Aug 28, 2014

Review of Mark Taylor's 1 Corinthians Commentary

Mark Taylor, 1 Corinthians, New American Commentary 28 (Nashville: B&H, 2014).

First Corinthians continues to draw significant commentary interest. Taylor’s work now joins the crowded field of recent efforts (since 2000) by Lockwood (Concordia 2000), Pratt (HNTC, 2000), Thiselton (NIGTC, 2000), Sampley (NIB, 2002), Garland (BECNT, 2003), N. T. Wright (Everyman, 2003), A. Johnson (IVPNTC, 2004), Naylor (2004), Keener (NCBC, 2005), Schenk (WesBC, 2006), Collins (SP, 2007), Verbrugge (EBC rev., 2007), Fitzmyer (AB, 2008), Ciampa and Rosner (Pillar, 2009), Montague (CCSS, 2011), Perkins (Paideia, 2012), and Vang (Teach the Text, 2014). Gordon Fee’s revised NICNT volume is also scheduled for 2014.

This latest volume in the New American Commentary series is a solid work. It consists of a brief 15-page introduction and a respectable commentary section of a little over 400 pages. The explanations are clear and concise, broad but not exhaustive. This is in keeping with the author’s intention to write for the “teaching pastor” and “produce an up-to-date commentary of mid-range length that interacts representatively with the most recent scholarship” (author’s preface). In many ways Taylor has achieved his stated goal.

However, I believe that this work could have been more helpful to the “teaching pastor” in two ways. First, while the author does a decent job in identifying differing interpretive views, he often does not explain which view he prefers and why. Helping the teaching pastor think through the various options would have enhanced this commentary’s value. I suspect that many who want more in-depth analysis will find this commentary to be too succinct and turn elsewhere. Second, students of 1 Corinthians know that the book addresses a number of issues that continue to have relevance today (e.g., lawsuits, church discipline, the role of women in the church, speaking in tongues, etc.). But this commentary does not really explore these issues at any depth. To be fair, many commentators limit themselves to interpretive issues and do not tease out the implications or theology of the text for their readers. But since this commentary has the stated intention of helping teaching pastors then it seems reasonable to expect this kind of help. Many pastors that I know appreciate at least some help in moving from exegesis to application. Again, pastors looking for this kind of assistance will likely be forced to seek other resources.

In sum, this commentary is solid but whether it does enough to find a sufficient niche within the crowded, and perhaps over saturated, field noted above remains to be seen.

Much thanks to B&H Publishing for providing the free review copy utilized in this review.

The Wine in a Middle Bronze Age Palace in Israel

Wine is referenced over 230 times in the Bible. So some readers might be interested in this post from the Smithsonian blog on the chemical analysis of the contents of large jars found at Tel Kabri, tentatively identified as a wine cellar of a Middle Bronze Age palace. The blog post summarizes more extensive and technical discussion found here.

Aug 27, 2014

Forthcoming: The Lost Sermons of Charles Spurgeon

This announcement was actually made a few weeks ago, but fans of Charles Spurgeon might be interested to know that B&H will be publishing The Lost Sermons of Charles Spurgeon, a multi-volume collection of over 400 sermons and outlines with critical commentary from his days as a young pastor outside of Cambridge.

Aug 26, 2014

Olson on the Wrong Side of History

Roger Olson has a good word here on the oft expressed concern, even by many evangeliicals, of being on the wrong side of history. Ultimately, we will not answer to "history" but to God.

Aug 25, 2014

Free: Paul Maier’s Pontius Pilate

Sorry for the late notice, but the Kregel Facebook page notes that Paul Maier’s Pontius Pilate is available as a free download today at Amazon here or Barnes and Noble Nook here.

Advice Related to Young Pastors

Deron Biles offers five good suggestions here to churches considering younger pastoral candidates.

Aug 21, 2014

Review of Victory through the Lamb

Mark Wilson, Victory through the Lamb: A Guide to Revelation in Plain Language (Wooster, OH: Weaver, 2014).

