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Review: Mark (TNTC)

The first commentary on the Gospel of Mark was written in the sixth century, and between “AD 650 and 1000, thirteen major commentaries were written on Matthew, but only four on Mark” (Strauss, 20). Despite the long neglect, much study has been done over Mark’s short Gospel for more than the last century.

Eckhard Schnabel, Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell and author of Acts (ZECNT), Early Christian Mission (2 volumes), and 40 Questions on the End Times, replaces Alan Cole’s Mark volume in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary (TNTC) series with a Christmas meal—441 pages of commentary on the shortest Gospel. While adding to the growing list of commentaries, Schnabel (who is also the TNTC’s series editor) did not write a commentary of commentaries on Mark. Instead, writing for pastors, students, and laypeople, he comments on the meaning of Mark through theological reflection, historical points of reference, the meanings of words, and the literary development of the characters.

Summary

Schnabel gives very little attention to Markan priority (whether Mark’s Gospel was written first), saying that Markan priority “continues to be plausible,” but that “these questions are more significant for commentaries on the Gospels of Matthew and Luke” (4). Thankfully, Schnabel examines the text and not a possible Markan community behind the text, though he does acknowledge future Mark’s clarifications for Gentile readers (14, 162).

He takes Mark to be the actual author (12), probably writing from Rome for various churches (14) anywhere between 50–64 AD. We don’t know what Mark’s sources are, but if Papias is correct, Mark’s “most significant — and perhaps the only — source” was Peter (18). Mark ends his Gospel at 16.8. Abrupt endings are attested in antiquity, and within the Bible Jonah ends abruptly and Acts ends with Paul still alive and his legal case unresolved. To paraphrase Demetrius (whom Schnabel quotes), some points need to be worked out be the hearers themselves (22-23).

Schnabel disregards William Wrede’s hypothesis of Mark’s “Messianic secret.” If there is nothing messianic about Jesus or his ministry, then there is no explanation for his death, nor is there any explanation as to how his disciples transformed their “unmessianic master into the Messiah after Easter” (25).

Mark does not have a “vendetta” against the disciples (29), but merely gives an “unvarnished” (aka, authentic) look at their pre-resurrection responses to Jesus (30). Nobody imagined a Messiah who would die, and though on occasion Jesus does rebuke the disciples, he often explains himself to them.

Schnabel divines Mark into four pairs of three’s:

  1. The Beginning of the Gospel (1.1–13)
    1. Heading (1.1)
    2. Jesus and John the Baptist (1.2–8)
    3. Jesus declared Son of God and conflict with Satan (1.9–13)
  2. Jesus’ Messianic Authority (1.14–8.21)
    1. The kingdom of God and Jesus’ authority (1.14–3.6)
    2. The Twelve and the kingdom of God (3.7–6.6)
    3. The Mission of Jesus Messiah and the Twelve (6.6–8.21)
  3. Jesus’ Messianic Suffering (8.22–15.47)
    1. The revelation of the Messiah’s suffering (8.22–10.52)
    2. The confrontation in Jerusalem (11.1–13.37)
    3. The suffering and death of Jesus Messiah (14.1–15.47)
  4. Jesus’ Resurrection Announced (16.1–8)
    1. The women at Jesus’ tomb (16.1–5)
    2. The announcement of Jesus’ resurrection (16.6–7)
    3. The reaction of the women (16.8)

Interpretations

4:10–12: Jesus tells parables to conceal the kingdom of God from outsiders. They are intentionally veiled. Many cannot see or hear the kingdom of God in Jesus’ miracles, exorcisms, and through his teachings. Judgement will come because they do not want to truly listen to God (13.1–37). Schnabel interprets through the lens of the kingdom of God that has come in Jesus (1.14–15).

6:49–50: Jesus’ “I am” statement (see also 14.62) is not a declaration of divinity.

7:24–30: Having just taught his disciples about what is clean and unclean (vv. 14–23), Jesus enters “unclean” Gentile territory. Jesus doesn’t “change his mind” when the Syro-Phoenician woman gives the right answer; rather, she passes his test. She (a Gentile “dog”) can eat the crumbs under the table simultaneously while the children (Israel) are eating. Though Jews generally saw dogs as unclean, “dog” (kynarion) here is a pet “present at a meal in the house” (173). This Gentile woman has more spiritual discernment than the Jewish leaders.

