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Starting Monday March 17, various scholars will be commenting on Craig Blomberg’s new book from Brazos, Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions. Blomberg offers answers for six common challenges to the Bible in a modern context including the reliability of the original manuscripts, the canon, Bible translations, inerrancy, historical reliability of narrative events, and the problem of miracles. Blomberg is well-known for his contributions to the study of the Gospels and has written numerous books on these sorts of issues. I have had a copy for a couple of weeks and think it will be a valuable resource for pastors and laymen who are looking to answer misinformation that commonly circulates about the trustworthiness of the Bible.

Can We Still BelieveOne thing that makes this book valuable is that Blomberg wants to answer the critics who make the Bible less reliable by questioning manuscript evidence, canon or translation methods, but also Christians who claim too much about the Bible on these issues. In addition to what might be called apologetic issues, Blomberg includes a chapter on miracles. This is more philosophical since the miraculous is usually ruled out a priori when critics approach the Bible. This chapter also deals with the idea of myth and how that may (or may not) relate to the stories we read in the Bible.

Brazos Press has set up a website for the book with and overview of the contents as well as a number of videos from Blomberg talking about some of the issues he covers in the book. The schedule for the Blog Tour includes contributions from Daniel Wallace, Ken Schenck, Joel Watts, Lee Martin McDonald, Darrell Bock, Michael Bird, Nijay Gupta, Matthew Montonini, David Capes, and Craig Keener. I was assigned chapter 3, on the reliability of English translations of the Bible. My comments on the chapter will appear here on Thursday, March 20.

As a promotion for the book, Brazos is giving away five copies of the book and a Grand Prize of four books from Baker Academic in addition to a copy of Can We Still Believe? You can enter the giveaway starting March 17, so visit the website and check it out.

I am heading for Baltimore this afternoon to attend the National meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. I always enjoy ETS, even though it is smaller than the SBL/AAR meetings later in the week.  I am not giving a paper this year, but I am a “moderator” for a Gospels/Acts parallel session tomorrow morning.

9780310331360Because I am serving as a moderator, I will not be able to attend what promises to be one of the main events of the conference. November 19 there will be a panel discussion featuring Albert Mohler, Kevin Vanhoozer, Michael Bird, Peter Enns, and John R. Franke onthe topic of Inerrancy. These five scholars are the contributors to Zondervan’s Five Views on Inerrancywhich is due be released December 10. This will likely be a heavily attended session, given the topic and participants.

The Bible Gateway is going to live-blog and live-Tweet (@biblegateway) the event from from 8:30-11:40 AM EST. If you are not in Baltimore for the meetings, be sure to  check out the Bible Gateway blog.

If you are in Baltimore, have a great time and enjoy the crab-cakes.

Logos Bible Software has been publishing a number of important books as a part of the digital library. The Second Temple Judaism Studies Collection collects seven books published by Sheffield Academic Press between 1983 and 2009 covers a wide range of topics of interest in the Second Temple Period. These are all part of the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement series and are all either revised dissertations or collections of essays drawn from SBL study groups. The original hardback editions of these books are now out of print although a few have been re-printed in paperback and are available as eBooks on Google Books. Some, however, no longer available and often sell for inflated prices (a hardcover copy of Schams or Davies’s The Damascus Covenant, for example, are offered on Amazon for more than $150).

second-temple-judaism-studies-collectionWilliam M. Schniedewind, Word of God in Transition: From Prophet to Exegete in the Second Temple Period (JSOTSup 197; 1995, 275 pages). This book is a revision of Schniedewind’s Brandeis doctoral dissertation (1992). The topic certainly is influenced by Schniedewind mentor, Michael Fishbane, who has contributed several monographs on the interpretation of scripture within the canon. This study examines the transition from the traditional prophet to a “new kind of prophet” in the post-exilic period who is an inspired interpreter rather than a “classic prophet” (p. 11). The Chronicler, for example, receives traditions and interprets them in a new context. This shift on what the “word of God” meant in the Second Temple Period is reflected in the title of the book. The book of Chronicles is more like an exegete than a prophet, paving the way for the scribes and other experts in the law. [NB: that the Logos website incorrectly identifies this as a 2009 publication. That refers to the paperback reprint from Bloomsbury T&T Clark not the original publication of the book.]

