Book Review: Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up

Kathy Khang’s new book from InterVarsity Press addresses an important question:

You have a voice. And you have God’s permission to use it.

In some communities, certain voices are amplified and elevated while others are erased and suppressed. It can be hard to speak up, especially in the ugliness of social media. Power dynamics keep us silent and marginalized, especially when race, ethnicity, and gender are factors. What can we do about it?

In the introduction (“The Risk of Silence Versus the Risk of Raising Your Voice”) Khang gets right to it: “More often than not, raising my voice comes at some cost” (3). But not speaking up has a cost, too: “I learned that even when I chose to be silent and do nothing, I was still choosing to communicate something” (10). She says, “I want you to know that you have a voice. God wants you to use it, and the world needs to hear, see, and experience it” (10).

Khang roots our voice in the image of God and says, “Creation was not meant to be silent” (35). The God who spoke creation into being calls us to speak and even speaks through us.

This doesn’t mean raising our voice will be easy. Khang talks about fear, failure, and the risk of upsetting others. She shares experiences where speaking up for peace has been difficult for her—even times when trusted colleagues have (literally!) tried to silence her. Her sharing of her and her family’s life stories are a compelling part of her showing readers what finding our voice can look like.

I marked up quite a bit in this book. Here are some of the passages that especially helped me:

Rather than waiting for fear to pass, we must be willing to make small yet courageous steps toward the unfamiliar. We must simply be willing to “do it afraid.” (65, from a friend of Khangs that she interviews)

Speaking out is often labeled as rocking the boat or causing trouble, but silence is just as dangerous. (83)

Another thing to consider is what issue is pulling at your heart and soul so much that it might make you do something you never thought you’d do? (57-58)

I found the following idea especially compelling, and a great antidote to those who complain about “division” or “playing the race card” or whatever other reasons people give for avoiding difficult conversations:

Speaking up doesn’t increase division. It brings injustice and sin to the forefront. (66)

The book is not quite the step-by-step how-to guide I expected from the chapter titles, but Khang offers plenty of practical advice:

What issues do you care most deeply about? Identify what compels you to speak up. What people, problems, dreams, and values are near and dear to your heart? What things make you angry and question humanity? Where do you find hope? (57)

And her use of the Esther narrative as a lens through which to view using one’s voice is inspiring.

The book, by the way, is an excellent oceanside companion…

 

 

… and a good dinner partner:

 

 

It’s especially timely, given everything the current president does and says, as Christians try to navigate what to say and how to say it and in what venues.

 

 

Raise Your Voice releases July 31 and is available here (IVP) and here (Amazon).

 


 

Thanks to the good folks at IVP for the review copy, sent without expectations of the content of my review.

My Six-Year-Old’s Review of Shark Attack! (Scholastic)

Shark Attack

 

My six-year-old son wanted to start a blog to write book reviews, so I’m turning my blog over to him for today’s post. Below is his review of Shark Attack! (Scholastic, 2013), including a bit of Q and A between me and him. Enjoy.

 


 

I like this book.

Because it tells me about sharks. How long they can open their mouths.

 

What was your favorite part about this book?

When the shark does diving.

What was surprising about the book?

That sharks can hear.

How can they hear?

They sense it. “Sharks hear sounds too low for you to hear.”

Who would like this book?

Me.

 

Shark Attack Review

 

Where to find it: Amazon / Scholastic
Grade Level: 1 through 3
32 Pages, full color images

Full PDF: Comparative Review of Software for Septuagint Studies

JSCS (2014) Cover
JSCS (2014) Cover

 

I’ve received permission to post the full .pdf of my comparative review of software for Septuagint studies. It appears in volume 47 (2014) of the Journal of Septuagint and Cognate Studies (JSCS). In the review I consider and evaluate Accordance 10, BibleWorks 9, and Logos 5, specifically with an eye toward their use and resources in the field of Septuagint studies.

