Books for Sale: Hermeneia 38 vol. CD-ROM (Logos), $149, OBO

Hermeneia

I’m looking to sell the Hermeneia CD-ROM set (38 vols., 2006). It’s compatible with Logos/Libronix. $149 (and willing to consider offers). See here and here for details on the set.

If you want to contact me about a possible purchase, feel free to use this form, and we’ll talk. I generally do things through PayPal.

2014 UPDATE: I’ve still got the 38-volume set available to sell (unopened), if you’re interested.

UPDATE 2: It’s now sold.

Books for Sale (Word Biblical Commentary, 9 vols., others)

wbcI’m looking to sell 9 volumes of the Word Biblical Commentary set. I’ve listed them (with full condition details) here. If you want to contact me directly about a possible purchase (i.e., not through ebay), feel free to use this form, and we’ll talk. (UPDATE: Books are now sold.)

———

A few more books for sale:

IVP Bible Background

IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament
Like New
ISBN: 978-0830814053
Used just a few times. No markings. In great shape.
$22 (SOLD)

bdag

Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG)
for BibleWorks Software
Compatible with BibleWorks 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. I’ve been in touch with BibleWorks to confirm that on completion of sale, one user license transfers to the buyer with no fee, so that you can use BDAG in your BibleWorks. (Must have purchased and own BibleWorks to be able to use this.)
Significant discount from buying new (where it’s $150).
$99 (SOLD)

Ezra Nehemiah BHQ

Ezra and Nehemiah: Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ)
Like New
Taken out of shrink wrap and used just once or twice.
Excellent condition.

$40 (SOLD)

Greek Grammar Wallace

Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics
Very Good/Like New
Just some edge and cover wear. Light blue cover as pictured, but same contents as dark blue cover.
$22

Free shipping on all orders. If you’re interested in buying–or just have questions–you can reach me using this form, and we’ll go from there. (I use PayPal; shipping is free only domestically.)

Review of Beale’s Handbook at The Blog of the Twelve

I’ve just recently learned about The Blog of the Twelve. Based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s recommended reading, especially for folks with an interest in the Minor Prophets.

There is a good book review from that blog of G.K. Beale’s Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. (That book was a text for one of my classes this semester.) An excerpt:

The usefulness of this book can hardly be stated for those seeking to rightly handle the Scripture, whether student, pastor, or laity. Beale’s clear writing style, in addition to the uncharacteristic conciseness of the book, makes the method accessible to a wide audience. Furthermore, Beale, while emphasizing the indispensable value of learning the biblical languages, formats the book in such a way that those not familiar with Hebrew and Greek are able to profit just as well from the work.

Read the whole thing here.

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).

Also,

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.

Paul and the Old Testament

There are over 100 explicit quotations of Scripture in Paul’s letters and at least double that number of allusions. However, what is potentially more useful than just citing Paul’s answers to first-century questions is to study how Paul interpreted Scripture, and that is the theme of this book. (1)

This summer I reviewed the third volume of a de facto trilogy by Steve Moyise. In that same series is Paul and Scripture: Studying the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (click on book cover image to see at Amazon). In 160 packed pages Moyise surveys Paul’s use of the Hebrew Bible/Septuagint.

Moyise’s approach is a thematic one, rather than book-by-book. This helps the reader focus on how Paul treated the same topic across his various letters.

The author begins with an introduction to Paul, his “conversion” experience, his missionary activity, and a wonderful problematizing of the issue: because Paul was familiar with Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic versions of Scripture, “[W]hen Paul introduces a phrase or sentence with an introductory formula (IF) such as ‘it is written’, we have to ask ourselves which version of the Scriptures he has in mind” (10). For Paul “would not have had our concept of ‘Bible’, a bound volume of 66 books (for Protestants) residing on his bookshelf” (10).

