Free book giveaway: Devotions on the Greek New Testament

Devotions GNTYesterday I reviewed Zondervan’s new resource, Devotions on the Greek New Testament.

I have an extra copy to give away (not my review copy). I recommend this volume, for either you or the Greek language-lover in your life.

To enter the giveaway, simply comment on this blog post and say why it is you would want to win a copy. I will accept entries through next Monday afternoon, December 17, with 3pm EST being the cutoff.

Then if you link to this post on your Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc., come back here to tell me in the comments section that you did, and you’ll receive a second entry. I will announce the winner just before 5pm EST Monday.

If you want to check out the book before you decide to enter, my review of it is here.

Devotions on the Greek New Testament, reviewed

Devotions GNT

I used to think it was just a scare tactic when professors of biblical languages said, “Use your Greek! Don’t let your Hebrew get rusty, or it will be gone forever!”

They were, of course, right. For various reasons I had to have a bit of lag time between Hebrew I and Hebrew II, and quite a bit fell by the wayside then. I find myself highly motivated now to keep reading Greek and Hebrew, several years in to each language.

The key question is–when? How do I find time to do that? I’m a husband, father of three kids age five and under, work full-time, take classes, and try to have some semblance of a social life.

So I try to work smarter, not harder. I take my Hebrew and Greek Bible to church with me and follow along in it–and let me here publicly apologize to my wife for asking her to carry it in her purse for me. (Bible software in church still seems a bit tacky to me.) And I try to do my personal Bible reading/devotions in another language whenever possible. For example, I’m having a blast with Greek Isaiah in a Year.

For people like me who want to keep and improve their languages, I think that sort of integration is vital. Learning Greek and Hebrew can’t be just rote study time with piles of vocabulary cards and pages of sentence diagrams. Especially for those who want to improve them, languages need to become, I think, part of life, and part of one’s regular reading and worshiping patterns.

Enter Zondervan’s Devotions on the Greek New Testament. The book fills a gap for ongoing language study that not many other resources meet, at least not in this way. It contains “52 reflections to inspire and instruct,” offered by scholars like Scot McKnight, Lynn H. Cohick, Roy E. Ciampa, Linda Belleville, Constantine R. Campbell, and more.

Readers of this blog will not be shocked that I agree with the doxological focus this volume has:

The need to know why you are studying Greek, particularly in relation to the ultimate purpose of strengthening your walk with the Lord, never fades into the background.

Each devotion is a couple of pages long, beginning with a block of untranslated Greek text and followed by English commentary on the text. The 52 reflections could be spread out over the course of a year for one a week. (Those who want to do regular Greek devotions, however, might go through the book more quickly.)

There are 28 male authors and 3 female authors, which as out-of-balance as that may sound, is actually more diverse (sadly) than many resources like this. The variety of authors, perspectives, and approaches makes Devotions on the GNT rich. The reflections are listed in canonical order, with every NT book represented except for 2 and 3 John.

The book succeeds in its effort to “instruct.” Some devotions focus on single words or phrases from the Greek text (Ciampa has a great clarifying devotion on Joseph’s righteousness in Matthew 1:19, teasing out δίκαιος ὢν in the text). Dean Deppe unpacks participles and main verbs (or shall we say, parses participles and primary predicates?) in Mark 5:25-27 to unearth more of what Mark and Jesus are up to. J.R. Dodson offers a fantastic literary analysis and sentence flow (which is presented well on the page) to ask how well the reader is doing embracing the freedom the Gospel brings.

Devotions on the GNT does “inspire,” too, and I’m encouraged that this resource exists for students of the Greek Bible like myself. However, at times I found the application sections to be a bit shorter than I’d have hoped (sometimes just a sentence or two). The reader may be perfectly capable of making the application herself or himself, but more could have been offered here.

The only other similar resource of which I’m aware is More Light on the Path (Baker, 1999). That devotional has both Hebrew and Greek, with uncommon vocabulary and parsings footnoted. But Devotions on the GNT goes more in-depth with the passage it treats, making it suitable as a true “devotional.”

