Christian BioethicsEveryone has a moral standard. Everyone has a moral position on abortion, capital punishment, orphanhood, plastic surgery, etc. But while everyone could tell you what their moral position is they cannot necessarily tell you why that is their moral position. Morals tell us what we will and will not do but ethics tell us why we will and will not do those things. Ethics are the science (or reasons) behind our morals and morals are our ethics in practice. Most people do not think far enough into the ethics behind their morals. Unfortunately, Christians do the same thing. Many don’t bother to examine the why questions and others don’t know how to.

As science continues to make new discoveries that greatly benefit the medical community, and those who receive its care, there has come with those advancements a whole host of ethical dilemmas that Christians must face – both medical professional and patient alike. To help Christians chart through the myriad of ethical decisions they will need to make in the current bioethics world, D. Joy Riley, MD and C. Ben Mitchell, PhD have teamed up to bring us Christian Bioethics: A Guide for Pastors, Health Care Professionals, and Families (B&H, 2015). This is the fourth book in the B&H Studies in Christian Ethics series. What is great about this book is that we have both a theologian and medical doctor in dialogue working through the issues. This professional balance offers a more well rounded and wholistic picture of how to think through the various situations.

Mitchell and Riley divide the book under three categories of bioethical issues: (1) taking life, (2) making life, and (3) remaking/faking life. Each chapter introduces the issue at hand with a real case. The issues each case raises are, mostly, addressed throughout the chapter through a dialogue between the two authors. Far from making the discussion juvenile, the question and answering back and forth provides a deep conversational feel to the book that draws the reader in more to what is being said. It makes the book really hard to put down.

There are several things that stand out in this book. First, readers will be fascinated by the medical history that the authors discuss. Many people outside of the medical field will be surprised to know that most doctors, upon graduation, have never read the Hippocratic Oath, though they are asked to repeat it at graduation – and that is if they are even asked to repeat it (16-17). The first abortion law was enacted in Connecticut in 1821 (51). The first organ to be transplanted was a kidney in 1954 (132). The first successful cloned sheep was Dolly in 1997 (151). The first human “avatar” is hoped to be completed by 2045 under the work of the Russian 2045 Movement (169).

What the history of medical advancement shows us is that what we see happening today owes its existence to a long line of previous advancements. When we trace the history of life saving advancements we realize that we have advanced in the last 10 years much further than we did in the last 50 or more. The more we advance the faster we advance and are able to respond to the needs/demands of the medical field.

Second, readers will see that while one does not have to be a Christian to do and think about medicine and ethics, there is a Christian way to do so. This Christian way of thinking about bioethics starts with the doctrine that God made man in his image (Gen. 1:17). Since all of human life bears God’s image then all stages of human life are to be treated with dignity and respect. Whether it is life that begins at the moment of conception in the womb (chapter 3) or it is life at its end (chapter 4), all of life has value. This especially comes to light when discussing the sanctity of human life and the issue of abortion. If what is in the womb is a human life then it is to be treated as any human (whether in womb or out of the womb) is treated. Further, the authors help us to see how this truth applies to how we think about reproductive technologies such as the ever controversial in vitro fertilization (IVF) (chapter 5). How one views the ontology of a person will influence how one treats a human.

Third, the authors serve the reader well as they clearly articulate good theology and apply it to the many bio-ethical discussions they have. Mitchell urges readers to see the Bible, in relation to making ethical decisions, “as a canonical revelation of God’s commands and Christian virtues.” (31) The Bible is the beginning of the Christians inquiry into any ethical discussion. We are asking ourselves, “What does God say about this?” Also, since God created the world and our bodies, Christians need to be at the forefront of understanding ourselves and the world He has created us to live in. In addition to knowing the “book of the world” (nature), the authors encourage Christians to know “the book of self.” (37) That is, in order to make good ethical medical decisions, it is not enough to ask doctors and medical professionals but we are responsible to know the human body in general and our own bodies in particular. It is the faithful study of the Word of God and the world of God that enables us to make ethical decisions. “Christians have nothing to fear from truthful science, and science has nothing to fear from faithful biblical interpretation.” (41)

Mitchell and Riley have served the church well with this guide for how to think through the intersection between theology and bioethics. They help us to navigate through the thick theological and medical discussions inherent in the life and death decisions we will all be faced with at one time or another. They do not sugarcoat the issues. While disease, suffering, pain, and death are not supposed to be, they are a part of the world we live in. They remind us of our humanity and fragility. Though as creatures we inherently have limitations, these things bring us even more of them. Mitchell and Riley have charted a path through these limitations that serve as a faithful and responsible way to think about them.

