Charting Paul’s Life and Ministry: a book review

This is the second book in the Kregel Charts of the Bible series I have reviewed for my blog.  The previous volume focused on a particular book (Hebrews).  Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul explores what we know of Paul in Acts and his Epistles and delves into his theology. Because this book doesn’t focus on one New Testament book, it does not have the focus that Bateman’s Hebrews charts did; however Lars Kierspel does a great job of providing an overview of Paul. In 111 charts, Kierspel organizes and presents information about Paul’s Greco-Roman context, information about his life and ministry, the purpose and content of various letters, and the theological themes developed throughout the Pauline corpus.

The charts are organized under four headings. “Paul’s Background and Context” discusses Paul’s first century context (charts 1-9). In this section, Kierspel summarizes pertinent information about Roman political and social life, Greco-Roman religion, and first century Judaism and how these contexts inform Paul’s life. In Part 2, “Paul’s Life & Ministry,” Kierspel looks at Paul’s life, his various missionary journeys, the cities he visited and the men and women he interacted with (charts 1-34).  Included in this section are charts illustrating Paul’s miracles, prayers and speeches, as well as comparisons between the portrait of Paul in Acts versus the Epistles.  Part three (charts 35-77), “Paul’s Letters,” examines the epistles and records information on Pauline authorship, his literary sources and structure, OT and intertestamental allusions, Pauline vocabulary, and provides ‘snapshots’ of each letter. The final section, “Paul’s Theological Concepts,” traces various themes through Paul’s teaching (78-111).  These include theological concepts (i.e. Christology, Pneumatology, Soteriology, etc.) as well as Paul’s teaching on ethics, virtue and vice, men and women, and slavery. The final two charts summarize modern Jewish views of Paul and compare and contrast old and “new perspectives” on Paul.

I like the concept of these chart books for several reasons. Most of the information in these books can be found in good commentaries, but charts make the information available at a quick glance. They are a good pedagogical-aid for teachers and a good study-tool for the rest of us. When I am studying a book of the Bible, I find charts and tables useful tools for organizing information and tracing concepts through a book.  These charts will be useful to anyone who wants to get a deeper grasp of Pauline theology.  Of course there are limitations to this format  Not everything about Paul is charted and I thought there could be more exploration of contemporary theology than Kierspel does here, but these are charts and so are by necessity brief. Mostly this volume is just great at parsing historical and exegetical data, meaning regardless of  your theological perspective, whether it be old or new, wrong or Wright, you will find this book a helpful resource.

Some of my personal favorite charts include:

  • Parallels between Acts and the Pauline Corpus (11)
  • Differences between Acts and the Pauline Corpus (12)
  • All Women Mentioned By and Around Paul (22)
  • Paul’s Prayers (27)
  • Hapa Legomena in Paul’s Letters (43)
  • Key Words in Romans (54)
  • Metaphors of Salvation (86)
  • Participation with Christ (87)
  • Virtues in Paul’s Letters (100)

 

I give this book four stars and commend it to you as a helpful resource for understanding Paul’s theology.

 

Thank you to Kregel Academic for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

The Book of Hebrews is Not Uncharted Territory: a book review

No one knows who wrote the book of Hebrews (though everybody has a theory). It is tucked into the New Testament behind Paul’s epistles but it is unclear what its relationship to Paul is.  Hebrews is a complicated book full of theological insights. In its pages, the author expounds a high Christology which pictures Jesus as: above the Angels, the great high priest in the order of Melchizedek, our mediator and our sacrifice. He also issues warnings and exhorts his recipients to remain faithful. Hebrews describes in vivid detail how Jesus Christ fulfills Israel’s hopes and expectations. This is an important book; yet outside the ‘hall of faith’ chapter (Heb. 11), many find the book’s message difficult to understand and grapple with. In part, this is due to a widespread ignorance of the Old Testament (which Hebrews’ quotes through out), but there is also just a lot to grapple with in the text.