After reading a given reflection, I do generally feel instructed and inspired: I feel that I’ve worked at my Greek for the day and have something to take with me. And it takes less than five minutes to work carefully through a reflection.

You can find Devotions on the Greek New Testament at Amazon or at Zondervan. In both places you can look inside the book.

I hope Zondervan publishes a corresponding Hebrew volume, and it would be a dream to see a Septuagint Greek devotional, too! Devotions on the Greek New Testament constitutes yet another step forward for language-learning students.

And keep an eye on this here blog. Within the next couple days, I’ll have a giveaway contest with an additional copy I’ve received of this book. (Update: go here for the giveaway.)

(I am thankful to Zondervan for the free review copy of this book, which was sent to me with the understanding that I would then write an unbiased review.)

My 5-year-old son reviews The Friendly Beasts

The Friendly Beasts

This book tells the story of the friendly beasts. The friendly beasts are a cow, donkey, dove, and lamb. I don’t see another animal. But there’s baby Jesus! And there’s a camel in there. The camel brought him a gift. The donkey carried Jesus’ mama.

Jesus was a baby. (I knew that before I even had this book.) He was born in a manger.

I liked the CD [AKJ: that comes with the book–four tracks, including “The Friendly Beasts” by Rebecca St. James], because it was about Jesus. I liked the book because of the animals.

This book is good for 8-year-olds and 6-year-olds and 1-year-olds and 5-year-olds. This book would make people feel good.

Thanks to Zondervan/Zonderkidz for the review copy for my 5-year-old son to review with his honest impressions. Click on the image above to find out more about the book.

Biblical Studies Carnival (November)


Bob MacDonald hosts this month’s Biblical Studies Carnival here. What, you thought blogs were so 2008? Well, they were. But they’re pretty 2012, too. Bob compiles a long list of blog posts in the field of Biblical Studies from the month of November.

I’m hosting the carnival next month, so if you know of good links I should include (anything that will be posted in December), please feel free to let me know.

Review of T. Muraoka’s Hebrew/Aramaic Index to the Septuagint

In studying the Septuagint, I’m regularly curious about how often the LXX translators used the same Greek word to translate a given Hebrew word. How often, for example, does καρδία translate the Hebrew לבב? And what other Greek words are used to translate it? Similarly, I wonder, for occurences in the Greek text of καρδία, what other Hebrew words might it be translating?

Takamitsu Muraoka has made such questions an emphasis of his scholarly writing and publishing throughout his career. His Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint is one of the standard lexicons in the field, and his Greek-Hebrew/Aramaic Two-way Index to the Septuagint is the best thing I’ve seen in print for Hebrew-Greek lexical studies in the Septuagint.

Preceding that latter work was Muraoka’s Hebrew/Aramaic Index to the Septuagint: Keyed to the Hatch-Redpath Concordance. I’ve had a chance to use the work in Logos Bible software; this post contains my review.

Muraoka notes the impetus for the work in the Introduction. The Hatch-Redpath Concordance (hereafter HR), published around the turn of the 20th century, listed all Greek words used in the Septuagint with the Hebrew they were thought to have translated. At the back of the concordance was a list that basically noted the reverse, showing Hebrew words alphabetically with the Greek words used to translate them… or, rather, a key to the Greek words in question. As Muraoka notes, you would have this entry in HR:

אָמַר qal 37 c, 74 a, 109 c, 113 c, 120 a, 133 a, 222 a, 267 a, 299 b, 306 b, 313 a, 329 c, 339 b, 365 a, 384 a, 460 c, 477 a, 503 c, 505 c, 520 b, 534 c, 537 b, 538 b, 553 b, 628 b, 757 b, 841 c, 863 c, 881 c, 991 b, 1056 b, 1060 a, 1061 a, 1139 a, 1213 b, 1220 c, 1231 b, c, 1310 b, 1318 b, 1423 c, 1425 b, 69 b, 72 b, 173 a, 183 b, c, 200 a (2), 207 c, 211 b.

