New Story of God Bible Commentary Volumes: Genesis and Romans

SGBC GenesisScot McKnight set the bar high with his Sermon on the Mount volume in The Story of God Bible Commentary series.

Now there are two more volumes: Genesis, by Tremper Longman III, and Romans, by Michael F. Bird.

As Tremper Longman III describes in the video below, The Story of God Bible Commentary has three primary focuses:

  1. Listening to the Story
  2. Interpreting the Story
  3. Living the Story

 

 

You can read my review of McKnight’s Sermon on the Mount volume here. Also published so far have been Lynn H. Cohick’s Philippians and John Byron’s 1 and 2 Thessalonians. You can find the series landing page here.

Book Notice: Ruth (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the OT)

Ruth ZECOT

 

Just a short post today to alert you to a new commentary on the book of Ruth: Daniel I. Block’s volume in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament. Ruth is just the third published volume in the series, formerly called Hearing the Message of Scripture. Block is the General Editor of the series.

I reviewed Block’s Obadiah here. And Kevin J. Youngblood’s Jonah volume is probably the best commentary I’ve worked through on Jonah. (And there is no shortage of Jonah commentaries!)

You can learn more about the Ruth volume here. I’ll write about it again in due course.

Carta Publishing: 3 New Titles, at Introductory Discount

Carta 25 Off Banner

 

Carta–one of my favorite publishers–has just announced the release of some new titles. As with anything I’ve seen from Carta, they each look fascinating and thorough, even if the books themselves are brief.

Thanks to Carta, readers of Words on the Word (and anyone, really) can get 25% off a Web order at Carta’s online store. Simply click on any cover image below to go to that title, and enter the code 25-off to receive the discount. The offer is good through December 15 (UPDATE: December 31) or so.

Jerusalem City of the Great King

1. Jerusalem: City of the Great King, by R. Steven Notley (whose excellent works I have reviewed here and here)

This volume, the second of four in The Carta New Testament Atlas series, presents the latest advances in the history and archaeology of Jerusalem. The last fifty years in particular have seen significantly increased efforts to discover the city’s past. New finds every year render what is previously written almost out of date before the ink is dry. With an acknowledgement of this reality, together with a recognition that much of the Old City of Jerusalem remains inaccessible to archaeological investigation, the present work lays its shoulder to the challenge.

2. Understanding the Boat from the Time of Jesus: Galilean Seafaring, by Shelley Wachsmann

Understanding the BoatYes, an entire book (even if only 40 pages) devoted to understanding the state of the boat in Jesus’ time. When I flipped it open yesterday, I found myself drawn to and reading the two-page glossary of terms first! It’s a good sign that even the glossary is interesting. I’m excited to dig in to this one. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The ancient boat from the Sea of Galilee exhibited at the Yigal Allon Museum at Kibbutz Ginosar speaks of pivotal times on the lake two millennia ago, when an itinerant rabbi walked its shores and sailed its waters with his followers, and changed the world forever.

This volume aims to give the non-expert reader an in-depth understanding of the boat, the story of her discovery and excavation and, most importantly, her significance for illuminating Jesus’ ministry by helping us better understand its contemporaneous milieu of seafaring and fishing on the Sea of Galilee.

3. Understanding the Life of Jesus: An Introductory Atlas, by Michael Avi-Yonah, updated by R.Steven Notley

Understanding the Life of JesusUnderstanding the land of Jesus is a necessary component to comprehending the message he proclaimed. From the beginning of the four Gospels until their end, the Evangelists assume that we possess an intimate knowledge of the historical and geographical stage onto which Jesus stepped.

For most Christian readers this is unfortunately not true. Many have not had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land. Even for those who have, it can prove to be a confusing experience. Much about life in this land has changed over the course of two millennia.…

It is hoped that the maps [in this book] and the brief texts that accompany them can serve as a guide for the Christian reader to navigate the geographical stages in the Gospel accounts. …May the reader be aided in their pursuit to follow the steps of the Master and to grasp more clearly the message he preached.

As I have a chance to explore these titles more, I’ll report back. Again, the code is 25-off at Carta’s online store. (UPDATE 2: This code is good for the titles above and anything else in the store, not the least of which is this beauty of a book.) Also, if you have 13 seconds, are on Twitter, and like to share your opinions about printed maps, check out this poll, which particularly has the last title above in mind.

 


 

View my reviews of Carta works here. Check out their site here, and go here to see their works via Hendrickson, their U.S. distributor. For the next few weeks, however, the titles above are only available through Carta’s site.

NIGTC Romans: A Look Inside


 

Does the Church need another commentary on Romans?

Time will tell. But Richard N. Longenecker’s Romans volume in the NIGTC series is about to be released.

Today Eerdmans announced a sneak peek PDF with Table of Contents and Preface, which you can find here.

I like Longenecker’s turn of phrase when he says Romans “has been, in very large measure, the heartland of Christian thought, life, and proclamation.”

He also notes:

Indeed, 2 Pet 3:16 bears eloquent testimony to the church’s mingled attitudes of (1) deep respect for Paul’s letters generally (and Romans in particular), yet also (2) real difficulties in trying to understand them, and (3) a realization of possibilities for serious misinterpretation, when it says of Paul’s letters that they “contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” In fact, despite all its appearances of being straightforward and clear, no other NT writing presents greater difficulties with respect to “style,” “stance,” and “audience” (to recall Erasmus’s three categories of difficulty) than does Romans.

You can pre-order the book on Amazon 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.

