Lee Irons’s Greek NT Syntax Guide, Reviewed

One of my favorite seminary classes was a Greek exegesis course in the book of Hebrews. The Greek of that book is difficult! Hebrews can even be a challenging read in English translation.

Part of our required assignment was to keep a translation and exegesis notebook, translating much of the book verse-by-verse, with our own comments on the vocabulary, grammar, and theology.

In those days Charles Lee Irons had a boatload of free PDFs on his Website, syntax guides for each book of the Greek New Testament. I printed out his Hebrews guide and kept it close at hand.

Now, some years later, Irons has turned his helpful work into a full book: A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament (Kregel, 2016).

This new resource is beautifully produced:

 

 

Irons’s goal is to help the reader toward fluid reading of the Greek New Testament: “to assist readers of the Greek New Testament by providing brief explanations of intermediate and advanced syntactical features of the Greek text.” The focus is on grammar and how words work together, rather than vocabulary helps for individual words per se.

In addition, should a sentence in the GNT lose the reader due to length, word order, or idiom, Irons’s guide provides the needed translation. Here’s an example:

 

 

Irons has created the book to be used in tandem with a reader’s GNT (see here or here), or with Kregel’s excellent New Reader’s Lexicon of the GNT.

The book’s size and production is such that it fits right with other GNTs:

 

 

 

 

Here it is next to a larger Reader’s GNT:

 

 

The binding appears to be sewn. This is as hoped for with a book that a reader might want to use for many years.

 

 

One pleasant surprise is how often Irons details Hebraisms and keeps an eye on the Septuagint and its influence on the GNT. He does that right from the beginning, in fact, as with this entry for Matthew 1:2

1:2 | Ἀβραὰμ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰσαάκ = LXX 1 Chron 1:34 – note the unexpected definite article τόν before the name of the person begotten, and so throughout vv. 2–16. Formula used in the LXX genealogies: x ἐγέννησεν τὸν y (see LXX Gen 5:6 ; 10:8 ; 1 Chron 2:10ff)

Here is a full sample page:

 

 

It is difficult to imagine an intermediate Greek reader working through the New Testament with just a Greek text and this book… as the author notes, the Syntax Guide is best used with a Reader’s GNT where infrequently occurring vocabulary is already glossed. And of course a book of this brevity will (inevitably) include grammatical matters that Irons does not comment on—it covers fewer words and phrases, for example, than “Max and Mary” (A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament).

But in the dozens of Greek chapters I read with just a Reader’s GNT and Irons’s book at hand, there were very few times when I had a grammatical question Irons didn’t treat.

You can check out a longer excerpt of the book here. And you can purchase it at Amazon here or through Kregel here.

 


 

Thanks to Kregel for the review copy, given for the purposes of this write-up, but with no expectation as to the content of my review.

A Review of Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader (Jobes)

Discovering the LXX

 

At long last Karen Jobes’s Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader, has been published by Kregel Academic. The TL;DR version of my review is: while the resource has a few noticeable flaws (easily fixable for a second edition), its addition to the world of Greek reading and Septuagint studies is long overdue.

Below is a longer review of the book, in what I hope will be easy-to-scan Q & A format.

 


 

What books of the LXX are covered?

There are ten, intended to “give readers a taste of different genres, an experience of distinctive Septuagintal elements, and a sampling of texts later used by writers of the New Testament” (9). Discovering the Septuagint treats nearly 700 verses from:

  1. Genesis (80 verses)
  2. Exodus (79 verses)
  3. Exodus 20:1–21 // Deuteronomy 5:6–21 (10 Commandments)
  4. Ruth (85 verses)
  5. Additions to Greek Esther (73 verses)
  6. Psalms (67 verses)
  7. Hosea (56 verses)
  8. Jonah (48 verses)
  9. Malachi (55 verses)
  10. Isaiah (81 verses)

 

For whom is this book?

Jobes says it “contains everything needed for any reader with three semesters of koine Greek to succeed in expanding their horizons to the Septuagint” (8). I think this assessment is right, as I found the book easy to understand (though I’ve had more than three semesters of Greek).

 

How is the book structured?

Each LXX book has a short introduction. Then there is the passage, verse by verse, with the Greek text re-printed in full. Under each verse are word-by-word and phrase-by-phrase comments on the vocabulary, usage, syntax, translation from Hebrew (the book is strong here), and so on. Following each passage is the NETS (English translation). The end of the book has a three-page, 33-term glossary and a two-page “Index of New Testament LXX Citations” for the books included in the reader.