Charts on the Book of Hebrews by Herbert W. Bateman IV

Herbert W Bateman IV has done the church and academy a service in summarizing the contents of Hebrews and the scholarly conversation on its contents. Charts on the Book of Hebrews provides a comprehensive outlook on Hebrews. One-hundred-and-four charts (or tables) provide windows for understanding the text.  In four sections, Bateman maps out the scholarly debate on authorship, reception, genre and structure of Hebrews (part 1), the Old Testament and Second Temple allusions (part 2), the theology of Hebrews (i.e. God, Christology, and important themes) (part 3), and exegetical issues (part 4). These tables give an overview of  the book and some of the interpretive issues various commentators have faced.

While Bateman is theologically conservative (as am I) and a dispensationalist (which I’m not), the main value of this book is descriptive.  Bateman’s charts survey the literature on Hebrews and describe the various scholarly and historic opinions on its interpretation. They also parse exegetical data (i.e. repeated motifs, important words, Old Testament and Second Temple Era allusions, etc.). Regardless of your theological persuasion, you are bound to find these charts helpful in illuminating the text.

I plan to make good use of this book the next time I’m preaching and teaching on Hebrews. Most of the information in this book, I would expect to find in a good critical commentary, but the fact that Bateman collects and presents through this text (rather than exegeting and interpreting) means that the value of this book is way it aids the reader in their own exegesis and understanding of the text.  Information about structure, genre, authorship, the theological content, Old Testament allusions, textual issues, etc., are labeled and organized. This makes this book a great reference for digging into the text (as opposed to being spoon-fed one commentator’s informed opinion).  Certainly I will be checking commentaries too, but these charts will provide a good first step. This is a tool worth using.

I especially appreciated Bateman’s summary of  historic approaches to authorship, destination and the structure of Hebrews (part 1), and the vivid way his charts illustrate the portrait of Christ that emerges in Hebrews (part 3).  I have no idea if this book on Hebrews is indicative of the quality of the rest of the Kregel Charts of the Bible series.  If it is, then I commend the whole series. I happily give this book 5 stars and think it will be a useful resource for understanding and exegeting Hebrews. I recommend it to anyone planning to preach and teach from the text and to those who just want a deeper understanding of this important book. ★★★★★

Thank you to Kregel Academic for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Suffering Servant and the Good News: a book review

The Gospel According to Isaiah 53: Encountering the Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology edited by Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser

The prophet Isaiah has long been mined by Christian interpreters of the Bible for its Christological significance. This is especially true of the ‘Suffering Servant’ passages from the latter part of Isaiah. In this multi-author volume edited by Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser, examines Isaiah 53 in light of the gospel with an eye towards how this passage can bring Jewish people to faith in Jesus Christ. Despite Isaiah’s status as a Jewish prophet and his prominence among Christian interpreters, this passage is almost unknown among Jewish people. Written to pastors, missionaries and lay leaders, this book is intended as a resource for those who are ‘preaching  and teaching this profound passage and using it to reach unbelievers with a message of redemption (28)’.

The book is organized into three parts. Part one discusses the various interpretations of Isaiah 53. Richard Averbeck surveys Christian interpretations of this chapter (focusing especially on contemporary interpreters). Having examined the competing views, Averbeck argues that the first-person language does not imply the personification of the nation of Israel but one person acting on behalf of the nation.  Michael L. Brown discusses the history of Jewish interpretations of this chapter (showing how the corporate interpretation has often been posited to obscure the messianic implications and how this chapter points to Jesus).