To take a challenging book in the Bible and attempt to make it accessible is a commendable exercise. Dr. Mark Wilson tries to do just that with this new treatment on the book of Revelation. In a relatively brief 223 pages, the author seeks to elucidate the book’s oft-disputed meaning in “plain language.” His main premise is that “Christians have and always will suffer tribulation until Jesus returns at the second coming” (p. 10) and that two key themes of the book are “tribulation” and “victory” (p. 13). Victory through the Lamb also includes Wilson’s own translation of Revelation. One distinctive feature not found in most treatments of the book is the introductory presentations of martyrdom accounts.

On the positive side, Wilson’s presentation is easy to read. Christian readers will also be encouraged and challenged by the martyrdom sections that introduce each chapter. The author is also to be commended for stating his positions up front. Wilson identifies himself as a postribulational premillennialist. But the real value of this work is the historical insights sprinkled throughout. Here the author’s expertise in history, archaeology, and geography shine the brightest. See for example, his discussion of hollow statues of gods/goddesses used to deceive worshippers (p. 122).

By way of critique, several points are worth noting. First, the author seems to flatten certain biblical concepts in a way that negatively affects his interpretive decisions. One example relates to his treatment of “tribulation.” Wilson seems to conflate tribulation that is part and parcel of living in a fallen world and the concept of a unique Tribulation that is associated with the Second Advent (see p. 189). The Scriptures as a whole seems to distinguish between the two. Second, there are times when it seems that the “comments” are wholly inadequate. For example, it seems that the commentary at times merely restates the details of the text as if doing so is an explanation. See the author’s treatment of Revelation 17–18, 21. Another example is the treatment of 1,260 days (11:3; 12:6). According to Wilson, “The 1,260 days/42 months/3½ seem to designate that period between Christ’s ascension and his second coming when his disciples give their witness upon the earth” (p. 92). But no explanation or validation is provided for this conclusion Third, some interpretations seem inconsistent. For example, Wilson argues that the armies of heaven present with Christ at the Second Advent represent the first resurrection of the saints in 20:4, an event that seems to follow the Second Advent (pp. 188–94). In other words, the resurrected believers coming with Christ are the same believers who are resurrected after Christ has come???

As already noted, there are commendable features associated with this work. But it is hard to know which readers might benefit most from this book. The explanatory inadequacies noted above will lead more serious students to seek more detailed treatments and the lack of study questions and the like will limit the value of this work for study groups. Perhaps the most likely beneficiary of this volume will be those who are already generally familiar with Revelation but who are interested in additional historical, archaeological, and geographical insights. 

You can read an excerpt here.

Thanks to Weaver for providing the free review copy used in this review.

Aug 20, 2014

An Ideal Seminary Student?

David Allen identifies five characteristics of his ideal seminary student here.

Aug 19, 2014

Themelios 39.2

The latest edition of Themelios is out and available as a PDF or Logos version here.

Aug 18, 2014

Hurtado on Writing & Pronouncing the Divine Name in Second-Temple Jewish Tradition

Larry Hurtado has a fascinating explanation here related to how the Divine name YHWH was written and pronounced in Second-Temple Judaism and what the implications that this may have for Jesus being called Lord.

Aug 17, 2014

Presentation Tips

See "20 World-Class Presentation Experts Share Their Top Tips" here.

HT: George Hillman

Aug 16, 2014

Latest Issue of Review of Biblical Literature

The latest issue of Review of Biblical Literature is out. Reviews can be accessed by clicking the links below. 