 

What does a sample entry look like?

Here’s Jonah 4:6:

jobes-on-jonah-lxx

 

What’s commendable about Discovering the Septuagint?

It shouldn’t go without saying that the very existence of this resource is a boon to Greek readers. There is Conybeare and Stock, as well as some passages in Decker’s Koine Greek Reader, but readers of the Septuagint have far fewer resources than readers of the Greek New Testament.

The margins are plenty wide for students to jot down their own parsings, translations, and notes.

Notes on the verses are often answers to questions I’ve had as I’ve read the Greek text. In this sense the reader is a great guide. For example, here is a comment from Genesis 1:4:

ἀνὰ μέσον . . . ἀνὰ μέσον | Idiomatic prep phrase, “between.” This is a Hebraism, so there is no need to translate the second of the pair as NETS does.

And another helpful nugget from Genesis 1:11:

κατὰ γένος | Prep + neut sg acc (3rd dec) noun, γένος, kind. Remember the nom and acc forms are identical in this paradigm. Agrees with and modifies σπέρμα.

Whether or not a fourth semester Greek student should remember that nominative and accusative forms are identical in the third declension is another issue. That the reader reminds me as much is welcomed.

 

What is lacking?

The glued binding doesn’t do justice to a book like this, but that seems to be the way many publishers have gone recently, even with reference works in biblical studies.

Parts of the book feel under-edited or rushed to print:

  • a few typos (missing periods, etc.)
  • referring to the Rahlfs-Hanhart text as a “critical edition of the Septuagint” (9), which is technically true, but potentially misleading, as “semi-critical” is better (text criticism is not a real concern of the book)
  • a peppering of vague statements like this one on “the image of God” in Genesis 1:26: “See a commentary or study Bible” (31)
  • the typesetting on the epsilon just seems off to me. I’ve tried to convince myself it’s just me, but I haven’t since been able to unsee what just looks like a flattened ε or a backwards three, rather than an actual Greek letter:

     

    screenshot-2016-10-31-22-06-57

     

    By contrast, look at the letter in this screenshot, taken from Accordance Bible Software:

     

    screenshot-2016-10-31-22-08-42

     

    The layout and Greek font are nice otherwise! (Though a couple times in the typesetting of the book, a letter from another language intrudes mid-word.)

  • Introductory issues are quite sparse–whether in the introduction to the Greek of the Septuagint itself (just two pages) or in the introductions to books. I would have liked it if the contributing writers had offered more for each book–even three or four pages would have gone further than the one or two that are here.

This last point deserves just a couple more lines. A number of the introductions adapt or “abstract” their text from the NETS book introductions, which readers could easily enough have found on their own. In some ways the book introductions read just like exam study guides you might have made yourself for a grad-level class on the Septuagint. That may be, in fact, how they started! (Jobes is chief overseer of the book, with many contributors.) This does not make the introductions not valuable, but it will probably leave readers wishing for more detail.

All in all, Discovering the Septuagint is worth owning. The number of times I’ve gotten grammatical or morphological help from the comments far outweighs any of the volume’s weaknesses. And there is a lot of Greek help to be had here. I’ll be making repeated use of this book by Jobes and company, and am glad it’s finally on the market.

Discovering the Septuagint is available from Amazon, as well as from Kregel.

 


 

Thanks to Kregel for sending the review copy, provided to me so I could write about the book, but with no expectation as to the content of my review.

A Three-Volume, Multi-Thousand Page Commentary for Psalms Study

Engagement with the Psalms—reading them, owning them, singing them, praying them, and taking cues from them—is vital for robust worship and spiritual formation in the church. If they truly are “a Bible in miniature,” as Luther has said, they offer the opportunity for the church to grow in its spiritual and emotional maturity.

 

Descriptive, Prescriptive

 

The writers of the Psalms give language to the whole range of emotions: from gratitude to fear, from joy to lamentation, from petition to thanksgiving, from intimate, private prayers to national, corporate prayers. In this way they are eminently descriptive of the human experience.