In part two,  Isaiah 53 is placed within a biblical-theological framework. Walter Kaiser argues that the Servant language in Isaiah 53 should be read as a messianic designation and that Jesus understood his ministry in this context.  Michael Wilkins examines the gospel accounts, concluding that Jesus saw himself as the Servant, and the gospel writers also made this identification. Darrell Bock examines Acts 8 (Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch) and how Isaiah 53 in that context, illuminates Jesus’ death.  Craig Evans discusses allusions to Isaiah 53 in the New Testament material from Peter, Paul, John and the book of Hebrews.  David Allen’s chapter sets Isaiah 53 within a cultic context and argues for the significance of substiutionary atonement in understanding the passage. Robert Chisholm rounds out part two by discussing salvation and forgiveness in this chapter and arguing that according to this passage, the beneficiaries of  the Servant’s suffering are both Israel and the nations, that the ‘illness’ described in the chapter imply Jerusalem’s destruction, exile, injustice, death and war, that the breach of the covenant is the fundamental sin for which the blameless Servant suffers,  and that the Servant’s suffering and death provide the means toward divine forgiveness.

Part three addresses how to communicate this passage evangelistically. John Feinberg discusses how Isaiah 53 can be used to articulate the gospel message to ‘postmoderns.’  Mitch Glasser focuses his chapter on how Isaiah 53 can be used effectively in Jewish evangelism (his point is not to debate, or beat Jews over the head with a proof text, but using this chapter to open up a fruitful dialogue). Lastly, Donald Sunukjian gives practical advice to preachers for preaching an expository message based on this chapter (with an eye towards it’s structure).  Each of the chapters of the book are summarized in Darrell Bock’s conclusion (and quoted extensively) and the book also includes in the appendices two sermons from Donald Sunukjian which illustrate a couple of different homiletic approaches to the text.

As is the case with other multi-author studies, there is some overlap in chapter content; however the authors are remarkably united in purpose and theological commitments. These are some of the best and brightest of conservative Biblical scholars and they thoroughly examine this passage in light of historical interpretation, biblical theology, literary structure, and linguistically. You need not agree with the authors on every point (I’m not sure that I do) to appreciate the care and attention in which they craft their argument. I think they make a good case that a individual, substitutionary, Suffering Servant reading of the text, is faithful understanding of the text, and that this passage does point to the significance of Jesus’ work.

But what I appreciate most about this book is the compelling case made here, that Jesus understood his life, ministry and death in light of the Suffering Servant passages in Isaiah. Scot McKnight, in the King Jesus Gospel made the provocative claim that many evangelistic presentations by evangelicals completely ignore the Old Testament in their articulation of the gospel.  In The Gospel According to Isaiah 53, the authors prove that for these scholars at least, this is not the case. The gospel of Jesus Christ includes the way Jesus fulfills the hopes of Israel.  By seeing the significance of this passage for Jewish people, we gentiles also come to a fuller appreciation of the gospel story and Christ’s work.

So I recommend this book to pastors and teachers who want to communicate the truths of this passage. I certainly plan to refer back to this book in my preaching and teaching from this passage.

I received this book from Kregel Academic in exchange for this review.

Jesus at the Watering Hole: A Book Review

Confessions of a Bible Thumper: My Home Brewed Quest for a Reasoned Faith by Michael Camp

Michael Camp has waded his way through the entire evangelical subculture. He converted in the seventies, after previously been apart of evangelistic youth rallies and meeting CCM music legend Phil Keaggy (his conversion is not directly related to either of these). He then went to L’Abri, did missions, got a degrees from Fuller Seminary’s School of World Missions and Eastern College, he attended Baptist churches, Che Ahn’s church in Pasadena (Charismatic Evangelical), Calvary Chapels, Non-Denominational Churches and Vineyards, as well as more Emergent Churches. He is well versed in Christian politics, dispensationalist End-Times theology, biblical literalism, creationism, evangelism and world missions, homophobia and Hell and a whole host of evangelical peculiarities.