Hearing the Message of Scripture: A Fantastic (the Best?) Commentary on Jonah

HMS Jonah

 

When I preached through Jonah last Advent, I knew the JPS Commentary on Jonah would be helpful. What I wasn’t expecting was how often I would eagerly turn to Kevin J. Youngblood’s new Jonah volume in the recently begun Hearing the Message of Scripture commentary series. It might be the best commentary (in this reviewer’s humble opinion) written on Jonah.

 

Format of the Commentary

 

Each passage of Jonah includes the following sections:

  1. Main Idea of the Passage–a short, couple-sentence overview, where Youngblood helps you get oriented to the text.
  2. Literary Context–The author shows how the passage under consideration ties in with the rest of the book.
  3. Translation and Outline–the author’s original translation and visual layout of the biblical text.
  4. Structure and Literary Form–this looks at literary features and the rhetorical aims of Jonah. This section is especially strong.
  5. Explanation of the Text–the primary section of each passage, comprising the verse-by-verse commentary proper.
  6. Canonical and Practical Significance–though Youngblood is plenty practical throughout, this section is especially helpful for preachers, teachers, or any Bible reader wanting to know how to apply the message of the text.

For example, here is Youngblood on the main idea of Jonah 4:1-4:

 

HMS Jonah 4 Main Idea

 

He then situates the passage in its larger context:

 

HMS Jonah 4

 

From there he relates Jonah 4:1-4 to the patterns of the rest of the book (“Every encounter with Gentiles brings Jonah to a crisis point”), surmises why Jonah wants to die (“Jonah cannot see how YHWH could simultaneously maintain his covenant faithfulness to Israel and grant clemency to Nineveh”), explains the text in detail, and then relates it to Moses and the other prophets and their interactions with “the nations.”

 

Youngblood’s Insights Make the Text Come Even More Alive

 

Youngblood makes the literary features of the text come alive. Regarding Jonah’s short stint in the belly of a fish, Youngblood writes:

The fish, however, functions as a means of deliverance and transportation from the murky depths back to the orderly realm of dry land. In this respect, the fish is the antithesis of the ship, which carried Jonah from the orderly realm of dry land out to the chaotic deadly sea.

Correspondingly, Jonah’s disposition and activity in the fish is the antithesis of his disposition and activity on the ship. Whereas Jonah pays out of his own pocket for passage on the ship, the journey in the fish back to land and life is free, courtesy of YHWH.

He continues to unpack the “important contrast” between ship and fish to help the readers with “the peak episode of the book’s first main section.”

This sort of analysis and clear explanation is emblematic of what the reader will find in every section of the book.

 

Final Evaluation: Easily a Top 3 Jonah Commentary

 

And what’s not to love about the first paragraph of the Introduction mentioning a Bruce Springsteen song? Here it is, by the way:

 

 

To write a nearly 200-page commentary with a 20-page introduction on a 4-chapter book of the Bible is no small feat; and none of what’s here is fluff. Youngblood notes in his introduction: “An understanding of three overlapping contexts–canonical, historical, and literary–is critical to the book’s interpretation.” He helps the reader attain ample understanding of those contexts and more.

Youngblood says only that this volume “strives to advance the discussion regarding Jonah’s message.” I think it does far more. This is easily a top 3 Jonah commentary–maybe even the best one I’ve used.

You can read a .pdf sample of the commentary here. See also my review of Obadiah in the same series.

 


 

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.

After Luke and Acts: Part 3 of Luke’s Trilogy

As I’ve been working on the Book of Acts for my last few sermons, Acts has been working right back on me. I’m still thinking about my encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. This last week, as the lectionary moved from Acts 8 and Acts 10 back to Acts 1 (for the Sunday after Ascension Day), I found myself thinking in terms of Acts 1:8 as a prequel for what had been happening so far.

Just before he ascends, Jesus tells the disciples to wait for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.

He says:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

They had wanted to know when the kingdom would be restored, but Jesus points them to a different when: the when of the Holy Spirit.

One implication of Jesus’ response, I think, is that we don’t have to know when or have life’s tensions resolved to be a witness right now to what we have seen in Jesus.

We don’t have to understand all the ins and outs of the kingdom of God–we may even think of its consummation as being a loooong ways away–to be able to make a contribution to it today, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

There’s an African proverb that says, “That which is good is never finished.”

The Book of Acts is like this. It’s not finished. If Acts 1 serves as a prequel for the whole narrative, Acts’s sequel is being written by men, women, boys, and girls who make up the church today.

The Story Luke TellsJusto Gonzalez comes at this another way in his excellent new book,The Story Luke Tells: Luke’s Unique Witness to the Gospel (Eerdmans, 2015).

He points out that Luke’s story in Luke-Acts doesn’t really end: “Paul has suffered countless vicissitudes. He has been shipwrecked. He has finally made it to Rome. He is awaiting trial before Caesar. And then—nothing!”

(This helps explain why after a recent read-through of Acts, I was at a loss to remember what happened to Paul at the end!)

Gonzalez goes on:

In telling his story and leaving it unfinished, Luke is inviting his readers to be part of it, to join the throng. ….But since the story is unfinished, it is more appropriate to conclude it with “RSVP,” like an invitation that awaits a response. This is what Luke demand from us: not satisfied curiosity about the past, but a response here and now. RSVP!

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

We are the sequel to the two-part combo of Luke and Acts–the threequel, if you like. The story of the church in the world now becomes the third part in Luke’s trilogy. Luke-Acts-Us.