The Psalms also prescriptively guide the reader into various postures of prayer, so that the one praying does not only ever approach God with petitions, or only ever with complaint, and so on. The cognitive and affective come together in the Psalms in sometimes unexpected ways. Psalms of lament, for example, often begin with a loud “Why?” (stressing the affective) yet end with a determined profession of faith like, “But I will trust in you still….” In this way they stress the use of cognitive powers in prayer—external life evidence notwithstanding!

The Psalms express (descriptively) and call forth (prescriptively) a whole spectrum of human experience in relationship to God. They teach us to bring our whole selves to God in worship.

 

Preaching the Psalms

 

But how to preach them? One will need to take into account intercultural realities. Understanding the role of a shepherd in ancient society will certainly help with Psalm 23. And soul-searching is required.

 

Psalms of Summer

 

A good set of commentaries helps, too. I preached some Psalms a couple summers ago, and found these two options quite helpful.

Just completed, too, is Allen P. Ross’s three-volume, multi-thousand page commentary on the Psalms, published by Kregel Academic.

 

Ross’s Commentary, in Three Volumes

 

Ross Psalms Vol. 1

 

Volume 1 has more than 150 pages of introductory material, covering:

  • “Value of the Psalms” (Ross says, “It is impossible to express adequately the value of the Book of Psalms to the household of faith”)
  • “Text and Ancient Versions of the Psalms”
  • “History of the Interpretation of the Psalms”
  • “Interpreting Biblical Poetry”
  • “Literary Forms and Functions in the Psalms” (the best starting place, I thought)
  • “Psalms in Worship”
  • “Theology of the Psalms”
  • “Exposition of the Psalms”

I haven’t seen the just-released third volume, but Kregel was kind to send me the first two volumes for review. In what follows I interact with those books. Volume 1 covers Psalms 1-41; Volume 2 treats Psalms 42-89.

 

The Commentary Layout (Psalm 42 as Case Study)

 

Even in the Table of Contents you can get a sense of where Ross will go with a given Psalm, as each Psalm listed includes summary titles. Psalm 1 is “The Life That Is Blessed.” Psalm 23: “The Faithful Provisions of the LORD.” Psalm 46: “The Powerful Presence of God.” Psalm 51: “The Necessity of Full Forgiveness.”

Introduction to the Psalm

Then there follows Ross’s introduction to the Psalm. He provides his own translation from Hebrew with extensive notes, analyzing the text and textual variants. Psalm 42:2, for example, he translates:

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When shall I come and appear before God?

His footnote offers a point of interest: “This first ‘God’ is not in the Greek version; it simply reads ‘for the living God.’” He often has the Septuagint in view, which I especially appreciate. On Psalm 42:9, for example (“I say to God, my rock…”), he notes:

The Greek interprets the image with ἀντιλήμπτωρ μου εἶ, “you are my supporter/helper.”

Not that every footnote “will preach,” but they don’t need to—Ross offers a wealth of insight that will help preacher, student, and professor better understand the text as it has come down to us.

Still with each Psalm’s introductory material, the “Composition and Context” session sets the Psalm in its biblical-literary context and explores background information (where available). Regarding Psalm 42, Ross says:

And Psalm 42 is unique in supplying details of the location. The psalmist is apparently separated from the formal place of worship in Jerusalem by some distance, finding himself in the mountainous regions of the sources of the Jordan. There is no explanation of why he was there; and there is no information about who the psalmist was.

Ross Psalms Vol. 2Reading the commentary, one trusts that were there such information, Ross would have unearthed and presented it!

Then there is a summary “Exegetical Analysis,” followed by an outline of the Psalm. Anyone looking to get their bearings quickly with a Psalm will find this one of the most helpful sections. Here is Ross again, with his summary of Psalm 42:

Yearning in his soul for restoration to communion with the living God in Zion and lamenting the fact that his adversaries have prevented him, the psalmist encourages himself as he petitions the LORD to vindicate him and lead him back to the temple where he will find spiritual fulfillment and joy.

Commentary in Expository Form

After each Psalm’s generous introduction, Ross presents the commentary proper (“Commentary in Expository Form”). It’s as detailed as one would expect and hope. Here he is, for example, on Psalm 42:3-4 (“They must endure the taunts of unbelievers”):

In the meantime, the psalmist must endure the taunts of his enemies—enemies of his faith. In this he is an archetype of believers down through the ages who are taunted for their faith. This has caused him tremendous grief, so much so that he says his tears have been his food night and day (see Pss. 80:5 and 102:9; Job 3:24). The line has several figures: “tear” (collective for “tears”) represents his sorrow (a metonymy of effect); “food” compares his sorrow with his daily portion (a metaphor); and “day and night” means all the time (a merism). The cause of his sorrow is their challenging question: “when they say to me continually, ‘Where is your God’?” (see Pss. 74:10 and 115:2). The unbelieving world does not understand the faith and is unsympathetic to believers. “Where is your God?” is a rhetorical question, meaning your God does not exist and will not deliver you—it is foolish to believe. For someone who is as devout as the psalmist, this is a painful taunt.