Whereas the Greek to Hebrew portion of HR lists the Hebrew words underlying the Greek of the LXX, the Hebrew to Greek portion at the back just has page and column reference numbers, as above. So the user of HR would have to turn to page 37, column c, page 74, column a, etc., etc., in order to see what Greek words were in those locations. Only in that tedious way could the user of HR see all the Greek words used to translate the Hebrew אָמַר.

Muraoka’s wife (who is a true co-author of this work) tediously wrote out (yes, by hand) each Hebrew to Greek entry so that instead of page and column numbers, it contained actual Greek words. The above, then, would look more like this:

אָמַר qal αἰτεῖν (37c), ἀναγγέλλειν (74a)…

…and so on. The HR page and column numbers are retained, but now the user doesn’t have to flip back and forth, since the Greek words are all in one place.

T. Muraoka then took his wife’s data and critically examined HR’s assessments in as many places as he could, drawing on advances in the past century in textual criticism, manuscript availability (like the Dead Sea Scrolls), and adding in analysis of “apocryphal” books, which HR had not fully included. The resulting revision updates both HR’s work and his wife’s manual collation.

What results, then, is an eminently helpful work where one can look up any Hebrew word and see all the Greek words used to translate it across the Septuagint. To be able to do this is valuable, and Muraoka makes it easy.

There are two things that lack here, though neither one of them is really the goal of the work, so I don’t actually criticize it for these omissions. First, there are not frequency numbers. It could be especially helpful to know not only what Greek words translate a given Hebrew word, but how many times each does, so that the user can get a sense of the distribution of each. Muraoka doesn’t have this. Second, he doesn’t have glosses or translation equivalents for words, so there is no English in this index.

But this is an index, and marked as one, so neither of those is a flaw in Muraoka’s book. In fact, here is where using Muraoka in Logos is especially helpful: you can tie tabs together so that a simple click from Greek or Hebrew in his index takes you to a corresponding Greek or Hebrew lexicon in Logos, where you can see that word’s meaning. Logos in this way really enhances Muraoka’s tool. And, of course, frequency statistics are easy to come by in Logos.

This is a good resource, and worth owning for students and professors of the Septuagint. A question remains: with all that Logos can already do, is it superfluous to purchase Muraoka’s index? Using the Bible Word Study feature in Logos, for example, I can see all of the Hebrew words that a given Greek word is used to translate, as well as all of the Greek words used to translate a given Hebrew word, as here (click to enlarge):

This may be sufficient for what many people need, especially since you can also search for a Hebrew lemma from within the Greek Septuagint text in Logos and receive results in Greek, so that you have before you all the verses with all the various Greek words that translate that Hebrew lemma. (I just learned this today from the user forums-very cool.)

But if you’ve got the money (especially if you qualify for an academic discount), and are sitting on the fence about Muraoka’s resource, I recommend it. It’s nice to have easily at hand a listing of all Greek words used to translate a Hebrew word in the Septuagint, even if there are other ways to get that information in Logos. Here it’s consolidated.

One other nice feature is that all the abbreviations throughout the index are hyperlinked to what they stand for, which you can bring up just by mousing over them:

You can see there are no verse references given, which are useful for in-depth study of Greek translations. Muraoka’s more thorough Greek-Hebrew/Aramaic Two-way Index to the Septuagint offers more depth in this regard than this 1998 Hebrew/Aramaic (one-way) index. No Bible software currently offers the two-way index, but it would be great if Logos were able to make it available in the future.

All in all Muraoka’s Hebrew/Aramaic Index to the Septuagint is a solid resource. And its digitization in Logos has been well done, too. Logos can already accomplish much of what’s in this index, but the one serious about the Septuagint may want to have any and all tools at her or his disposal. In that case, this is a worthy addition to one’s library.

Thanks to Logos for the free review copy of this work, offered without any expectation as to the positive or critical nature of my review. Muraoka’s Hebrew/Aramaic Index to the Septuagint is available in Logos here.

Christian Apologetics winner

We have a winner in the giveaway contest at Words on the Word for Zondervan’s primary source compendium, Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources, edited by Khaldoun A. Sweis and Chad V. Meister.

I have weathered the storm, several flickers of the power on and off, and have selected the winner at random. (Actually, a random number generator is to thank/blame.)

