Tag Archives: IVP Academic

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!
    +
  • 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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