Interpreting Old Testament Wisdom Literature edited by David G. Firth & Lindsay Wilson

This volume is written by eleven United Kingdom Bible scholars, including four women.   The authors consider only Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes as wisdom books proper, but find wisdom themes in Ruth, Song of Solomon, and Psalms as well as laced throughout the Old Testament.  Wisdom is defined as “basically skill in living, in how to order one’s life so as to achieve desirable goals” (p. XIV) and “how to navigate life successfully” (p. 6).  This is not a commentary and if one is looking for analysis of individual wisdom books, they should look elsewhere.  Having said that, there are short sections, scattered through the book, which offer some excellent overviews of the books and wisdom themes (e.g. Ecclesiastes, p. 184, and wisdom themes found in the Psalms, pp. 194-204).  The final chapter discusses the interesting topic of the relative absence of God in the wisdom literature and how this absence…

Biblical Authority after Babel by Kevin J. Vanhoozer

It has become popular among many modern theologians to disparage the Reformation and blame the Reformers for the “hermeneutical havoc” that has been unleashed upon the modern world (p x, see pp 10, 18-19). Vanhoozer wants to refute this idea by reclaiming “elements for a normative Protestantism from the ruins of present day by revisiting historical Protestantism (the Reformation solas)” (p xi).  This present volume devotes a chapter to each of the solas, however VanHoozer spends little time explaining the solas in a normative sense. His concern is to show that when rightly understood the solas are both biblical and helpful. They have not thrown the church into a theological and ecclesial freefall, but rather have restored to God’s people truths that had been slowly abandoned throughout the first 14 centuries of church history: The priesthood of the believer solved the problem of unbiblical church authority and abuse; Scripture alone…

Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy edited by James R.A. Merrick and Stephen M. Garrett

It is commonly held that inerrancy is the doctrine upon which evangelicalism stands or falls, and is one of only two doctrinal requirements to be a member of the Evangelical Theological Society (p.9).  It is therefore vital to understand how the term is being defined today within evangelicalism.  A celebrated “battle for the Bible” took place within American Christianity between 1955-85 (what Packer called the “30 years war” (p. 32).  Harold Lindsell’s 1976 book by the same title brought the discussion to a head, and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI) written in 1978 (p. 15) presumably laid the issue to rest by providing a precise definition of inerrancy to which all evangelicals could ascribe.  However, such rest was apparently premature, for as this volume confirms the meaning and application of inerrancy is far from unilateral among the evangelical community.  As a matter of fact, in addition to the…

The Implication of Inerrancy for the Global Church edited by Mark Tatlock

The Master’s Academy International has self-published this excellent volume on the challenges facing biblical inerrancy globally.  There are 18 Master’s Academies in 17 countries today.  Leaders of the academies each wrote a chapter discussing the unique implication of inerrancy in their respective countries and cultures.  In most situations inerrancy is outwardly affirmed, at least by the evangelical community, but, in reality, and in practice, inerrancy is denied or revised to mean something different from the official definition.  Inerrancy as defined by Paul Feinberg is, “When all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical or life sciences” (p. 182). In addition, R. C. Sproul draws a distinction between infallibility, in which the Scriptures are unable to make a mistake…

Him We Proclaim by Dennis E. Johnson

Reviewed by Shaun D. Lewis, Director of Civil Servant Ministries, Springfield, IL It is humbling that the sovereign God of the universe chose to redeem sinners with the precious blood of His Son. Adam’s fall was not the end of man, but the beginning thread of a rich redemptive tapestry that would reveal the Messiah. Christ must be proclaimed from the Gospels and Epistles, but the Law and Prophets look forward to His coming and proclaim Him as well (Lk 24:27). What does it mean to preach Christ from these? Him We Proclaim by Dennis Johnson seeks to answer this question by drawing from the insights and disciplines of the apostles (2). Rather than focus on homiletics, the author provides a theology of preaching. Since God is sovereign over history and His Word is an inspired unity, the author contends that preachers should emulate the apostles’ doctrine and hermeneutics (often…

The Prayer of the Lord by R. C. Sproul

The best known prayer in Scripture is surely what is normally called the “Lord’s Prayer.” Sproul rightly declares that when the Lord gave this prayer to His disciples in response to their request to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1), He was not giving a prayer that He expected us to recite regularly. Rather, it was to serve as a model which teaches us the important components of prayer which honors God. In nine very readable chapters Sproul analyzes each part of the prayer, offering helpful insights, addressing difficulties, and providing appropriate illustrations. He concludes in chapter ten by analyzing some common questions about prayer, followed by an appendix on the sovereignty of God in relation to prayer. Sproul’s “already, not yet” eschatological understanding shows up, as would be expected, when discussing the Kingdom of God coming to earth as it is in heaven (pp. 46-48). I would not be…

Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views by Stanley E. Porter and Beth M. Stovell

Hermeneutical approaches have greatly expanded in recent years even within conservative Christianity. Proponents of various methods often share much common ground and therefore come to many of the same conclusions, and yet important differences often arise. In this volume the editors selected five prominent hermeneutical views and assigned a scholar to describe and defend each approach and then apply their methodology to an interpretation of Matthew 2:12-16 and its use of Hosea 11:1. A response section follows in which each scholar critiques the other four views. Craig Blomberg champions what is normally called the historical-grammatical hermeneutic which seeks to discover the original meaning of the biblical text as intended by the author, and then make application to the current readership. While Blomberg claims to appreciate the other approaches he rightly sees his as foundational to all others (p. 28). Rather strangely, he adds the word “critical” to his methodology, terming…

Integrating Exegesis and Exposition by Dr. Christopher Cone

The latest book by Dr. Christopher Cone is a presentation that stems from an essential drive that ought to be possessed by all believers — that of allowing the Scriptures to have unfettered, unhindered access to their lives for the purpose of spiritual change / growth. Citing Romans 12:1-2, Dr. Cone demonstrates in the opening paragraph of the book that a process of transformation is to occur for all Christians as the “expected response” to the great doctrinal truths of Romans 1-11, rightly labeled as “God’s mercies.” He then conveys the logic flow which dictates that for the Scriptures to transform a life, they must be communicated by means of properly equipped voices determined to uphold the faithful transmission of God’s Word to others; and that to be done excluding all purely human influences and distractions. It is then that biblical communicators merit being “faithful stewards” and “diligent workers” (p.…

How to Interpret the Bible for Yourself by Richard Mayhue

This is an excellent little study on basic hermeneutics and Bible study methods. It is filled with good suggestions and ideas, and written on a level that most readers could readily understand and apply. Dr. Mayhue is the Dean of The Master’s Seminary and as such is used to dealing with heavy theological issues. Yet, in this, his love for the simple truths of the Scriptures has in no way been dimmed. The reader of this volume will be encouraged and motivated to be a lover of the Word. I highly recommend it.

Warfield on the Christian Life, Living in the Light of the Gospel by Fred G. Zaspel

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was among the greatest theological minds ever produced in America (some compare him favorably with Jonathan Edwards), yet he has lost favor in our postmodern era. He was one of the famous “old Princeton” theologians, along with Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge and J. Gresham Machen, and taught at Princeton from 1873-1921, during some of the most tumultuous times in modern church history. He published massive amounts of indepth doctrinal material, taught more than a generation of pastors and Christian leaders, and was one of the most influential evangelicals of his day. Nevertheless, during his lifetime liberals were slowly gaining dominance in the West and in 1929 Princeton itself officially repudiated the fundamentals of Scripture, which Warfield had devoted his life to teach and defend. Today, despite his great efforts, Warfield is largely ignored except by some in the Reformed camp who recognize his contribution to our…

The Word of God in English by Leland Ryken

Leland Ryken is a professor of English at Wheaton College and a well-known literary critic and scholar. His interest in the translation of Scripture into English was enriched and heightened when he served on the translation committee for the English Standard Version. He writes, “On the basis of that inquiry, I ended with a belief that only an essentially literal translation of the Bible can achieve sufficiently high standards in terms of literary criteria and fidelity to the original text. Consequently, I have ended with a deep-seated distrust of how dynamic equivalent translations treat the biblical text” (p. 10). This thorough, well-written volume is a polemic supporting this conviction. As a literary scholar, Ryken’s interest lies with the English text rather than the handling of the original Greek and Hebrew. His concern is that, in an attempt by modern translators to provide a readable English Bible, they (those following the…

A Word for the Day by J.D. Watson

Most “devotional” books and booklets function like spiritual vitamins – take one a day and you will feel better. But neither vitamin pills nor devotional books were ever meant to replace balanced diets; they are meant to be supplements. Hence, most devotional material is light on doctrine, designed to give the reader a spiritual lift more than instruction in truth. Enter Dr. Watson’s excellent book. Ignoring the normal lighthearted paradigm of this genre of literature, Dr. Watson offers biblical meat and potatoes. I can think of no other book of this type that so meticulously enlightens the mind as it encourages the heart. J. D. Watson is at heart a pastor and he can’t help but sermonize on occasion. With some of these comments the reader may take issue, as they might with any author. Also, Watson’s strong preference for the KJV is apparent, which might not sit well with…

