Just a quick post on some books I recently received for review.
High Definition Commentary: Romans by Steven Runge (Logos Bible Software)
I get to teach Romans again this semester and I’m thrilled! This time around I wanted to focus a little more on the flow of thought and communicating it to my students through PowerPoints and such. Runge’s Romans commentary for Logos seemed like it was made for me! Runge wants to do something different in this commentary and narrowly focuses on the flow of Paul’s argument. Also, the commentary includes a ton of easily exportable images that illustrate main points in the letter. I’m up to Romans 2 this week and so far the commentary has been excellent.
Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Pillar) by Colin Kruse (IVP UK)
I wanted to use a more traditional and substantial commentary along with Runge’s, and Kruse’s seemed a natural choice as I love the Pillar series, Kruse is concise, has helpful excursus, and is more recent than other classics like Schreiner and Moo.
God Dwells Among Us by G. K. Beale and Mitchell Kim (IVP UK)
This is a condensed and adjusted version of Beale’s influential academic work The Temple and the Church’s Mission. I look forward to seeing just how much content is shared between the books, what (if anything) is new, and how they make this content more accessible.
A New Heaven and a New Earth by J. Richard Middleton (Baker Academic)
Though many are emphasizing the very physical nature of our future, Middleton has devoted an entire book to this topic, tracing the theme throughout the entire Bible and giving space to address objections and difficult passages. I look forward to comparing this with Beale’s similar work above.
Commentary on Hebrews (Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation) by Thomas Schreiner (B&H)
Thomas Schreiner is an excellent scholar and commentator, and this is the flagship in a new commentary series that focuses on Biblical Theology and integrating the given book with the entire canon, so this was not a difficult choice!
Many thanks to Faithlife, IVP UK, Baker Academic, and B&H for providing copies of these books in exchange for a review.
Jesus the Messiah in the Old Testament
Johnston progresses from passages in Genesis and Numbers; to 2 Samuel 7; to the Psalms (Ps 2, 45, 72, 89, 110, and 132); to Amos, Hosea and Micah; to Isaiah; to Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel; and finally, to Zechariah. The focus is on kingship texts, so Deut 18:15, for example, is excluded from discussion.
In virtually every text, Johnston examines first a contextual reading and then a canonical reading. An example of the former would be seeing Genesis 49:8-12 initially fulfilled in Judah’s role in the conquest of Canaan (Jud 1:2-4), and the Davidic rule (2 Sam 8:1-14). But Johnston is quick to point out that while the OT may present fulfilment of earlier texts in its own context, “initial phases of historical fulfilment did not exhaust all that would be wrapped up in the fulfilment” (p44). The canonical reading recognises that a) the OT continues to attach promises to the Davidic king that b) were never truly realised because c) the Davidic kingdom failed and Israel was exiled. When we put these together we see that God’s promises were never fully realized until the coming of Jesus.
Possibly reflecting my own interests at the moment, my favourite chapter was Johnston’s treatment of Psalms 2, 45, 72, 89, 110 and 132. Johnston argues that these were not written with Jesus in mind, but that their fulfillments are not exhausted in any Davidic king until Jesus. In the case of Psalm 2, for example, it “probably was originally composed to celebrate the enthronement of David or Solomon” and then “functioned as an oracle of legitimisation during a royal enthronement ceremony of the historical Davidic king” (p75-76). References to anointed (Psalm 2:2) and God’s son (Psalm 2:7) are not exclusively speaking of Jesus. However, the “enthronement of each historical Davidic king foreshadowed the future eschatological coronation of the ultimate Davidic king” (p76). That is, the concepts in this Psalm are matched and exceeded by Jesus in a typological fashion, filling them with deeper meaning in the process.
Some will have little to complain about with Johnston’s approach, as it tries to walk a middle road by not only recognizing fulfilment in an immediate context, but also allowing for a legitimate and greater fulfillment in Jesus. However, the fact that Johnston applies this approach to virtually every “messianic” text in the OT may be disconcerting. In particular I think of the treatment of Isaiah 9:1-7. Johnston notes that some scholars see this as exclusively about the Messiah Jesus, while others as exclusively historical, “expressing Isaiah’s original hope that Hezekiah would deliver Israel from Assyria” (p134). Johnston, however, wants to “avoid this false dichotomy” (p134) and sees immediate fulfilment in Isaiah’s hope for Hezekiah, and greater fulfilment in Jesus. While I’m no Isaiah expert, I see a problem with his proposal. Is this passage a divinely inspired prophecy on the part of Isaiah, or is it “Isaiah’s idealised hope of the resurgence of Davidic kingship under Hezekiah” (p147), a hope that Johnston admits “Hezekiah did not bring about” (p138)? Unless I misunderstand Johnston’s argument, it seems that he requires Isaiah to have gotten it wrong under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, since this is presented as more than wishful thinking, but prophecy. It would be one thing if this were found in narrative genre, like Samuel or Kings, but the genre of Isaiah’s prophecy and the doctrine of inspiration seem to disallow this option.