8:1–10: Mark is not repeating himself here; this is not the same event as in 6.30–44. Jesus is in Gentile territory (Isa 25.6; 49.6; Acts 1.8; 2.39).

13:24–27: Jesus’ second coming is at a separate, indeterminate time from 13.1–23. Jesus no longer focuses on the city of Jerusalem, the local councils, or even the seasons (winter, v. 18), but on “the sun, the moon, the stars, the clouds, the ends of the earth and the ends of heavens” (330).

14:35–36: Jesus “does not have inner doubts about the value of his death. Jesus’ prayer to be spared death conveys the excruciating anguish that senses the terrible reality of suffering the judgment of God, dying as a ransom for the many (10:45), shedding his blood to seal the new covenant (14:24), dying as a sin offering (Rom 8:3), becoming the place of God’s atoning presence (Rom 3:25), becoming a curse for us (Gal 3:13) ” (364).

14:51–52: Whoever this young man is, he shows that all have forsaken Jesus. In terror, the young lad would prefer to be shamefully naked and save his own skin than to be caught being with Jesus.

Schnabel provides much good historical and factual information on various people (Pilate, p. 394-95; the Sanhedrin, p. 373), places (Jerusalem, p. 261), and the timing of the Passover (350-51). Some of these details seem a bit much, such as the possible “House of Peter (1.29–31), heights of various mountains in Israel, and how a clay lamp was made in Galilean workshops (4.21). It can make the text seem too busy, and I personally think some of these details would work better as footnotes. Still, his points on why people go “up” to Jerusalem (247), just how the friends could dig their way through the roof of a house (65), or who Barabbas was (400), help make sense of the text. Schnabel is a careful exegete and historian. 

Unfortunately, there are no indices in this volume (or in any of the Old and New Testament series).

Recommended?

I’ve read (chunks of) quite a few Markan commentaries. Schnabel’s volume isn’t going to break new ground, but he is trustworthy when it comes to biblical exegesis and exposition. He keeps the Gospel’s context in view in his theology sections, making sure that he doesn’t interpret something apart from anything else Mark has said, and points to Christ as our one and true Savior whose death ransomed sinners and inaugurated the new covenant. The pastor, student, Bible college teacher, and layperson would be filled with this huge 441 page meal.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Eckhard J. Schnabel
  • Series: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (June 6, 2017)

But it on Amazon or IVP Academic!

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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Review: Paradoxology

 

What if this ancient faith we call Christianity has survived so long not in spite of but precisely because of its apparent contradictions? . . . What if it is in the difficult parts of the Bible that God is most clearly revealed? What if it is in and through our doubts that we learn the meaning of true relationship with the God who created us — of true worship? What if Christianity was never meant to be simple? (5)

In the introduction to his book Paradoxology, Krish Kandiah begins with a personal story etched into his life. Sitting in the hospital with a family whose one-year-old son was suffering after a routine surgery, the elephant in the room is the question: Why does God allow such meaningless suffering? How do we understand an omnipresent God who we can’t see or feel? How can we love a God who needs nothing but asks everything from us? How can he be so inactive while equally actively holding up the world? Who speaks silently? Who “wins as he loses”? Just who is this God whom we serve?

Kandiah doesn’t try to guard anyone from the Bible’s own questions and difficulties. If God needs no sacrifices, why did he ask Abraham to sacrifice his own promised son? Does he determine our free will? Is he really so compassionate when we consider the wars in Joshua? For Kandiah, working through these difficulties instead of shying away grows our faith. It requires us to pay attention to the Bible to see God’s just and righteous character. Kandiah looks at the Bible characters (such as Abraham, Job, Habbakkuk, Esther, and Jesus!) and how they remained obedient and faithful to God even in the midst of despair.