See other book in the B&H Studies in Christian Ehtics:

Taking Christian Moral Though Seriously: The Legitimacy of Religious Beliefs in the Marketplace of Ideas Ed. by Jeremy A. Evans & Daniel Heimbach

Moral Apologetics for Contemporary Christians: Pushing Back Against Cultural and Religious Critics by Mark Coppenger

An Introduction to Biblical Ethics by David Jones

This review was originally published on SharperIron.

I received this book for free from B&H for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

40 Questions About Baptism and the Lords SupperDespite the vast differences in church practices that exist among Protestants (even Protestant vs. Catholic and Greek Orthodox), the practice of baptism and the Lord’s supper are universal among them. Reformed, Baptist, Anglican, and Pentecostal alike. But while the practices themselves are universal, their meaning and participants vary. While there is some unity in these things, there is greater disunity. When we begin to press on questions like “How is Christ present in communion?”,  “Who can participate in communion?”, “Who do we baptize?”, and “What does baptism signify?”, we begin to see the differences emerge.

Examining these questions and more, John S. Hammet has written 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Kregel, 2015). This is the most recent installment of the Kregel 40 Questions series which provides a unique look at and overview of  various theological issues through 40 questions and answers. Hammet’s book is different from most books on baptism and the Lord’s supper in that he treads both in the same book, discusses both theological and practical considerations, discusses the theology and practice of various denominations, and has follow up questions at the end of each chapter to aid the reader in understanding the material better.

Hammet himself is a Baptist. He makes this clear throughout and it can be seen in his evaluation of various viewpoints presented. However, this is not a defense for a Baptistic understanding of baptism and the Lord’s supper. Keeping in line with the nature of the series, Hammet is more concerned with presenting the various theological and practical views of each tradition regarding these practices. His actual critique of various positions is a very minor aspect of the book.

The books is divided into three basic categories. The first questions answered deal with issues which apply to both practices: are they called ordinances or sacraments?, who can administer them?, and how many sacraments/ordinances are there? It is generally agree that they are called ordinances, only pastors can administer them, there are only two ordinances, and they are to be done under the authority of and in conjunction with a local church. On the issue of who is allowed administer the ordinances, it is generally agreed that the pastors/elders of the church are to administer them but, Hammet argues, though tradition might demand “this would not be theologically necessary.” (37)

In the second and third sections Hammet discuses questions surrounding baptism and the Lord’s supper. After addressing several introductory issues for both he moves into presenting the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist views separately and then the Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Methodist views together. In order to fairly present each view Hammet draws on the “authoritative denominational documents” of each tradition. (79) After presenting and evaluating each traditions view of the ordinances Hammet moves onto other theological and practical questions and looks at them from the perspective of each tradition.

What is interesting to see is the almost polarized views between Roman Catholics and Baptist’s in regards to both ordinances. Additionally, most denominations have a well established and broadly agreed upon theological/biblical understanding of the ordinances (with some exceptions for the Reformed) but Baptist’s have most diversity of them all. Further, most denominations baptize infants and allow them to participate in communion while Baptists (almost solely) do not. In evaluating the covenantal case for infant baptism Hammet believes “by far the most central critique of the covenantal case is that it greatly overstates the continuity in Scripture to the almost complete exclusion of discontinuity.” (141) Theologically astute readers will hear the standard argument of Baptist’s (read Dispensationalist’s) against covenant theology ringing through that statement (though Hammet does not identify as a Dispensationalist in the book).

It is also interesting to note than in the discussion of each traditions view of baptism, Hammet only references Scriptural support for the Baptist position (minor exception for the Lutheran position). Whether this is a tacit indication that he feels there is no possible biblical basis for their views I am not sure. In discussing the Baptist view he cites several verses. It is possible that Hammet does this because he sees their views relying more heavily on tradition rather than Scripture. This is not the case when the various traditions views are discussed on the Lord’s supper.

40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper is a great introduction to the various theological and practical positions on these twin practices of the Christian church. This would serve as a great guide for a Bible study, Sunday school class, or personal study. Hammet introduces the reader to the major issues at hand and provides you with a good base from which to do further study.

