June 2012


When it comes to the interpretation of the Bible (let alone any text) context is king. Over the years scholars have grown to realize the importance of the social context in which the Bible speaks to and is written in. Once of the more well known scholars who has taken great strides in exploring the social context of the New Testament is Ben Witherington III. His social-rhetorical commentaries on MarkActs, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Philemon/Colossians/Ephesians, Hebrews/James/Jude, Titus/1&2 Timothy/1-3 John, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Peter and Philippians have made major advancements in opening the readers eyes to the social world of the New Testament.

It is without a doubt that 1 & 2 Corinthians pose some of the most difficult NT letters to interpret as the social aspect of the books play a major role in their interpretation. As such, their difficulty lies in the fact that we are 2,000 years removed from the social world of Corinth. While the above mentions commentaries have proved to be very helpful Witherington has taken up the task of putting some of the major bits of social information into narrative form as he writes a fictional story with historical characters set within the context of Corinth. A Week In the Life of Corinth serves to distill his social-rhetorical commentary into fictional form so the reader can see the social context from a more insiders view.

Nicanor is the major character who is a former slave, and unbeliever, working for Erastos a political candidate for a highly prized position. The book walks the reader through the a week of Nicanor’s life as it would have been in his social position. Throughout the week we see how a number of the major facets of social life play out: slavery, political ranking, religion, the Roman games, commerce and even how Christianity would have been viewed by unbelievers.

Throughout the book we view Corinth through the Apostle Paul’s eyes as well as his work and Christian companions Priscilla and Aqulia. Through Paul’s eyes, Witherington gives us a view into how the situation of the Lord’s Supper, Paul’s writing of his letters, Paul’s appearance before Gallio and church live on Sunday might have looked like (including speaking in tongues). Readers will be amazed at the extent of the social and historical detail Witherington is able to weave into this fictional story.

For those who have studied the Corinthian church the way in which this book presents the setting will shed more light on already familiar information. For those who are new to the study of Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church, A Week in the Life of Corinth is a great place to start for social-cultural background studies. What’s more, though the books primary goal is to expose readers to the social world of Corinth, this emphasis does not take away from the fictional story of Nicanor’s life.

As one who has studied Corinthians in a seminary class and read Witherington’s social-rhetorical commentary on Corinthians this is a great addition to further studies on this socially complex book. The story is gripping and the information is illuminating! We need more of this!

NOTE: I received this book from IVP for free and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

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When it comes to the Psalms, like some other books, it seems that commentaries are all over the map and there are few and far between that are worthy of ones time. Let’s be honest though, it is the longest book in the Bible and is not at the center of many, if any, theological debates. For many it provides great comforting devotional material and for others it is the hymnal of the church. I dare say that many, if any, preachers have not preached through the Psalms. And maybe there is good reason for this.

When it comes to deeply exegetical commentaries on the Psalms there is very little to offer. Outside of the Word, Tyndale, NACOT (only the 2nd so far)and NIVACOT series there are not many and there is nothing within the NICOT to date. In an effort to provide a solid exposition of the Psalms Allen P. Ross has turned his years of research and study on the Psalms into a commentary for Kregel, A Commentary on the Psalms: Vol. 1 (1-41). This is the first of three volumes by Ross.

The introduction of the book covers a number of issues related to the Psalms. Among other things there is a short history of the interpretation of Psalms, discussion on the various types of Psalms (praise, lament, etc.), a guide on types of literary features within the various Psalms and a short intro to the theology of the Psalms. Concluding the introduction is a brief overview of the exegetical method employed throughout the book. Ross offers a number of helpful tips and guidelines for the exegesis process. Each chapter follows the same structure:

  1. Introduction – The Psalm itself, including textual variants in the footnotes.
  2. Composition and Context – This looks at the overall features of the Psalm and the historical, theological, biblical and literary context of each individual Psalm.
  3. Exegetical Analysis – This includes a one line summary of the message of the Psalm and the basic outline.
  4. Commentary in Expository Form – This is the bulk of each chapter and is an exposition of the Psalm following the exegetical analysis outline.
  5. Message and Application – As the heading states this is the application section. Here contemporary application is drawn while looking towards the New Testament as well.

As an exegetical commentary time will tell how well received it will be but I trust it will be well liked and recommended by exegetes, scholars, teachers and pastors. This commentary is written for the pastor with the layman in mind as well. The only area in which it might have improved was in the theology of the Psalms as a book and as individuals but that is not the primary purpose of the book. Ross is keen on exegesis and models it well. He has a good grasp of how the Psalms speak to all of life’s experiences and how the Psalms still speak to the church today. I recommend Psalms by Ross for all pastors, Bible students and laymen alike.

