Tag Archives: Biblical Theology

Review: Unceasing Kindness

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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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How is the Ascension Important?

Ascension Ethiopia

One of the main tenets of Jesus’ life is that after his death and resurrection, he left the disciples and went ascended to heaven where God the Father was. The ascension is amazing considering nobody else did it (though Elijah did go up in a whirlwind to heaven [2Kings 2.11]). 

But why did Jesus go up in a cloud? Was it just so he could return in the same way (Acts 1.11)? Did it prove his divinity in any sort of way? Was it a neat trick, or did it actually do something for believers? (For a connection with YHWH’s divinity, read here). 

L. Michael Morales has an answer. In newest volume of the NSBT series, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? (my review here),  Morales presents a biblical theology of… Leviticus, a word that strikes fear into the heart just as a drill brings pain to a tooth. Yet this book is far from boring (really!).

Israel’s Hope

Israel had a deep hope and pleasure to “dwell in the house of YHWH forever” (Ps 23.6) because it is in God’s house where he gives them “drink from the river of [his] pleasures” (Ps 36.8-9). Morales takes the “rivers of pleasure” as an allusion to Eden’s river of life (Gen 2.10; Rev 22.1-2).

Israel longs to dwell in the house of God and, ultimately, to behold YHWH himself (Ps 16.9-11; 26.8; cf. 2 Cor 3.18). Dwelling with YHWH is the one thing the psalmist asks for in Ps 27.4:

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

The Crisis

But how is this possible? How can Israel wish to ascend the mountain of God when only Israel’s High Priest could enter into God’s Presence in the Holy of Holies? 

Considering that only the high priest had been allowed entrance in to the holy of holies within the tabernacle and later temple, how is it songs could be sung [by all of Israel] about dwelling in YHWH’s house ‘for ever’ and ‘all the days of my life’? (19).

Psalm 24.3 asks,

Who shall ascend the hill of YHWH? And who shall stand in his holy place?

And similarly, Psalm 25.1,

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

Morales says that the dominating concern of Leviticus and of the entire Bible is how humanity will dwell in the house of God. In Gen 28.12, Jacob sees a vision of the “angels of God” who “were ascending and descending” on a ladder that stretched from earth to heaven. It represented “earthly access to God’s heavenly abode,” the place the builders of the Tower of Babel wanted to reach. Now God is reaching down to Jacob and promising him offspring, land, and that he, YHWH, would be with him (Lev 26.12; 2 Cor 6.16b; Rev 21.3). 

“What Jacob saw was the spiritual archetype of the temple [in Leviticus] — its inner reality and function as the connection between heaven and earth” (162). John 1.14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled] among us.” In John 2.21, Jesus was “speaking about the temple of his body” when he spoke of his resurrection.

The Tie-In

We can see both of these themes in John 1.49-51,

Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

It is through Jesus that the Levitical tabernacle, the place where God’s people met God, would transfigured into a person (Jn 4.20-24).

And the Ascension?

After showing the broad themes and structure of Leviticus, Morales shows how its theology of meeting God points to Christ.

“The advent of Christ would open a new and living way into the house of God; indeed, that was the goal of his taking our humanity upon himself, of his suffering, of his resurrection and ascension” (20).

And wouldn’t you know it, but Jesus’ ascension brought him up to God. For Morales, the theology of Leviticus is about “dwelling with God in the house of God, and how that reality is finally made possible” (20). The reality of the Levitical cultus, the tabernacle (and later Temple), the sacrifices, the rituals, etc, were all divinely given so that Israel could meet God, become holy, and be a light to the nations. We now have this in Christ. We are holy. We have God’s Holy Spirit in us, and we belong to God. 


So who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?

By the loving-kindness of the Father, the redemption of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a sure answer has been found: even the church of Jesus Christ (306).

WSATMOTL?