See more books in the Kregel 40 Questions series:

40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law by Thomas Schreiner

40 Questions About Creation and Evolution by Kenneth Keathley & Mark Rooker

40 Questions About Elders and Deacons by Benjamin Merkle

40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible by Robert Plummer

40 Questions About the End Times by Eckhard Schnabel

40 Questions About the Historical Jesus by C. Marvin Pate

I received this book for free from Kregel for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Philippians by Joseph HellermanAdding to the solid list of contributors to the B&H Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) series, Joseph H. Hellerman has written the newest volume on Philippians. Hellerman, professor of New Testament language and literature at Talbot School of Theology, received his Th.M. in Hebrew and his Ph.D. in the social history of early Christianity. Upon starring as a professor at Talbot, Hellerman began to focus his studies on Philippians, the fruit of which has grown into this commentary.

In keeping with the aim of the series, Hellerman’s book accomplishes two primary services for the reader. First, the commentary is solely based on the Greek of the New Testament from the fifth edition of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (xvi). 1 Peter is divided into pericopes by its Greek text, block diagrammed and then exegeted phrase-by-phrase. A good grasp of New Testament Greek is required to benefit from this book as well as an ability to understand the grammatical abbreviations used in the book. Second, as a guide, the series goal is to list and discuss all of the grammatical/exegetical possibilities for the translation of each word, construction of the grammar, and possible meanings. They are doing the work of giving you the options so you can focus more time on other work.

What is particularly striking about Hellerman’s work on Philippians is his focus on the social-historical aspects of the book (though he does attend to the theological issues at hand as well). This social-historical focus comes to light when discussing the occasion of the letter. The occasion for the book gives way to the social-historical focus of the commentary. First, regarding the translation of 1:3, Hellerman believes that “the immediate occasion for Philippians was a gift Paul received from the church through their emissary Epaphroditus.” (4) Thus, contra the traditional translation of 1:3 as stating that Paul was remembering them, Hellerman believes the better translation should be “because of your every remembrance of me,” thus making Philippians a book of Paul thanking them for their gift to him (2 Cor. 11:9; Phil. 4:15).

This opportunity to express gratitude to the Philippians for their gift is used by Paul to speak truth about the church “in a highly Romanized sociopolitical environment.” (4) There was a cursus honorum (“race of honors”) that pervaded the Roman society which Paul took the occasion to resist (4). “The apostle recognized that a stridently Roman honor culture had the potential to seriously undermine the radically different relational ethos that Jesus intended for his community of followers.” (4)

For example, Hellerman notes that while “traditional interpretations of Philippians 2:5-11 focus upon ontological Christology,……Paul’s agenda, however, is primarily sociological, not ontological.” (105) Paul is showing how Jesus used his universal status, which superseded any sociopolitical status on earth, to serve others, rather than lord it over them. “Instead of using social capital to gain more honors and public recognition, Christ leveraged his status in the service of others. Such utilization of power – indeed, a voluntary relinquishing of rank and prestige – would have stuck Roman elites as abject folly.” (107) Jesus is the ultimate example for how to serve those whom the world may see as less than us.

As with all of the books in the EGGNT series, Hellerman’s work on Philippians is a welcome addition that follows in the tradition of Murray Harris’ inaugural volume on Colossians and Philemon. This will serve pastors and teachers well for decades to come.

To get a better sense of Hellermna’s work, check out this short interview:

 

See the other books in this series:

Colossians and Philemon by Murray Harris

James by Douglas Moo

1 Peter by Greg W. Forbes

John by Murray J. Harris (forthcoming)

I received this book for free from B&H for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

 

NIV Study Bible '15On August 25th the NIV Zondervan Study Bible will be released. A few weeks ago I highlighted some the interesting history behind the making of the NIV (here, here and here). Today I want to share some more information regarding the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible.

Some of you who have the NIV Study Bible (1985 or 2011) may be wondering how the NIV Zondervan Study Bible is different. Anticipating this question, Zondervan answers as follows:

The Zondervan name has grown to be a trusted source for Bible resources that are academically solid and accessible to the lay Bible student, such as the Zondervan Handbook to the Bible, the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary and the Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible includes material of the same high quality as other Zondervan-labeled resources—up-to-date, from some of the best evangelical scholars around the world, and presented in a way that is friendly to the average adult reader. Additionally, like many other Zondervan biblical study resources, the NIV Zondervan Study Bible’s beautiful, full-color interior draws in readers and presents memorable aids to understanding the Bible.