Since I wrote that review, new versions of each of those programs have appeared: Accordance 11, BibleWorks 10, and Logos 6. Perhaps the biggest change worthy of mention is that BibleWorks now offers as part of its program the New English Translation of the Septuagint.

Here is the offprint of my review.

You can subscribe to JSCS and see information about the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) at this link. Journal Table of Contents are on Eisenbrauns’s site here.

Book Note: Mark Strauss’s New Commentary on Mark (ZECNT)

Mark ZECNT

 

I really dig Zondervan’s Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, as you can see by the multiple volumes I’ve reviewed here. The series continues production, with 10 volumes now available. Recent additions are Karen H. Jobes’s 1, 2, and 3 John and Mark L. Strauss’s Mark.

Here’s how the series is laid out:

  • The Greek text of the book of the Bible, verse by verse, or split up phrase by phrase
  • The author’s original English translation
    • First, showing up in the graphical layout preceding each passage
    • Second, verse by verse, together with the Greek

 

Mark ZECNT Graphical Layout
Author’s graphical layout of Mark 1:1-8

 

  • The book’s broader Literary Context for each passage
  • An outline of the passage in its immediate context
  • The Main Idea (perhaps they had preachers in mind?)
  • Structure and literary form
  • An Exegetical Outline of the passage under consideration
  • Explanation of the Text, which includes the Greek and English mentioned above–this is the bulk of the commentary
  • The concluding Theology in Application section (i.e., what does the passage mean for us, what are its themes, and so on)

As I’ve said before: This sounds like a lot, but the result is not a cluttered commentary. Rather, as one gets accustomed to the series format, it becomes easy to quickly find specific information about a passage. The section headings are in large, bold font.

Here’s Strauss on Jesus in Mark 3, who asks, “Who are my brothers and mother?”

At one point, [Jesus] refused to see his family, saying that his true mother and brothers were those who did God’s will (Mark 3:31–35, par.). Jesus is not repudiating his family but rather is affirming deeper spiritual bonds. It is not surprising that the early believers referred to each other as “brothers and sisters” (adelphoi). As Jewish followers of Jesus were increasingly expelled from the synagogues and Jewish families were divided, this emphasis on spiritual kinship became extremely important.

And:

In the context of the Beelzebub controversy, the point is clear: kinship in the kingdom of God is based not on ethnic identity or family background but on a relationship with God through Jesus.

I’m following the lectionary through parts of early Mark right now, and though there are already a host of great commentaries on book (not the least of which is this gem), Strauss’s volume has been a welcome addition to my sermon preparation process!

Find the book here at Zondervan’s product page or here on Amazon.

My Comparative Review of Software for LXX Studies, Published in JSCS

I’ve just come home to the new Journal of Septuagint and Cognate Studies (JSCS) in my mailbox. This volume (vol. 47, 2014) publishes an extensive comparative review I wrote of Bible software programs for Septuagint studies. In the review I consider and evaluate Accordance 10, BibleWorks 9, and Logos 5.

I’m excited to see it in press! Here are the journal cover, the contents, and the first page of the review. You can subscribe to JSCS at this link.

JSCS (2014) Cover
JSCS (2014) Cover

 

JSCS (2014) Contents
JSCS (2014) Contents

 

First Page of the Review
First Page of the Review

Hearing the Message of Scripture: Obadiah, Reviewed

HMS Obadiah by Block

At less than 400 Hebrew words, Obadiah is shorter than many Words on the Word blog posts, including this one. But its literary and rhetorical sophistication is by no means lessened by its length. Obadiah is the prophetical incarnation of the axiom, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Or, in Obadiah’s case, “Brevity is the soul of calling out Edom and declaring God’s restoration of Jacob.”

Earlier this year Zondervan published the first two volumes of a new Old Testament commentary series, Hearing the Message of Scripture (HMS). If you want a brief overview of the series, I’ve posted about it here. Daniel I. Block is author of Obadiah: The Kingship Belongs to YHWH, as well as the general editor of HMS. I’ve had a chance to carefully work my way through the inaugural Obadiah volume, and review it in this post.