Confessions of a Bible Thumper  tells the tale of Camp’s conversion to Christ and his gradual drift away from conservative evangelicalism.  The format is reminiscent of Brian McLaren’s New Kind of Christian trilogy, but  whereas those were fiction, this is Camp’s own story. Camp explores various topics while telling  the story of his  journey through evangelicalism. Each chapter closes with pieces of a  discussion between Camp and his  friends in a bar, discussing his journey, his book, and his current theological stance. Today he is still a Christian and concerned about listening to the scriptures, but politically, socially, and theologically he has come to critique the evangelical culture which first formed him in the faith. He has moved away from the legalism, an acculturated form of church and the Christian life,   from He also has moved towards Christian Universalism and the full affirmation of homosexuality and a hermeneutic of the Christian life which is based on love.  But lest this sound like he’s just another liberal, he also is passionate about proper interpretation of the Bible and  affirms intelligent design.

I enjoyed this book.  I have wrestled with many of the same parts of my evangelical heritage, though I haven’t come to all the same conclusions. I think he raises good questions and  I generally found reading this book made me think.  I don’t agree with everything Camp says, but he does seem fair in his reading of scripture and evangelical culture. One aspect I really appreciated was the attention he paid to biblical hermeneutics. He has a chapter on Bible Abuse where he offers sound advice on how to interpret scripture sensitive to its context.

However, despite my generally positive experience reading this book, I did find several aspects to critique:

  1. I found the format of the book a little preachy. This isn’t just a story about Mike Camp’s journey. It also records his discussion with friends over dinner and beer reflecting on that journey. Those conversations shift the narrative for me, from an exploration of one man’s journey, to an apologetic for why I should come to the  same conclusions as Mike Camp.   Camp comes off as the grand guru of his own book (the one with all the answers).  His friends sometimes vehemently disagree with him (especially his staunchly evangelical pal, Steve), but it is obvious that they haven’t spent as much time thinking through the issues and are as well read as he is.  Thus I found the dialogue with his friends less engaging than the story parts of the book. This discussion comes off as a device which clarifies Camp’s own position rather than  being a robust debate. Occasionaly his friends seem like strawmen.
  2. Camp occasionally describes people as conservative, moderate, liberal or progressive evangelicals owing to their position on particular hot button issues.  What bugs me about this is that based on his criteria, he likely would peg me as a moderate evangelical. I loathe the word moderate and there is nothing I would hate being called more.  I think it is like calling someone tepid. Yuck.
  3. Camp repudiates most of what he has been taught in evangelicalism but he seems to buy in (at least in some form) to Christian primitivism (the idea that we should get back to the church of the New Testament) and he has rather low ecclesiology.  This leads he and his friends to be rather dismissive of the institutional church (in favor of just being a couple Christian friends hanging out at a bar).  In a couple of places I wanted more connection to church history and theology.
  4. The discussion in the bar and over dinner happens while Mike and his friends are drinking Fat Woody, Ridgetop Red, Pumpkin Ale, Panther Lake Porter and Belgium Blonde.  This discussion happens west of the Rockies and there was not a single person drinking IPA.  It doesn’t seem right.

These critiques aside (which may say more about me than Camp’s book). I think this book would be an interesting read for any of us who have lived through the past thirty odd years and have seen the various trends in the evangelical world.  I also appreciate the way Camp catalogues his thinking and points his readers to various resources and authors.  Do not read this book if you are uncomfortable being challenged and do not like to think for yourself.  My seminary friends will be cognizant of many of the issues Camp raises here, but others will find his story format engaging, challenging and informative.  Maybe one day I’ll catch up to Mike and the two of us can sit down over a cold one and discuss theology. I’ll be drinking the IPA.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

2 Timothy 2:9-15: The Complementarian Proof Text?

About a month ago I was sitting in a denominational class. Between bouts of  copious note taking and undivided attention I was checking Facebook. An old friend of mine  messaged me and asked me this question:

. . . It seems from your posts you are Egalitarian. Growing up through YFC in what way do you think your cultural bias shaped your views? How do you handle Paul’s argument in 2 Tim [he meant 1 Tim 2]. when he argues back to creation/order and his use of panta/”all”. Do you take Paul to be a chauvinist or are those ad hoc arguments for Corinth, Ephesus?