One small point and I’m not sure where else to mention it: there is an unusually high number of prominent typos (ones that I’m surprised slipped past proofreads) in Johnston’s chapters. Here are a few examples, with typos underlined:
- “The book of Genesis is a book of beginnings: the beginning of creation (1-2), the beginning of sin (3), the beginning of king (5-11), and yes, the beginning of God’s redemptive program. (p37).
- “the restoration of the rule of God in .” (p38). This is how the sentence ends!
- “the temple razed ,and the Davidic dynasty dismantled…” (p64)
- “Psalms 89 and 132 focus on the God’s eternal promise to David…” (p75)
- “perhaps the renown and oft-mentioned daughter of Pharaoh…” (p83)
- “a royal idiom cast in the secondperson rather than first person…” (p93)
- “the prophecy may have initially applied to Hezekiah But due to the openness…” (p150)
- In a seeming, surprising challenge to God’s promise…” (p169)
Also surprising was no treatment of Isaiah 7. Considering that this text is applied to Jesus in the NT, I would have expected some discussion of it. This text would no doubt fit quite naturally with their contextual and canonical approach also, so I’m not sure why it is skipped entirely.
Johnston’s work throughout is very careful and thorough. He is fair and balanced as strives for objectivity in an area that could easily turn into eisegesis. Even in cases where an interpretation could be more Messianic, Johnston isn’t quick to jump to conclusions either way. This is to be commended, as much work on Jesus in the OT stacks the deck in its own favour at times. As Christians, who believe Jesus is indeed the Messiah, we have nothing to fear from our own Biblical texts! This approach allows for both legitimate immediate fulfilment and legitimate NT fulfilment to Jesus. Though Rydelnik (my review) makes a compelling case for more direct prophecy, I find myself more broadly in agreement with Johnston so far, despite my anxiety that the approach could result in no real OT prediction of Messiah Jesus if taken too far.
Despite my criticisms, so far I have thoroughly enjoyed Jesus the Messiah. I’m reading it beginning to end, following the unfolding of Messianic hope, but one could easily use this as a reference on a text-by-text basis – something I will certainly do in the future with great benefit.
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 beginning a review series on Michael Heiser’s The Jewish Trinity Mobile Ed course. This is my second course so far, but I reviewed the first as an overview of Mobile Ed itself. With The Jewish Trinity, I will focus more on the content as I work through it.
I have been excited for the release of this course, having only discovered Michael Heiser last year but finding my world rocked, particularly through his work on the divine council. My wife can testify that I’ve become a little obsessed! Heiser is scholar-in-residence with Faithlife (developers of Logos Software) and is an expert in biblical languages and the Old Testament.
The Jewish Trinity
Though controversially named, The Jewish Trinity is essentially an Old Testament foundations of the Trinity. Many resist such an idea for various reasons: perhaps regarding the Trinity as a NT revelation, or from the skepticism of having seen such studies overburdened with blind dogmatism and anachronistic prooftexting. Heiser’s approach appears very different and likely to avoid these such problems.
Many would begin with Genesis 1:26 (“let us”) but critics would be quick to point out the anachronism in such an approach; Heiser begins on a surer footing: laying an OT foundation for divine plurality (the divine council) and then plurality within Yahweh Himself. Heiser aims to show that this is not simply “reading back” the NT into the OT because other ancient Jewish writings recognized these concepts and wrestled with them even before the NT period. The New Testament presentation of Jesus and the Spirit then connect the dots by building upon the scaffolding already present in the Old Testament and ancient Judaism. What’s more, this course has Jewish evangelism in mind – hence the title! If the OT itself can be shown to teach divine plurality within the Godhead, this will overcome the “stumbling block for Jewish people to accept the idea of Jesus as Savior and as God Incarnate because of their monotheism”. I look forward to seeing how this plays itself out in the lectures.
The implications are not relevant only for academics or evangelists. What Heiser is presenting here is a glimpse into an aspect of the Biblical worldview that many Christians are completely oblivious to. This is dangerous stuff that will shake your Biblical world. I know, because his teaching has shaken mine!
