Mar 10, 2012

Review of Hear the Word ESV Audio Bible

I am big believer in the absolute necessity of immersing oneself into the Scriptures. When I teach Bible courses, I always require the reading of the actual biblical texts covered in the course. I have also made it a practice to listen to the text as I do work around the house or as I drive. I first started doing this with cassettes (I know that this dates me). I also started with the KJV and then moved on to the NIV. But after a number of years I wanted to listen to another translation. So it was with great excitement that I was given the opportunity by Crossway to test drive the Hear the Word ESV Audio Bible.

This set comes in different versions. My version consists of 59 audio CD's containing 75 hours of audio. The reading is done by David Heath. It is a straightforward reading (not dramatized as in some recordings) with no background music or sounds. Each chapter forms a separate MP3 track. The 59 CD's come in a nice vinyl binder. The set also comes with free ESV Bible resources software. My only criticism is that the individual tracks are not identified by book and chapter. Rather they are simply designated track01, track02, etc. I would have preferred something like Genesis01or Gen02. This makes it a little less user friendly, especially if you are going to load the MP3's to an iPod or MP3 player. Renaming each track would be a bit of a hassle. That being said, I think that Hear the Word ESV Audio Bible would still make a good option for those looking for a  audio version.

Fabulous Friday Book Sale is offering two items in their Fabulous Friday book sale this Friday only.

1. The five volume New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible which normally retails for $400 is now on sale for 129.99. You can check it out here.

2. My favorite all-around atlas the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible which retails for 39.99 is now on sale for 17.99. You can check it out here.

Mar 9, 2012

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.

Jennifer G. Bird
Abuse, Power and Fearful Obedience: Reconsidering 1 Peter's Commands to Wives
Reviewed by Torrey Seland

Terence E. Fretheim
Creation Untamed: The Bible, God, and Natural Disasters
Reviewed by Norman Habel

John Goldingay
Old Testament Theology: Volume 3: Israel's Life
Reviewed by Ovidiu Creanga

Naomi Koltun-Fromm
Hermeneutics of Holiness: Ancient Jewish and Christian Notions of Sexuality and Religious Community
Reviewed by J. Edward Walters

Scot McKnight
The Letter of James
Reviewed by James P. Sweeney

Michaël N. van der Meer, Percy van Keulen, Wido van Peursen, Bas Ter Haar Romeny, eds.
Isaiah in Context: Studies in Honour of Arie van der Kooij on the Occasion of His Sixty-Fifth Birthday
Reviewed by Mayer Gruber

Rodrigo J. Morales
The Spirit and the Restoration of Israel: New Exodus and New Creation Motifs in Galatians
Reviewed by Sigurd Grindheim

David Norton
The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today
Reviewed by David G. Burke
Reviewed by John Engle

Vernon K. Robbins
Sea Voyages and Beyond: Emerging Strategies in Socio-rhetorical Interpretation
Reviewed by Dennis R. MacDonald

The Temptation of not Preaching the Scriptures

"The constant temptation of the preacher is to cry out some other message than the Scriptures—a political system, a theory of economics, new religious philosophy. No matter that this may be done in authoritative tomes, if a preacher does not preach the Scriptures, he abandons his authority. He no longer confronts men and women with the Word of God but simply speaks another word from a man."

Haddon W. Robinson, Making a Difference, ed. Scott W. Gibson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 63.

Mar 8, 2012

James and the Discipline of Silence

Seeking to apply James 3:1-18, William Brosend offers the following suggestion: 
"The practice of the discipline of silence for a time or a season enriches the Christian life in many ways. And just like fasting can increase one;s appreciation for food, so can silence aid our understanding of speech. Homiletical exhortation to control the tongue is likely to  prove fruitless. everyone knows and has felt the danger and powerful sting of the tongue yet failed to keep it in check.  A more encouraging word can be offered for the practice of silence. While James did not specifically call for silence, the logic of his argument suggests it. The practice of silence will likely further our appreciation for it."

William F. Brosend II, James and Jude, New Cambridge Bible Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 98.

Mar 7, 2012

The Implications for the Dating of Acts

Stanley Porter does a pretty good job of laying out the implications or tendencies for those who date Acts late and those who date Acts early. Porter notes,

"Each of these dates has implications for the portrait of Paul in Acts. The late date, promoted by Baur and his followers, explains the purported differences along three lines. First, the author could not have been an eyewitness of, or even close to, the events related. Second, the book was written after major events in the development of the early church had transpired and Paulinism had triumphed. Third, the work was written from a consciously apologetic and theological, but not distinctly historical, viewpoint. The earlier two dates provide for the possibility of first-hand witness of, or at least closeness to, the events. Those who subscribe to the early date tend to see close continuity between the Paul of Acts and of the letters. Those who hold to the middle date are divided: some disregard any connection between the narrative of Acts and what actually happened, while others contend for continuity."

