Just a short “in the mail” post today to share five reviews you can expect to read here in the coming weeks and months:
First Raise a Flag: How South Sudan Won the Longest War but Lost the Peace (Oxford University Press)
This book just arrived in the mail yesterday. Some years ago I read a few books on the Rwandan genocide, and have had occasional interest in African history. Time to reactivate that interest and learn more about what’s been happening in Sudan. (LINK)
Zondervan has just released updated editions of Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar and Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, as well as related aids for students working through those textbooks. Behold:
Zondervan Academic has sent these for review. It feels like a long time ago (though it was only 10 years) that I began learning biblical languages. I spent hours and hours combing through the previous editions of these Greek and Hebrew textbooks, filling out almost every page of the workbooks, and learning the vocabulary with the cards. So I’m excited to work through these resources and report back.
In the meantime, you can click the links below to learn more. When I post I’ll point out differences in the new editions, but please also leave comments or questions if you’re wondering about a specific aspect of these new resources, and I’ll do my best to address them in the reviews.
Brian S. Rosner has just published a book I’m excited about working through. It’s called Known By God: A Biblical Theology Of Personal Identity. Here is the overview from the publisher:
Who are you? What defines you? What makes you, you?
In the past an individual’s identity was more predictable than it is today. Life’s big questions were basically settled before you were born: where you’d live, what you’d do, the type of person you’d marry, your basic beliefs, and so on. Today personal identity is a do-it-yourself project. Constructing a stable and satisfying sense of self is hard amidst relationship breakdowns, the pace of modern life, the rise of social media, multiple careers, social mobility, and so on. Ours is a day of identity angst.
Known by God is built on the observation that humans are inherently social beings; we know who we are in relation to others and by being known by them. If one of the universal desires of the self is to be known by others, being known by God as his children meets our deepest and lifelong need for recognition and gives us a secure identity. Rosner argues that rather than knowing ourselves, being known by God is the key to personal identity.
He explores three biblical angles on the question of personal identity: being made in the image of God, being known by God and being in Christ. The notion of sonship is at the center – God gives us our identity as a parent who knows his child. Being known by him as his child gives our fleeting lives significance, provokes in us needed humility, supplies cheering comfort when things go wrong, and offers clear moral direction for living.
The book is part of Zondervan’s Biblical Theology for Life series. (Check the first results here to see more in the series.)
Especially with a new year approaching—and the potential resolutions that come with it—I’m looking forward to reading Rosner’s theology of personal identity.
The book is here (Zondervan) and here (Amazon). I’ll write more about it as I am able.
One of the most promising new commentary projects continues to add new volumes: the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series, covering both Old and New Testament books.
Accordance Bible Software has a huge sale on the OT and NT volumes, both as collections and individual volumes. Check out the details here.
Want to read more about individual volumes in the series?
I reviewed Daniel I. Block’s Obadiah volume here. And Kevin J. Youngblood’s Jonah volume might just be the best commentary I’ve worked through on Jonah. (A remarkable feat, as there is no dearth of Jonah commentaries!) I have not yet reviewed Block’s Ruth volume, but noted it here.
The Zondervan Reader’s Greek New Testament has undergone vast improvements in its Greek font since its first eye-hurting edition. Now in its 3rd edition, the lightweight, handsome, and well-constructed Reader’s Bible is perfect for sticking in a satchel to be able to read the Greek New Testament in transit.
Most notable is its size—it’s significantly thinner and lighter than its UBS5 Reader’s counterpart. Here it is with a 3.5” x 5.5” Field Notes notebook on top:
The included ribbon marker and gilded edges and lettering add a touch of class:
It’s worth repeating: the Greek font looks much better that previous editions. I think the UBS5 font still is the best-looking and most readable, but this one is good, too:
The text here is the Greek that underlies the New International Version—so not an exact match with the Nestle-Aland 28th edition. However, there are notes that point out where this Greek text and the NA28/UBS5 differ. For the purposes of reading through the Greek New Testament (the aim of this edition), I found the (minor) differences wholly inconsequential.
