I rarely post on deals, but I thought this one was too good not to share. Reposted from Clifford Kvidahl:
Right now at Logos you can not only get Doug Campbell’s massive tome The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul for only $.99, but you can also get Stephen Westerholm’s Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking a Pauline Theme for free. That’s right folks, two fantastic books for only a buck! Do I need to tell you to go grab them?
Get on it!
Is it right to think that the Old Testament expects a Messiah? Many would answer yes, but perhaps the next question is more pointed and the answer ever more complex: in what way does the Old Testament expect a Messiah? Is the Old Testament full of direct and exclusive prophecies of an individual Messiah, or are the predictions less direct? And if indirect, then how are they legitimately Messianic? Or is it better to conclude that the NT authors illegitimately ripped OT passages out of their original context, claiming fulfilment in Jesus? This is no doubt a thorny issue, and Darrell Johnston, Herbert Bateman IV, and Darrell Bock recognised that their “median approach” (p30) offers a way forward. This is the motive behind the joint effort Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King.
So how is Jesus the Messiah unique (I felt sacrilegious just writing that)? According to Bateman’s introduction, “a significant point of our book is to argue how this portrait of messiah presented in both Testaments is gradually unfolded” (p21), and, “while the wording is ultimately messianic, it is often more implicitly stated and becomes clearer only as the entirety of God’s portrait of messiah is eventually and fully disclosed” (p25, emphasis italicised in original). Unlike the more traditional approach of many, who read OT passages as exclusively predictive of Jesus, the authors take a different route to get to the same conclusion. Their approach is more akin to a typological reading of prophecy that allows for immediate fulfilment in the near future, but also a greater escalation fulfilment in Jesus: “not all prophecy is exclusively pointing to Jesus, just ultimately” (p26). The three authors in Jesus the Messiah trace the messianic expectation from Old Testament (Gordon Johnston), to the extra-Biblical Jewish literature (Herbert Bateman IV), which they rightly emphasise is not on the same level as Scripture, and then finally to the New Testament fulfilment in Jesus (Darrell Bock).
Many thanks to Alban books for providing a review copy of Jesus the Messiah. Their generosity has not affected my opinion of this book.
I’m a bit late to the game on this one, but I just finished reading Stephen Demspster’s JETS article “Canons on the Right and Canons on the Left: Finding a Resolution in the Canon Debate” (PDF) and it was a fascinating argument for an early established Old Testament canon (before Jesus’ time), and also gave some theological bases for the Hebrew OT order. For readers of Dominion and Dynasty (my review), some of this is familiar territory – though he does go in more depth here. However, I would like to share some interesting parallels Dempster drew between Psalms 1 and 2 serving as a dual-opening to the Writings collection.
I’ve copied the portion in question below, deleting the Hebrew and the footnotes, and adding some paragraphing and bullet points:
The first two psalms function as introductions to the Psalter stressing the twin themes of Torah and Kingship. These have been bound together both linguistically and conceptually.
- The first psalm begins with a beatitude (Ps 1:1) and the second ends with one (Ps 2:12)
- The first stresses the importance of rejecting the counsel of the wicked and meditating on the Torah (Ps 1:3), and the second not to meditate on vanity (Ps 2:1) but to pay attention to the decree of Yahweh (Ps 2:7).
- The first indicates that the wicked are on a way that will perish because they have rejected the Torah (Ps 1:6), while the second says that those who do not trust in the Israelite king will perish in the way (Ps 2:12).
Torah meditation leads to prophetic meditation.
Check out Dempster’s article here (right-click and save PDF).
Charles Quarles’ Illustrated Life of Paul is an “attempt to introduce readers to this amazing man and his incredible story” (p 2). Clearly from this quote alone, it is plain that Quarles is not writing an objective, impartial and indifferent account of Paul; however, Quarles “[has] sought to wed deep love for the apostle Paul with deep love for the truth” (p ix). No doubt some will see this as an impossible task: one must surely either write dispassionate history or religious propaganda; there can be no middle ground. Well, Quarles is unfazed by this dichotomy. Illustrated Life of Paul does in fact forge a middle ground, following “solid evidence in reconstructing Paul’s life without becoming the detached and disinterested historian that was the ideal of modernism” (p ix).