Overview

Kandiah structures each chapter in the same way. First there is a current story or circumstance. Why, after having already lost his wife and baby, did poor Geyoung’s father decide to return to North Korea to preach the gospel, only to be arrested and never heard from again? Second, the story brings up problems. Why does God require so much from us? Was it correct for Geyoung’s father to leave her to preach the gospel in North Korea? Does God want to watch us struggle? If he has everything, is he greedy for wanting more? Third, there is the biblical story. Abraham and Sarah are barren, God promises Abraham many descendants, and they believe him. Sometime after Isaac is born, God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

Looking at the broader story, Kandiah draws out a few points of reference for the reader over how Abraham could have trusted this God. I don’t want to give too much away, but Abraham’s belief in God was not a leap of faith. Abraham had already spent years seeing that God is true, just (“shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Gen 18.25), and worthy to be praised.

God is not an idol who is here to give us the good and prosperous. No relationship should work like that on earth, and neither does our relationship with God work like that. God smashes our idols and wants us to know him. Abraham had already experienced the miraculous life of Isaac coming from the deadness of himself and Sarah (Heb 11.12). Abraham knew that God could bring life out of death (11.19). There was a relationship between Abraham and Yahweh. Abraham had seen that Yahweh was just and righteous time and time again.

Fourth, Kandiah closes with some concluding concluding thoughts, sometimes tying them in with his opening story.

The Chocolate Milk

Every chapter pretty much follows this structure, which means you know what to expect with each chapter. He brings up the challenges that many people think when they read the bible, and shows how God is trustworthy, just, and faithful.

Some paradoxes have to remain as paradoxes and simply be held together. For example, scientists have one theory for how light consists of solid particles that can hit objects, and they have a separate theory on how it is a wave and can be in two separate places at the same time (219). Scientists have to acknowledge that their brains are not wired to put these two theories together, so, rather than emphasizing one theory over the other, they hold them together. Similarly, when it comes to the Trinity, how Jesus is both man and God, and how God’s divine sovereignty and man’s free will correspond to each other, these things must be held together. We work through them, read books about them, and understand and explain their nuances, but we will never completely understand these paradoxes in this life. And that is OK.

If there was one addition I would appreciate seeing, it would be a section on recommended resources either after every chapter or at the end of the book. Some of the chapters here summarized ideas that I’ve read in other books. For instance, because I’ve read quite a few books on God’s sovereignty and man’s free will (chapter 10), there wasn’t much new here for me. It’s a similar case with chapters 3 (the Joshua Paradox) and 4 (the Job Paradox). These chapters weren’t intended to cover every detail, but having a reference tool to point readers to other books would be helpful. And though we have Amazon at our fingertips, recommendations for further reading from an author are always warmly welcomed. 

Recommended?

For the high school or university student, to the layman, Bible teacher, and pastor, this book provides a helping comfort to know that the Bible’s paradoxes aren’t a problem—but a gift to be received, wrestled with, befuddled over, and a cause to rejoice. The God we serve has hidden himself in plain sight, and because we have his Spirit, we can read his word and we can understand him.

Lagniappe

    • Author: Krish Kandiah
    • Paperback: 320 pages
    • Publisher: IVP Books (February 14, 2017)

Buy it from Amazon or from IVP Academic!

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.


Table of Contents

The Preface (paradox)
Introduction

1. The Abraham Paradox: The God who needs nothing but asks for everything
2. The Moses Paradox: The God who is far away, so close
3. The Joshua Paradox: The God who is terribly compassionate
4. The Job Paradox: The God who is actively inactive
5. The Hosea Paradox: The God who is faithful to the unfaithful
6. The Habakkuk Paradox: The God who is consistently unpredictable
7. The Jonah Paradox: The God who is indiscriminately selective
8. The Esther Paradox: The God who speaks silently 

Interlude at the Border

9. The Jesus Paradox: The God who is divinely human
10. The Judas Paradox: The God who determines our free will
11. The Cross Paradox: The God who wins as he loses
12. The Roman Paradox: The God who is effectively ineffective
13. The Corinthian Paradox: The God who fails to disappoint

Epilogue: Living with Paradox

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Review: Liturgy of the Ordinary

How is one to be devoted to Christ in a world full of chores, showers, cooking, and cleaning? Doesn’t he know how long it takes us to get up in the morning (or worse, our kids)? How are we to be faithful witnesses of the gospel when so much of our days are taken up by work, menial, constant chores, and another household item breaking (either on its own, or, again, because children)?