NOTE: I received this book from Kregel in return of a review but was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

If there is one mission I have in my church and among my friends is to encourage them to read good Christian books. I am an avid reader myself and I am always depressed at how little I see other Christians reading. For some people it might be encouraging them to read period because they don’t already read. For others it might be encouraging them to set a goal of reading 10  or 20 books this year. And for others it might be encouraging them to read books beyond either their reading or comprehension level as a means to stretch them and produce growth.

This morning I stumbled upon a video clip of Mark Dever discussing how as a pastor he has worked to create a culture of reading within his church. This advice is dynamite!

HELP!: If you see anything that you think would fit into one of these categories then email it to me @ churst555@gmail.com and I will add it to next weeks list and cite you as the referral if I didn’t see it first!

REVIEWS:

The Intolerance of Tolerance by D.A. Carson is reviewed by Mathew Sims.

The Case for Mark Composed in Performance by Antoinette Wire is reviewed by Larry Hurtado.

Marriage and the Family by Andreas Kostenberger is reviewed by Greg Dietrich.

Godforsaken: Bad Things Happen. Is there a God who cares? Yes. Here’s Proof by Dinesh D’Souza is critically reviewed by Douglas Groothuis.

The Cross: Where all Roads Meet by Cesar Malan is reviewed by Mark Tubbs.

Fools Rush in Where Monkeys Fear to Tread by Carl Trueman is reviewed by Mathew Sims.

Equipping Counselors for Your Church by Robert Kelleman is reviewed by Aaron Armstrong.

A Week in the Life of Corinth by Ben Witherington is reviewed by Tim Challies.

Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation by Ed Stetzer is reviewed by Mark Tubbs.

The DVD From the Dust is reviewed by M. James Sawyer at Parchment and Pen.

Date your Wife by Justin Buzzard is reviewed by Dave Jenkins.

Word Versus Deed by Duane Liftin is reviewed by Ricky Kirk.

What Money Can’y Buy by Michael Sandel is reviewed by Greg Forster.

Redeeming Church Conflicts by Tara Barthel & David Edling is reviewed by Matt Smethurst.

Shame Interrupted by Ed Welch is reviewed by Bob Kellemen.

40 Questions Abut the End Times by Eckhard Schnabel is reviewed by David Gundersen.

Faith & Learning Ed by David Dockery is reviewed by Thomas Kidd.

Christ-Centered Biblical Theology by Graeme Goldsworthy is reviewed by Bob Hayton at Sharperiron.org.

INTERVIEWS:

Trevin Wax interviews Andrew Wilson about apologetics from his book If Go then What: Wondering Alound About Truth, Origins & Redemption.

Andy Naselli interviews Chap Thornton about his new book God’s Love: A Bible Storybook.

Family Life Radio interviews Justin Buzzard about his new book Date Your Wife.

Justin Taylor interviews Gregg Frazer about his new book The Religious Beliefs of Americas Founders: Reason, Revelation, Revolution.

Colin Hansen interviews Alec Motyer about his new book Isaiah by the Day.

Kathleen Neilson interviews Carrie Sandom about her new book Different by Design: God’s Blueprint for Men & Women.

AUTHOR HIGHLIGHTS:

iTBN hosted a discussion on Genesis and the issues of creation, days of creation, evolution and a number of other issues with Ken Ham, Hugh Ross, Eric Hovind, Ray Comfort, John Bloom and Sean McDowell.

Carl Trueman recommends two book on the Reformation.

Peter Williams lectures on Things Which Ought to be Better Known About the resurrection of Jesus.

R.C. Sproul discusses the being of God and apologetics.

Owen Strachan on Preaching Christ from the Old Testament.

BOOKS & RESOURCES TO NOTE:

Trevin Wax discusses the Most Misused Verses in the Bible by Eric Bargerhuff.

Koinonia asks the question, “Was Solomon Really a Good King?”, and finds an answer in Hill & Walton’s recent book A Survey of the Old Testament.

Trevin Wax quotes an excerpt on The Christian View of Death from Michael Wittmer’s new book The Last Enemy.

Exodus & Deuteronomy Ed. by Athalya Brenner and Gale Yee is the most recent volume in the Text @ Context series from Fortress Press.

Brian Croft recommends The Girlfriends Guide Book: Navigating Female Friendships by Marian Jordan for pastors wives.

Danny Akin releases a sneak peak at the list of contributors to a new commentary series Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Every Book of the Bible to be published by B&H.

D.A. Carson introduces the newest volume in the Pillar New Testament Commentary Series on Romans by Colin Kruse.