And the winner is… Matthew Hamrick! Congratulations, Matthew, and enjoy the book. Thank you to everyone who participated and spread the word.

I reviewed the book here if you’d like to learn more.

Almost every Monday at Words on the Word (and other days, too) I review new books in the field of biblical studies, original languages, and theology. I also review Bible software. Check or bookmark this link to see all my reviews.

Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ) in Accordance 10

The next generation of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) is the Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ). I’ve written more generally about scholarly editions of the Hebrew Bible, and have reviewed the BHS module in Accordance already. In this post I review BHQ in Accordance.

Some excellent scholarly treatments of the BHQ have already appeared. Anyone serious about learning how to use this resource discerningly (as all text critics must be discerning) will do well to avail themselves to these, probably in this order:

  • Emanuel Tov: “The Biblia Hebraica Quinta–An Important Step Forward” (PDF). Tov says the BHQ is “much richer in data, more mature, judicious and cautious than its predecessors. It heralds a very important step forward in the BH series.” Yet at the same time, “This advancement implies more complex notations which almost necessarily render this edition less user-friendly for the non-expert.” That said, anyone who reads Tov’s 11-page introduction will be well-equipped to begin making use of BHQ.
  • Richard D. Weis: Biblia Hebraica Quinta and the Making of Critical Editions of the Hebrew Bible.” Weis has served as a member of BHQ’s editorial committee, so he is able to offer some good detail on “philosophical and pragmatic choices” made in publishing the editions. His article includes full sample pages of the print edition, too.
  • Blogger John F. Hobbins: “Taking Stock of Biblia Hebraica Quinta” (PDF). As I will note below, the oft-appearing, seldom-explained “prp=propositum=it has been proposed” of the BHS is replaced in BHQ with more conservatism in suggesting emendations. But Hobbins calls this “the chief drawback of BHQ” and writes “in defense of conjectural emendation” as it would appear in the apparatus. Not all text critics will agree–and many will appreciate BHQ’s approach–but his argument is compelling all the same.

Taking the BHQ for a spin alongside the BHS is perhaps the most helpful way to see how the two compare. It’s easy to have both side-by-side in Accordance. Here’s my workspace for reading the Hebrew Bible with BHS, BHQ, the apparatus for each, and the BHQ commentary. You can click or open in a new tab to enlarge.

You can see that the text of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 above is unchanged in the BHQ. Consonants, vowels, and cantillation marks are all the same. As the BHQ is based on the Leningrad Codex, just as the BHS is, the text itself is largely unchanged. (The BHQ, however, corrects the BHS to the Leningrad Codex based on new color photographs.)

Note that abbreviations in the BHQ apparatus are now abbreviations of English, not Latin. Those who have learned how to make use of the abbreviated Latin in the BHS apparatus may be somewhat disappointed to not be able to put that knowledge to use (and to have to learn a new system), but in the end this makes for a more widely accessible apparatus, in my view.

A comparison between the BHS apparatus and the BHQ apparatus at the same point is instructive. For Deuteronomy 6:4 BHS has a superscript “a” in the text after שְׁמַ֖ע, directing to footnote a, which reads: “𝔊 pr nonn vb.” I write here about the use of Accordance to quickly decipher the abbreviated Latin in the BHS critical apparatus. “𝔊 pr nonn vb” means something like, “The Old Greek/Septuagint puts before [שְׁמַ֖ע] several words.”

It’s easy enough, especially in the workspace how I have it set up above, to find out what these Greek words in question are: Καὶ ταῦτα τὰ δικαιώματα καὶ τὰ κρίματα, ὅσα ἐνετείλατο κύριος τοῖς υἱοῖς Ισραηλ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ ἐξελθόντων αὐτῶν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου. But the BHS alone does not give the reader much more guidance than that.