This was a private correspondence and he likely would be mortified that I am blogging about it (he also assured me that he wasn’t being as antagonistic as he originally sounded). However he raised important issues which are worth addressing. I am an egalitarian, in part because I affirm my wife’s life calling to vocational, pastoral ministry and think that she has the gifts, grace and strength to lead in the church and to lead well. I am offended by anyone who tells me she is disqualified from her call just because ‘she’s a woman.’ But 1 Timothy 2:9-15 is a difficult passage for me and  I always  seek to be biblical in my understanding. What authority does this text have for us today? How are we to read it? Am I, as an egalitarian, really listening to this scripture? Or am I seeking to explain it away? These are hard questions which deserve thoughtful answers. I hope my post below at least gives the start of some answers. Here is what the passage says:

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

Paul exhorts women to modesty, propriety and good deeds ‘appropriate for women.’ He says, rather strongly, that women are to learn in quietness and full submission, without authority or a teaching voice. And he grounds his argument for their silence and submissiveness in the created order (v. 13) and Eve’s deception (vs. 14).  Knock down complementarian argument right? Or is it? Um . . .not exactly.

How to Read the Bible 

One of the accusations leveled at us egalitarians is that we try to explain  difficult passages like this away rather than really listen to what the Bible is telling us. I certainly do not want to explain the living powerful Word of God away. Instead I want to attend appropriately to it, with a discerning eye to what passages like this mean within the wider context of biblical revelation. In other words, we read difficult texts with in the context of the entire biblical witness.  When complementarians fail to attend to the wider context of scripture, they also run the risk of ‘explaining the Bible away.’ This is not to say that the Bible is a 21st Century feminist manifesto.  It is a  collection of books compiled in the context of several patriarchal cultures.  And yet the egalitarian impulse is preserved for us in the text itself. So lets listen to the biblical witness before we parse hard passages:

  1. Read 1 Timothy in the context of  the Genesis account– Paul invites us to reread the creation and fall accounts recorded in Genesis 1-3. What picture of Biblical manhood and womanhood emerge as we read these texts? Genesis 1:26-7 presents the creation of humankind, male and female mutually bearing the image of God. Complementarians read past these verses and point to the alleged subordination of women in  Genesis 2, but some of their observations are overwrought. The term ‘helpmate’  or ‘helper’ applied to the woman in Gen. 2:18 does not mean underling or assistant but means something like “I will make a ‘strength/power’ corresponding to that of man.”  Elsewhere the term is applied directly to God. Furthermore, Adam’s first description of his wife is one which testifies to their mutuality, “You will be called woman for you are bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh (23).” Gender subordination is the result of the fall (God’s curse on the woman in Gen. 3:16, and Adam’s ‘naming’ of Eve, defining her by  her role rather than by their mutual relationship in Gen. 3:20). This was not the way things were meant to be.
  2. Read 1 Timothy in the context of Jesus’ life and ministry– Yes Jesus had 12 male disciples but he also defied convention by having women disciples. The trajectory seems to be inclusion, not exclusion. Remember Jesus came to take away the curse away (more on this later).
  3. Read 1 Timothy within the context of Paul’s Ministry– If this was the only thing we knew about Paul and his ministry we might say that women should be excluded from a teaching ministry. However the Bible gives us evidence that Paul did include and affirm women in ministry.  In the book of Acts and in the Pauline Epistles we read about women prophets (Acts 2:17; 21:8-9), apostles, evangelists and teachers (Acts 18), and deacons (Rom. 16:1-2). Even 1 Cor. 11 (another Complementarian proof text) assumes that women will be speaking and prophesying in the context of worship.  However we read hard  passages like 1 Timothy 2, we need to also wrestle with a broader swath of New Testament texts which seem to imply a more generous and inclusive reality.
  4. Read this passage in conversation with New Testament egalitarian texts-  There are three worth mentioning: Galatians 3:28, 1 Cor. 12:13 and Col. 3:11. All three of these texts talk about the dissolution of racial and economic differences. Galatians 3:28 expounds on the theme proclaiming that gender is no longer a barrier to our life in Christ, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female  for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Complementarians point out that this passage talks about equality in terms of salvation but there is a radical leveling implied.  When a first century Jewish woman who had  been excluded from the temple courts heard statements like this, something basic about her full humanity was affirmed. Salvation is not just pie in the sky when you die but an entry into a new reality which had implications for all our earthly relationships. As F.F. Bruce said, “If restrictions are found elsewhere . . .they are to be understood in relation to Gal. 3:28. and not vise versa” (in his 1982 Galatians commentary).
  5. Reading this passage within the context of  Timothy– The fact is that 1 Timothy was a particular letter, written in a particular context, to a particular person for a particular reason.  Church order and gender roles is not the main concern of this letter, false teaching is. It is reasonable to conclude that Paul is addressing the issue of  heresy, some of which was taught by women and may be a result of their inferior education and opportunities in that culture (which made them more easily hoodwinked).  21st century women have much more access to education  and aren’t quite so easily duped!
We need to keep all of this in mind when we read the passage or we may end up enshrining another age’s cultural standards rather than the trajectory of the kingdom of God.