Christine Schams, Jewish Scribes in the Second Temple Period (JSOTSup 291; 1998, 288 pages). Like Schniedewind, this revision of Schams’s D.Phil thesis is concerned with the development of the scribe in the Second Temple Period. She surveys literary evidence from the Persian period (including bullae), the Hellenistic period, and the Roman Period on the role of the scribes in society. What is remarkable is the silence of these texts; there are far fewer references to scribes than we might have expected. Neither Josephus or Philo refer to scribes as an important role in Jewish society. Scribes are not mentioned in The Letter of Aristeas or in pagan descriptions of Jewish society, and there is little in the Dead Sea Scrolls concerning the scribe. Yet in the New Testament scribes appear to be prominent members of society. She offers a bewildering number of possible explanations for the lace of reference to scribes outside of the New Testament (ch. 3).  Her fourth chapter provides a comprehensive definition of the role of scribe in each of the periods.

qumran-between-the-old-and-new-testamentsFrederick H. Cryer, Thomas L. Thompson, editors. Qumran between the Old and New Testaments (JSOTSup 290; 1998, 2009, 398 pages).  This book collects papers from the 1995 International Scandinavian Conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran, sponsored by the University of Copenhagen. Originally published in hardback in 1998, T&T Clark issued a less expensive paperback in 2009. The collection includes several excellent essays from noted Scrolls scholars Florentiono Garcia Martinez, Emmanuel Tov, Harmut Stegmann and Ben Zion Wacholder as well as scholars specializing in the Hebrew Bible, Niels Peter Lemche, Thomas Thompson and Fred Cryer. I was particularly interested in Sarianna Metso’s article on “The Use of Old Testament Quotations in the Qumran Community Rule” since I did some work on that text for my dissertation. Metso is interested in the redactions of 1QS more than the hermenutical strategies of citations and allusions.

Raymond Jacques Tournay, Seeing and Hearing God with the Psalms: The Prophetic Liturgy of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (JSOTSup 118; 1991, 311 pages). Tournay’s monograph concerns the origin and structure of the Psalms as a collection. He proposes to study the Psalms collection by studying the psalms as the product of levitical singers in the Second Temple Period, but also giving full weight to the prophetic dimension usually ignored by commentators on the Psalms (p. 30). This is similar to David Mitchell’s thesis in his The Message of the Psalter: An Eschatological Programme in the Book of Psalms (JSOTSup 252. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1997). Tournay does not want to diminish the worship aspect of the Psalms, but he cannot ignore the prophetic aspects. He first argues that the Levitical singers gradually replaced the classic prophet as the “authentic cultic prophets” who encountered God and delivered his word (ch. 1-3). He then surveys theophany narratives in the Psalms (ch. 4-8) before moving to oracles in the Psalms (ch. 9-13). Most would expect this to be heavily weighted toward messianic expectations, but Tournay only includes a single chapter on messianic Psalms. This makes sense, if the levitical singers were functioning like prophets, since prophets did not always prophecy only concerning the messianic age. In his short conclusion, Tournay teases the reader by pointing out that the prophetic dimension in the psalms was recognized by two Second Temple messianic movements, Qumran and Christianity.

STP Vol 2Tamara C. Eskenazi and Kent H. Richards, editors. Second Temple Studies, Volume 2: Temple and Community in the Persian Period (JSOTSup 175; 1994, 2009, 175 pages). Many of the essays in this collection were a part of the 1991 International SBL symposium on “The Temple in the Persian Period.”  Since the collection limits itself to the Persian period all of the articles focus on the later books of the Hebrew Bible. The section on the temple is almost entirely drawn from the prophets (Carroll on the Prophets, Baltzer on Second Isaiah, Clines on Haggai, and Marinkovic on Zech 1-8).  The second section focuses on the community of the Persian period, with essays on Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah. Two articles (Smith–Carpenter; Eskenazi and Judd) deal with the issue of mixed marriage in Ezra and Nehemiah. Lester Grabbe’s contribution on the Mission of Ezra summarizes some of his views developed elsewhere.

Philip R. Davies, John M. Halligan, editors. Second Temple Studies, Volume 3: Studies in Politics, Class and Material Culture (JSOTSup 340; 2002, 2009, 340 pages). As sequel to Eskenazi and Richards, this collection of essays comes out of the SBL Sociology of the Second Temple study group. Rather than the Person period, the essays in this collection focus on the Achaemenid era (two essays), the Hellenistic period(s) (five essays) and the Hasmonean dynasty (three essays). Richard Horsely contributes an article on Ben Sira and the Sociology of the Second Temple (co-written by Patrick Tiller) and a second article on applying “historical sociology” to the expansion of Hasmonean rule in Galilee. Lester Grabbe aslo has two articles, the first on Hellenization, interacting with Martin Hengel, and a second contribution concerning the Samaritans in the Hasmonean period. One of the more interesting articles is by Robert Doran, on “Jewish Education in the Seleucid Period.” That anything can be known about education in this period is something of an open question, but Doran uses the text of Ben Sira and Ezekiel the Tragedian to draw some conclusions about what might have passed for education in the Jerusalem Gymnasium in the pre-Hasmonean period.