Moyise keeps his and the reader’s eye on this issue throughout Paul and Scripture. He explores how Paul used:

  • “The figure of Adam” and creation accounts (with Christ as a Second Adam)
  • The story of Abraham, including a brief but helpful look at “Abraham in Jewish tradition”
  • Moses–“an ambiguous figure for Paul. He speaks to God face to face, but his use of a veil is interpreted as a lack of openness” (59)
  • The law. This was perhaps the most interesting section of the book, as Moyise surveyed not only Paul’s use of Scripture, but how modern theologians have tried to make sense of what looks on first glance like conflicting statements about the law. This section is what led me to write:

I don’t even mind that at the moment I’m a bit perplexed by how Paul could both praise the law as being from God yet also refer to it as a “the ministry that brought death.”

  • The prophets–both to develop a theology of Israel and the Gentiles, and to provide instructions for how the Christian community should live
  • The Psalms, Proverbs, and Job

The final chapter is a more detailed survey dealing with “modern approaches to Paul’s use of Scripture,” which Moyise divides into “an intertextual approach,” “a narrative approach,” and “a rhetorical approach” (111 ff.).

Appendices include a focus on Paul’s quotations from Isaiah, an index of Paul’s quotations of Scripture, and pertinent excerpts from the Dead Sea Scrolls.

As with The Later New Testament Writings and Scripture, the book is accessible to a non-scholar or non-specialist in this field, though it will require some work. Due to the book’s brevity, and what I assume was Moyise’s desire to still cover all the proper territory, the book is dense. This means that even a short volume like this will be a great reference to me for some time, as I seek to better understand the ways in which Paul used the Old Testament, and the ways in which Christians have tried to make sense of that use for some 2,000 years, especially recently.

The gray shaded boxes throughout explain key concepts such as the Septuagint, Origen’s Hexapla, Greek grammar, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and so on. As with Moyise’s other book, one does not need to know Greek or Hebrew to read Paul and Scripture, but he does not hesitate to use transliterated Greek to aid his explanation.

I have begun to appreciate Moyise’s even-handedness in presenting various viewpoints and interpretations. Even when discussing potentially controversial aspects of Paul (which books Paul authored, the “New Perspective,” or the idea of some that Paul actually exhibited “contradictory” and inconsistent views of the law), Moyise is fair and presents the various views in a way that the reader is left to consider them for herself or himself. (And the reader knows where to go to find more.)

One thing that seems rare in a work like this is that Moyise generally writes out a Scripture he is citing, rather than just placing a slew of references in parentheses for the reader to slowly work through. This latter method is not all bad, but Moyise’s quotation or summation of the references he cites makes for a smooth read.

I found helpful Moyise’s employment of “an eclectic view, using whatever methods or approaches were helpful for understanding the particular quotation” (111). Moyise doesn’t conclusively answer all the questions that arise when studying Paul’s use of Scripture, nor does he seek to. He hopes “that this book has both laid a foundation and stimulated an interest to go on and read further” (125), a mission he very much has accomplished (at least in this reader) with Paul and Scripture.

Thank you to Baker Academic for providing me with a review copy of the book. See its product page at Baker here.

BHS module in Accordance 10, reviewed

Oddly enough, the biggest challenge for me in my Hebrew exegesis classes was not to do with the Hebrew language itself. Instead, learning how to decipher the abbreviations and sigla in the “critical apparatus” of a scholarly Hebrew Bible stretched me most.

I recently wrote a brief introduction to the available scholarly editions of the Hebrew Jewish Scriptures (“Old Testament”), the Greek Jewish Scriptures (“Septuagint”), and the Greek New Testament, with most of the emphasis on that post falling on the Hebrew Bible:

Most students of the Hebrew Bible who read Hebrew know of the premier scholarly edition, the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS, here on Amazon).  The BHS is now being updated by the BHQ (Q=Quinta), about which you can read more here. Both the BHS and BHQ are “diplomatic” editions of the text, which means that they reproduce a single “best” manuscript, the Leningrad Codex, in their cases. The footer in each page contains a critical apparatus, which lists variant readings from other manuscripts and versions that the editors have deemed to be of importance for getting even closer to the “original” (now often being called the “earliest attainable text”). In some cases, the editors may wish to show where another manuscript or version differs from the Leningrad Codex; the critical apparatus is where they do it.