Block’s Introduction to Obadiah

The Introduction consists of three primary parts:

  1. Historical Background to Obadiah’s Prophecies–outlining some options for dating the book’s composition, as well as describing the historical setting of Obadiah’s oracles.
  2. Obadiah’s Rhetorical Aims and Strategy–the largest section in the introduction, with an excellent definition of “prophet,” as well as the idea that “Obadiah’s rhetorical aim was to rebuild his audience’s hope in the eternal promises of God.”
  3. The Structure of Obadiahhere Block outlines the book, the “climax” of which is highlighted by the “marked structure” of verse 17a (“But on Mount Zion there shall be an escape…”).

Block later summarizes Obadiah’s style as “terse elevated prose, the style being chosen for maximum rhetorical effect.” After “the climax” of verse 17, the final verse 21 “brings his proclamation to a triumphant conclusion.”

Particularly useful in the introduction was this diagram of the arc of the book, to which I frequently found myself referring:

Block's Plot Summary of Obadiah
Block’s Plot Summary of Obadiah

The Commentary Proper

Hearing the Message of Scripture intends to help its readers “to hear the message of Scripture as biblical authors intended them to be heard.” Obadiah is typeset and laid out quite a lot like Zondervan’s Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series (which I’ve reviewed–several volumes–here). Each passage of Obadiah includes this treatment:

  1. Main Idea of the Passage–a short paragraph overview, good for getting bearings on what the prophet is trying to do.
  2. Literary Context–Block explains the overall flow of Obadiah here and how the passage under consideration fits within the book. This might be the best section in the commentary.
  3. Translation and Outline–the author’s original translation and spacing of the text.
  4. Structure and Literary Form–this looks especially at the rhetorical aims of Obadiah in a given passage.
  5. Explanation of the Text–the longest section of each passage, and the bulk of the commentary.

Block divides the commentary into five “chapters” (8-14 pages each) that follow the five sections of his structural outline.

A good example of the kind of rhetorical analysis Block does appears in his comment on the first verse of Obadiah:

Obadiah’s preference for the name Esau reflects his rhetorical concern. As noted, he is not interested in the political history of Edom or Edom’s economic standing among the nations. To him Edom is a person, the brother of Jacob (vv. 10b, 12a), who shares a common ancestry in the first two patriarchs, Abraham and Isaac, but whose history of violence against his twin brother will finally be answered.

And again, on verse 5:

Obadiah’s penchant for cutting of a thought by inserting an erratic mid-sentence is also evident in v. 5c, “How you have been destroyed!”

One thing I really appreciated about the commentary is Block’s sense of the larger literary context of Scripture. He keeps the parallel Jeremiah 49 in view throughout the commentary, as well as other prophetical literature like Ezekiel and Daniel. Block helps the reader see how Obadiah fits into the larger sweep of the Hebrew Bible. Especially noteworthy is his elaboration of what other prophets in the Hebrew Bible had to say about Edom. As I read the commentary, in other words, I was able to reflect on and learn about much more than just Obadiah.

At the end of the commentary, there is a section called “Canonical and Practical Significance,” in which Block, having worked carefully through Obadiah, draws out some theological implications of the book.

Evaluation of Block’s Obadiah

A few observations, by way of evaluation:

The footnotes serve as an excellent source of references for a given word’s use elsewhere in the Old Testament. Footnotes also keep other versions such as the Vulgate and Septuagint in view.

I found the transliterated Hebrew throughout the book to be distracting. The ZECNT, which in many ways is the NT counterpart to this HMS series, does not transliterate its Greek. It also includes the full Greek text of the New Testament book under consideration, verse-by-verse, so it would have been nice to have had the full Hebrew text of Obadiah reproduced here, as well.The Series Introduction does note that “electronic versions of this commentary series will also include the Hebrew font.”