They have also answered some more questions here such as the future of the 2011 NIV Study Bible.

Read how Karen Jobes went from reading the the first release of the NIV in 1973 to working on its revision:

It seemed so natural, and the language seemed both beautiful and contemporary at the same time.

Read what pastors say about the use of the NIV in their churches:

The scholars who put together the NIV were really attempting to use language the everyday person uses and speaks.

Here are is a video discussing the worldwide us of the NIV

Urban Legends of the NT by CroteauWe have all heard someone reference a verse to support something and then think to ourselves, or say to the person, “I don’t think that verse means what you think it means.” No doubt there are many usual suspects when it comes to verses in the Bible that are so twisted and mangled from their original context and meaning, that one wonders if the person citing them has even read the verse(s) in the Bible itself or just quoted on a picture they saw in a bookstore. There are entire books (which shall remain nameless) that are based on misinterpreting single verses. What’s worse, these books are purchased by the truckloads.

Seeking to unravel a number of misinterpreted verses in the New Testament, David A. Croteau, professor of New Testament and Greek at Columbia International University, has written Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions (B&H, 2015). Croteau takes 40 misunderstood verses from the NT and sets the record straight for those who are willing to hear.

Here are some examples of the passages Croteau takes on:

  1. Matthew 18:20 – Is Jesus promising He will be with you when you pray with others or that He is with a churches decision to discipline an erring brother or sister in Christ?
  2. Mark 6:3 – Was Jesus just a carpenter or was He actually skilled in working with more than just wood?
  3. Luke 2:1-7 – Was Jesus born in a stable away from the owners house or was the stable actually inside the owners house?
  4. Acts 18:3 – Is Paul’s example of supporting himself by making tents an example pastors have to follow or just an example of how to apply other principles?
  5. Romans 1:16 – Does the power of the gospel destroy things or does it accomplish its purpose?
  6. Philippians 4:13 – Is Paul promising us that we can do anything we put our minds to with Christ’s strength or that we can be content in any situation with Christ’s strength?
  7. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 – Is this a passage about ones lifestyle or about being able to discern true and false teaching?
  8. Revelation 3:16 – Why are Christians being compared to hot, cold, and lukewarm water?

In order to set the record straight on these passages Croteau delves into any relevant Old Testament background, first century Roman or Jewish background, Greek word meanings, grammatical construction, broader passage context, and explores the sometimes impossible implications that the misreadings of these texts produce. Some of these passages are misunderstood primarily on the grammar level, the context level, or the historical background level.

Urban Legends of the New Testament is a prime example of why learning the basics of Bible interpretation (hermeneutics) is so important. Whether or not you have fallen for all of the urban legends Croteau lays to rest, you will walk away with an appreciation for the hard work of good Bible interpretation many Christians give their lives to and why responsible Christians should have discerning minds when it comes to interpreting the Bible.

I highly recommend this book for all Christians as a model for how to read the Bible responsibly.

I received this book for free from B&H for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Counseling & ScriptureThere is no doubt that Jay Adams has had an indelible mark on the Christian counseling movement. While he was not the first to place a high view of Scripture as the ground of the practice, he certainly brought a renewed focus to the role of Scripture in Christian counseling. There are many pastors, counselors, and Christian counseling organizations that owe a debt of gratitude to his work.

While the role of Scripture in counseling is often touched on in a general manner, it is not often enough treated as thoroughly as it should be given its foundational nature for counseling. We often say that scripture should guide our counseling but what does that look like face-to-face? Filling this much needed area The Biblical Counseling Coalition has brought together a group of qualified pastors and counselors to write Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World edited by Bob Kellemen & Jeff Forrey. This book provides not only a biblical and systematic theology of Scriptures role in counseling but it also provides the counselor with a set-by-step guide in practicing the application of Scripture to the life of the believer.