This blend of careful attention to the text and reverent devotion to the God who breathed it is typical of the Ross’s rich comments.

Message and Application

Though Ross already offers theological interpretation in the commentary proper, the Message and Application section is one any reader will appreciate. He often reads (in a good way) through a New Testament and Christological lens, as with Psalms 42-43:

But in the New Testament the greatest longing of those who are spiritual is to be in the heavenly sanctuary with the Lord, for that will be the great and lasting vindication of the faith. Paul said he would rather be at home with the Lord—but whether there or here, he would try to please the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8–9). And Paul certainly knew what it meant to be persecuted for his faith. But the marvelous part of the desire to be in the heavenly sanctuary is that the Lord Jesus Christ desires that we be there with him, to see his glory (John 14:3; 17:24). Throughout the history of the faith believers have desired to go to the sanctuary to see the LORD (see Ps. 63); in Christ Jesus that desire will be fulfilled gloriously.

Those looking for a dispassionate commentary or for one that does not find Jesus in the Hebrew Bible will be better served looking elsewhere. To my mind, this dynamic is one of the great strengths of these volumes.

Toward the end of a Psalm, then, Ross boils it down to an italicized expositional message. This is one of the (many) highlights of the commentary, as it pulls everything together from Ross’s careful exegesis into the world of the listener. Here is how he puts Psalm 23:

The righteous desire to be in the presence of the Lord where they will feed on his Word, find spiritual restoration, be guided into righteousness, be reminded of his protective presence, receive provisions from his bounty, and be joyfully welcomed by him.

Where to Get It

 

Here is where to find these fine books:

Volume 1: Amazon / Kregel

Volume 2: Amazon / Kregel

Volume 3: Amazon / Kregel

 


 

Thanks to Kregel for the review copies of both books, given to me for the purposes of reviewing them, but with no expectation as to the content of this post.

Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader (Jobes) Is Now Available

Discovering the LXX

 

For Greek reading I’ve been so knee-deep in Ephesians that I haven’t been much in the Septuagint of late. That will change with the release of Karen Jobes’s Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader, just published by Kregel Academic. I have known about this for a long time, so am happy to see it released into the wild! I think a lot of folks will benefit from it, especially those ready to freshen things up or go a step deeper in Greek learning.

While it’s available for pre-order from Amazon, it’s shipping now from Kregel, so what are you waiting for?

You Asked and Asked, Now It’s Coming: A Septuagint Reader

LXX decalOn the one hand, the burgeoning field of Septuagint studies still has few enough publications that any new work is potentially significant. On the other hand, there still seems to be an acute need for works that bridge the gap between New Testament Greek readers and LXX specialists.

Resources like †Rod Decker’s Koine Greek Reader (which pays decent attention to the Septuagint) or even the old Conybeare and Stock (which has some LXX portions with explanatory footnotes) are few and far between.

I’ve been asking Kregel for probably three years now whether they’d consider publishing a dedicated Septuagint reader. Little did I know one was already in the works.

It releases this fall. Karen Jobes is its author. Here’s some copy from Kregel that describes the book:

Interest in the Septuagint today is strong and continues to grow. But a guidebook to the text, similar to readers and handbooks that exist for students of the Greek New Testament, has been lacking. Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader fills that need. Created by an expert on the Septuagint, this groundbreaking resource draws on the editor’s experience as an educator to help upper-level college, seminary, and graduate students cultivate skill in reading the Greek Old Testament.

This reader presents, in canonical order, ten Greek texts from the Göttingen Septuaginta Vetus Testamentum Graecum and the Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuaginta critical edition. It explains the syntax, grammar, and vocabulary of more than 700 verses from select Old Testament texts representing a variety of genres, including the Psalms, the Prophets, and more.