Andy Naselli lists the X-Ray questions listed in David Powlison’s new book Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition through the Lens of Scripture.

Michael Patton posts on the Role of An Exegete from Interpreting the NT Text Ed. by Bock & Fanning.

…….And Just Because it Interests Me:

Ajith Fernando discusses Reading Biblical Devotional Books – An Antidote to Burnout.

Mark Snoeberger on Spelling and the Ministry.

Studies and discussions on the book of Acts are often the breeding grounds for debates between Dispensational vs. Covenant theology, cessationist vs. non-cessationist theology, Baptist vs. Reformed polity and a myriad of other controversial theological debates. Of course everyone thinks the book of Acts is on their side. When these kinds of discussions become the focal point of the book they reduce its redemptive-historical message of the book. Thus, Acts is turned into a theological billy club that is used to beat over the head of ones opponent.

But the book of Acts is much more than this. It is bigger than any one theological debate (though these debates are necessary). In an effort to refocus Christians on the central redemptive message of Acts Alan J. Thompson has written The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke’s Account of God’s Unfolding Plan. This book is the newest edition to the respected New Studies in Biblical Theology series edited by D.A. Carson.

Aligning the Focus of Acts

Instead of coming to Acts with a debate to win, Thompson wants to let the book itself determine its main focus. For Thompson this is “an account of the ‘continuing story’ of God’s saving purposes” (p. 17). Though Thompson works with the already/not yet hermeneutic in regards to the the kingdom of God Thompson believes that Acts shows us “what the kingdom of God looks like now that Christ has come, dies, risen and ascended to the right hand of the Father” (p. 17)  One of the textual ways in which this is brought out is the location of two of the eight phrases “the kingdom” and “the kingdom of God” at the beginning and end of Acts (p. 44). This is fitting given the smooth transition from the Gospel of Luke to Acts since both were written by the same author. At various points through the book Thompson shows the intertextual relationship between Luke and Acts which further help to strengthen the argument that Luke’s goal is Acts is to show the continuation of Christ’s work in the church, through the Holy Spirit, despite the fact that He has ascended to heaven to be with the Father.

Major Hermeneutical Events in Acts

The power that spreads the gospel and the growth of the kingdom of God from the first century onward to today is the resurrection of Christ.

In Acts the resurrection is the climax of God’s saving purposes, and it is on the basis of the resurrection that the blessings of salvation may be offered. The reason for this appears to be that in the resurrection of Jesus, the hoped-for resurrection age to come has arrived already, and it is because of the arrival of the age to come that the blessing of that age may now be received” (p. 79).

What Thomson brings to light is the woven nature between the promise and inauguration of the kingdom of God, the resurrection and eschatology. Thus, the hope of Israel is wrapped up in the resurrection and it is the resurrection that inaugurates, or gives power to, the beginning of the end times. This inauguration of the end times, along with the reconstitution of Israel, is birthed at Pentecost in Acts 2 with the eschatological pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all the nations.

For Thompson, Pentecost is the answer to the disciples question in Acts 1:6 about the restoration of Israel. Thompson argues that while Jesuchallenged them on their wanting to know the timing of the restoration of Israel He “neither postpones that fulfillment to the distant future nor rejects such prospect for the present” (p. 105-106). That Israel has been reconstituted at Pentecost is marked out by the three references to Israel in 2:14-36 and the, at minimum inaugurated, fulfillment of Joel 2 (see p. 109-12). But Pentecost is just the beginning. From there, Thompson points out at least four more events in Acts that support this conclusion: Samaria and the restoration of Israel (8:1-25), outcasts and the restoration of Israel (8:26-40), the servant who restores Israel and brings salvation to the Gentiles (13:47) and the rebuilding and restoring and rebuilding of David’s fallen tent (15:13-18). These passages, and others, show that there is a double purpose to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2; Israel is restored and the Gentiles are being brought in in droves.

Since the promised Spirit is poured out on Jews and Gentiles alike, this points to the reality that there is one people of God under one Lord. This can clearly be seen in Acts 10-11 to which Thompson comments:

The overwhelming emphasis of the passage is that these Gentile believers are part of the same people of God as the Jewish believers who received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. (p. 137)

For Thompson it is clear that Acts demonstrably shows that as their is one Lord and Spirit sent from God the Father, there is one people of God to which they are sent to bring salvation to and one kingdom of God into which they are part of together.