Role of Scripture

“The Bible is Relevant for That?” While this is the title of a single chapter in the book, it is a question that is answered throughout the book. There are so many counseling situations where someone might ask, “Is the Bible relevant in this situation? Does the Bible speak to this issue? Can the Bible give me guidance here?” The unanimous answer to those questions and more is yes. Since “the Bible is about what life is about”, Kevin Carson argues, then there is no situation to which it does not have something to say. If the Bible gives us a lens through which to view the whole world then it can certainly be a lens through which to view my life. Jeremy Pierre writes:

Scripture is sufficient to frame the entirety of both human experience and the context in which that experience occurs according to God’s essential purpose for people to reflect His personhood by means of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (105)

The first section of the book presents a theology of for how we are to view Scripture as it relates to counseling. The primary goal of this book is to develop “a biblical theology of Scripture for counseling.” (17) The authors of this book firmly believe that, whatever else Christian counseling is or isn’t, it is “unapologetically” a Word ministry (20). Scripture is the foundation and center of counseling which determines the shape of the ministry.

But why is Scripture the thing that guides Christian counseling? “The Bible is necessary,” Kevin Carson writes, ” because God calls us to glorify Him by becoming like Christ. It is in the pages of Scripture where we learn who He is, why we need Him, and how to be like Him.” (34) Since the Bible is necessary then it is also sufficient for counseling. “Scripture is both necessary and sufficient for giving you a framework for understanding every aspect of your life.” (94) Scripture is the place where we are called by Christ to be like Christ. No other source can do this. It is where we are told what is wrong with us and the only way to become right again.

In turn, this makes Christian counseling uniquely Christ-centered. Because counseling should be Bible-centered it is Christ-centered because the Bible is about Christ. The Bible point us to Christ and Christ points us to the Bible. The Christ-centeredness of the Bible points us to the totality of the gospel which in turn places the gospel at the heart of our counseling.

Role of Psychology

If Scripture is the foundation for Christian counseling then is there a place for psychology, and if so, what is it?

There is no doubt that Christian counseling and psychology have had a rocky relationship. Christians are divided on the place of psychology, if it has one at all, in Christian counseling. There are some who wholesale dismiss anything that psychology might bring to the table for Christian counseling. On the other hand, there are some who utilize so much psychology that the voice of Scripture is almost muted in the practice. But is there a better way?

The authors of this book take a somewhat middle of the road approach to the use and benefit of psychology to Christian counseling. In his chapter, What is Psychology?, Jeffery Forrey defines psychology as “the scientific study of behavior and mental process.” (78) Behavior being what can be observed by others and mental processes being those aspects of a person that one cannot see such as thoughts, feelings, and emotions. At this point there should be no tension between Christian counseling and psychology. Further, at some level, everyone engages in psychology – even the Bible.

To some, even many, the idea of a Biblical psychology (as opposed to a secular psychology) might seem contradictory. But, as Bob Kellemen points out, it is actually as old as the church (135). There is nothing inherently secular about studying human behavior and mental processes. All over Scripture there are observations and remarks about them. What Biblical psychology does give a person the grid through which to assess and judge those behaviors and mental processes. Merely observing a behavior does not tell us whether or not it is right or wrong.

So the fruit of psychology for Christian counseling is that of descriptive research. “We can learn useful descriptive information from the secular psychologies as they research humans.” (175, 220) This is not capitulation to secular psychology. This is the recognition that, while secular fields have their faults and start with different assumptions, they still discover truth even if they do not recognize its source. There are still some (many?) that will say no to this but that would be unwise.

The second half of the book gives chapter after chapter of practical advice for the practice of counseling as well as walking the reader through the various genres of Scripture to show how they contribute truth to counseling. In chapter eleven Bob Kellemen outlines a counseling guide to help walk the counselor and the counselee through their struggles/pain/problems and Scripture. Chapters 17-20 are, among others, chapters that will need to be read time and time again as they help the counselor see how to use Scripture in counseling. Since they are divided by genre, they appreciate the different ways in which each genre communicates truth that can be applied to counseling

Conclusion

After only reading a few chapters of this book I told a friend that this book was worth its weight in gold. The more I read the further that initial thought was confirmed. Scripture and Counseling is a must have for all Christians involved in counseling. It has an uncompromising and unapologetic dependency on Scripture as the foundational tool box from which to draw upon for the counseling of souls. This book should have a broad reading and a long history of use.

This review was first published on SharperIron and is republished here with permission.