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50th Anniversary of the NIV Bible

50th Anniversary Celebration of the NIV Commissioning Continues with "Made to Share" Quarterly Theme (PRNewsFoto/Zondervan)

Yesterday I talked about the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible edited by D.A. Carson, T.D. Alexander, Richard Hess, Doug Moo, and Andy Naselli. This NIVZST comes out just 50 years after the “initial cross-denominational gathering of evangelical scholars who met outside Chicago in 1965 and agreed to start work on what is now known as the New International Version” (read about the anniversary here). It’s easy to think of Bible translators as sitting in their ivory tower, drinking their frappe lattes, and talking about which way a verse sounds better. It’s as if they say, “We pray over it and say amen, but at the end of the day we just flip a coin.”

That sounds quite terrible, actually. Thankfully with the NIV that is not the case. I can tell you just from my small exposure to learning Norwegian, translating the bible is actually much more difficult than that. Try reading every word, sentence, and paragraph Genesis, Acts, or Isaiah over, and over, and over again. You’re parsing the Greek, the Hebrew, or the Aramaic to know what is being said. You then not only have to bring it over into the English language, but into the proper, most widely used colloquial terms. What good is it to translate God’s word into English is the average person on the street can’t understand it? One thing we shouldn’t forget is that the translators of the NIV are also teachers, scholars, authors, pastors, husbands, and wives, etc. They have lives beyond sitting around a table for endless hours trying to choose the perfect word. Yet they take their job seriously so that you can understand the Bible that sits in front of you. 

Making a Translation

Bill Mounce, an expert in Greek who posts about biblical Greek in a series called Mondays with Mounce, said, ”You have to make the translation reflect the actual nature of the author. Paul has a really good command of Greek, and the beauty of that needs to come through in our translation.” And Karen Jobes, commentator on Esther and 1 Peter and the first woman to join the Committee of Bible Translation (CBT), agrees that “We don’t want it to be our voice. We really do want it to be accurate and clear, and that involves facing hard issues.”

The people who work on translating Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts into a coherent and understandable English translation are evangelical Christians who want to spread God’s word in the most understandable way possible. They know that not every Christian will learn Greek and Hebrew, nor will every Christian spend the required hours to dig through the smorgasbord of manuscripts to find the best reading.

As the translators of the King James Version, 1611, said, “But how shall men meditate in that, which they cannot understand? How shall they understand that which is kept close in an unknown tongue?” The NIV Made to Read link reminds us, “Modern people should be able to learn about God’s power, love and redemption from a Bible in up-to-date language.” 

Language Efforts

Language is not static. Life and culture change, as do tastes, likes and dislikes. Metaphors come into being, and words exhale their last breath.

For us English speakers who don’t read Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, we don’t understand the great effort it takes to translate these languages into English. (I’ve quickly learned this fact when it comes to learning Norwegian). Doug Moo, a Pauline and New Testament expert, spent years studying and talking to other experts on the best way to translate the Greek word sarx, which is translated as “flesh.”

In this link Karen Jobes talks about translating Ps 23. Most Christians have Psalm 23 memorized, and the NIV translators didn’t want to make any unnecessary changes. But Psalm 23.4 doesn’t actually refer to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death. It refers to darkness. “Jobes believes the translators have helped to make the verse more precise than ever before.

‘We may feel we’re in the valley of darkness in lots of different ways other than with impending death,’ Jobes said…. ‘Accuracy and clarity have to trump tradition,’ CBT member Karen Jobes said. ‘Sometimes we ‘ruin’ our own favorite verses for the sake of accuracy and clarity.’

The translators seek to make the NIV relevant, not to people-please, but so more people can pick up the Bible and understand what it is saying.

Gender-Inclusive Language

The Made For You link lets you read about the issues on the use of masculine nouns and pronouns no longer being universally accepted as referring to both men and women. The CBT “commissioned a study by Collins Dictionaries to study the Collins Bank of English, a database of more than 4.4 billion words taken from recordings and publications throughout the English-speaking world.”

“With that data,” said Doug Moo, “we were then able as translators to say, ‘Despite our own personal preferences, this is the English that most people are speaking, and that’s what we need to use in our translation.’”

This data made it impossible to accuse the CBT of bias.

Why can’t the CBT leave the NIV text alone?”