The BHQ apparatus, however, reads: “שְׁמַ֖ע Smr V S T | prec 4:45 Nash G ✝ •” Note that instead of a superscript letter in the text with the same letter as a footnote in the apparatus, the text of the BHQ is unmarked, and the apparatus note simply preceded by the word (שְׁמַ֖ע) under consideration. Some will find this gives the text an uncluttered feel; others may find it takes extra time to match text to apparatus. Hovering over the (all in English!) abbreviations in the BHQ in Accordance shows that the note says something like, “The Samaritan Pentateuch, Vulgate, Syriac, and Targumim all begin with just שְׁמַ֖ע. In the Nash Papyrus and Old Greek שְׁמַ֖ע is preceded by the text from Deut. 4:45.” Then the ✝ notes that the BHQ commentary gives the matter more discussion. For text criticism, I have been thrilled about the addition of an included-in-the-book commentary on the text and apparatus.

The BHQ commentary at this verse reads:

The Shemaʿ in both the Nash Papyrus and G is prefaced by an introduction taken from 4:45 with the following differences: both attest a cj. before ‏אלה‎; both omit ‏העדות‎ and the cj. attached to the following word; both read ‏צוה‎ for ‏דבר, but with “the Lord” as subject in G, whereas the Nash Pappyrus and some G Mss follow M in reading “Moses”; finally, both insert במדבר after “Israel.” For further background to the combination of certain biblical passages for liturgical reading, with particular reference to this addition in G and the Nash Papyrus, see Elbogen, Jewish Liturgy, 193. The six extant phylacteries follow M.

Thumbs up here for the additional detail provided in the BHQ apparatus and commentary and for Accordance’s presentation of it. In the print edition the commentary is in a section of the fascicle that is separate from the apparatus. In Accordance you can easily lay it all out together and see it at once.

Just as BHS was, BHQ is being published in fascicles, so a bit at a time. The following six already exist in print:

  • Fascicle 5: Deuteronomy
  • Fascicle 7: Judges
  • Fascicle 13: The Twelve Minor Prophets
  • Fascicle 17: Proverbs
  • Fascicle 18: General Introduction and Megilloth (i.e., Ruth, Canticles, Qoheleth, Lamentations, Esther)
  • Fascicle 20: Ezra and Nehemiah

The BHQ module in Accordance has fascicles 5 (Deuteronomy), 18 (General Introduction and Megilloth), and 20 (Ezra and Nehemiah) so far. 13 (The Twelve Minor Prophets) and 17 (Proverbs) will be added free of charge to those who have the BHQ package. They exist in print but have not yet come from the German Bible Society to Accordance for digitization. When Judges comes to Accordance, it and future fascicles will be available as paid upgrades.

Accordance has produced a short video that shows a couple ways to use the BHQ, including a comparison with the print edition. It’s worth watching, since it explores not only the text, apparatus, and commentary that I cite above, but also the Masorah Magna (below the text in the print edition) and the Masorah Parva (at the margins of the print edition). Note especially (early in the video) how Accordance merges the Notes on the Masorah to eliminate the user’s need to go back and forth between references:

The place for the BHQ user to start is probably with the three articles at the beginning of this post. Then, the General Introduction contained in Fascicle 18 should be consulted. As with its other commentaries and books, Accordance has it presented beautifully. The English introduction tells what BHQ is, gives advice on how to use it (including full explanations of sigla and abbreviations), and tells a bit of background on the editorial processes leading to the BHQ as it is now. Click on the below for a larger image of the general introduction:

BHQ in Accordance is not morphologically tagged; Accordance does not currently have plans to tag it. But this is because the text is so similar to that of BHS already. Because I am so used to BHS and BHQ is still so new on the scene, I always have both open anyway, so I can easily get morphological tagging information from BHS. A tagged BHQ would be ideal, but it’s not a huge loss.