Stanley E. Porter, "The Portrait of Paul in Acts," in The Blackwell Companion to Paul, ed. Stephen Westerholm (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 126.

Mar 6, 2012

The Lord's Displeasure Concerning David

I found the following statement on 1 Samuel 11:127 concerning the sordid tale of David and Bathsheba to be insightful.

“In the English translation, as in the Hebrew, the very last word of this episode is ‘the Lord,’ This is the only reference to God in this chapter and it comes right at the end. The reader knows what this means: the Lord not only is the last word, he has the last word.

“‘The thing that David had done displeased the Lord.’ The only question is, ‘What thing?’ Is it David’s idleness on the couch at the time when kings go to war? Is it his lust on the roof top, or his pursuit of the woman he saw? Is it the essential act of adultery of David’s attempt to deceive Uriah into believing himself to be the father of the child? Is it his cynical ploy to get Uriah drunk, or still more cynical decision to send his death warrant by Uriah’s own hand? Is it the death of Uriah or the other Israelites who died with him? Is it the fact that he enlisted Joab in his malice and the messenger too? Or is it the sum total of these many steps?

“Ultimately the transgression at the heart of this story is one of violence rather than of sex. While it probably is the whole sequence of events as they unfolded which displeased the Lord, the development which most stands out is David’s capacity for violence against an ally. Although he has previously shown himself capable both of personally perpetrating violence (for example against Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.51) and of ordering violence to be done (for example 1.15 and 4.12), he has shied away from shedding innocent blood. Previously David has been the model of restraint. His restraint was perhaps his defining characteristic in the story of his rise. Where he sensed a moral constraint, he refused to act violently, and would not countenance the violence of others. But that was then – in the days when his power was limited. Now he is king and those days are gone.”

Mar 5, 2012

Review of How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens

Michael Williams, How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012).

Michael Williams’ attempt to unpack what Jesus meant in Luke 24:27 when He said that all the Scriptures ultimately related to Himself is a commendable exercise. By looking at the Bible through a “Jesus lens,” Williams attempts to present a Christ-focused reading of Scripture. This is accomplished by offering a brief introduction, main theme, a suggested memory passage, some contemporary applications, and hook questions for each of the sixty-six biblical books. As might be expected, identifying and explaining the Christ-focus will be easier for some books (the NT in general) and harder for others (e.g., Judges, Ezra, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Nahum, etc.). Furthermore, Williams’ success in this endeavor varies from chapter to chapter. Some of his Christ-focused suggestions I found to be more persuasive than others. That being said, as a Bible teacher myself, I have often wrestled with trying to answer the kind of questions that Williams is asking and so appreciate the difficulty in coming up with satisfying answers. So I truly value the attempt even if, and when, I don’t agree with a particular conclusion here or there. Indeed, even in these cases, I found that my own thinking was sharpened by my disagreement. For that I am thankful.

In agreeing to participate in this blog tour, I volunteered to pay particular attention to the chapter on Acts. So I will work my way through the four pages devoted to this book.

The introductory remarks are a decent synopsis of the book. The theme is likewise serviceable, although I find it a bit curious. Williams states that the theme is “God expands and empowers his church through his Spirit” (p. 178). This is fine as far as it goes (with proper highlighting of the church and Spirit), but if one takes “God” here to refer to the Father, then Jesus is strangely missing from the theme in a book that is concerned with seeing Scripture through a “Jesus lens.” That is, the only Person of the Godhead missing in the theme is the Son. Also interesting to me is the fact that each biblical book is given a “subtitle” in the chapter heading and that for Acts, this subtitle is “witness,” yet there is nothing explicitly stated in the theme related to “witness.” I do not mean to be pedantic here and I realize that thematic statements are generally characterized by brevity. But, I see am unfortunate disconnect here between what should be (at least to me) interconnected elements. Acts 1:8 as a memory passage is fine, predictable, and appropriate, especially since this verse both references Jesus and the idea of witness (“My witnesses”) that were notably absent in the theme. Similarly, the specific discussion of the “Jesus Lens” helpfully captures the Christ-focus of the book beginning in Acts 1:1 with “what Jesus began to do and teach” and tying that into the work of Jesus through the Spirit in the rest of Acts. The section on “Contemporary Implications” is okay for what it does mention, but begs for some mention or clarification related to the transitional period in Church history covered in Acts and issues related to what is descriptive and what is prescriptive in the book. I am not sure that any discussion of contemporary implications can be considered adequate that does not wrestle with these issues. The three “Hook Questions” are fairly broad and would probably provide the desired entrée into a deeper discussion that would lead to application. 

As I have already noted, I am thankful for How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens. I am also grateful for the free review copy provided by Zondervan and the opportunity to participate in this blog tour.

Mar 4, 2012

David Alan Black: Confessions of a Limping Greek Teacher

Interesting account of David Alan Black's academic journey here.