But the answer was obvious: because the text is only as accurate as it is understood. “If we were to use in those contexts, ‘He who takes up his cross, follow me,’” said CBT chair Doug Moo, “it would communicate to a contemporary English audience a masculine sense that the original text did not have in mind at all.”

The translation needed to reflect the English that people were actually speaking. The goal was not to be trendy. The goal was good translation.

Endorsements

Here you can read endorsements from Christian leaders like Philip Yancey,

Pastors like Max Lucado and Rick Warren, 

Biblical Scholars like Darrell Bock, D. A. Carson, Jason DeRouchie, George Guthrie, and more.

The NIV Bible has been around for 50 years, and I hope it will be around for at least another 50. The scholars put in both the time and the effort to make this the best translation it can be for the English-speaking world, and they will never stop seeking to continually refine it as long as it means more people can understand God’s Word.

NIV Timeline

NIV_Timeline_v51

Lagniappe

NIV Products Page

NIV Zondervan Study Bible

  • Hardcover: 2912 pages
  • Contributors: 60+
  • Articles: 25+
  • Maps: 90+
  • Publisher: Zondervan; Har/Psc edition (August 25, 2015)

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Buy it on AmazonZondervan, or from Logos!

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NIV Zondervan Study Bible

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Growing up I was a NKJV kid. Not that I read it that often, but all of the Bible I ever owned, used in school, and brought to church were NKJV. In Bible college I moved to a single column ESV with a good amount of space for notes. I didn’t even have a study Bible until I married Mari. Though I regret not having a study Bible sooner, I honestly doubt I would have used it (there was a long period of time where I didn’t read if I didn’t have to, and even if I did!)

However, in case you haven’t heard, Zondervan has produced the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible. It’s similar to the ESV Bible in that there are plenty of maps, pictures, and helpful introductions. Unlike the ESV Study Bible which is geared toward Systematic Theology (what the entire Bible says about a particular topic), the Zondervan NIV Study Bible (NIVZST) is geared toward Biblical Theology. This means that the editors and contributors seek to understand each book on it’s own and how it adds to the canon of Scripture (not to say that the ESVSB didn’t, but this has a different spin).

How did the knowledge of God progress from Genesis to Revelation? What is the storyline of the Bible? Questions we might ask about Moses and his writings would be, “What did Moses know about God and his purposes?” or “What didn’t Moses know because it hadn’t been revealed yet?” Ezra knew more about God’s purposes than David who knew more than Moses who knew more than Adam. It’s a story in progress, and the NIVZST helps its readers know what that story is and how it develops.

Managing editor Andy Naselli said this Study Bible “repeatedly makes organic, salvation-historical connections, especially regarding how the Old and New Testaments integrate.”

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Thanks to Andra Kee for the picture!

“Charts, maps and photographs also invite readers to visualize the world of the Bible. At the end of the study Bible, 28 articles on everything from creation to justice to worship provide a comprehensive examination of theology from a conservative viewpoint.”

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Contributors

You can find the full list of contributors here, but I’ll provide the biblically alphabetical list.

Old Testament

  • T.D. Alexander — Genesis
  • Richard S. Hess — Genesis
  • Paul R. Williamson — Exodus
  • Richard E. Averbeck — Leviticus
  • Jay A. Sklar — Numbers
  • Stephen G. Dempster — Deuteronomy
  • Richard S. Hess — Joshua
  • K. Lawson Younger, Jr. — Judges
  • Robert L. Hubbard — Ruth
  • John D. Currid — 1-2 Samuel
  • Robert L. Hubbard — 1 Kings
  • Todd Bolen — 2 Kings
  • Frederick J. Mabie — 1-2 Chronicles
  • Robert S. Fyall — Ezra, Nehemiah
  • Karen H. Jobes — Esther
  • C. Hassell Bullock — Job
  • David M., Jr. Howard — Psalms
  • Michael K. Snearly — Psalms
  • Christopher B. Ansberry — Proverbs
  • Bruce K. Waltke — Proverbs
  • Craig C. Bartholomew — Ecclesiastes
  • Richard S. Hess — Song of Songs
  • John N. Oswalt — Isaiah
  • Iain M. Duguid — Jeremiah
  • David J. Reimer — Lamentations
  • Donna Lee Petter — Ezekiel
  • Tremper Longman III — Daniel
  • Douglas K. Stuart — Hosea
  • David W. Baker — Joel
  • M. Daniel Caroll R. — Amos
  • David W. Baker — Obadiah
  • T.D. Alexander — Jonah
  • Bruce K. Waltke — Micah
  • V. Philips Long — Nahum
  • Elmer A. Martens — Habakkuk
  • Jason S. DeRouchie — Zephaniah
  • Anthony R. Petterson — Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah
  • Andrew E. Hill — Malachi