Reading 2 Timothy 2:9-15

When it comes to this particular passage, I will admit that I would rather Paul didn’t say things this way. It certainly appears to be a universal pronouncement applicable to all women for all time. For an egalitarian, this is bar-none the hardest passage to deal with and complementarians can make solid exegetical arguments based on the Greek grammar alone. They pull out this passage like some sort of trump card feeling like it justifies their view. If this was the only passage we have which addressed the issue,  complementarianism might carry the day, but it is not. And even here, Paul gives us a seed of change in gender-relations. What do you suppose Paul meant by saying, “ But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety” in verse 15? Could he be referencing the curse described in Genesis 3 (the very  passage Paul has been reflecting on)? Genesis 3:16 describes God’s curse of  the woman and her subsequent subordination to her husband:

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;

with painful labor you will give birth to children.

Your desire will be for your husband,

and he will rule over you.

However this curse comes on the heels of God’s words to the woman’s tempter, the  serpent:

And I will put enmity

between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and hers;

he will crush your head,

and you will strike his heel.”

I would submit that Paul has this passage in mind when he talks about women being saved through ‘childbirth.’  He doesn’t intend some general word about how women ought to be barefoot and pregnant. Does some sort of generalized statement of salvation through childbirth even make sense in light of  biblical theology?!?  He is reminding Timothy of a moment in salvation history where woman’s salvation (liberation) was promised. The fulfillment to this promise came through Jesus and with his death and resurrection  the curse was broken. I believe Paul  is exhorting the women of Ephesus to abandon their positions as teachers, to learn in full submission until they are fully formed in the truth of the gospel. They are to not revel in cheap freedom they don’t understand, but in the life, freedom, salvation bought by the blood of Christ. This was pragmatic and temporal advice given to women at a point in the church’s history when women had little to no religious education. Today women are statistically more versed in gospel truth than men (who are not good church attenders, pray-ers or Bible readers). Women today are walking in the freedom of Christ as God’s kingdom is coming. Yahoolujah!

My Complementarian Friend was Not Convinced.

Of course none of my reasons convinced my friend to abandon his complementarian ways ( either on this passage or my thoughts about my culturally construed views). He has a fundamentally different read on the witness of scripture than I do (and in the Bible, patriarchy is not  that hard to find).  I honestly think that if you take this passage in isolation, the complementarians have a great argument (though not knock down case, there is more I could have said here). But an isolated passage (or 2-3 isolated passages if the Corinthian texts bug you) should never be used as a hammer, trump card or proof text. Read the Bible, read it all, read it well.