Illustrated Life of Paul
One of the striking facts about Illustrated Life of Paul is that Quarles is not leaning on what other biographers have said; instead, he chiefly depends on primary sources, such as ancient writings, when reconstructing history. The Bible, particularly Acts, takes the central role of course, but Quarles also draws heavily from the Mishnah, Josephus, the Apocrypha, and also early church fathers. It is clear that Quarles has done his own homework, as references to other biographies are scarce. This is all the more surprising when considering that Illustrated Life of Paul is written with a broad readership in mind.
As mentioned above, Acts takes central place in Quarles’ reconstruction. This is natural since a) Quarles is a believer and b) Acts is by far our best historical source for Paul’s life. One inevitable drawback to a study such as this is that at times it feels little more than a summary of Acts! I’m not quite sure how this can be escaped; however Quarles does manage to incorporate extra-Biblical insights in these summaries, so there is still much to benefit from in that material. Particularly excellent was the background he provided on the cities that Paul visited. I was pleased to see that Quarles presumes the reliability of Acts, although this will immediately narrow the appeal of Illustrated Life of Paul to those who hold evangelical convictions.
When discussing debatable questions, Quarles is evenhanded. For example, it is often simply assumed that Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin despite a lack of Scriptural support either way. In contrast, Quarles does not decide on the issue, but gives a clear and fair sketch of arguments on either side. Yes, Paul cast a vote for Stephen’s death (Acts 26:10) and rose to prominence within Judaism (Gal 1:14), but it is odd if Paul failed to mention membership in the Sanhedrin when “bragging” about his prior life before Christ.
Lastly, I should mention the “illustrated” aspect of this book! Scattered throughout – probably one for every two pages – is a drawing, painting, map, or most often, a photograph. On the most part these are modern photographs from Wikimedia Commons. Images range from a map of one of Paul’s journeys, to a photograph of the ruined city gate at Pela. Most of these images are beneficial for information or at least informed imagination, though a few are a “too modern” or blurry for my tastes.
There is little to complain about in Illustrated Life of Paul. It is well written, informative and enjoyable. I’m sure it would benefit pastors, teachers, Bible College-level students and virtually any other Christian. If I were to teach a class on the book of Acts, I would most likely assign this as required reading. Unbelievers will no doubt find it “too Christian” or “too devotional” to be taken seriously. Though a Christian biography, in terms of quality of research, it would not be an accurate dismissal. I would highly recommend Illustrated Life of Paul to anyone interested in the ancient world, early Christianity, early missionaries, the book of Acts, and obviously, the life of Paul.
Jason DeRouchie, Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology at Bethlehem College and Seminary, just completed posting audio lectures through the Old Testament containing a fine combination of scholarship, overview, and devotional encouragement.
- The Old Testament Overview lectures are here.
DeRouchie has also edited the recent What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About, an evangelical Old Testament overview that has received significant praise.
Ah, Jonah. Unlike Obadiah – the Macaulay Culkin of minor prophets – Jonah is infamous (i.e. “more than famous“). We all know the story of Jonah, so who needs a 192-page commentary explaining it? How much really is there to say? Well, Kevin Youngblood, author of a new Jonah commentary certainly asked this question, and found a novel answer: “Good commentaries on Jonah don’t bring the discussion of the book’s meaning to an end; rather, they take the discussion to a new level” (p13). In the case of Youngblood’s Jonah at least, this is more than just a cop-out answer to sell more books.