Johann Cook and Hermann-Josef Stipp, eds.
Text-Critical and Hermeneutical Studies in the Septuagint
Reviewed by Ken M. Penner

Carol J. Dempsey
Amos, Hosea, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk
Reviewed by Stephen Breck Reid

Ralph K. Hawkins
The Iron Age I Structure on Mt. Ebal: Excavation and Interpretation
Reviewed by Robert D. Miller II

Reinhard Gregor Kratz
Historisches und biblisches Israel: Drei Überblicke zum Alten Testament
Reviewed by Göran Eidevall

Steve Moyise, Bart J. Koet, and Joseph Verheyden, eds.
The Scriptures of Israel in Jewish and Christian Tradition: Essays in Honour of Maarten J. J. Menken
Reviewed by Arie W. Zwiep

Pheme Perkins
Reading the New Testament: An Introduction
Reviewed by Thomas P. Nelligan

Stanley E. Porter and Christopher D. Land, eds.
Paul and His Social Relations
Reviewed by Jin Hwang

Johanna Stiebert
Fathers and Daughters in the Hebrew Bible
Reviewed by George Savran

Marie-Laure Veyron
Le toucher dans les Évangiles
Reviewed by Abson Joseph

Samuel Wells and George Sumner
Esther and Daniel
Reviewed by Timothy J. Stone

Aug 15, 2014

Thoughts on Using Robin Williams in Your Sermon

Allen White has some good advice here about using Robin Williams in your sermons. In general I think that if you are going to use Robin Williams as a way of showing your audience that your preaching is relevant then don't. If your congregation doesn't already know that your preaching is relevant then this will not help. But if you see that referencing Williams is a genuine teaching moment then proceed with caution for at least the reasons outlined in the article.

Aug 13, 2014

Hurtado on the Septuagint

Larry Hurtado has a brief primer on the Septuagint and some suggestions on related helpful resources here.

Aug 12, 2014

The Preacher and Text Criticism

Steve Patton, in the latest issue of Preaching, has some helpful advice here on handling text-critical issues in the context of preaching.

Aug 11, 2014

The Problem of "Unconscious Writing"

Every now and again, I meander through my bookshelves. While doing this the other day, I noticed a slim volume on writing and my curiosity got the better of me. In it, I found the following observations to be true of much of what I read in biblical studies and uncomfortably close to the mark in some of my own work.

"Most of the novice's difficulties start with the simple fact that the paper he writes on is mute. Because it never talks back to him, and he because he's concentrating  so hard on generating ideas, he readily forgets—unlike the veteran—that another human being will eventually be trying to make sense of what he's saying. The result? His natural tendency as a writer is to think primarily of himself—hence to write primarily for himself. Here, in a nutshell, lies the ultimate reason for most bad writing.

"He isn't aware of his egocentrism, of course, but all the symptoms are of his root problem are there: he thinks through an idea only until it is passably clear to him, since for his purposes, it needn't be any clearer; he dispenses with transitions because it's enough that he knows how his ideas connect; he uses a private system—or no system—of punctuation; he doesn't trouble to define his terms because he understands perfectly well what he means by them; he writes page after page without bothering to vary his sentence structure; he leaves off page numbers and footnotes; he paragraphs only when the mood strikes him; he ends abruptly when he decides he's had enough; he neglects to proofread the final job because the writing is over . . . Given his total self-orientation, its no wonder that he fails repeatedly as a writer. Actually, he's not writing at all; he's merely communing with privately with himself—that is, he's simply putting thoughts down on paper.

"I call this 'unconscious writing.' The unconscious writer is like a person who turns his chair away fro a listener, mumbles at length to the wall, and then heads for home without a backward glance."     

John R. Trimble, Writing with Style: Conversations on the Art of Writing, 2nd ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000), 4-5.

Aug 10, 2014

Cultivating Humility in Seminary

Some sound advice here for those in, or considering, seminary.

Aug 8, 2014

Latest Issue of Review of Biblical Literature

The latest issue of Review of Biblical Literature is out. Reviews can be accessed by clicking the links below. 