Tish Harrison Warren is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America and currently serves as Co-Associate Rector at Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, PA. She writes regularly for The Well, CT Women, and Christianity Today.

Summary

In her book, Warren takes us from the moment we wake up down to the moment we go to sleep. Everybody starts their day the same way—tired, hair a mess, the look of having just woken up, and the hope that they don’t have to begin the day just yet. Yet for the Christian, “Jesus knows me and declares me his own. On this day he is redeeming the world, advancing his kingdom, calling us to repent and grow, teaching his church to worship, drawing near to us, and making a people all his own” (23).

We make our beds—creating order and beauty out of chaos. We monotonously brush our teeth and take care of our bodies—just as God the Son did in his own physical body (well, I don’t know what he did with his teeth). We are living sacrifices and we act out our worship; it is embodied. We lose out keys and realize we rely too much on small things. How can we say we’ll suffer for the Gospel if we can even keep our cool when we lose our keys? Warren says that we need to “cultivate the practice of meeting Christ in these small moments of grief, frustration, and anger, of encountering Christ’s death and resurrection…in a… Tuesday morning” (56). Why?

She responds,

Otherwise, I’ll spend my life imagining and hoping (and preaching and teaching about how) to share in the sufferings of Christ in persecution, momentous suffering, and death, while I spend my actual days in grumbling, discontentment, and low-grade despair (56).

Even with the flood of food pictures we get on Instagram and Pinterest, all of us eat leftovers. Sometimes that’s great, most times it’s fine, but it’s never remarkable. Eating leftovers for your birthday is convenient, but it’s not special. In fact, most meals we eat are not Pinterest-worthy, nor are they even worthy to tell our neighbors (because who loves hearing “Hey, I made new meat loaf last night”?).

Similarly, Bible reading is not usually a very scintillating experience. But just as our non-enthusiastic leftovers provide nourishment to us, and most of those meals—even the fresh ones—are long forgotten, they all have provided some kind of nourishment to us. We are still alive. So it is with the Bible. We read it. We don’t understand it. But it nourishes us. We continue reading. Day after day. Warren says, “Word and sacrament sustain my life, and yet they often do not seem life changing. Quietly, even forgettably, they feed me” (67).

I’ve only covered the first five chapters. We fight with our spouses (or loved ones), and God calls us to be peacemakers (Matt 5.9; cf. Rom 5.1). We check a flood of email and daily work at our jobs (some we like, others we loathe), and we worship God with our efforts. We sit in traffic, and we hate it because it reminds us that we are not masters of our time. As much as we despise it, waiting is a gift and patience a virtue. We call trusted friends, and lay ourselves bare to them. We drink tea, or coffee, or hot chocolate, and rest and savor the world God has created and the creations his creations have created as well.

Warren ends the book with sleeping. Rest is necessary. In fact, it is one of the most spiritual things we can do, for not sleeping will kill us (and our relationships with others). It is a taste of future death, but in it we lay aside our worries and trust that God is at work. He doesn’t need us, but he loves to have us partner with him. He holds us fast, and “gives his beloved sleep” (153; cf. Ps 127.2).

Other Matters

If you can’t tell from the title and the fact that Warren is an Anglican, there is a lot of talk about liturgy in this book. And reading this book through a Baptist lens, that has both it’s pro’s and con’s. Before coming to Norway I had never been in a church that had an ordered liturgy, so there were some aspects of what Warren said that I couldn’t relate to (such as her never really having a “sense” of time until she discovered the liturgical calendar). For myself, I never gave much thought at all about advent until I came to Norway (a prominently Lutheran country). This isn’t a criticism against Warren, but only a note for other readers (i.e., Baptists). Keep reading. For myself, reading through Warren’s book provided me a bit of insight into seeing how other Christian live out their ecclesiology, even if I found some parts odd (and interesting).

I would like to have seen more written about these heady concepts, specifically justification, pneumatology, Christology, and eschatology, topics Warren “can get drunk on” (23). Why does one’s eschatology matter? Pre-, post-, a-, panmillennial—do they make a difference, or are they mere fodder for pointless arguments? How should our view of the Spirit, who he is, and his work in our lives shape our outlook on today? More of this would have been appreciated, but I am happy with what I was given.

