarities and differences between Ruth and the books ‘she’ is placed among. When it comes to the question of the correct canonical position of Ruth, Lau and Goswell say that “There may be no right or wrong answers to that question; rather the point is that the differing canonical positions make a difference to how one views and reads a book” (23).

Chapter 3 compares Ruth with it’s placement in the LXX (and in our English Bibles) in between Judges and Samuel. Ruth answers the question over how Israel will conquer their lack of a king (Judg 21.25).

Chapter 4-5 compares Ruth with it’s placements in the Hebrew scriptures. In some manuscripts, Ruth comes after Proverbs. With similar wording, Ruth is like the wise woman of Proverbs 31. She doesn’t “destroy kings” (Prov 31:3), but instead builds up the Israelite kingdom (Ruth 4.17, 21). Both show kindness (Prov 31.26; Ruth 3.10) and are praised by their husbands as being superior (Prov 31.28-29; Ruth 3:10-11). In Proverbs 1-9, the foil to Lady Wisdom is the adulteress, an Israelite woman who acts like a foreigner seeking to devour any man who will come into her. Yet Ruth is a foreigner who acts like an Israelite, seeking to know Yahweh and live righteously before all.

In Chapter 5, the authors examine how in the Babylonian Talmud (Baba Bathra 14b), Ruth comes before the Psalms. Boaz commends Ruth for taking “refuge” under the “wings” of the Lord, a motif found throughout the Psalter (Pss 17.8; 61.4; 91.4). We see that “the ancestress of the chief psalmist anticipates the piety of David, who calls on God to defend and help him in his troubles” (61). It would be wrong to think that in the psalms we should try to separate the historical from the poetical, for both interpret each other. The theology of the OT is seen in God’s “kindness” and remembered in his historical acts.

Chapters 6-9 describe themes in relation to the Bible as a whole: famine (6), God’s hiddenness and human agency (7), redemption (8), God’s mission (9).

Chapter 10 concludes with summarizing each chapter and reminding the reader (and themselves) that ethics is not to be quarantined off from Old Testament narratives. “Who God is and how he acts (theology) has moral implications (ethics)” (165).

The Chocolate Milk

Chapter 2 was a unique chapter. While the other chapters are associated with themes and canonical placement, here Ruth is placed in conversation with Ezra and Nehemiah. While I did have some difficulty remembering what this chapter had to do with Ruth (Ezra-Nehemiah get more face time than Ruth), it exampled how God’s word does not contradict itself, but instead illuminates the text and nuances how we are to think about God’s word. All three books emphasize a relationship with God through human acts of generosity and kindness. If people say the Bible contradicts itself, ask them if they’ve done their homework.

I don’t know when I learned that the books of the Bible were ordered differently in the MT and LXX, but it was Stephen Dempster who introduced me into seeing a theological rational behind that ordering (in the Babylonian Talmud). In their volume on Ruth, Lau and Goswell go further than Dempster and examine Ruth through the lens of the different orders of the canon (i.e., MT, Babylonian Talmud, and LXX) and the books that surround Ruth in those respective sequences. While I must say that some of the canonical information was difficult to read, and has left me with even more questions, this was extremely beneficial and an excellent work of interpreting Scripture with Scripture. Lau and Goswell are careful interpreters, and I would enjoy seeing more books on the biblical canon and their relationship to those books which surround them in each of the canonical sequences.

Recommended?

Ruth has long been a mystery to me, but Lau and Goswell have done me (and the church) a service with this book. This book isn’t for the average person in the pew, but it for those who are well read and who want to study deeply the book of Ruth. Pastors and teachers should get a hold of this volume also. They won’t preach all of the details, but they will see the books where Ruth appears, making the unity of the Bible more pronounced in the minds of the congregation.

Lagniappe

  • Series: New Studies in Biblical Theology
  • Authors: Peter Lau & Gregory Goswell
  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (November 19, 2016)

Buy it on IVP Academic or on Amazon!