Jody A. Barnard
The Mysticism of Hebrews: Exploring the Role of Jewish Apocalyptic Mysticism in the Epistle to the Hebrews
Reviewed by Carl Mosser

Jeremy Corley
Reviewed by Oda Wischmeyer

Volkmar Fritz
The Emergence of Israel in the Twelfth and Eleventh Centuries B.C.E.
Reviewed by Pekka Pitkanen

Florentino García Martínez; Hindy Najman and Eibert Tigchelaar, eds.
Between Philology and Theology: Contributions to the Study of Ancient Jewish Interpretation
Reviewed by George J. Brooke

Alison M. Jack
The Bible and Literature
Reviewed by Bradford A. Anderson

Robin Jarrell
Fallen Angels and Fallen Women: The Mother of the Son of Man
Reviewed by Jack Collins

Matthew V. Johnson, James A. Noel, and Demetrius K. Williams, eds.
Onesimus Our Brother: Reading Religion, Race, and Culture in Philemon
Reviewed by Abson Joseph

Jason T. LeCureux
The Thematic Unity of the Book of the Twelve
Reviewed by James M. Bos

Thomas R. Schreiner
The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments
Reviewed by David M. Maas

Alan F. Segal
Sinning in the Hebrew Bible: How The Worst Stories Speak for Its Truth
Reviewed by Joseph Lam

Aug 7, 2014

Does a Futurist Interpretation of Revelation Rob the Book of Its Original Revelance?

Recently, I have been reading through a commentary on Revelation. The author implies that a futurist reading of Revelation would rob the book of its relevance to the original audience. This is a fairly common argument. But is this valid?

I think not. If it were so, then there could be no far future prophecies in the Bible, because all books in the Bible had a contemporary audience. Using this argument, no passage in the Old Testament could prophesy of the First or Second Advent since both would have been far future to the original audience! Such an argument seems to confuse a futurist reading with a futurist application. Let me illustrate. Suppose 1,000 years from now, an archaeologist discovers a book dated to the early twenty-first century. The book apparently made certain predictions about some phenomena called “global warming.” Would the archaeologist be correct in assuming that the book could not have been referring to far future events because it would then not have had any contemporary relevance?

In the Bible, predictive prophecy with near or far fulfillment, always has relevance to the original audience. Indeed, it is the scoffer who denies contemporary relevance in the midst of apparent delayed fulfillment (see 2 Peter 3:1-13). So while there might be good reasons for rejecting a futurist reading of Revelation, this is not one of them.

Aug 6, 2014

The Seal of Hezekiah

Claude Mariottini has a nice post on the Seal of Hezekiah here.

Aug 4, 2014

Simon the Tanner's House in Joppa

Many tours to the Holy Land do not spend much time exploring Joppa for the simple fact that there is not as much to see in comparison to other sites. However, for Christians, one stop in Joppa is the so-called house of Simon the Tanner, a house mentioned in Acts 9:43 and 10:6. Whether the current location is authentic is unknown. Also, most visitors are not allowed to enter the house. This was not always so as can be seen in the following account from the late 1800s.

"Under the conduct of our guide, we first visited the traditional site of the house of Simon the
tanner, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.*[Acts 9:43; 10:6] The house, in part at least, is a modern structure, built, like the surrounding dwellings, of stone, with a flat roof, having a little low dome in the centre. Upon entering it, we found a large stone trough in the lower story, at one end of which was a well, with an old axle having four arms by which it was turned in drawing water. This well, it is alleged, was anciently used by Simon in his trade, but now seems to be used only for the ordinary purposes of a household. The property is in the possession of the Mohammedans, who have set apart one room as a place of prayer. This room was small and poorly lighted, dingy and altogether uninviting.

"From this point we ascended to the roof by an ancient flight of stone steps, which may indeed, with the foundations of the building, have come down from the times of the apostles. From the roof we enjoyed a very fine view of the surrounding buildings, and the yet turbulent sea breaking upon the ragged edges of the reef, where we had so lately made our dangerous passage."

Van Horne, David, Tent and Saddle Life in the Holy Land, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1886), 14-15.

Here is a more current picture of Simon the Tanner's house at night.

Aug 2, 2014

The Gospel: A Demand and a Gift?

"The whole Gospel is 'demand' insofar as it expresses God's sovereign will concerning us. His sole demand is, however, in reality only this: that we must accept His gift."

Arnold T. Ohrn, The Gospel and the Sermon on the Mount (New Your: Fleming H. Revell, 1948), 23.