The footnoted vocabulary covers words that occur 30 times or fewer in the Greek NT. At the back is a “mini-lexicon” for everything else:
Whereas the UBS Reader’s edition has two nicely formatted columns, it can be difficult to quickly scan the single-column footnote jumble in Zondervan’s edition to find the appropriate word:
And there are no verb parsings—just a list of possible glosses for each word (without a decision made based on context).
Overall I think the UBS5 Reader’s GNT is the best on the market, but the improved font, feel, and portability of the Zondervan Reader make it worth exploring. And if you’re going to own two Reader’s Greek New Testaments (because why not??), it’s nice to be able to switch between the UBS5 and this one, which is more affordable.
You can find the book here (Zondervan) and here (Amazon). See also my recent review of the UBS5 Reader’s Edition here.
Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy, given for the purposes of this write-up, but with no expectation as to the content of my review.
Zondervan’s NIV Application Commentary series is on sale again (today is the last day), with each of the ebooks selling at $4.99.
I really liked Psalms vol. 1 in this series. There are a lot of really good volumes in NIVAC, including some e-bundles available now.
All the Table of Contents now are hyperlinked, so navigating via Kindle or iBooks should be relatively manageable. You won’t get the same sort of search power you’d get in Accordance or Logos, but the price is tough to beat.
See everything here on Amazon or here at Zondervan’s page.
This study Bible has been purpose-built to do one thing: to increase your understanding of the cultural nuances behind the text of God’s Word so that your study experience, and your knowledge of the realities behind the ideas in the text, is enriched and expanded.
Keener has written a page or two in his time, too. Just today I found great help with Ephesians 5:21ff in his IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. (Although some of Keener’s contextual explanations of “submission” and “headship” and slavery did not make their way into this study Bible, where those verses unfortunately received a less nuanced approach.)
Content from both the ZIBBCOT and the IVP Bible Background Commentary finds its way into this study Bible. (As do a couple dozen articles from the NIV Archaeological Study Bible.) As for the 2011 New International Version—used in this volume—I write more about it here.
This definitely-not-compact Bible has more than 10,000 study notes. No, I didn’t count, but check out this page from Micah 1, a chapter which needs a lot of background explanation. The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible delivers:
The accompanying maps, images, diagrams, and charts are all in color:
Micah’s introduction is fair in presenting a few different viewpoints on dating, and concludes:
The modern reader of Micah should at least be aware of the variety of ways in which different historical backgrounds have made a difference in the understanding of, and even translations of, several difficult passages in the book of Micah.
And it’s not just historical background for its own sake. The authors and editors seem to have the aim of helping the reader understand the text.
Micah 4:4 reads:
Everyone will sit under their own vine
and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the Lord Almighty has spoken.
Here is the study note on Micah 4:4:
The vine and fig were the two most important fruits of an ancient Israelite garden. The vine, because of the length of time necessary before good grapes were produced, was often a symbol of a sedentary life. The fig was known for its sweet produce (Jdg 9:11) and, like the vine, for its pleasant shade. …[T]he picture of the vine and fig tree also point to long-term investment and stability.
The Old Testament introductory materials include a helpful “Hebrew to English Translation Chart,” for instances where “there is no English word that corresponds sufficiently to capture the breadth of nuance that the Hebrew word contains. “ It’s a nice addition, and not one I can recall seeing in a study Bible before.
The inclusion of those Hebrew words caused me to be a little surprised, then, that the study Bible missed the opportunity to point out the Hebrew wordplay on Micah’s name in Micah 7:18: “Who is a God like you…?”
So one may still want the larger background commentaries that this study Bible makes use of. However, the Bible is already fairly large, so the level of detail is understandable.
All in all, though it’s difficult to justify yet another study Bible, this one does fill a void, since many study Bibles treat background, but in nowhere near this level of detail.
You can learn much more about the study Bible here. If you want to see some nice shots of the inside of the print edition, check out this post over at Bible Buying Guide. And you can find a couple different versions of the Bible at Amazon here.
AcademicPS and Zondervan set me up with a hard copy of the Bible, as well as electronic access, so I could review it, though this kindness did not influence my objectivity.