What on Earth Is God Doing? by Renald E. Showers

This book provides a biblical answer and reveals Satan’s counterfeit to the three major worldview questions: Where have we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? (p. 128). The Lord has a plan and a goal for all of His creation, and it is these that Satan makes every attempt to thwart. Since God’s ultimate purpose is made possible only through the Redeemer, the devil focuses much of his attention on subverting, or even attempting to eliminate, the Savior. What on Earth Is God Doing? traces this conflict between God and Satan through history. Showers understands all of history in light of this conflict and, therefore, reads both biblical accounts and historical events through this lens. This being the case, the author often does not proof-text many of his statements but sees events in light of his understanding of this conflict. For example, concerning Cain’s murder of…

The Voice of Luke, Not Even Sandals by Brian McLaren

The Voice of Luke is part of “The Voice Project” sponsored by the Ecclesia Bible Society. The project is derived from the concept that people today think, and therefore, need to read differently. “Instead of propositional-thought patterns, people today are more likely to interact with events and individuals through complex observations involving emotions, cognitive processes, tactile experiences, and spiritual awareness” (p. ix). It is for this reason the goal of “The Voice Project” to tell the story of the Bible in a narrative format, in order that the “passion, grit, humor and beauty” which is often lost in most translations, is recaptured. “One way to describe this approach is to say that it is a ‘soul translation’ not just a ‘mind translation’” (p. x). The editors admit, however, that their translations of Scripture are really a cross between translation and paraphrase, a “retelling” which seeks to bring “the biblical narratives…

The Trinity, a Journal And Historic Creeds, a Journal by Kenneth Boa

Ken Boa, who received a master’s degree in Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, as well as doctoral degrees from New York University and the University of Oxford, is president of Reflections Ministries as well as Trinity House Publishers. He is the author of several books including four journals in the Reflections series, all published by NavPress. The two journals under review, along with the other two journals in the series, Sacred Readings and The Psalms, all attempt to do the same thing: take the reader on a meditative journal through the Scriptures or creeds via the use of “the ancient art of sacred reading,” better known as lectio divina. It is important to know that lectio is not found, promoted or prescribed anywhere in the Word of God. It is a technique invented by the “Eastern desert father John Cassian early in the fifth century” (all quotations come from…

Translating Truth by Wayne Grudem, Leland Ryken, C. John Collins, Vern S. Poythress, Bruce Winter

Translating Truth is a defense of the “essentially literal” (“word-for-word”) approach to biblical translation as opposed to the “dynamic equivalent” or “thought-for-thought” renderings. Each of the five contributors was part of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version, an essentially literal translation published in 2001. The first chapter, by Wayne Grudem, is extremely informative and sets the agenda for the entire book. Grudem lays out his position: “Translators should not only ask, ‘Have I rendered the main idea of this sentence correctly?’ but should also ask, ‘Have I represented correctly the meaning that each word contributes to this sentence?’” (p. 29). Having so framed the debate, Grudem moves on to give examples of how dynamic equivalent translations leave out the meaning of some words which are in the original text and add meaning that are not there. As a result, dynamic equivalent translations cannot be trusted for serious…

Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament, A Book by Book Survey by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), 336 pp., paper $12.99

If you happen to own Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible you have the same book in a different format. Each Old Testament book is addressed by a different author who provides background information, overviews the theological message, discusses its place in the canon and its historic interpretation, and provides various insights. The volume is not designed to offer in-depth study of the individual books or even a good survey. Its main contribution is a quick index to a variety of views concerning interpretation and contemporary scholarship. Beyond that I did not think the book was very helpful.

Ten Keys for Unlocking the Bible by Colin S. Smith

This little volume is the forerunner of a series of four books entitled Unlockingthe Bible. It is designed to give a high-altitude view of Scripture to those unfamiliar with its message. With this in mind, as I read the book I kept asking myself, “Would I give this to a new believer?” My answer is “no!” for two reasons. First, it “flies” so high and far that I think the “view” is missed almost entirely. Someone unfamiliar with Scripture would gain little from this book. Secondly, Smith makes a number of errors in his biblical interpretation. He misunderstands Galatians 3:2-4 in particular (p. 31) and the Law in general (p. 34). He does not understand the purpose of the Pentecost in Acts 2 (pp. 108, 109). He misinterprets Romans 7 and 8 (pp. 119, 120). And he gives the all too common (by evangelicals) implication that Mother Teresa was the…

