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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...