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

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Review: Grammatical Concepts 101 for Biblical Hebrew

long

For many of us (Americans) grammar is not our strong suit. I certainly speak for myself. Besides adverbs, I did well in high school. But high school was ten years ago, I’m learning Hebrew now, and I am becoming very much aware that ten years is a long time. Gary Long knows the struggle, and has written this book to teach underlings like me how to work with both English and Hebrew grammar.

Summary

Long’s book is divided into three parts:

Part I: Foundations explains the basis of language. He covers linguistic hierarchies, from phone(me) -> morph(eme) -> lex(eme) -> word -> phrase – clause. Sound production comes next, which is surprisingly helpful in remembering why Hebrew vowels change from one vowel to another. Next comes the syllable (a requirement to understand Hebrew), and translational values.

Part II: Building Blocks expands upon the grammar concepts one would find in a grammar book: gender, number, article, conjunctions, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, infinitives, gerunds, participles, verbs, tense and aspect, mood, the imperative, the jussive, and voice.

Part III: The Clause and Beyond. Doing just as he says, Long moves from words to clauses, semantics, and discourse analysis (a relatively new field). This will not be for beginners, but it will be understandable for those who are working through this in class now or who have worked through this already. Long is able to spend 52 pages on these topics, and that’s plenty more you’d get from most (or any) grammar book.

Long beings by showing how a topic (adverbs) work in English before he teaches the reader how it works in Hebrew. While one could resort to Google to understand the definition of an adverb, Long provides phrases and sentences in Hebrew for the reader to see how the grammar functions. The Hebrew is provided, the interlinear is given underneath each word, and parsing is given for the particular grammatical word in view.

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Long strives for simplicity whenever possible, and warns the reader that, at times, they may find the language overly simplistic. This depends on the individual. In some cases everything made good sense, but in other places I didn’t know what I was reading and thought, “There must be an easier way to say this.“ Though, those thoughts only occurred in section 3, a section I haven’t yet been taught in class. But again, this book isn’t to be read on its own.

Throughout Long’s book, he gives you many cross references to other grammatical concepts. So in the section on demonstrative adjectives, there’s a clear distinction from demonstrative pronouns (which you can find on p. 51). This is helpful because there many concepts to grasp, and a quick guide to the exact page saves time instead of scanning through each page of the chapter on pronouns. Yet the system is a tad cumbersome. Perhaps in the next edition the cross references could be put in the margins or turned into footnotes. That would leave the main text free while keeping the pointers on the page.

Recommended?

What must be said about this book is that it is “designed to complement standard teaching grammars” (xvii). A grammar is best not read alone (it’s best to have a teacher), and this book should not be read alone. This is not meant to be read cover to cover, but a slice at a time when one comes across a difficult concept. It is a reference work. You will have trouble understanding Hebrew grammar if you try reading this book on its own. Teachers would do well to use this to make explaining grammar easier. Grammar books just can’t use as much space as Long does. That’s a huge benefit with Long’s volume. He can use more space to explain concepts from the ground up. Beginning Hebraist will derive a good bit of help from this book, primarily Parts 1 and 2. Part 3 will likely be over their heads as that section moves from basic grammatical functions to the clause, syntax, and discourse grammar.

These are not topics Elementary Hebrew students pick up. But that does mean this book will grow in its usefulness to the student when he or she has walked through the door and made themselves at home with syntax and exegesis. Really, predication and semantics won’t make sense to the beginner if they only read this book. Even some topics in Part 2 won’t make sense because the beginner hasn’t been taught this yet. I found his chapters on tense and aspect, mood, and voice to be understandable, but a book can only do so much. If you’re a teacher, this book will come in handy as a supplement to the student. If you’re a student, you need all the help you can get to understand grammar (at least, if you plan to take some exegesis classes). It’s vital to understand the grammar of any language your learning. How much more should we use the resources at hand to know the words of the One who redeems us from death?

Lagniappe

  • Author: Gary Long
  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic; 2 edition (April 15, 2013)

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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