A Tale of Two Sons by John MacArthur

MacArthur provides us with a comprehensive, readable and thoroughly biblical exposition of the “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” In contrast to a well-publicized study of sermons on this great parable (See Christless Christianity by Michael Horton, pp. 48-61) which twisted the story into various therapeutic explanations, MacArthur rightly explains that the parable was aimed at the hard-hearted, legalistic Pharisees and the central figure is the “good” son, not the father or the Prodigal. MacArthur’s understanding is summed up early in the book. The prodigal represents a typical sinner who comes to repentance. The father’s patience, love, generosity, and delight over the son’s return are clear and perfect emblems of divine grace. The prodigal’s heart change is a picture of what true repentance should look like. And the elder brother’s cold indifference—the real focal point of the story, as it turns out—is a vivid representation of the same evil hypocrisy Jesus…

The Story of Joseph and Judah by Warren Austin Gage and Christopher Barber

This volume is the first in a planned series entitled “The Masterpiece Study Series.” When completed, the ten volumes will cover a number of other major Old Testament characters, as well as the four Gospels and their human authors. These books are not commentaries as such, but more like guided tours through biblical literature. Each chapter includes helpful background and theological information, numerous study questions, plus suggested application and reflection. Concerned that too often students of Scripture get lost in the details, the authors want their readers to dig deeply but at the same time stand back and enjoy the big picture. “Our goal in this study,” they write, “is to help recover something that has largely been lost, by learning to read the Bible not only as a scientist, but also as an act of love” (p. 6). The Story of Joseph and Judah is intended to guide the…

Soul Restoration: Hope for the Weary by Terri Blackstock

Blackstock, formerly a writer of secular romantic novels, is now an author of Christian fiction (none of which have I read). At the conclusion of her novels Blackstock has made it her habit to write a short afterword stating clearly the spiritual point that she has tried to flesh out in her story. These afterwords, with some additions, comprise the content of this little devotional book. Soul Restoration contains two dozen inspirational readings which, for the most part, are true to Scripture and helpful to the reader. There are exceptions to this as Blackstock occasionally uses Scripture out of context or claims an extrabiblical promoting from the Lord. The most notorious of such accounts is on page 32 in which the Lord supposedly prompted her to read Isaiah 49:24-25, take it out of context and claim a promise from Him for a spiritual healing for a friend’s unsaved daughter. Although…

Slaves, Women & Homosexuals, Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis By William Webb

William Webb, who received his ThD from Dallas Theological Seminary and is presently professor of New Testament at Heritage Theological Seminary, has written this book to introduce and promote a new hermeneutical approach to the Scriptures, what he calls “redemptive-movement.” The author’s primary concern is figuring out which statements from the Bible should be followed as expressed in Scripture and which do we have the right to take further to the redemptive spirit of the statement due to cultural changes (p. 13). Webb is trying to weave a path somewhere between what he calls static hermeneutics (grammatical-historical) and radical hermeneutics (liberal and neo-orthodox). With redemptive-movement interpretation the exegete will agree that statements, commands, etc., in Scripture can be taken at face “on the page” value. But the meaning was for the original time and culture only; it was never meant to be timeless in its application. Many statements and commands…

The Promised One by Nancy Guthrie, Wheaton: Crossway, 2011; 285 pp. paper $15.99

The Promised One is a 10 part study guide for women which “is uniquely designed to help you to look into the wonder of the first book of the Old Testament—Genesis—and see how it prepares for and points to Christ” (p. 9). The controlling scriptural passage is Luke 24:27 in which Jesus instructed the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The verse reads, “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (ESV). On this foundation Guthrie writes, “Most people see the Bible as a ‘guidebook for life.’ But Jesus is saying here that the Bible is not about what God wants us to do but about who God wants us to see. And it is Jesus we are going to see as we study Genesis together” (p. 24). Herein lie both the strength and the weakness of Guthrie’s…

Prolegomena by Christopher Cone

Prolegomena is the study of presuppositions, definitions and theological methods which are foundational to any doctrinal system. This volume concerning prolegomena is decidedly dispensational in approach and thus lays the groundwork necessary for understanding Scripture dispensationally. Cone, among other things, handles issues related to the existence of God, Scripture, hermeneutics and theology. He spends over a third of the book discussing hermeneutical matters and defending the Historical-Grammatical method. He deals much with Dispensationalism and distinguishes it from Covenant Theology. I believe Cone has done his homework and offers an excellent theological study which is basic to systemic theology.