BHQ has less conjectural emendation than BHS. Case in point, “prp” (=”propositum”=”it has been proposed”) occurs 2,146 times in the BHS apparatus (a search that is exceedingly easy to do in Accordance). In BHQ what goes into “prp” is teased out a bit more. From the introduction to BHQ:

In cases where the editor proposes that a reading other than that of the base text is to be preferred, this is presented in the concluding portion of the entry following a double vertical stroke and the abbreviation “pref” (for “preferred reading”). The evidence supporting the preferred reading is recapitulated. If the preferred reading is not directly attested by any of the extant witnesses, but is only implied by their evidence, it is marked by the signal “(origin)”, i.e., that it is the indirectly attested origin of the extant readings. If the grammatical form of the preferred reading is not found otherwise in Hebrew of the biblical period, it is marked either as “unattest” (= “unattested”) or as “conjec-phil” (= “philological conjecture”), depending on the kind of external support for the reading. Where the proposed reading is a conjecture, it is not introduced by the abbreviation “pref” (= “preferred reading”), but by the abbreviation “conjec” (= “conjecture”). In line with the focus of the apparatus on the evidence of the text’s transmission, proposals for preferred readings will not seek to reconstruct the literary history of a text. Readings that are judged to derive from another literary tradition for a book will be characterized as “lit” (see the definitions of characterizations below).


Since the apparatus is devoted to the presentation and evaluation of the concrete evidence for the text’s transmission, a hypothetical reading (i.e., a conjecture) will have place in the apparatus of BHQ only when it is the only explanation of the extant readings in a case.

“Pref” occurs 201 times in the apparatus in the three fascicles so far published in Accordance. A primary difference in BHQ, though, is the level of textual or manuscript-based explanation given for why a certain reading is to be preferred. As someone who tries to be a cautious textual critic, I appreciate this.

Here are some additional resources for using BHQ:

  • A review of Fascicle 18 in Review of Biblical Literature (PDF)
  • A sample set of pages (print edition) of BHQ (PDF)… and note here that a .pdf of BHQ is not part of Accordance’s module
  • Accordance’s press release for BHQ
  • The product page for BHQ in Accordance

At least three things make it worth seriously considering adding BHQ in Accordance to your library. First, BHQ is a significant advance over BHS. Second, Accordance’s presentation of BHQ makes using it easier than it is in print. Third, the print editions would cost you just as much as or more than buying BHQ in Accordance. And, of course, an Accordance module is word-searchable, lighter to carry around, and so on.

All in all, BHQ in Accordance is well-produced, easy to use, and a great aid in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible.

Thank you to Accordance for providing me with a copy of the BHS and BHQ modules for review. At the time of this writing, the sale price for that package was $149.99, an excellent deal. See all the parts of my Accordance 10 review (including the Beale/Carson commentary module) here. I reviewed BHQ’s predecessor, BHS, here.

Christian Apologetics: free book giveaway

One good giveaway deserves another.

The other day I noted that Zondervan has just put out a primary source compendium called Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources, edited by Khaldoun A. Sweis and Chad V. Meister.

I have an extra copy to give away (not my review copy). It’s a good resource to have on the shelf, and I know I’ll be turning to it in the future for the work and ministry I do in a college setting.

I reviewed the book here.

I will choose a winner at random. To enter the drawing, simply comment on this blog post with your greetings, thoughts about apologetics, favorite philosopher/theologian, etc. I will accept entries through Monday afternoon, with 3pm EST being the cutoff.

Then if you link to this post on your Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc., come back here to tell me in the comments section that you did, and you’ll receive a second entry. I will announce the winner just before 5pm EST Monday.

Christian Apologetics: a review

I still remember, as a 16-year-old, sitting down at my parents’ computer, hearing the dial tone, and logging on to AOL. I would do this often, not just to check the new technological miracle known as e-mail, but also to go into chat rooms (remember those?) and seek to share my faith with others online.

I made similar efforts at my high school, starting conversations when appropriate and generally just trying to be ready to speak intelligently and compellingly about my Christian faith.

This handbook by Peter Kreeft was a constant reference guide for me. I went on to major in philosophy at a Christian undergraduate school, where I took, among others, classes on the philosophy of religion, St. Augustine, and more. Readings in the Philosophy of Religion became a new resource to which I often turned. I had begun having philosophical and existential questions of my own by that point, ones that I experienced on a profound and at times troubling level.

I’ve always had an interest in the intellectual underpinnings of my Christian faith. And I’ve often been aware that what appear to be intellectual questions or questions of “the head,” are sometimes–when one digs deeper–questions of “the heart,” as well. Since college days, then, I’ve been a bit more cautious than I was as a 16-year-old in an AOL chat room about just how effective “apologetics” can be.