The Jewish Trinity is made up of 11 units (4 hours) all structured around a different question, each with sub-units:
- How Do I Respond to a Jewish Objection to the Christian Trinity?
- What Is Yahweh’s Council?
- Doesn’t the Old Testament Deny the Existence of Other Gods?
- Aren’t the Host of Heaven Just Celestial Objects Rather Than Actual Beings?
- What Other Being Was Identified with Yahweh?
- Did Jews Really Believe in Two Powers?
- How Did the New Testament Writers Understand the Second Yahweh Figure?
- How Does the Language of Divine Plurality Relate to Jesus as God’s “Only Begotten” Son?
- How Did New Testament Writers Express Belief that Jesus Was Unique among the Sons of God?
- Can Seeds of a Christian Trinity Be Found in the Old Testament?
- How Does an Old Testament Godhead Address the Claims of other Religions?
I won’t devote a post to each of these questions. I’ll maybe join some together or highlight parts that stood out the most. I hope to not just cover the lectures’ content, but also show how Logos software has helped me follow along and pushed my learning to the next step.
Read other parts in this review series.
Check out more about The Jewish Trinity at Logos.
Many thanks to Faithlife for providing a copy in exchange for review. Their generosity has not affected my opinion of the material.
We can never think too frequently on the gift of our salvation and the sacrifice Jesus undertook to accomplish it. I suspect this is why Donald Macleod offers no justification for the existence of Christ Crucified, despite it being perhaps “yet another” book on the topic. We need to constantly meditate on Jesus and His work, and a reminder to do so is not unwelcome. However, why not just pick up an old classic book on the cross? Is Macleod offering something unique in Christ Crucified?
Christ Crucified is split into two larger sections. The first, consisting of three chapters, traces the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The second, in eight chapters, considers “words” that interpret the work of the cross: substitution, expiation, propitiation, reconciliation, satisfaction, redemption and victory.
The latter section may sound familiar to anyone who has read books such as Stott’s The Cross of Christ, Morris’ The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied, and more recently, Peterson’s Salvation Accomplished by the Son. Being a fan of these books and teaching a class on the subject at CCBCY, my first question was, “how is Christ Crucified any different?”.
First, except for Peterson, these other works don’t offer a sustained treatment of Jesus’ life; they largely focus on word studies (Morris) or theological reflection (Stott and Murray). However, Christ Crucified contains a fresh retelling that culminates on a sustained discussion of the Passion accounts. Much of this material is beautifully written; consider the following as an illustration:
“He has drunk the cup and paid in full the ransom needed to redeem his people. He can say what the high priest of Judaism could never say, ‘It’s done! Finished! Nothing more is needed’. Now and for all time coming this one act of perfect obedience and sacrifice would determine humanity’s relation to God”. (p. 53)
Second, rather than following a rigid self-limiting method, Macleod skilfully glides from exegesis to application, devotion, theology, historical speculation, and doxology; impressively without inflicting whiplash on his readers. He is able at one moment to speculate with artistic license on Christ’s horrifying experience on the cross, and then suddenly be knee-deep in a word study or in conversation with a classic theologian. There’s something here for everyone. This fluidity and accessibility sets the tone for the rest of his work and distinguishes it from the above books.
Considering the devotional charm of these chapters, it’s therefore ironic (perhaps a sign of my own idiosyncrasies) that I found them the most dull. Adding to the irony, while part two is more enjoyable, it also has more problems. For the sake of space, I will focus on four chapters from part two.
Expiation and Propitiation
Macleod proficiently surveys the debate between Dodd, Morris, and Nicole in the 1960s over these words. With the dust having settled in 2014, Macleod considers “such polarization [as] entirely unnecessary. ‘Expiation’ highlights the effect of the atonement on sin, whereas ‘propitiation’ highlights its effect on God” (p. 110). This walks a fine line, holding both as valid, since “expiation which does not propitiate [is] meaningless” (p. 147).
In this context, while discussing 1 John 2:1-2, Macleod takes an unexpected turn to defend limited atonement (pgs. 120-127). For me, this was an unwelcome detour, especially considering Macleod admits that “this question is not addressed directly by the New Testament itself” (p.120). What’s more, by the end his 8-page wide-ranging discussion, “for the whole world” in 1 John 2:2 was never explained! Now, I know proponents of limited atonement have explanations, but it was ironic that Macleod offered none, especially when this passage spawned the whole discussion.