One intangible I appreciated–the margins are nice and roomy for notes. (I made quite a few to help me process Obadiah as I read.)

In an excellent commentary that is hard to fault for much else, it has an unusually large amount of typos. Many of these occur when the same verses from Obadiah are not consistently translated when they occur in multiple spots in the commentary. I heartily recommend this volume, but would suggest that those interested perhaps wait until the second printing, when corrections can be made.

Though this series aims to focus more on the rhetorical features of Obadiah, there is a good focus throughout Obadiah on the Hebrew syntax. My grammatical knowledge of Hebrew increased just by reading this commentary.

I didn’t fully agree with Block’s interpretation at every turn, but even in such instances I generally found his arguments to be reasonable and well-argued.

Bottom line: this is a really good commentary, and I like this series a lot so far. Even with its lexical, grammatical, and rhetorical details, Hearing the Message of Scripture: Obadiah is an engaging and page-turning read. Block explains the challenging book of Obadiah well at every turn. There are other good commentaries on Obadiah already in print, but pastors especially should start here, and academicians, too, will want to make sure to pick this book up.

You can look at the volume yourself–a sample PDF of Obadiah is here.

I am grateful to Zondervan for the gratis review copy of this commentary, which was offered for an unbiased review. You can find the book on Amazon here. The Zondervan product page is here.

A Six-Year-Old’s Review of The LEGO Movie Official Handbook and Junior Novel

Lego Movie HandbookHaving seen and thoroughly enjoyed The LEGO Movie, my six-year-old son has been reading a couple of related books: The LEGO Movie: The Official Movie Handbook and The Lego Movie: Junior Novel.

The Movie Handbook packs a lot in, both text and full-color illustrations, especially for the price.

In the words of my six-year-old, “It’s really good. If someone had never seen it, I’d say that the best pages ever are ‘Where are My Pants?’ This is an episode of a TV show in Bricksburg in The LEGO Movie.”

[Dad’s editorial note: it’s more tame than it sounds, and one of the funnier parts of the movie, which is quite clever throughout.]

Lego Movie Junior NovelHere are some of the characters in the books, as told by my six-year-old:

  • Emmet: A construction worker. He is always scared of the bad guys. He falls out of a tower that, like, goes past heaven.
  • Lord Business: A bad guy. Someone who tries to defeat the good guys. He tries to wreck the Piece of Resistance.
  • Batman: A superhero. He turns Bad Cop’s car into a baby carriage in the book (i.e., in the Junior Novel).
  • Bad Cop: A bad police. Someone who helps Lord Business.
  • Wyldstyle: A superhero. She asks Emmet if he’s “the Special.” Her hair has a ponytail on the side.
  • P. UniKitty (i.e., Princess UniKitty): She’s really cute. She says, “Any idea is a good idea, except the not happy ones!”

Here’s a look inside the Movie Handbook:

Wyldstyle

The Junior Novel is more than 100 pages of text at a level that seemed to be just right for a six-year-old. Its opening lines are as silly as the rest of the book and the movie:

Bright red lava flowed from the volcano that marked the entrance to the hidden temple. Inside, a mighty weapon called the Kragle was nestled in a glowing sarcophagus.

Here is a shot of the Table of Contents from the Movie Handbook:

Lego Movie Handbook TOC

The books tie in well with the movie, yet still leave a lot on the screen. The Movie Handbook also comes with a fold-out poster, which is now taped to the ceiling above my son’s top bunk bed.

Thanks to Scholastic for the review copies, given with no expectation as to the content of the review. Find The Lego Movie: The Official Movie Handbook here at Amazon (affiliate link) or here at Scholastic’s site. The Junior Novel is here at Amazon (affiliate link) and here at Scholastic’s site.