Recommended?

Books that bring the heady concepts of the Bible into the warp and woof of our daily lives ought to be read. More often than we’d like to admit, too many of us probably walk around having the biblical concepts in our heads, but when it comes to living out our days, we think we simply need to live as good people. Warren guides her readers through one day—one day out of so many—and shows them a way to think about their day under God’s purposes and loving designs. Whether you are a Presbyterian, a Lutheran, a Methodist, a Pentecostal, or, dare I say it, a Baptist, there is much here that is beneficial.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Tish H. Warren
  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (November 1, 2016)
  • Blogs: Her.meneutics, The Well

Buy from Amazon or InterVarsity Press!

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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Review: Jeremiah (BST)

The Bible Speaks Today (BST) series has a threefold ideal:

  • to expound the biblical text with accuracy
  • to relate it to contemporary life, and
  • to be readable.

While it is not exactly a “commentary,” this is not a sermon series either (a la Preaching the Word). In his volume, Wright writes specifically to pastors and preachers, those called to fill God’s people with his word and a solid, biblical knowledge of him. Wright is an ideal person to write on Jeremiah. He is an OT theologian who has been writing on the OT, OT ethics, and OT commentaries for years (e.g., Deuteronomy, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel). Having written so much about the OT, Wright is able to keeps the entire story and canon of the Bible in mind as he fills in the details about the suffering prophet.

The weeping prophet, who weeps God’s tears for his people and relays God’s anger against his people. Jeremiah images God’s relationship with Israel in two primary ways: one of a husband and his bride, the other of a father and his son. God is a “betrayed husband” and a “rejected father” (29). Thus, “God and his prophet suffer together in the anticipation and the actuality of the disaster” (30).

Structure and Content

Unfortunately, Wright doesn’t provide an outline. Instead his volume is made up of 34 chapters, with Jeremiah 25 as the “hinge” chapter. He says, “Chapter 25 is clearly a ‘hinge’ chapter that first looks back to all that has gone before in chapters 1–24 (25:1–7). Then it effectively ‘programmes’ the rest of the book by looking forward to the inevitable judgment on Judah that God will bring through the agency of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon (25:8–11), followed by God’s promised judgment on Babylon itself and indeed on all the earth (25:12–38)” (27).

Chapters end with a section on “theological and expository reflections” which present short thoughts for the reader (paster/congregation) to consider. For example, Wright says, “Jeremiah highlights biblical standards for human governments,” and then asks why Christians are more vocal over the new sexual agenda than they are about government policies which keep the poor and the vulnerable confined in their present state (246). To know God is “to practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness” in this life now (Jer 9.23–24).

Wright sees wordplays, alliteration, OT allusions, the repetition of words and themes all throughout Jeremiah. He draws together Jeremiah’s messages throughout the book and shows his unified message. In commenting on the abrupt, jarring verses of 30:23–24, Wright says, “Why is that past oracle of doom repeated here? For the purpose of wrapping it in the smothering embrace of the core covenant promise that Israel had known from their origins” (311).

Wright has rhetoric and uses imagery well, saying that Jeremiah and his message “stick out like a funeral director at a wedding,” which is very true (51). Considering all the false prophets who cried, “Peace, peace,” Jeremiah wept that Jerusalem would be overtaken by Babylon. The false prophets preached a wedding; Jeremiah preached a funeral.

Wright is not only sensitive to OT themes, but to NT themes and references as well. God’s promise in Jeremiah 30–33 and 35–37 that nothing could separate him from his people is echoed in Romans 8.38–39.

The Spoiled Milks

My two disappointments with this volume concern the lack of an outline and a lack of indexes, specifically a Scripture index (my same complaint with Lalleman’s and Kidner’s volumes). With so many NT Scriptures referenced, this volume would have been even more resourceful if one could easily see all of the Bible verses used.

Recommended?