New Testament

  • Craig L. Blomberg — Matthew
  • Rikk E. Watts — Mark
  • David W. Pao — Luke
  • D.A. Carson — John
  • Andrew David Naselli — John
  • Mark L. Strauss — Acts
  • Douglas J. Moo — Romans
  • Eckhard J. Schnabel — 1 Corinthians
  • Murray J. Harris — 2 Corinthians
  • Stephen Westerholm — Galatians
  • Te-Li Lau — Ephesians
  • Simon J. Gathercole — Philippians
  • David E. Garland — Colossians
  • Jeffrey A.D.  Weima — 1-2 Thessalonians
  • Robert W. Yarbrough — 1-2 Timothy, Titus
  • David E. Garland — Philemon
  • Buist M. Fanning — Hebrews
  • Douglas J. Moo — James
  • Karen H. Jobes — 1 Peter
  • Douglas J. Moo — 2 Peter
  • Andrew David Naselli — 2 Peter
  • Colin G. Kruse — 1-2 John
  • Douglas J. Moo — Jude
  • Andrew David Naselli — Jude
  • Brian J. Tabb — Revelation

Articles

  • D.A. Carson — A Biblical-Theological Overview of the Bible
    •  — The Bible and Theology
    •  — Sonship
  • T.D. Alexander — The City of God
    •  — The Kingdom of God
    •  — Law
    •  — Temple
  • Douglas J. Moo — The Consummation
  • Paul R. Williamson — Covenant
  • Henri Blocher — Creation
  • Philip S. Johnston — Death and Resurrection
  • Thomas R. Wood — Exile and Exodus
  • James M. Hamilton Jr. — The Glory of God
  • Greg D. Gilbert — The Gospel
  • Andrew David Naselli — Holiness
  • Brian S. Rosner — Justice
  • Graham A. Cole — Love and Grace
  • Andreas J. Köstenberger — Mission
  • Dana M. Harris — Priest
  • Moisés Silva — People of God
  • Sam Storms — Prophets and Prophecy
  • Jay A. Sklar — Sacrifice
  • Timothy Keller — Shalom
    •  —The Story of the Bible: How the Good News About Jesus Is Central
  • Kevin DeYoung — Sin
  • Daniel J. Estes —Wisdom
  • Christopher W. Morgan — Wrath
  • David G. Peterson — Worship

Share-ables

There are a few sections to this share-able page.

    • 8 almost-tweetable summaries of a few of the articles in the NIVZSB.
    • 12 pictures of different tables with content such as “Major Old Testament Offerings and Sacrifices,” “Major Covenants in the Old Testament,” “Contrasts of Levitical Priesthood and Jesus’ Priesthood in Hebrews,” and more.
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    • 8 videos about the NIVZSB, including the scholar team behind the NIVZSB, interviews, and more.

Conclusion

This is not “just another study Bible.” The list of scholars here are top notch. They not only put in the effort to know the Scriptures, but they love the church and want all to grow in the knowledge of God and in his revelation through Christ. This would make for a good Christmas present, but also a good study companion. This is a book I wish I would have had in high school. And college. And Bible college. And now.

 Lagniappe

  • Hardcover: 2912 pages
  • Contributors: 60+
  • Articles: 25+
  • Publisher: Zondervan; Har/Psc edition (August 25, 2015)

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Buy it on AmazonZondervan, or from Logos!