However, the BHS editors show manuscript and version differences in their critical apparatus through the use of abbreviated Latin. Even those who know Latin will have to learn the abbreviations, and those who don’t know Latin will have an even harder time trying to decipher the apparatus.

Having figured out my way around the print edition of the BHS, and having reviewed Accordance 10, I have been eager to use the BHS module in Accordance. Here I review it.

The Original Languages base package in Accordance comes with HMT-W4, which gives the user access to the Groves-Wheeler Westminster Hebrew Morphology 4.16. This text reflects additional and ongoing corrections to the Leningrad Codex. Accordance says HMT-W4 is “almost identical” to the BHS text.

But for the user who wants not just the text but the apparatus, an add-on module is needed. If you already have HMT-W4 or BHS-W4 for your Hebrew Bible in Accordance, you can save money and buy the apparatus by itself. It’s just $50, which is a good deal. (Note: there are no Masora–Masoretic marginalia–included in the module; it’s just the apparatus at the bottom of the page.)  If you have Accordance and don’t already have a Hebrew text, you could buy this package, where BHS-T is the “complete text of the Hebrew Bible, following the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, with the Groves-Wheeler Westminster Hebrew Morphology 4.14. This module includes vowel pointing, cantillation marks, and lemma and grammatical tagging information for each word in the text.”

In any of these Hebrew texts in Accordance, there is instant parsing easily available as you go through the text.

BHS with apparatus in Accordance significantly streamlines study and use of the critical apparatus. Accordance makes it easy to do textual criticism without carrying the heavy BHS around. I really appreciate being able to access the BHS critical apparatus on my laptop, and in a way that is integrated well into the Accordance program. The layout is good, the feel is intuitive, and the windows are easy to set up. Here’s how I have Accordance set up to use the critical apparatus with the Hebrew text and Old Greek in view (click to enlarge):

There’s the BHS critical apparatus, right under the text. Anything in blue in that window is hyperlinked and will display something in the Instant Details window. If I want to know what “pc Mss” means in the apparatus, I see it unabbreviated in the Instant Details just by mousing over the blue text. (If you don’t need the abbreviations expanded, you can also hover over the superscript letters in the BHS-T text, and the corresponding content from the apparatus pops up.)

Using the layout above you can quickly see what an abbreviation in the apparatus stands for in Latin, but this is not translated into English. In the above example, it’s obvious that “manuscripti” for “Mss” means manuscripts–no Latin knowledge is needed to understand that Latin word. But what is “pauci”? Those with good vocabulary may be able to recall that a paucity of something is a small number, a lack, so “pauci” here means few.

But not all Latin in the apparatus is that easy. I would like to have seen this module provide a translation from Latin into English.  This is probably my only complaint about this module. I believe this is not unique to Accordance and has more to do with how the German Bible Society may have offered the licensing for the apparatus. All the same, getting from abbreviated Latin to unabbreviated Latin, while nice, may not be enough for the beginning text critic.

Some good news, though. There are two workarounds to be able to translate the apparatus contents from Latin to English. First, there is Google Translate, which I understand has improved its accuracy over the last few years. Here is the link for Google Translate from Latin to English. Simply copy Latin from Accordance into the query box in Google translate, and you’ll have your English. “prb l c” in the apparatus becomes, “probabiliter lege(ndum) cum” in Instant Details, which Google gives me as, “probably read with.”

A yet easier way to get to English is possible within Accordance itself, and it’s quite smooth, thanks to the good programming and easy layout of the software. Dr. Hans Peter Rüger’s well-known “English Key to the Latin Words, Abbreviations, and the Symbols of BIBLIA HEBRAICA STUTTGARTENSIA” is available in Accordance.