Zondervan has just put out a primary source compendium called Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources, edited by Khaldoun A. Sweis and Chad V. Meister.

There are 54 selections divided into 11 parts, which you can see listed here (PDF) in the table of contents. Christian Apologetics begins with some methodological considerations in part 1, then moves right into various arguments for the existence of God–cosmological, teleological, ontological, moral, the argument from religious experience, and so on. From there the book narrows to more specific topics like the Trinity, the incarnation, miracles, the resurrection, the problem of evil, and more.

Christian Apologetics claims to be “a sampling of some of the best works written by Christian apologists throughout the centuries,” offering “a snapshot of Christian apologetics at its best across the spectrum of time and culture.”

The essays in this volume certainly are some of the best in apologetics. There is Paul at the Areopagus in Acts 17, Aquinas on the cosmological argument for God’s existence, Anselm and Plantinga with the ontological argument for God, Pascal’s wager, Teresa of Avila on experiencing God, Anselm on the incarnation, Swinburne on miracles, John Hick’s “Soul Making Theodicy,” Augustine on free will, and Marilyn McCord Adams on horrendous evil and the goodness of God. Each of these essays is a classic and makes a valuable contribution to the area of apologetics.

The book spans “the spectrum of time” fairly well, with a higher concentration of 20th century writers. Just a couple of the contributors are women, and the overwhelming majority hail from Western contexts–this latter an admission of the book, but a weakness all the same.

A particularly pleasant surprise to me was the inclusion of an an article by R.T. France, in which he makes the case for the historical reliability of the Gospels, which must, he argues, be understood in their proper literary context as “highly selective” records of Jesus’ life with “only a loose chronological framework.” This is not due to deficiency of the Gospels; rather, it is how the Gospel writers intended to write:

The four canonical gospels will not answer all the questions we would like to ask about the founder of Christianity; but, sensitively interpreted, they do give us a rounded portrait of a Jesus who is sufficiently integrated into what we know of first-century Jewish culture to carry historical conviction, but at the same time sufficiently remarkable and distinctive to account for the growth of a new and potentially world-wide religious movement out of his life and teaching.

As I read I appreciated a statement in the book’s general introduction:

But arguments and evidences do not of themselves bring someone into new life in Christ. Here the work of the Holy Spirit is central, and we must be willing to surrender to his leading and his truth and his goodness if we are to truly dwell with the Lord.

I hadn’t yet learned this in the AOL chat rooms, but I’ve long since been convinced of it. So I had hoped to hear more in this book about the role of the Holy Spirit in apologetics. There is a short (one paragraph) treatment by James K. Beilby in chapter 3 that asks, “What is the role of the Holy Spirit in apologetics?” He rightly (in my view) sees it as “not a zero-sum game.” The apologist should be “significantly involved” yet “still hold that the Holy Spirit will determine the effectiveness of our efforts.”

Though the Holy Spirit receives treatment in the section on the Trinity (by Origen, Aquinas, the Creeds, and Thomas V. Morris) and on the Bible (Calvin and canonization), there is never more than Beilby’s paragraph treatment about the role of the Holy Spirit in the project of apologetics. Cogent though Beilby is, I would think “a snapshot of Christian apologetics at its best” should make more mention of something like the Wesleyan view of prevenient grace or even the notion that the Holy Spirit witnesses to a person’s heart before an apologist does. Only the former can enable the latter. Christian Apologetics is not without the exploration of other methodological considerations; I just would have liked to have seen more of this one.

Several other possible areas for improvement in a future edition could be more on faith and reason and how the two interrelate, as well as arguments for the existence of God that take into account and respond to the varous assertions made by the “new atheism” (anemic though it is).

All in all, though, this is a strong work, and I’m happy for it to sit alongside my old college text, Readings in the Philosophy of Religion. Zondervan’s Christian Apologetics is a worthy, if basic, reference guide. I expect it will serve apologists well.

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy, which I was given for the purposes of review, though without any expectations as to the nature of my review. Find the book at Amazon here (affiliate link) or at Zondervan’s product page for the book.