The texts included in this volume were chosen to fit into a 15-week semester, reading about 50 verses a week. The texts selected 1) Are examples of distinctive Septuagint syntax or word usage and/or 2) Exemplify the amplification of certain theological themes or motifs by the Septuagint translators within their Jewish Hellenistic culture and/or 3) Are used significantly by New Testament writers.

More specifically:

  • Each study includes:
    • Introduction—briefly discussing the particular Greek text and its key features.
    • English translation—using the New English Translation of the Septuagint.
    • Text notes—providing verse/phrase–level explanations of the Greek syntax and grammar.
    • Use in the New Testament.
    • Select bibliography.
  • Parses more difficult verbal forms, gives alternate ways of reading the text, and discusses significant critical issues of the text.
  • Calls attention to vocabulary and syntax unique to the Septuagint.
  • References standard Septuagint grammars, lexicons, and other resources.

No cover art yet, but the book is a-coming. You’ll hear more here later.

One Year to Better Preaching

One Year to Better Preaching

Here’s a recommended preaching resource for you: One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills, by Daniel Overdorf (Kregel, 2013).

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the inspiring Preaching in an Age of Distraction. Whereas that book took a largely big picture approach, building on itself chapter by chapter, One Year to Better Preaching contains 52 exercises (plus a few “Bonus Exercises”) that give preachers a tangible, nuts-and-bolts set of practices to engage.

Overdorf wants to help preachers “sharpen preaching skills.” Just “an hour or two of effort” is required for most of these practices, so it’s an easy book to pick up, get right into, and use right away in preparing next week’s sermon.

The 52 exercises can be weekly ones for a year, or can easily be spread out over more than a year. Overdorf wisely suggests that preachers could focus on exercises that help them overcome their particular preaching weaknesses.

To try to achieve a “process similar to cross-training,” the 52 exercises are grouped into eight categories:

  1. Prayer and Preaching
  2. Bible Interpretation
  3. Understanding Listeners
  4. Sermon Construction
  5. Illustration and Application
  6. Word Crafting
  7. The Preaching Event
  8. Sermon Evaluation

Exercises include an introduction and setup to that exercise, a description of the exercise itself, an “I Tried It” testimonial section, and “Resources for Further Study.” A preacher could easily make the benefits of this book stretch out beyond a year.

To take just one example, Exercise Two, “Balance Your Biblical Diet,” suggests that preachers be sure they are preaching from both Testaments and from a variety of literary genres. Overdorf suggests charting out recent sermons to see where they fall, and shows a chart of his last 175 sermons in various biblical genres as an example. As balance in this sense is one of my preaching priorities, I appreciated this section.

Overdorf also makes the welcome suggestion that even a preacher’s illustrations be well-balanced:

Additionally, you may consider charting your recent illustrations. What aspects of life have you used most to illustrate biblical truth? How many illustrations have come from the world of sports? From your family? How many stories have you told from the Civil War, or from popular movies? How often have you quoted Tozer, Bonhoeffer, or your favorite contemporary authors?

Other exercises that I found helpful (and have tried put to use in the pulpit) have been: “Show, Don’t Tell” (on phrasing), “Have Listeners Evaluate You,” “Listen to a Storyteller,” and especially, “Craft Evocative Words.”

Despite how truly thorough the book is, one lack I noticed was any mention of the lectionary. For as many preachers as use the lectionary, some reference to it would have been useful. Or especially for preachers who don’t ever use the lectionary, suggesting they at least try it for a while would have been a good exercise.

One Year to Better Preaching is the kind of book you put right on your desk (not your bookshelf) where you can reference it repeatedly. I’m looking forward to continuing to mine its riches in the weeks and months of preaching ahead.

Thanks to Kregel for the review copy, offered with no expectation as to the content of this review. Find the book on Amazon here (affiliate link), at Kregel’s site here, and check out a pdf sample of the book here.

Sunday School That Really Excels, Reviewed

Any undertaking by the body of Christ for the cause of Christ should be done with excellence. Our Lord and Savior deserves the very best from his redeemed people. Therefore, the church of Jesus Christ ought to excel.

So writes Allan Taylor, the Minister of Education at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, GA, in the Foreword to Sunday School That Really Excels: Real Life Examples of Churches with Healthy Sunday Schools.

Both Prescriptive and Descriptive

The book is both prescriptive and descriptive. It aims to (prescriptively) suggest how a church’s Sunday School can excel by (descriptively) offering case studies and anecdotes from churches.