Note that in the bottom right zone, my far right tab (behind the open one) is this “BHS Latin Key.” I can easy look up an abbreviation in that tab’s search bar. It’s also simple to just right click the abbreviated word in the apparatus and “Look up” in “Dictionary” to quickly access the English/Latin key.

As far as the BHS apparatus itself, BHS remains the scholarly standard. BHQ is beginning to update/replace it, and there are other scholarly projects underway. The BHS apparatus is not exhaustive, nor could it be. But it does offer a good representation of variant readings from different versions (e.g., the Latin Vulgate, the Greek LXX, the Syriac Peshitta, Aramaic Targums, etc.) and different manuscripts (whether a specific Old Greek manuscript or just the general “Mss” for “manuscripts”).

There are different editors for different portions of the BHS, and some are less cautious than others in suggesting textual emendations. In the Minor Prophets, for example, editor Karl Elliger seems to have no trouble writing “prp”=”propositum”=”it has been proposed” when he wants to suggest an alternate reading. Sometimes this means that someone else has proposed what Elliger is footnoting; other times it’s just his suggestion, and not always with textual/manuscript evidence accompanying the suggestion. So the user of BHS should not use the critical apparatus, well… uncritically.

An especially neat feature that wowed me is that I can open up the apparatus and search by content to study all 2,146 times the Latin abbreviation “prp” occurs in the BHS apparatus. You can even search the apparatus for its Hebrew and Greek contents. Curious how often ποῦ finds its way into the apparatus? A simple search shows its four occurrences.

And you can search the apparatus by manuscripts mentioned. Change the search bar to “manuscripts,” then right click in the bar and select “Enter Word…” and you get this:

It’s a great way to be able to interact with the apparatus, much of which simply isn’t possible in print.

Bonus: Accordance offers an excellent, succinct explanation of critical editions here, with emphasis on the critical editions available in Accordance. If you’re interested in BHS in Accordance, you’ll want to read it.

If you do text criticism in the Hebrew Bible and have the money to spare, Accordance’s BHS apparatus is well worth getting, though most users will want to make sure they also have the “BHS Latin Key,” too. All in all, it’s a well-executed and seamlessly-integrated module.

Thank you to Accordance for providing me with a copy of the BHS and BHQ modules for review. See all the parts of my Accordance 10 review (including the Beale/Carson commentary module) here. I will review the BHQ separately in the future.

frameworks (How to Navigate the New Testament): a review

Why the book frameworks? Author Eric Larson says,

frameworks, quite simply, is a book about Bible navigation and context, material that’s designed to build your confidence in your ability to negotiate the text and understand it. Think of it as a guidebook, a Bible companion, written for anyone who would like to have a personal biblical tour guide. This book can be used for self-study, in small group discussions or in classrooms to set the context for Bible reading and to lead you through it.

The emphasis in the book is on presentation and memorability. Larson uses rich and beautiful imagery (and “lots of refreshing white space”) to create a book that has a good home on a coffee/display table. Yet he doesn’t neglect solid content around each biblical book, either.

The introduction is short and sweet and covers essential territory like who the writers were, literary divisions of the book, and an especially helpful 7-part “Navigating Jesus’ Ministry” section with simple maps and narrative highlights. After an introduction to the New Testament in general, each book of the New Testament has these 10 sections: introduction, theme, purpose, outline, verses to note in that book (the best part of frameworks, I thought), navigation (a page of things to look for when reading a book-well done), unique things about that book, recap, questions, and a verse to apply right now.

There is a sample pdf of the table of contents and introduction here.

Charts, tables, photographs and other graphics are a strong point of this book. Some are as simple as this historical timeline, which is visually appealing:

Or take this visual outline of the book of Luke, from p. 92 of the book (and posted on the author’s blog):

(The spelling error in ascension is corrected in the book.)