Free Book in Logos: Jesus and Scripture, by Steve Moyise

Jesus and Scripure by MoyiseIn early February I finished reading Steve Moyise’s Jesus and Scripture: Studying the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. You can read what I wrote about it here. Here is the concluding portion of that review:

Jesus and Scripture would be perfect for a seminary course on the Gospels, or on the NT use of the OT. An advanced undergrad course would also do well to adopt this book. I’d also recommend it to a serious Bible reader–no biblical languages are needed here, and I found that even with my own knowledge gaps in historical Jesus studies, Moyise explained everything I needed to know.

Though this survey is short (less than 150 pages), Moyise gives plenty of sample passages and insights that have challenged me. I know this is a book I will come back to and want to read again in the future.

This month Logos Bible Software is offering their edition of the book for free. It’s a fantastic book, and I look forward to being able to use it now electronically (with keyword searchability and hyperlinked Scripture references throughout). You can get the book here.

Matthew (Zondervan ECNT), reviewed

Matthew ZECNT

Now that I’ve been preaching through the early sections of Matthew for 10 weeks, I’ve had a chance to make regular use of a number of commentaries. I continue to value Zondervan’s Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Its Matthew volume is very much on par with the rest of the series (which I’ve reviewed here, here, and here). Author Grant R. Osborne primarily intends it for preachers, but I’ve seen it assigned as a seminary textbook, as well.

ZECNT Layout

Matthew, like the rest of the ZECNT series, includes:

  • The full Greek text of Matthew, verse by verse, or often split up phrase by phrase
  • The author’s English translation
    • First, appearing in the graphical layout for the entire passage
    • Second, verse by verse or phrase by phrase, next to the Greek
  • Matthew’s broader Literary Context for each passage
  • An outline of the passage in its immediately surrounding context
  • The Main Idea (probably the first place preachers would want to look)
  • Structure and Literary Form (with focus on source criticism)
  • A more detailed Exegetical Outline of the passage under consideration
  • Explanation of the Text, which includes the Greek and English mentioned above, as well as the commentary proper
  • A concluding Theology in Application section

This sounds like a lot, but the result is not a cluttered commentary. Rather, as one gets accustomed to the series format, it becomes easy to quickly find specific information about a passage. The section headings are in large, bold font.

The Greek font is aesthetically pleasing and readable. Here’s a picture:

ZECNT font

Osborne’s Introduction to Matthew

For a commentary of more than 1,000 pages, the introduction is surprisingly short (27 pages). Seven of those pages are a section called, “How to Study and Preach the Gospel of Matthew.” Osborne acknowledges,

[T]he details I chose to include in this commentary, both exegetical and theological, were chosen on the basis of one major question: What would I want to know as a pastor preparing a sermon on this passage?

So it’s fitting that he speaks directly to preachers at the very beginning of his introduction. He suggests understanding the Gospels as “history seen through theological eyes” and encourages the preacher to try to grasp the distinct “theological purposes of each [Gospel] author.”

Though the introduction is short, and someone doing extended work on Matthew will need to also look elsewhere for introductory concerns, Osborne is able to give an informative enough overview of dating, authorship, genre, purpose, audience (the thinnest subject in the introduction), sources, history, Matthew’s use of the Old Testament, and structure.

There are also more than 20 pages at the end of the commentary that cover the theology of Matthew. Although that section is tucked away, it’s not to be missed, especially Osborne’s coverage of Christology and of discipleship.

The Commentary Proper: Highlights and Observations

There is just enough Greek (grammar and word studies) to keep one’s Greek sharp. There’s not the level of detail found in the Baylor Handbook on the Greek Text series, which does not yet have a Matthew volume.

Matthew 13:54 begins, “He came into his hometown and began teaching (ἐδίδασκεν) them in their synagogue.” In the commentary you’ll find comments like this one:

The imperfect ἐδίδασκεν could refer to an ongoing practice but is probably ingressive, “began teaching” on this occasion (as in v. 8).