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Review: Hebrews (BTCP)

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Hebrews is among one of the harder books of the NT to understand. I’ve always found it easy to read, but nonetheless confusing when it comes to OT quotations, warnings not to fall away, and that Melchizedek character. While one commentary can’t do everything, the BTCP series aims at showing how Hebrews fits into the biblical storyline. Biblical theology is “the theology expressed by the respective writers of the various biblical books” and how it fits into the storyline of the Bible (pg. ix, emphasis original). Biblical theology is the theology of the Bible, and it is the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors (ix). One of the greatest challenges that biblical theologians face is “how to handle the Bible’s manifest diversity and how to navigate the tension between its unity and diversity in a way that does justice to both” (ix).

Having a number of books, commentaries, and NT and whole Bible theologies under his belt (seen here), Thomas Schreiner writes the first volume in the new Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation (BTCP) series. The BTCP series plans to span commentaries across both testaments, looking at the theology of the entire Bible. And while, like all commentaries, there will be an exegetical treatment of the text, the main focus of this series is in discussing the themes of the book and how they fit into the canon as a whole for Christian proclamation. This series doesn’t aim at being a dense, academic work. It seeks to present Biblical theology to the lives of all who sit in the pew every Sunday morning.

Schreiner starts off his Introduction by saying that his “introduction and the commentary are relatively brief and nontechnical” (1). I would say that Schreiner hits the mark. His introduction is roughly the same length as O’Brien’s, and his exegesis is a little over 100 pages shorter than O’Brien’s (385 pages of exegesis, with the rest being the Introduction and Biblical Theological sections). If you’re familiar with the PNTC series, it’s not quite as technical as the BECNT or NIGTC. This is even less technical than the PNTC, and this will appeal to many.

  • Greek is always translated
  • Footnotes rarely take up half a page (apparently there are some who don’t like that)
  • Exposition on each verse is relatively brief (though sometimes too brief)

The commentary starts off with the Introduction which covers topics like Date, Authorship, Genre and Structure, Hebrews and the Storyline of the Bible, Biblical and Theological Structures [you can read my others posts about this section here], etc.

The commentary proper consists of:

  • Section Heading: “Hebrews 2.10-18”
  • Outline: While helpful, it’s also a bit much as it takes up a lot of space since every section has an outline, and they get longer as the book nears the end
  • Scripture: the passage of Hebrews 2.10-18 is given in full
  • Context: Explains how v10 picks up where v9 left off and how the argument continues through to v18
  • Exegesis: Schreiner carefully works through the text. Each verse can have between one and seven paragraphs
  • Bridge: This is the theology of the passage in a nutshell.

At the end of the commentary is the Biblical Theological section. Schreiner clearly and succinctly ties the letter together and reveals the unity of the letter under topics such as God, Jesus Christ (and his Divine Sonship, humanity, Priesthood, sacrifice, assurance, and resurrection and exaltation), the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit, Warnings, Assurance, and more.

Recommended?

While it may not be what the academic is looking for so much, this is volume is suited for the pastor, the student, and the layman. Hebrews has long been a difficult book for many a teacher and student. Having a commentary which comes from the deep well of a biblical scholar that is also easily accessible to many is hard to find, but a pleasure to read. If this is a taste of what is to come with this series, than there will be many who will be very pleased to eat up this series (and this volume).

Lagniappe

Interviews

Posts

Buy it on Amazon!

[Special thanks to Chris at B&H Academic for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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BTS: The Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

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In the introduction of his new commentary on Hebrews, Tom Schreiner covers four different structures under the heading of Biblical and Theological Structures. These four structures are:

(1) Promise-Fulfillment
(2) Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology
(3) Typology
and now the fourth and final structure (4) the Spatial Orientation of Hebrews.

Typology and the spatial orientation are often grouped together. Yet typology is seen in just about every book of the NT, while the spatial dimension is quite distinctive in Hebrews. Here ”Hebrews quite frequently contrasts the earthly and the heavenly, so we have a vertical or spatial contrast. Hence, the author, in accord with the OT, ‘works with a two-story model of the created cosmos — heaven/s and earth’ (cf. Gen 1:1; 2:1; Jer 10:11)” (45).