This book will answer many questions people had about the New Testament but were afraid to ask–one of its intended purposes. For example, in Larson’s introduction to the Gospels (“Biographies of Christ”), he writes about the “four living creatures” that many have understood to represent the Gospels. (Lion, Ox, Man, Eagle.)

I’ve always seen Mark associated with the lion, but Larson has the lion with Matthew, the ox with Mark, the man with Luke, and the eagle with John. He notes that this is the order of the four living creatures in Revelation 4:6-7. But the order as it appears in Ezekiel 1:1-14 is what I’ve seen more typically, where it’s human, lion, ox, and eagle. I understand that Christian tradition varies here a bit.

This is not a huge deal, but it is indicative of a larger trend in the book–nuance seems to be prioritized at times less highly then presentation. Larson’s laudable goal is to engage “anyone who would like to have a personal biblical tour guide.” It’s about “navigation and context,” but readers will still want to look elsewhere for greater detail and clarification on some matters.

As far as a New Testament framework goes, Larson’s 4-1-9-4-8-1 scheme did not immediately strike me as easily memorable. He divides the NT this way:

  • 4 biographies of Christ
  • 1 history book (Acts)
  • 9 letters of Paul to the churches
  • 4 letters of Paul to people
  • 8 general letters
  • 1 book of prophecy (Revelation)

This is less memorable than the 4-1-21-1! chant I’ve used with young people. (See the pdf of it here, from Center for Youth Studies.) Larson’s 4-1-9-4-8-1 does have the advantage of dividing up the 21 letters/epistles into their types/authors, but as much as I wanted to latch on to 4-1-9-4-8-1, I never quite did. This is not too say it’s a bad thing to use; it is to say a reader might not pick it up as easily as some other NT “frameworks.”

One other critique I offer is that, although I appreciate the approach of using visual imagery and stories and examples rooted in culture to try to connect the ancient text to today, sometimes the connections feel a bit stretched. For example, the photograph accompanying the “history” title page (for the book of Acts) is an unfinished attic with a sawhorse in it and a window with light coming through. It’s a beautiful image. But what’s it trying to evoke? The upper room? The light as the Holy Spirit? Okay, but why the sawhorse? Other such images left me curious as to why they were selected, or how they were meant to visually reinforce the author’s text.

Similarly, while the story about Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller to begin the book of James is itself inspirational, its application to James and his audience sure felt reach-y. That James’s “self-indulged spiritual children” were “behaving badly and desperately need a spanking” is an odd way, indeed, to describe things! James would have never “spanked” his listeners. I know the author doesn’t mean that literally, but that image was distracting. I often found myself reacting this way in the introductions to each of the books.

Everything after a book’s introduction is generally solid–and creative. In Mark, for example, Larson has a selection of verses from that Gospel that he has the reader “read…without stopping to take a breath.” He puts in bold words like “at once,” “quickly,” and “immediately” (a favorite of Mark’s). Then he concludes, “If you feel out of breath, congratulations. Mark has succeeded in brining you into his fast moving narrative.” I thought this was a great way to draw the reader into the fast-paced action movie that Mark often feels like.

I like the approach to this New Testament introduction; it’s creative and will reach a larger audience then some less visually-oriented books on the same subject. The short descriptions of each book are generally solid, but the occasional lack of nuance and informal tone distracted me at times as I worked my way through the book. (In other words, as with any book, this one should be read critically.)

Yet I do think Larson’s efforts will guide the reader into deeper engagement with the biblical text. His emphasis on what to look for in a book, pulling out and quoting specific verses, and his constant admonition to “Read It!” are refreshing. He even gives an estimate for how long it takes to read through a book at a casual pace, which is an enormous aid to anyone who will commit to sitting down and doing reading through God’s Word.

I received a free copy of frameworks for review purposes. Thank you to the author and publicist for the chance to review it.