The Message of the Old Testament by Mark Dever (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2006), 959 pp., hardback $26.99

This volume is quite similar to Dever’s earlier work on the New Testament, with the same positives and negatives (see review on The Message of the New Testament). The Message of the Old Testament, like its predecessor, provides one transcribed sermon per biblical book, as originally preached by Dever at the church he pastors. The idea is worthy but it proves in practice more difficult with the Old Testament than the New. Some Old Testament books are so massive and their message so foundational to the faith that only one sermon barely touches the highlights (think Genesis, Psalms or Isaiah). Others are so small and relatively insignificant that a full message hardly seems warranted. To devote one message to Jeremiah or Exodus and one to Zephaniah or Obadiah seems out of balance. Since I was using Dever’s book as an aid to my own overview sermon series through the Old…

The Message of the New Testament by Mark Dever

First, let’s mention what this book is not. It is not a one-volume commentary on the New Testament. If you are looking for analysis of difficult issues and texts you will be largely disappointed. Nor is this a Bible handbook giving copious details about authors, dates, outlines and the like. If you need that kind of information you would be wise to look elsewhere. What you will find in The Message on the New Testament are twenty-eight transcribed and edited sermons, one on each book plus an overview message. There is much to commend in Dever’s volume: it gives solid exposition of the biblical texts, presents excellent overviews of the New Testament books, sets forth a great example of how to preach this type of sermon and is edifying to the reader. There are also some negatives—mostly unavoidable due to the nature of the project: Difficult issues are mostly skipped.…

The Last Word by N.T. Wright

N. T. Wright is the Bishop of Durham (Anglican Church), prolific author and biblical scholar, and is best known to many as the unofficial liaison between the New Perspective on Paul and evangelicalism. This work does not deal specifically with the NPP, rather Wright is trying to foster an understanding of Scripture which allows for and even nurtures such views. Wright is proposing what he calls a “new understanding of the authority of Scripture.” Exactly what is this new understanding? Let’s begin with the positive. By definition, Wright states “that the authority of Scripture must mean…‘the authority of God exercised through Scripture’” (p. 25). With this stripped-down definition we can agree. God’s authority is bigger than Scripture—it includes all that He is and does. Still Scripture is God’s written word and carries the full authority of Himself in all it proclaims. The Last Word provides much in the way of…

The King James Only Controversy by James R. White. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1995. 286 pp. $15.00 (paper).

James R. White, an elder at Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church and Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, has written several apologetic books, includingIs the Mormon My Brother, The Roman Catholic Controversy, and What’s With the Dudes at the Door. In The King James Only Controversy, White seeks to “oppose those who would force others to use the KJV or risk God’s wrath for allegedly questioning His Word,” (p. VI). He explains his motivation for writing in the Introduction: It is very important to understand the motivation behind this book. This book is not being written to push one particular translation of the Bible over another. There is no desire to get everyone to read the NASB, or the NIV, or the NKJV, or the RSV, or any other “modern” translation. On the other hand, I am not in any way seeking to stop those who use the KJV from reading…

Interpreting the Historical Books, An Exegetical Handbook by Robert B. Chisholm, Jr.

This volume is one of six in the “Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis” series edited by David M. Howard Jr. The only others in the series presently available are on the Pentateuch and Psalms. The others: Wisdom Literature, Prophets and Apocalyptic Literature await publication. The books are primarily intended to serve as textbooks for graduate level exegetical courses that assume a basic knowledge of the Hebrew language. However, any well-versed serious student of Scripture would benefit from these works. The book under review, written by the chair of the Old Testament department at Dallas Theological Seminary, is helpful on a number of levels. It serves as an excellent primer and introduction to the Old Testament books beginning with Joshua and concluding with Esther. Chisholm opens with a long chapter explaining what narrative literature is including basic elements of a story, structural features, dialogue, the role of the narrator and plot,…

How Readest Thou? By J. C. Ryle

This is my first book by nineteenth century author J. C. Ryle; it will not be my last. How Readest Thou? is an absolutely marvelous exhortation on the value and necessity of reading the Scriptures. It is amazing that a man writing over one hundred and fifty years ago could still speak so relevantly and powerfully to our generation. Anyone who could read this volume and not hunger more greatly for the Word had better call for the spiritual undertaker to pronounce his or her soul dead.