Osborne is sensitive to larger biblical context and theology–even in explaining individual words–so that one gets, for example, a fairly robust explanation of the “righteousness” Jesus talks about fulfilling in Matthew 3:15. And here is Osborne’s take on the “peacemakers” that Jesus calls blessed in 5:9:

The term “peacemaker” only appears elsewhere in verb form in Col 1:20, where Jesus made peace by his blood on the cross, but the concept is found often (Ps 34:14; Isa 52:7; Rom 12:18; 14:19; Jas 3:18; Heb 12:14; cf. 1 En. 52:11). This connotes both peace with God and peace between people—the latter flows out of the former. Jesus is the supreme peacemaker, who reconciles human beings with God through the cross (Col 1:20), so the supreme peacemaking is the proclamation of the gospel.

The graphical layout remains one of my favorite parts of the series. Look at Matthew 13:54-58 (from which the comment above is taken):

ZECNT passage flow

It’s readily apparent how Osborne sees the parts of a passage working together and relating to one another.

By way of critique, even with the commentary’s length there were times when I wanted more coverage. The “Explanation of the Text” section for Matthew 5:38-42, for example, barely covered two pages. The single paragraph on “turn the other cheek” addressed the main points that most other commentaries do, but given how many Christians have wrestled through this important passage (both on paper and in action), more could have been said.

Conclusion

Osborne succeeds in keeping the preacher in view throughout the commentary. I’ll give one last example, since this typifies Osborne’s blend of research and presentation in a way that will both assist and inspire preachers and teachers. In Matthew (and Luke) the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus gives his disciples to pray does not have the ending it does when prayed in liturgical settings (“for thine is the kingdom…”). Whether this should make it into a sermon or not is another question, but Osborne anticipates that readers and preachers will at least be wondering about it. He writes:

The traditional doxology (“for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”) appears in only a few late manuscripts (L W Θ 0233 et al.), and several of the best manuscripts end here (א B D Z et al.), with a variety of endings in others. This makes it almost certain that it is not original. It is possible that churches added their own doxology when praying this prayer, and this one emerged as the best summary of the contents of the prayer. However, it (and the other endings) is based on 1 Chr 29:11 – 13 and is meaningful, so it is not wrong to utter the ending as a personal prayer.

Where does the Matthew ZECNT volume rate among Matthew commentaries for preachers? Definitely toward the top. I still go to R.T. France’s NICNT volume first. And for Greek and history of interpretation, John Nolland (NIGTC) covers more territory. But Osborne’s constant eye on the larger literary context, the detailed structural outlines, the inclusion of Greek and English texts, the Theology in Application sections, and the graphical layout make his commentary a welcome guide for preaching and teaching through the First Gospel.

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy. You can find the book’s product page here. It is on Amazon here. Amazon links above are affiliate links that help further the work of this blog, described here.

New OT Commentary Series: Hearing the Message of Scripture

HMS Obadiah by BlockZondervan has just published the first two volumes of a new Old Testament commentary series, Hearing the Message of Scripture. Here’s part of a brief description of its approach:

[W]hen dealing with specific texts, the authors of the commentaries in this series are concerned with three principal questions:

  1. What are the principal theological points the biblical writers are making?
  2. How do biblical writers make those points?
  3. What significance does the message of the present text have for understanding the message of the biblical book within which it is embedded and the message of the Scriptures as a whole?

The achievement of these goals requires careful attention to the way ideas are expressed in the OT, including the selection and arrangement of materials and the syntactical shaping of the text.

Zondervan introduces the series more fully here, with a listing of contributors here. Or, if you prefer a video introduction, here is Series Editor Daniel I. Block on the series:

You can see PDF samples from Obadiah (by Daniel I. Block) here and from Jonah (by Kevin J. Youngblood) here. Zondervan’s book pages for each title are here and here. I’ve read half of the Obadiah volume so far and will post a review shortly.