Wright is a highly trusted exegete who has written numerous books and commentaries. Get this one, and don’t stop there. Wright, like Lalleman, is good to have for all Bible teaching settings. His chapters are longer than Lalleman’s (only Mackay’s are longer), but are packed with exegetical and expositional insights. I would use his volume if I taught a Bible study, a Bible college class, or preparation for a sermon. Good to be paired with Lalleman’s volume.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Christopher J. H. Wright
  • Series: Bible Speaks Today
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic; 1st edition (March 10, 2014)

Buy this from IVP Academic or 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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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: Psalms 73-150

Psalms

Derek Kidner was a brilliant British Old Testament scholar. He taught at Oak Hill Theological College before becoming Warden of Tyndale House. He wrote many commentaries in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC) series and The Bible Speaks Today (BST) series. He has written volumes on the books of Genesis, Ezra–Nehemiah, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Jeremiah, and Hosea.

Here I’ll review his commentary on Psalms 73-150 (Books III to V) in the Kidner Classic Commentaries series. At just over 240 pages this serves as a nice, thick completion to his commentaries on the Psalms. Each Psalm is given between 3-6 pages. Kidner doesn’t treat the Psalms as just words on a page. They are life.

Examples

In Psalm 93 the Psalmist proclaims that “The Lord is king!” And Kidner insightfully reminds us that “It confronts us afresh with a fact whose impact on us may have weakened; and further, its decisive tense points on to the day when the King will come in power…” (370). Neither does Kidner forget to read the Psalms in context as he recognizes that the “King who will come to power” is a prominent theme in the surrounding psalms, especially 96 to 99.

In Ps 113, who is like the Lord? No one. “It is here that God’s glory most sharply differs from man’s: a glory that is equally at home ‘above the heavens’ (4) and at the side of one forlorn person” (437). God’s glory is seen in “giving the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother” (v9).

The next Psalm (114) also begins in a tremendous fashion and ends in a whispered wonder: The whole earth trembles before God’s majesty, and He directs his power “to the point of need, transforming what is least promising [a desert] into a place of plenty and a source of joy,” a place to water and feed His people (438).

The Chocolate Milk

He doesn’t allow himself to fall into the mire of despair, that swamp of gritty details and mindless facts. Kidner is brief and crisp. He takes conservative views on the Psalms. Discussions about the Hebrew text are usually placed in the footnotes.

You’ll have to look elsewhere if you want in-depth word studies, structure of the psalm(s), literary analysis, reading the Psalms as a canonical unit, or opposing views. Although some will want to look for other commentaries on the Psalms, not everyone wants all of the extra analyses. These volumes are especially helpful for the pastor, the student, and as a morning devotional (with some extra details).

Kidner’s volume works best if you have both volumes. Volume 1 has the Introduction and exegesis of Books I and II. Volume 2 continues on the page number where Vol 1 left off (so Vol 2 starts on page 285). So a reference back to “page 12” means page 12 in Vol 1. There is no Bibliography in Vol 2, so I assume its in Vol 1. Nevertheless, you really ought to own both.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Derek Kidner
  • Series: Kidner Classic Commentaries (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 242 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (October 5, 2014)

Buy it on Amazon or from IVP!

(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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Review: Delighting in the Trinity

Delighting in the Trinity


Why is God love? 
 Because God is a Trinity.
Why can we be saved?  Because God is a Trinity.
How are we able to live the Christian life?  Through the Trinity.

In Reeves’s book he brings us an introduction to Christianity and our daily living that is rooted in the triune God who we worship, Father, Son, and Spirit. Through the Trinity we understand the person and work of Christ, along with prayer, the church, and every aspect of our faith. His book isn’t a point-by-point basis of ‘who/what’ the Trinity is, but why Christians should rejoice in the Trinity. We can have comfort and joy in knowing that our triune God is beyond comparison with any other god made up by man.

“Is there a God besides Me? There is no Rock; I know not any,” Isaiah 44:8b.

Altogether there are 7 chapters:

  1. Introduction: Here Be Dragons? 
  2. What Was God Doing Before Creation?
  3. Creation: The Father’s Love Overflows
  4. Salvation: The Son Shares What Is His
  5. The Christian Life: The Spirit Beautifies
  6. “Who Among the Gods Is Like You, O Lord?”
  7. Conclusion: No Other Choice

Reeves’s basis is: What is the point of the Trinity? Why does it matter if we have one or not? How does what I know about the Trinity affect my daily living?