In this, sometimes symbolism is employed to help us understand the greater reality that is in heaven. Other times, the author’s language is not symbolic. Schreiner gives two examples. Christ truly was resurrected, and so truly has a resurrected body. No symbolism there.

“The language about a heavenly tent (8:2; 9:11, 24) and a city, however, should not be pressed to say there is a literal tent or a literal heavenly city” (46).

Schreiner goes on to explain this imagery, “Spatial imagery may be appropriated to express the inexpressible, to convey a reality that transcends our understanding in symbolic language. Hence, the reference to God’s throne in the heavens points the readers to God’s transcendence (1:3; 8:1-2; 10:12; 12:2)” (46).

Heavenly Copies

Hebrews 9.22-23 says, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

So the copies were purified by animal sacrifices (which were copies of the true sacrifice), and the “heavenly things themselves” needed that better sacrifice to be purified. Christ enters into the presence of God itself, not into the holy places which were made by the hands of (idolatrous) men. The holy places were where God’s presence was to be experienced, but Christ entered into God’s presence in “a better sanctuary, a heavenly one, ‘to appear in the presence of God for us’” (Heb 9.24, p 48).

As is fitting with Revelation 21-22, the heavenly, new Jerusalem will descend to earth which will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea. The Son, being heir of all things, must have something to inherit. Jesus will rule over the world, what we were supposed to do, and will fulfill Psalm 8.

Faith

As Doug Wilson has said in his book Father Hunger, “Faith sees opportunity in the world that God made, and in the way God governs that world. Unbelief always sees insurmountable obstacles” (158).

“Believers should follow the examples of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and look forward to a heavenly city instead of longing to fit into the present social order (11:13-16)” (49). We are “exiles and resident aliens” in this world now. We don’t seek a lasting city, but that which is to come (13.14). This world is where “Christ came to save his people (10:5-10)” and is where “he will return… to complete his saving work (9:28)” (49). We continue on in our life with Christ, walking by faith, looking at what God has done in times before, what he was accomplished for us in Christ, and trusting that he will complete that work in Christ, just as he has promised to do.

Posts

BTS: Promise-Fulfillment in Hebrews

BTS: Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews

BTS: Typology in Hebrews

BTS: The Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

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Review: The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus (NSBT)

ARLJ NSBT

Why do you read Acts? To figure out if the gifts of the Spirit are for today or if they’ve ceased? How should we baptism? Believers? Children? What about church politics? How should the church today be run? How should we do missions? How does the Holy Spirit guide us today? Is there one or two fillings? These are important points to consider, but are we missing the main point?

Alan J. Thompson writes the 27th volume in the New Studies in Biblical Theology [NSBT] series. The series usually takes a topic and goes through various passages of Scripture (Beale and the Temple, Ortlund and Adultery, Shead and the Word of God in Jeremiah). Here, Thompson writes this volume not to give us a full-blown theology of Acts, but to “see Luke’s ‘framework’ of God’s kingdom and the reign of Christ more clearly” in Acts (13). “Now that Jesus has suffered, died, risen and ascended as he said he would, what happens next? As Jesus’ teaching indicated, the kingdom has come ‘already’; nevertheless, the kingdom has ‘not yet’ been consummated in fullness and there will be a period in-between” (43). Luke shows how God’s New Covenant people live ‘between the times’ by framing the book of Acts with two references to God’s kingdom on each side of the book (1.3, 6; 28.23, 31).

One thing I’m continuing to learn is that I have to relearn a lot of what I’ve learned about the Bible during my youth. The main parts are correct (Jesus is my Savior), but there are many things I’ve taken for granted that I’ve come to realize don’t make much sense. Acts has never held much interest with me.There’s some action, a lot of traveling, and not much theology. At least, that’s what I used to think. It’s the book of Acts that shows us how the Church transitioned from living under the Old Covenant into the New. And it’s Thompson’s book that assists in grasping the broader message of Acts.