Jonah (Hearing the Message of Scripture)
In what ways is Jonah unique? I must admit at the start that I have not read a commentary on Jonah before, so my review will reflect my own (lack of) experience. I will have nothing to say in way of comparison. With that disclaimer, I am very impressed with Jonah. Let me give a few reasons why:
First, it is part of the excellent new Hearing the Message of Scripture series. After working through this commentary and Block’s Obadiah, I am thrilled (and impatient) about the next releases in this series. The lineup of scholars only makes it worse. Reading my review of Block’s Obadiah commentary will explain the unique format and approach of the series.
There is a rich abundance of literary emphasis in Youngblood’s work. Attention is paid to the structure, the words used, why they were used, how they play a role in advancing the story, etc. This is all true of the HMS series in particular, but it bore abundant fruit here in Jonah. First there is Youngblood’s “staircase” structure of Jonah that opens up the parallels in the book (ch 1:1-3 and ch 3:1-3, ch 1:4-16 and ch 3:4-10, ch 2:1-11 and ch 4:1-11) and their role in interpretation, numerous chiasms and illustrations, and ironic wordplays such as God’s command for Jonah to “arise” (Jonah 1:2) and Jonah’s continual response of going “down” (Jonah 1:3, 5, 15), ultimately climaxing in his final descent into “Sheol” (Jonah 2:2). Although “Jonah’s geographical orientation is west, the author makes clear that his spiritual orientation is downward, moving in the direction of chaos and death” (p58).
Youngblood is unafraid of making connections with the OT and NT throughout. What a refreshing element in an academic Old Testament commentary! Sadly, this is quite novel; but thankfully, it is done very well! After dealing with the text in its own right, Youngblood is quick to make connections and contrasts between Jonah and Moses, Jonah and Elijah, and of course, Jonah and Jesus. More specifically, Youngblood connects Rom 11:28-36 to Jonah’s overall message, and fruitfully parallels Jonah 1:4-16 with Matt 8:24-27. These contrasts are more than just applicational, they actually help us understand Jonah and the whole canon. If we recognize that the Bible is a book, then careful interpretation will result in the smaller parts shaping our understanding of the whole, and vice-versa.
Also refreshing was Youngblood’s unwavering commitment to the literary strategies behind Jonah, and the way that this allowed him to bypass skepticism and dogmatism, instead offering constructive reasons for “oddities” in the text. Let me explain what I mean with an example. Many assume or conclude that Jonah is purely a parable. Others assume or conclude that it is objective history. In contrast to both, Youngblood argues that the author’s intentions are more theological and didactic than historical and chronological. He recognizes that “the narrative has been mostly stripped of historical details” (p30), but doesn’t immediately leap to conclude that it’s therefore ahistorical. Rather, he notes that this “achieves a state of near timelessness” (p31). There is a reason why the parable vs. history debate exists: the data of the text itself, but Youngblood reads this data differently, as reflecting the intentions of the author. See how Youngblood avoids the issue by asking different questions; questions not imposed upon the text, but ones that arise more naturally from the text itself. His contribution actually offers something better as a result from recognizing authorial intention and rhetorical strategy.
Jonah is a profoundly rich commentary. Sure, there aren’t complex word studies, redactional criticism, or sermon illustrations, but none of these are part of this series’ intention. Paying attention to the literary strategies of the biblical authors is surely the way forward and Youngblood offers that in spades. Our first task ought to be understanding the biblical text first and foremost on its own terms, through paying close attention to its own structure and being shaped by its own agendas. Then the work of application and preaching can be built on a solid foundation. For this reason, any serious student, pastor or teacher will greatly benefit from picking this up. I read it in my own devotional time and profited immensely from it.
I am not overstating the case when I say that if all commentaries in the Hearing the Message of Scripture series live up to the quality of Youngblood’s Jonah (and Block’s Obadiah, for that matter), then the entire series will be priceless. So you need to collect the whole set!
- Publisher: Zondervan Academic
- Hardback: 192 pages
- ISBN: 9780310282990
- Many thanks to Zondervan Academic for providing a review copy. Their generosity has not affected my review.