When we look at Michelangelo’s painting “The Creation of Adam” in the Sistine Chapel, we see Adam limply holding his hand out, being supported by his knee. But to whom? As we continue to scan the painting, we see that he is barely holding his hand out to God who is reaching out, almost straining, to make contact with Adam.

All of humankind has this kind of meager attitude (less actually) toward God. But the Father, overflowing in love, created us and sent His Son to die and share in what He has so that we could be co-inheritors with Christ and be reunited with God who then gives us even more: His Spirit, who “not only enables us to know and love Christ; he also gives us the mind of Christ, making us like him” (pg. 95). And the best we can do is lift up a finger, as if even pointing to God is going too far.

This book is about the love of the Trinity for mankind and how it is so unexpected, undeserved, unmerited, and how God continues to show His mercy on us even still.

The Chocolate Milk

  • He says that the Trinity isn’t an oddity (for it is who God is, and God isn’t odd), but many of the images people use to describe God (eggs, water, a shamrock, even bacon) make the Trinity seem anything but ‘normal.’ Reeves then goes on to show how we can begin to view the Trinity as something normal.
    +
  • At 121 pages it is a short and simple read: I read this book before I arrived in York Spring ’13. I read the first two chapters at home, and then the other 5 on the plane ride over to the UK. It was so interesting I couldn’t put it down, but it was so simple I didn’t want to put it down!
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  • It’s a deep read: But simple doesn’t equal childish. This book can be understood by high schoolers to scholars to pastors to teachers to moms and dads. It’s not a book on being able to spit out facts on the omniscience of the Holy Spirit and how the hypostatic union of Christ works. It’s not about brainy knowledge. It’s about a true relationship, and the more we see how much God loves us (though we’ll never scratch the surface), the more we want to be enveloped in that love and spend time with Him and live in a way that pleases Him.
    +
  • Every few pages Reeves puts a rabbit trail in a gray box for us to read; a subsection on the main section. The subjects range from what church father’s have had to say about the Trinity, how all of humankind is motivated by love (either for God or for ourselves), prayer, knowing God, etc. It all relates back to the chapter and his main theme of knowing the Trinity more in terms of a relationship, not facts and mo’ higha’ knowledge.
    +
  • In Chapter 2 (Creation), Reeves brings up a contrast between Babylon’s Marduk + Islam’s Allah vs.  the God of Christianity. What makes creation through our eyes any different from theirs? How could the Father be loving if He were by Himself before creation? How could He be the Father? Was He just loving Himself? That’s a bit selfish.
    +

    “Think of God the Father: he is, by his very nature, life-giving. He is a father. One has to wonder if a barren god, who is not a father, is capable of giving life and so birthing creation. But one can have no such doubts with the Father: for eternity he has been fruitful, potent, vitalizing. For such a God (and only for such a God) it seems very natural and entirely unsurprising that he should bring about more life and so create” (pg. 41-42).

    +
    Not all gods are the same. 
    Not all religions are the same. Not all beliefs are the same. And to disagree with Oprah, my God, the Christian God, is a jealous God because He is so loving. 

The Spoiled Milk

  • I have no qualms with this book. I only wish it had more pages (a mere 121 pgs!) or a sequel.

Recommended?

Exceedingly so.

Too often we hear the word “Trinity,” sigh, roll our eyes, and don’t even bother because God is ‘too big and unknowable’ that we might as well not even try.

Granted, this book can’t do everything. The doctrine of the Trinity is a huge concept. You won’t understand everything about the Trinity after you read this book. But you will understand and appreciate the Trinity much more after reading this book. Life changing? This book isn’t salvation, but you’ll look differently at God and all He has done.
+
This book has a lot of good points and quotes; you’ll want to have a highlighter (or two), a pen, and a pencil on hand. It’s no replacement for the Bible, but a (great) supplement and help. This book is written with warmth and humor, and you will enjoy every moment of it.

Who would benefit from this book?

Everyone. Anyone. While I would say high school on up, Reeves writes in such a way that makes it easy to teach the principles to children. All would benefit from this book.

Lagniappe

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