Summary

In his introduction, Thompson tells us that “Luke is writing to provide reassurance to believers about the nature of the events surrounding Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, the spread of the message about Jesus, and the nature of God’s people following Jesus’ ascension [Lk 1.1, 4]” (19). Luke doesn’t simply provide us with an early church history for our sake, but instead a ‘biblical history.’ Luke imitates LXX language, fulfillment language (Christology, the mission to the Gentiles, and the Holy Spirit), themes that were central to the OT (Jerusalem, Temple, and Law), certain episodes in Acts have similarities to the OT, and the theological understanding that God is in control and keeps his covenant promises. Luke’s Gospel shows how Christ fulfills the OT, and Acts shows that Jesus continues to reign in heaven and work in his people.

Chapter 1 takes us through the speeches of Stephen (Acts 7) and Paul (Acts 13) where they cover God’s sovereignty in Israel’s history. God’s work is seen in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and his purposes are accomplished in the life of the church. Acts emphasizes the continuing reign of the Lord Jesus (hence the title of Thompson’s book), and how the kingdom of God, which began with Christ, continues to expand with his people. In the midst of the growth of the church through Jews and now Gentiles, there will be suffering in this interim period (Acts 14.22). Christ reigns, but his kingdom is still ‘not yet.’ Suffering happens in the midst of evangelism and growing the church. God’s people suffer because they follow a suffering Saviour, and churches need encouragement and strengthening.

In Chapter 2 Thompson focuses on the importance of Jesus’ resurrection. “As Schreiner observes… in Ezekiel 37, it is clear that ‘resurrection signifies the fulfillment of God’s promises, the inauguration of the age to come – the restoration of exile and the return of Israel'” (72). All the OT Scriptures pointed to the death and resurrection of Christ. Resurrection was the hope of Israel. Because Jesus was resurrection, the future age begins now. Now forgiveness can be received, along with the Holy Spirit, and salvation.

Chapter 3 looks at how God fulfills his promises of restoring his people. In Acts, both Jews and Gentiles belong together as God’s people because they have received the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word. Thompson starts on Acts 1.6-8 to show how those verses are programmatic to the book of Acts. The disciples ask, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (1.6). Jesus “[affirms] and [clarifies] their role in this restoration” in 1.7-8 (108). ‘Israel’ and ‘Judea’ are seen at Pentecost, ‘Samaria’ points to the northern kingdom (as there has always been a division between the northern and southern kingdoms since Solomon’s son, and now Israel will be united), and ‘the ends of the earth’ (eunuchs and Gentiles) are brought into being God’s people.

In Chapter 4 Thompson tells us why the Holy Spirit plays such an important role in Acts. “The Holy Spirit has been poured out in fulfillment of God’s promises for the last days because God’s kingdom has been inaugurated through [Jesus]” (125). The Spirit is not an ‘additional gift’, but everyone who believes on Christ has the Spirit.

Chapters 5 and 6 are about ‘the end of an era.’ Now that Jesus is reigning, what happens to the old system (the Temple and the Law)? Chapter 5, Jesus replaces the temple. The lame man in Acts 3 is helpless outside of the Temple door, but “Jesus fulfills all of God’s saving promises in Scripture,” and he is sufficient to heal this man (156). Jesus is the cornerstone, he has universal authority, and he has given authority to the apostles.

Chapter 6, with this authority, the teaching of the apostles is held over the law? Why? Jesus came and fulfilled the law, and now the apostles are his authorized delegates who are to proclaim Christ’s gospel. All of God’s blessings are found in Jesus, the one who is now ruling and reigning. Although the law doesn’t have direct authority over believers, we see in Acts that there are some sensitivities to Jews (Timothy is still circumcised in Acts 16 and Paul makes vows in Acts 21, all done to reach more Jews with the gospel).

Recommended?

If you’re a teacher, or a pastor, or if you simply interested in the book of Acts, then you should really consider buying this book. Thompson is detailed, but he works to start true to Scripture and to keep the Luke’s main themes in mind. To be faithful to Luke’s intentions, the expositor must keep Luke’s central themes in mind. Any readers who takes this book into consideration will come away knowing much more about how Christ fulfills the OT and how he sits at the right hand of God, ruling, reigning, and leading his people to victory.

Lagniappe

Buy it on Amazon!

[Special thanks to IVP Academic for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book].

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Filed under Biblical Theology, Jesus and the Gospels, Review