Secondly, Macleod carefully distinguishes between being propitious and being loving. Though God always loved the Ephesians (Eph 1:4), they were once under His wrath (Eph 2:3). But I think it goes too far to say that this distinction doesn’t “disappear altogether when we become Christians” (p. 135). More precise wording would have benefited here as this reader is left with questions: can the justified believer find themselves under God’s wrath in any sense? Can God be propitious towards us in Christ, but yet continue to have wrath against us? Yes, God certainly does discipline His children (Heb 12:6), but this is a far cry from His attitude towards those not (yet) adopted as sons as in Eph 2:3 and those given over to sin as in Rom 1:18-32. I think it’s pastorally and theologically incorrect to see Christians being under God’s wrath now or on the last day (1 Thess 5:9; Rom 5:9), so I’m unsure as to what Macleod was wanting to say here.
The chapter on reconciliation also has difficulties. Again, much is helpful, but things start going wrong whne he says “Paul clearly equates reconciliation with justification. Indeed, the two are virtually synonymous throughout Paul’s letters” (p. 160). This does not square with Romans 5:1-11, which presents our reconciliation not as parallel with justification, but with a peace with God – a result of justification. Nor does it square with 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, where Paul exhorts believers to be reconciled to God. Nor Colossians 1:19-20, which has demons being reconciled!
Macleod recognizes that equating reconciliation with justification causes trouble for Colossians 1:19-20, so he excludes demonic forces from reconciliation, saying, “there is no reference to ‘under the earth'” in Col 1:20; so they “are subjugated, but not reconciled” (p. 165). This is indefensible, however, because Paul’s point in Col 1:20 is that “all things” are reconciled through the cross, and Col 1:16 explicitly includes thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities among “all things”. Surprisingly, Macleod appears to change his mind when he says in chapter 11, “as far as the devil and his demons are concerned the reconciliation takes the form of a pacification” (p. 244). So they are reconciled after all! Not through justification but through defeat. Jesus made peace in regards to Satan through disarming him (Col 2:15). This fits the Biblical data much better, but requires one reject the equation of justification and reconciliation.
This would all be resolved if reconciliation were not limited to “the forensic” (p. 169), and seen more broadly as relational; putting things in their right place (i.e. shalom, peace). Thus reconciliation takes different forms in different contexts; shades that are lost in a grayscale approach. How did God make peace with sinners? Justification (Rom 5:1-11). How about Jew and Gentile animosity? By breaking the dividing wall of the Mosaic law (Eph 2:12-21). How are the powers reconciled? Through defeat (Col 1:19-20; 2:15). All of these have the cross at their centre, but take different shades.
The final chapter on Christ’s victory over Satan was again filled with valuable insights and encouragements, but again, some issues. One will complain that he ended the chapter (and book) with a defense of Amillennialism, but it was on-topic, and the alternative would have been to neglect a relevant text altogether simply because it is controversial.
More problematic were his statements regarding Satan’s authority. After a great quote (“Before Calvary, Satan reigned; after Calvary, he rages but no longer reigns” [p. 241]), Macleod then says that Satan “had no absolute, or even, legitimate, authority” (p. 242), but that it was only assumed. However, Satan did have delegated, and thereby, legitimate, authority. His authority over the kingdoms of the world was not challenged by Jesus (Matt 4; Deut 32:8-9), and God even gives him restricted, but nonetheless real, authority in specific situations like Job’s (Job 1-2). An important element of Jesus’ victory is that Satan’s authority over the pagan nations is taken away and given to Jesus (Matt 28:18) through His obedience, and defeat of sin, death and Satan; a development that is lost if Satan never really had this authority to begin with.
As to Jesus being “no less a king during his life on earth than he is in his post-resurrection state in heaven” (p. 239), this seems right at first, but I contend that it’s imprecise. While Jesus as God has always ruled (Col 1), the NT presents a significant development in Jesus’ human kingship throughout His ministry, particularly post-resurrection (Rom 1:3-4; Acts 2:36; Ps 110). In fact, 1 Peter 3:21-22 links this new stage brought about in Christ’s resurrection and ascension with His victory over demonic powers. This is a significant point in Biblical Christology: as our Second Adam, Jesus is the faithful human king as God intended His image bearers to be.