How to Choose a Bible Version, Making Sense of the Proliferation of Bible Translations by Robert L Thomas (Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2000) 191 pp., paper $11.99

This is quite an impressive little book. In less than 200 pages Professor Thomas of the Master’s Seminary has provided nearly everything the average student of the Bible needs to know about Bible translations in English. For more detailed debates on text-types and translation philosophy and so forth, one would need to supplement this volume. But Thomas gets us in the door and produces an excellent reference and abundant helps for understanding the multitude of translations now available in English. For example: Chapter one gives a short history of English translations, beginning with William Tyndale through The Message. It is most interesting that over 90% of Tyndale’s work found its way into the King James Version (pp. 15, 19). An overview of the Greek textual base is found in chapter two. Thomas spends most of his time on two textual families—the Byzantine and Alexandrian—and shows why he favors the latter…

Hold Your Course 22 Daily Reading from the book of Colossians by Roger Ellsworth

This little volume is sort of a cross between a light commentary on Colossians and a daily devotional. The net effect is very positive as Ellsworth gets us into Scripture and provides helpful insight and probing questions, all in a format that is far meatier than the average devotional material. Hold Your Course would be excellent for personal Bible study as well as group studies.

For the Love of God (2 volumes) by D. A. Carson

Robert Murray M’Cheyne is rightly recognized as a saintly Scottish preacher from the early 1800s. Although he did not live to see 30, his life and writings still touch the hearts of God’s people today. He desired to foster serious Bible reading for his people and, in that regard, he “prepared a scheme for daily reading that would take readers through the New Testament and Psalms twice each year, and through the rest of the Bible once” (p. 12). D. A. Carson has taken M’Cheyne’s system and written two volumes of daily devotional material covering much of the reading in M’Cheyne’s schedule. Carson, being the biblical scholar that he is, supplies meaty comments that far exceed in content the normal devotional booklet. One drawback is that M’Cheyne had four listings per day and Carson, even in two volumes, covers only half of those readings. Another issue is that Carson’s covenantal…

Choosing a Bible by Leland Ryken

Choosing a Bible is an excellent little resource detailing the differences between the three major types of translations: essentially literal, dynamic equivalent and paraphrase. The literal translation, which was the goal of the translator until the middle of the twentieth century, attempted to translate the words of the original Hebrew and Greek texts as literally as possible. Today, the best known translations of this genre are the NASB, ESV, KJV, NKJV and RSV. The dynamic equivalent (or functional equivalent) translations are best represented by the NIV, TNIV and NLT. The goal of dynamic equivalency is not word-for-word, but the thought behind the words. Paraphrases such as the LB and The Message are not translations at all but running commentaries, i.e., opinions of the author. Ryken demonstrates clearly the inferiority and danger of the latter two groups. What the dynamic translators give us, he writes, “is a translation plus a commentary”…

By This Name by John Cross

Veteran missionary John Cross has spent a lifetime attempting to communicate the central message of the Word of God to cultures that have little, if any, knowledge of that message. As America and other Western countries become increasingly biblically illiterate, a similar approach is needed here as well. By ThisName is the methodology Cross has developed to communicate this central message. The concept behind this book is that it is most difficult to attempt to evangelize those who have no background in biblical narratives and themes. To give a gospel presentation, even one containing all the essential elements, will not benefit most hearers because they have no context in which to comprehend the message. Worse, if the evangelist is aggressive and forces an immediate decision, the hearers may well profess belief without understanding what they are professing. The result is that the evangelist reports encouraging statistics on conversions and the…

Biblical Sufficiency Applied, General Editor Christopher Cone (Fort Worth: Tyndale Seminary Press, 2011), 319 pp. paper $21.00

Eleven different authors contribute to this book dedicated to the promotion of biblical sufficiency. The volume is less a defense of the sufficiency of Scripture than an application of this important doctrine along a wide range of issues facing the conservative evangelical movement today. As general editor Christopher Cone states, “Biblical Sufficiency Applied is an effort on the part of its several contributors to consider certain areas of contemporary controversy in the light of Scripture” (p. 1). Some of the important issues addressed include: a critique of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins (Cone), biblical counseling (John Adams Tucker), supersessionism (Kevin Zuber), the New Perspective on Paul (myself), worship and music (George Gunn and Arnfield Cudal), contextual interpretation of Scripture (Samuel Dallessandro) and New Covenant Theology (Leon Johnson). As is the nature of such a book, each article serves more as an introduction to the subjects covered rather than a comprehensive…

Biblical Authority By James T. Draper, Jr. and Kenneth Keathley

This is an excellent volume on the inspiration, infallibility, inerrancy, authority and sufficiency of Scripture. The authors take a solid position on the Word, give us a quick look at church history in relationship to the Bible and expose the dangers facing the evangelical church today in this regard. Draper and Keathley are both Southern Baptists so they have fought in the trenches over these issues and have much at stake personally. I recommend this book highly.