Man the decks matey it’s time to talk about the Canon: A book review

 

Canon Revisited cover How did the New Testament Canon come to be and why should we regard it as authoritative? My own denomination has historically affirmed scripture as’ the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine and conduct,’  but is this position defensible?  Where does biblical authority rest if the canon was decided upon by the church.

Michael Kruger, professor of New Testament and academic dean at Reformed Theological Seminary, has written a lucid and helpful examination of issues surrounding the formation of the canon and argues convincingly for a self authenticating model of the New Testament canon.  Kruger is remarkably gregarious in his approach, often affirming the good in the models he opposes while trying to establish a model of canon which is both faithful to scripture and tradition and  can stand up to critical scrutiny.  If you read one book about canon formation this year, this book should be it.

The book is organized into two parts. In part one, Kruger presents and evaluates various approaches to Canon formation. In chapter one he critiques ‘community determined models’ which argue that the basis of a book’s canonicity is solely determined by the book’s recipients (the church or faith community).  Of course there are a wide range of community determined approaches: historical-critical, Roman Catholic, Canonical criticism, and Existential/Neo Orthodox.  Because of the range of approaches and brevity of Kruger’s treatment, he runs the risk of oversimplifying but is generally fair and well documented in his treatment of each model (even separating out the strand of Roman Catholic teaching which seems to affirm his self-authenticating approach from the strand which places the authority of scripture as subservient to the authority of church). In Chapter 2 he critiques the historically determined models (canon within a canon, or criteria for canonicity model) which argue that the historic, apostolic origin of the books in question are the sole basis for their place in the New Testament. Over and against these approaches Kruger presents the Self-Authenticating model (chapter 3) but he draws generously on the insights from both the community and historic models.  His self authenticating model has three features:

  • Providential exposure (only the books the church has or have been exposed to can be considered for canonization
  • Attributes of Canonization (the New Testament books have a ‘divine quality,’ they are recieved corpoartely and affirmed by the church at large and they have apostolic origins).
  • The internal testimony of the Holy Spirit confirms the authority of a book and it’s place in the canon for believers.
In part 2, Kruger looks more in depth at the attributes of canon (second in the series above) in order to articulate more fully what he means by each and answer particular ‘defeaters’–scholarly arguments against each of these elements. This gives part 2 of the book a sort of apologetic feel (obviously you need to account for counter arguments in all academic discourse but Kruger places himself firmly on confessional grounds). In articulating the divine attributes of Scripture, Kruger points to the beauty and excellence, the power and efficacy and the unity and harmony of scripture. By beauty and excellence, he isn’t referring to literary style or rhetorical flare but the manner that the Bible puts forward the beauty and excellence of Christ.  The divine stamp is further evidenced in the power of scripture as a means of grace for people and providing  authority in action. God is also seen in the Divine unity of scripture,  doctrinally, in articulating  the whole redemptive story, and structually. This doesn’t mean that each book does not have their own peculiar emphasis and distinctives but that together they present a full picture of who God is and what he is doing in our world.
In articulating the apostolic authorship and the reception of the canon Kruger sets up a rational for trusting the authority of the canon and is able to demonstrate that those who question the canon, have not removed all rational basis for believing in it.
On the whole, this is a carefully reasoned and accessible presentation of issues surrounding the Canon. I think Kruger does a very good job of articulating his case and I am in substantial agreement with him.  In an era where the authority and truthfulness of the New Testament is often questioned, a book like this provides a powerful apologetic. I highly recommend this book, particularly for students and ministers who are faced with questions and are looking for solid answers for why we trust our Bible and not every other unearthed gospel.
Thank you to Crossway books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

Moore of Jesus in My Heart (A Book Review)

Straight to the Heart of Matthew Phil MoorePhil Moore may be a new name to you. It was for me when I signed up to review a commentary in the Straight to the Heart series. Any Londoners reading this review feel free to fill in biographical data if you think I missed something but here is what I got: Phil Moore is the pastor of Queens Road Church in Wimbledon, London, a Bible teacher and evangelist for the Newfrontiers family of churches (basically charismatic evangelical churches) and author of the Straight to the Heartseries I am reviewing. In this series of commentaries Phil Moore weds his passion for God’s word with a keen ability to communicate and challenge you on your faith journey.