The book begins with the chapter, “The State of Sunday School Today,” in which editor and author Steve R. Parr interviews Dr. Thom Rainer. Thankfully there is an early and concise definition of “Sunday school” offered in that chapter: it “consists of Bible study groups for all ages that ordinarily meet on Sunday mornings in conjunction with a worship experience either before or aftewards.”

Rainer notes three key features that successful Sunday school programs should have:

  1. The lead pastor’s support.
  2. “A strong core of lay leaders” that receive solid training.
  3. A sense of Sunday school as “a hero of the church.”

Following the helpful wisdom of Rainer, the next 14 chapters note some specific settings and ways in which Sunday school programs should and do excel. These range from Sunday school that “Excels in the Middle of Nowhere” to Sunday school that “Excels on the Heels of a Crisis,” and more. Contributors generally reinforce Rainer’s assessment of what is needed for a robust Sunday school.

Sun School that Really ExelsThe last two chapters offer a few more short case studies and some general concluding principles for how to help move a Sunday school program forward.

Initial Observations

The case studies come predominantly (but not exclusively) from Baptist churches in the South. So ministers in other traditions may need to do some cultural adaptation in seeking to implement some of what’s recommended here. The more than dozen contributors are all male, and almost all “white.” (Southern) Baptist Sunday School That Really Excels, As Told By Mostly White Males would have been a more accurate title. (No snark intended–I had just expected more diversity of background and perspective.)

All the same, there are plenty of inspiring stories and recommendations for building healthy Sunday schools. Whether it’s the call to make sure a church has clarified the purpose of their Sunday school, or specific suggestions as to how to teach with various learning styles in mind (Ken Coley’s chapter 15–probably the best chapter), anyone reading this book will find herself or himself making a running to-do list as they read. (This is what I did.) The anecdotes from various churches were at times inspiring.

Some Lacks and Disagreements

There wasn’t much about Sunday school for young children or youth, something I had hoped this book would include. And there is what I consider to be some unsound (maybe even dangerous?) missions advice in one chapter about a Sunday school program’s effort to reach out to families at a local trailer park: “They need to see the church as a place where we will help you even if you hate us for doing it.” Good intentions, for sure, but probably bad advice as so-called development efforts go.

And I found it hard to believe that some of the evangelism efforts described would actually have positive long-term results. One contributor (whose chapter seems not to relate much to Sunday school, per se) suggests “Accountability Evangelism,” practiced by a pastor who “planned to reach the lost friends of his members” by asking “everyone to invite a neighbor to the new building and get their friend to promise attendance by filling out a ‘Yes’ card. Their signature and ‘Yes’ indicated they would be present.”

That’s: get the potential visitor (not the church member) to fill out a “Yes” card.

No doubt–God can and does choose to bless efforts of every stripe, even misguided ones. And I want to be reluctant to criticize another Christian’s evangelism efforts, but the approach described above, which also refers to said neighbors as “prospects,” just strikes me as odd, off-putting, and counter-productive.

While Sunday School That Really Excels does describe “growth” in terms of spiritual depth, the underlying assumption seems to be that healthy and excelling Sunday schools are growing numerically–and exponentially is even better. I won’t engage that presupposition at length here, but it passes as a critically unexamined axiom in this book that I don’t think is always true. I.e., “bigger” is not always and necessarily “better.”

Finally, I was surprised that none of the contributors addressed theories of culture change. To help a languishing Sunday school to excel could require a re-orientation and re-creation of the culture surrounding Sunday school. Programmatic fixes may not be enough. I’d have liked to see part of the book address how pastors and ministry leaders can help a church to navigate the change process itself, keeping systems and culture in mind.

Conclusion

So I found some things lacking and a lot to disagree with here, some of which I thought was unsound in a prescriptive sense, even if it had worked in a church in a descriptive sense.

But there were some helpful ideas and reminders to me of things I as a pastor can be contributing in my own church’s setting, as we seek to have a healthy and thriving Sunday school program. For that I’m grateful, even if on the balance I might not recommend the book as a great read for someone seeking to help a Sunday school truly excel.

If you want to see more, there is a pdf excerpt here, including Table of Contents, list of contributors, introduction, and chapter 1.

Thanks to Kregel for the review copy, offered with no expectation as to the content of this review. Find the book on Amazon here (affiliate link), or through Kregel here.