Ancient Christian Devotional, A Year of Weekly Reading, General Editor: Thomas C. Oden, Editor: Cindy Crosby (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 294 pp., paper

The Ancient Christian Devotional (ACD) is a companion to the massive Ancient Christian Commentary series, both of which are edited by Thomas Oden. The Devotional apparently draws most, if not all, of its material from the commentary, both of which are designed to provide insights into the riches of church history and “help us to read holy writings with ancient eyes” (p. 7). The Devotional offers fifty-two weeks of readings, which follow the liturgical year. The reading for each week is structured around the following elements: theme, opening prayer, reading, Psalm of response, reflection from the church fathers and a closing prayer. The book is well documented and includes an appendix of brief biographical sketches of those quoted in the volume. Most often quoted are Augustine, Chrysostom, Ambrosiaster, Ambrose, Cyril of Alexandria, Bede, Jerome, and Origen. There are plenty of correct and helpful thoughts in ACD but few that are…

Can We Still Believe The Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions By Craig L. Blomberg (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2014) 287 pp. + XVI, Paper $15.90

Given the many recent challenges to the reliability and trustworthiness of Scripture, most notably by Bart Ehrman, volumes such as this one are needed. Craig Blomberg, long time professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, has the scholarly credentials to tackle this topic. Blomberg believes, contrary to popularized skepticism concerning the Bible, that new studies and findings have actually given us greater reasons to trust Scripture. There are six such areas that he wants to identify (see pp. 7-12) and he devotes long chapters to each. It should be mentioned at this point that some of Blomberg’s most important thoughts are found in his endnotes. Given this fact, a better choice would have been to place these comments in footnotes. I found constantly flipping back to the endnotes time consuming and annoying, but necessary if the arguments of the book are to be understood. The first chapter, and the best…

Which Bible Translation Should I Use, A Comparison of Four Major Recent Versions Ed. Andreas J. Kӧstenberger and David A. Croteau (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2012), 204 pp., paper $14.99

Which Bible Translation Should I Use? is a comparison of four recent and popular translations of the Bible. Each translation is explained, defended and promoted by a scholar who was on the translation team of the respective translations: English Standard Version (ESV) – Wayne Grudem; New International 2011 (NIV) – Douglas Moo; Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) – E. Ray Clendenen; and New Living Translation (NLT) – Philip Comfort. Each author not only explains the translation philosophy behind the version he supports, as well as its unique features, but also interacts with the same 16 passages from Scripture. These biblical selections were strategically chosen because they demonstrate well how the translations differ and why. Important discussions are therefore given on gender neutral differences, the ending of Mark’s Gospel and the translations and meaning of such vital texts as Luke 17:3, John 1:18, Romans 3:25, 1 Timothy 2:12, John 1:18 and…

A Commentary on the Psalms, Volume 2 (42-89)

In the spirit of full disclosure, this commentary on the Psalms was sent to me by the publisher for review. Since it is a very large volume, and since I am not presently teaching on the Psalms, I hesitated tackling such an undertaking. However, I had only read through the first few chapters before I realized that I had a masterpiece in my hands. I immediately ordered the first volume in this series and am eagerly awaiting the publication of volume three. Ross’s collection will be my go-to commentaries on the Psalms from this point on. Ross carefully analyzes 48 psalms in this volume. For each he supplies his own translation complete with footnotes dealing with the meaning of many of the important Hebrew words as well as textual variants. The translation is followed by a “Composition and Context” section which introduces the main idea of the psalm and attempts…

Expository Listening, A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word by Ken Ramey (Woodland, TX: Kress Biblical Recources: 2010), 127 pp., paper $10.79

The vast majority of books written about preaching are addressed to preachers; only a few target the listeners. This short work is one of those few (see also Jay Adam’s Be Careful How You Listen and Joel Beeke’s A Family at Church). Ramey contends that the condition of the soul is more important than the effectiveness of the sower when it comes to preaching. If so, God’s people should desire to be accomplished hearers of the Word. This little volume will aid in that process. Expository preaching is when “the preacher explains what the original author was saying to the original audience he was writing to and then shows how this original meaning applies to his present–day audience” (p. 55). But in a post-modern age saturated with media that dulls our ears and our minds, this task is challenging at best (see p. 42). If the hearer is to be…