Christ Crucified was a difficult book for me to review. I’ve seen a number of very positive reviews out there, so I want to be careful that I do not treat it unfairly just due to some of my disagreements. However, being somewhat studied in this topic, I don’t want to downplay problems I see that others may not. Christ Crucified does offer something unique, particularly in the Gospel treatments and Macleod’s own wide-ranging style. This is certainly more accessible and readable than other works like it. It is a helpful and devotionally moving book that will benefit many; in fact, I would be grateful if it led some to study these doctrines further. We need to continually remember the centrality of Jesus and His salvific work. However, when it comes to the larger second section on the “cross words”, the inconsistencies and concerns make me more hesitant about my recommendation. Sure, Murray and Morris are dense and not so readable for everyone. Stott is becoming dated now, and while Peterson is a great choice, he’s sadly too tied to the Biblical text for some. Unfortunately, Christ Crucified relies on older works and so doesn’t really update the discussion too much, particularly in light of newer scholarship such as the New Perspective camp. Despite the many strengths of Christ Crucified, I am still waiting; for a book that I can recommend without hesitating, that continues this heritage of cross books, peers deeply into the text of Scripture with fresh eyes, and brings the riches in these doctrines down to a lower shelf for the modern reader.
Many thanks to IVP UK for providing me with a review copy. Their generosity did not affect my opinions in this review.
- Publisher: IVP UK
- ISBN: 9781783591015
- Paperback: 272 pages
It’s been a while since I posted on new books that I have received to review, and it’s not because there’s a shortage! I have quite a range of material here, so rather than posting the blurb, I’ll write something on why I am reviewing it.
If you are wondering why I do these posts, partly it’s because I know people like to keep up with what’s new, but it’s also because I want to stay above board and keep a record of what I receive from publishers. That way, if they see that I have announced a book, they know that I’m holding myself to reviewing it and that they’ve not just thrown it into a black hole. Maybe it helps build some anticipation too?
Richard Hays – Reading Backwards (Baylor University Press)
I’ve not read anything by Hays yet, but I’ve certainly noticed his impact on scholarship. Readers will know that I have a real love of Christology and Biblical Theology, and this book pulls both together in exploring how the Gospel writers presented Jesus through their application of Old Testament passages to Him.
Daniel Block – By the River Chebar / Beyond the River Chebar (Wipf & Stock)
I’ve long had an interest in Ezekiel, probably due to the combination of its wacky contents and the fact that I’ve never heard it taught. Generally when I know next to nothing about a Bible book I want to teach it, since that’s the best way to learn a topic! Maybe one day. I don’t quite have it in me to read through Block’s two monster commentaries, so I thought I’d get my feet wet with these two collections of essays.
Douglas Moo – Encountering Romans, 2nd Edition (Baker Academic)
A “theological survey” of Paul’s letter to the Romans. I’m considering having my Romans students read through this in preparation for our sessions together, and I was curious to see how Moo would distill his reading of Romans into a fairly short introductory book.
Kevin Vanhoozer – Faith Speaking Understanding (Westminster John Knox)
I’m quite enthralled by Vanhoozer, despite never reading a book of his. Every quote I’ve read of him, post about him, and lecture I’ve heard from him, only makes me more excited to read this book. I know it’s a little outside of my normal interests, too, despite the fact that I teach an Intro to Theology class… that’s another reason why I’m working through this book.
Dean Davis – The High King of Heaven (Redemption Press)
I think that this is the first review book that I didn’t asked for. Davis contacted me and asked if I was interested in reviewing his (thick!) book on eschatology. I had already heard of it, and want to understand the Amillennial viewpoint better, so I agreed on the condition that I can take my time. I really look forward to digging into this one. As a Calvary Chapel teacher, perhaps it’s controversial that I even agreed to read this, and though I’ve run into that attitude a lot, I think we ought to be unafraid of engaging with different viewpoints! I’ve only ever been sharpened through widening my horizons and expect that to happen here.
Michael Gorman – The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant (Wipf & Stock)
I’ve taught a class at CCBCY on Christ and the cross (hey, that’s the title!) twice now, and one of the themes I’ve somehow managed to miss both times (through sickness and scheduling conflicts) is Jesus as the New Covenant sacrifice. I can’t get in the way of divine providence, but, Lord willing, the third attempt will be fruitful with this book under my belt!
Various – Studies in the Pauline Epistles (Zondervan Academic
This is a collection of essays in honor of Doug Moo, including contributions from Carson, Beale, Westerholm, Schreiner, Dunn, Wright, and others. I must say that it’s a delight to see scholars such as Schreiner and Wright both in the same book!
I actually have at least two more on the way, so you can be certain that I’m not slowing down anytime soon. Although, I certainly don’t intend to rush these books!
Many thanks to the above publishers for their generosity in sending me review copies of these books!
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!