I received this book for free from Zondervan for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Interpreting the Prophetic Books by Gary V. SmithTwenty five percent of the 66 books of the Bible are categorized as prophetic books. The genre of prophetic books is perhaps the least preached among the nine genres in the Bible. Like apocalyptic literature, they can be hard to read and interpret let alone preach and teach. But if Paul is right about the Old Testament, and “these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (I Cor. 10:11) then this 25% of the Bible is much more relevant for the Church than we give it credit.

Having already written, taught, and published extensively on the OT prophets, Gary V. Smith has now made a recent contribution, Interpreting the Prophetic Books: An Exegetical Handbook, for the Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis (HOTE) series (Kregel, 2015). The HOTE series is dedicated to giving students of the text the necessary basic skills to exegeting, preaching, and teaching the text of Scripture from each genre of the Bible. Smith summarizes the goal of his book as follows:

In addition to understanding the historical setting and the literary forms, a person who wants to share the messages of the prophets needs to be able to outline the text around one main theme, the illustrate the main theme in practical ways that are meaningful and interesting to people today, to discover the theological principles that each message teaches, and to present a challenging application that is derived from the themes in that prophetic text. (18)

Background Work

As a handbook, this book is a guide on how to read and interpret the prophets and then present the text in a way that is meaningful to the modern day reader. Smith breaks down the prophetic books into three main categories of temporal prophecies: present events, future events, and symbolic apocalyptic events. Smith points out that what makes the third category more challenging to identify is that “some future prophecies contained symbolic language that was part of a vision.” (27) The prophecies are further divided by the genre of the prophecy (judgment, salvation, trial speech, etc.) and even further according to their literary structure as poetry.

In chapter two Smith gives a thematic summary of each prophetic book. Regarding the controversy over Isaiah and whether it has more than one author, Smith is not favorable to the critical scholarly opinion that there is a second and third-Isaiah (62-63). Equally summative as chapter two, chapter three provides a brief survey of the historical contexts in which each book is written. Smith has a good four page discussion on comparative ancient near eastern prophets and their false prophecies (94-98). Understanding “this background,” Smith notes, “to the prophetic situation should help the reader sympathize with the frustration that many prophets experienced when people rejected their prophecies.” (97)

Chapter four addresses a number of interpretive issues that are unique to prophetic literature. Smith summarizes the issues under contrasting options: literal or metaphorical, limited to context or open beyond it, conditional or unconditional, near or far future, and the New Testament use of the Old Testament. What many interpreters struggle the most with will be whether a prophecy is literal or metaphorical and whether its fulfillment is near or far future. Of metaphorical interpretation Smith states that

Many of the predictions in future prophecies were much more nebulous or general in nature, and they were not tied so closely to identifiable people, places, events, or objects. Many prophecies were expressed in highly symbolic poetic language that was much harder to interpret in any kind of literal fashion. (116)

Smith closes chapter four by discussing the fulfillment of prophecies in light of the fact that some are in fact not fulfilled. How so? It is clear that some are conditional, like the prophecy to Ninevah to repent, and might or might not happen. Some prophesies are not to be fulfilled until some time in the future like the coming of the Day of the Lord. Further, some prophecies fulfillment is extended over time like God’s promise to Abraham to make him a great nation.

Preaching Work

After all of the background work is done with the text, Smith moves onto crafting the text itself into a teachable/preachable outline. While Smith does not break any new ground as far as developing a preaching outline, he does help the preacher and teacher to synthesize and package the background information about the text in a way that is presentable and not overbearing with minute details. While opinions may vary as to the best way to preach the texts, Smith is keen to bring all of the text down to one main principle that is drawn from the text, and to shape the sermon around that idea.

Drawing application from the OT can be hard, and even more so from the prophetic books. Smith uses Isaiah 31:1-9 as a test case to help the reader see how one would put into practice all that he has outlines in the book. This helps the preacher to see how application is drawn from the text in a more natural, rather than forced way.

Conclusion

Interpreting the Prophetic Books follows the trusted and reliable reputation of the HOTE series in providing the preacher and teacher with the necessary basic information and tools to interpret the prophetic books. This book points you in the right direction for further study and should be on the shelf of every pastor, teacher, and serious Bible student.

Other books in the HOTE series:

Interpreting the Pentateuch by Peter Vogt

Interpreting the Historical Books by Robert Chisholm Jr.

Interpreting the Psalms by Mark Futato

I received this book for free from Kregel for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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