Each of the commentaries in the series are divided into 60 ‘bitesize chunks’ making it an ideal format for daily devotional reading.
There are several volumes now available Genesis, Moses, Matthew, John, Acts, Romans, I&II Corinthians, Revelations from Kregel Publications (in the UK, Phil Moore also has a volume on I&II Samuel). I was able to read and review the Matthew volume. [Note, these commentaries are published by Monarch Books in the UK and distributed by Kregel in North America].

In Straight to the Heart of Matthew, Moore counters the popular storybook image of Jesus as ‘long-haired and blue-eyed…tame and domesticated.’ He argues that Jesus was a much more radical and incendiary figure. Announcing that Jesus was ‘King’ and his ‘Kingdom was coming’ was heard as a direct challenge to Caesar and Roman rule. But he also took aim at the religious establishment and where they failed to adequately enact God’s agenda in the world.

Central to Phil Moore’s interpretation is the Matthew that allegedly wrote the gospel. Matthew(Levi) was an eager employee of the Roman Empire who abandoned his post to follow King Jesus. He wrote this gospel so that you and I would do the same. Moore structures his commentary around Matthew’s internal structure (a prologue, Five acts composed of Jesus’ teaching blocks and subsequent action, and epilogue).

Moore’s personal style and illustrations bring the reader into a fresh encounter with Jesus and the message of this gospel. He is not content at merely describing what the gospel meant, but articulating what difference it makes to your life. So while this is a commentary, it is written in a relevant and challenging way aimed at connecting the Gospel to our lives.

But isn’t that just like Tom Wright’s for Everyone Commentaries? Yes, it is. I read through this commentary with Matthew for Everyone close at hand so I could compare the two. There is certainly some overlap in style and content. Here are some things I see that are similar:

    – Both are highly readable and engaging, full of illustrations and personal stories.
    -Both authors are trying to do responsible exegesis of the text. I trust Wright more, but Moore illuminates aspects of Matthew’s gospel and gave me fresh insights.
    -Neither of these commentaries or series are scholarly works (despite Wright’s scholarly status) and thus will not necessarily untangle every thorny issue in the text. This has to do with the limits of the genre. They tell you what difference the gospel makes for your life, but sometimes a more detailed commentary can help you sort out what the text is actually saying.
    -Both commentaries give you a picture of how the passage would ‘preach.’

Despite these similarities there are important differences as well. Obviously Phil Moore and N.T. Wright’s exegesis does not agree on every point. Moore is more in line with classical Evangelical theology while Wright is more apt to question conventional assumptions. As a pastor and evangelist I think Moore may be better than Wright at connecting the Word with everyday life. However Wright is much better at describing the Jesus story and the first century context. They both do an admirable job of exegesis and connecting it to life; yet their personal and professional strengths are evident in their writing as well.

For the most part, Moore’s reflections are based in a careful and close reading of the text. Occasionally he uses the text as pretext to talk about something else (a point of doctrine, the value of learning apologetics, etc). At these points he is using the text more than sitting under it, and his reflections are not as rooted (or if they are, not in Matthew). I think it is legitimate to read a text evocatively as long as you aren’t misusing the text for your own end; however in a commentary I think it is more valuable to your readers to remain under the text. I don’t think Moore wanders far or often, but he does wander.

This small caveat aside, I would recommend this book for devotional use. I found it personally challenging as I seek to live out the life of discipleship. So if you are shopping for a devotional commentary on one of the gospels I commend this volume to you. Thank you to Kregel Publications for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.