Understanding Spiritual Gifts, a Verse by Verse Study of 1 Corinthians 12-14, by Robert L. Thomas (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1978, 1999), 299 pp., paper $10.50

Thomas’ book is a comprehensive commentary on First Corinthians 12-14 with particular focus on the sign gifts. Understanding Spiritual Gifts is extremely thorough, as might be expected from Dr. Thomas, and from any book that contains 62 pages of footnotes, a five page selected bibliography of works cites and scriptural, subject and author indexes. This study is obviously for the serious student, but any reader will be rewarded. The author, as he promises, provides verse-by-verse commentary on these three chapters. In addition, he offers six appendixes dealing with subjects such as descriptions of the spiritual gifts, how to find one’s spiritual gifts, and the ancient tests for New Testament canonicity. But the heart of the volume is Thomas’ argument for cessationism. He demonstrates that the revelatory gifts were signs of authenticity of the apostles and prophets and ceased to function with the completion of the New Testament Scriptures. He deals…

Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible,by Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins and Thomas R. Schreiner (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 159 pp., paper $14.99

This little volume, containing thirteen essays by twelve different evangelical scholars, attempts to provide a helpful overview of Scripture, including the events between the Testaments. It identifies unifying themes and follows threads woven throughout the Bible in order to offer the reader a working framework for understanding the texts. Vern Poythress opens with an overview of the Bible storyline, followed by five chapters, by various authors, dealing with the Old Testament. Covered in this first part are the theology of the Old Testament and individual essays on each of the major types of Old Testament literature: the Pentateuch, historical books, poetic and wisdom literature and prophetic books. Part two is devoted to the background of the New Testament, primarily a study of the intertestamental period. Part three provides four chapters on the New Testament, beginning with its theology and offers a chapter each on the Gospels and Acts, the Epistles,…

Parables in the Eye of the Storm, Christ’s Response in the Face of Conflict, by Stanley A. Ellisen (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001) 272 pp., paper $10.00

Stanley Ellisen, who was a professor of biblical literature and biblical studies at Western Baptist Seminary, writes this book to provide clarity of understanding to Jesus’ parables.  Of all the hermeneutical issues facing the student of Scripture few are as thorny as unraveling the parables.  As a result, many fanciful, incorrect and even detrimental interpretations of the parables have been rendered over the years.  Ellisen seeks to correct these interpretations in this, the most helpful book I have ever read on Jesus’ parables. Part One of Parables in the Eye of the Storm lays out the interpretation grid in which Ellisen believes the parables must be approached.  He offers five guidelines: (p. 8) 1)  discover the problem that made the parable necessary,2)  seek the central truth of the parable,3)  relate the details to the central truth,4)  clarify and authenticate the central truth, and5)  discover the intended appeal of the parable…

Ancient Christian Devotional, A Year of Weekly Reading, General Editor: Thomas C. Oden, Editor: Cindy Crosby (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 294 pp., paper $12.00

The Ancient Christian Devotional (ACD) is a companion to the massive Ancient Christian Commentary series, both of which are edited by Thomas Oden.  The Devotional apparently draws most, if not all, of its material from the commentary, both of which are designed to provide insights into the riches of church history and “help us to read holy writings with ancient eyes”   (p. 7).  The Devotional offers fifty-two weeks of readings, which follow the liturgical year.  The reading for each week is structured around the following elements:  theme, opening prayer, reading, Psalm of response, reflection from the church fathers and a closing prayer.   The book is well documented and includes an appendix of brief biographical sketches of those quoted in the volume.  Most often quoted are Augustine, Chrysostom, Ambrosiaster, Ambrose, Cyril of Alexandria, Bede, Jerome, and Origen. There are plenty of correct and helpful thoughts in ACD but few that are…

Scripture Alone by R. C. Sproul

This is a handy little volume defending the evangelical doctrine of sola Scriptura. Sproul provides a short history and some of the challenges to sola Scriptura(chapter 1), discusses the formation of the canon (chapter 2), builds a case for inerrancy (chapter 3), devotes chapter 4 to the internal testimony of the Spirit to the authority of Scripture, and then spends the remainder of the book detailing the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. The Chicago Statement was written by a team of more than 200 evangelical scholars in 1978 to “affirm that ‘the authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian church in this and every age’” (p. 121). This has proven to be one of the finest documents on the nature of Scripture ever written, and we should be appreciative of Sproul’s explanation. Scripture Alone is a most helpful volume on the Word. My only criticism is that…