Some of the later parts of the book deal with the transition or change from Old Testament functions or realities to New Testament functions and realities in light of the resurrection and inauguration of the kingdom of God. These include the more stationary nature of the temple and its leaders in the OT to their encompassing broad nature and function in the NT and beyond (chap. 5). In chapter six Thompson discusses the role and view of the law in the life of the believer and the church. The law is no longer the rule of God’s people as it has been fulfilled in Christ. However, it is not deemed useless.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, the main biblical theological message of Acts is that in Christ, God is fulfilling His promises to Israel in the church, which is made possible by the resurrection of Christ and  made evident with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on all nations as the reconstituted Israel with whom God has inaugurated His kingdom.

The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus is a great in depth study into the salvation-historical message of Acts over and above all other debates that it may be dominated by in various circles. Though rich with the history and happenings of the early church, Acts is a theological goldmine for those willing to take the book as Luke intended it to be read. This is a book for serious students of Acts, the New Testament, the kingdom of God and eschatological studies. Thompson lets the book of Acts speak to us its message rather than use it to speak to others our message.

NOTE: I received this book for free from IVP and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review. The words and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

This post was originally published at Servants of Grace and has been re-posted with permission.

Frontline Missions International has produced a one of a kind DVD series titled Dispatches from the Front. Westminster books is so excited about this series they are running a 72 hr sale on it. Here are the details:

  • Sale runs Tuesday (6/12) through 4 p.m. Friday (6/15)
  • Episode 2 is being offered by itself fro just $5
  • All other Individual dvd’s are being offered for $15
  • The entire DVD set is being offered for $40 through WTS.

Here is more info and some of the many endorsements about Dispatched from the Front:

HELP!: If you see anything that you think would fit into one of these categories then email it to me @ churst555@gmail.com and I will add it to next weeks list and cite you as the referral if I didn’t see it first!

REVIEWS:

Different By Design: God’s Blueprint for Men and Women by Carrie Sandom is reviewed by Priya Samuel.

A Shot of Faith (to the Head): Be a Confident Believer in an Age of Cranky Atheists by Mitch Stokes is reviewed by James Anderson at TGC Reviews.

The Language of Science and Faith by Karl W. Giberson and Francis Collins is reviewed by Alvin Plantinga at Books & Culture.

A Week in the Life of Corinth by Ben Witherington is reviewed by Matt O’Reilly.

Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation by Graeme Goldsworthy is reviewed by Nick Norelli.

The Roots of the Reformation by G.R. Evans is reviewed by Carl Trueman.

The Invisible Hand of God by R.C. Sproul is reviewed by Aaron Armstrong.

The Work of Christ by R.C. Sproul is reviewed by Tim Challies.

Theology Remixed by Adam English is reviewed by Mark Tubbs.

These Last Days: A Christian View of History is reviewed by Starr Meade.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller is reviewed by Dave Jenkins.

INTERVIEWS:

Reformed Forum interviews Carl Trueman about his new book Fools Rush in Where Monkey’s Fear to Tread: Taking Aim at Everyone.

Credo Mag interviews separately Stephen Wellum and Peter Gentry about their forthcoming book Kingdom Through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants.

Carl Trueman interviews J.I. Packer.

AUTHOR HIGHLIGHTS:

Dan Wallace discusses the discovery of some 1st & 2nd century manuscripts of the New Testament.

Peter Enns offers some initial thoughts on the newly published Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture.

James Hamilton responds to Andreas Kostenbergers remarks in the most recent JETS issue about his book God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment.

9 Things You Can Do While You Wait for the Ministry adapted from Dave Harvey’s new book Am I Called?: The Summon to Pastoral Ministry.

Duane Litfin, author of Word Versus Deed, discusses Why You Can’t Preach the Gospel with Deeds.

9 Possible Meanings for the Pastoral Requirement of Being Able to Teach from Thabiti Anyabwile’s book Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons.

BOOKS & RESOURCES TO NOTE:

Freed Zaspel, author of Warfield on the Christian Life, discusses Warfield, Inspiration and John Wenham’s book Christ and the Bible.

Justin Buzzard has a short video about his forthcoming book Date Your Wife.

Andy Naselli highlights some of Think Biblically! by John MacArthur.

Crossway highlights 10 Helpful Books for Church Leaders.

Aaron Armstrong highlights a great section from Doug Wilson’s book Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life.

Andy Naselli highlights A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism a book in honor of Michael P.V. Barrett.

…….And Just Because it Interests Me:

Andy Neselli on Falsifying Views on the Extent of the Atonement.

Marc Cortez on the relationship between philosophy and theology.

Adrian Warnock on Six Things Christians and Muslims disagree about over Jesus.

Michael McKinley on What A Ministers Library Should Look Like.

James Hamilton discusses Inner-Biblical Illusions.