the-damascus-covenantPhilip R. Davies. The Damascus Covenant: An Interpretation of the “Damascus Document” (JSOTSup 25; 1983, 348 pages). The oldest book in this collection is focused on the Damascus Document (CD), a foundational text for the Essenes and is among the more important texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Document was discovered in the early twentieth century in the Cairo Geniza and was not immediately recognized as an Essene text (it was often referred to as a “Zadokite” document). Even though much has happened in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Davies book on the Damascus Document is still helpful, especially his detailed literature survey of scholarship on the CD up to the early 1980s.

Conclusion. The books in this collection are a somewhat odd assortment, but they are all valuable contributions to the study of the Second Temple Period. A serious college, university, or seminary ought to own copies of these books.  They may not be the types of books the “average reader” will buy since a dissertation tends to be a challenging read. But anyone working in the Second Temple period ought to consider adding one or all of these books to their library.

My initial thought when I saw the price of these books is that they were too expensive. I pointed out to the marketing people at Logos that there were two books that were over-priced because they were out of print and available far less expensively at Google books, they responded but getting lowering the package price considerably. The collection is now available for 249.95, averaging about $35 per book.  This is in line with the cost of the books via Google Books.

Logos has a number of promotions available to professors and students to reduce the cost of the collection. In addition, these books are formatted to the Logos library, so that all of the tools of Logos can be used with them, including robust note-taking, highlighting, and copy and paste functions that simply do not exist in the Google Books format. I have purchased a few dissertations from Google Books, they have little more functionality than reading a PDF.

Logos is simply a superior reading platform to Google or Kindle. For me, the fact that Logos places footnotes at the bottom of the page for downloaded books makes Logos a superior reading tool. On the desktop version of Logos, footnotes are clickable links, but the note floats in a window above the text and can be copied like any other text. At this time, the Logos App does not permit copying footnotes.

Thanks to Logos for kindly providing me with a review copy of these books. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Kruse, RomansAmazon’s Kindle Store has a great deal on Colin Kruse’s Pillar commentary on Romans.  The list price is $52.00, but the Kindle version is a mere $2.99.  I am not sure if this is a mistake or a short-term sale.  I did not see any other Pillar commentaries on sale in the Kindle store.

I reviewed this commentary when it came out, so go read my review and buy a copy of this fine resource.

JSPL_logoThe latest Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters (Spring 2013) arrived today. There is no “theme” for this issue, but there is a response to Steven Enderlein’s article on Romans 3:23 from a 2011 JSPL issue.  Stanley Porter and Wally Cirafesi. In that earlier article Enderlein argued that the verb ὑστερέω, traditionally translated as “fall short” in Romans 3:23 ought to be translated as “lack.”  The verse would then read “all have sinned and lack the glory of God.” He goes on to argue that this leads to a subjective reading of πίστις Χριστοῦ. Porter and Cirafesi agree with his translation of ὑστερέω, but do not agree that this forces a subjective (as opposed to an objective) genitive of πίστις Χριστοῦ. (For those who missed the 9000 articles on pistis christoi, if the genitive is subjective, then Paul is focused on the “Jesus’ faithfulness” rather than “faith in Jesus.”) Enderlein finds the subjective reading more coherent in the context of Romans 3-4. He has in mind “Adam allusions” throughout Rom 1-7, especially in 3:21-26 and 5:12-21.

I enjoyed David Starling’s article on “The Children of the Barren Woman: Galatians 4:27 and the Hermenutics of Justification.”  He reads the somewhat odd allusion to Isa 54:1 in the context of the story of Israel, which is the context of the middle section of Galatians. In fact, Starling points out that Paul’s use of Isa 54:1 is without parallel in the Second Temple Period.  Isaiah 54 was written to Israel while the nation is still in exile in a Gentile nation (still under the curse), and for Paul, Israel is still in this typological exile. Everyone is under the power of sin and must “come of out of the exile” in the same way, by means of God’s grace and not Torah observance.

There is also a long article my Mark Nanos on “Paul’s Polemic in Philippians 3.”  I browsed a few pages, looks like it is well-worth the read. There are a number of other articles in this number of the Journal, including Nijay Gupta’s review of Christ Tilling’s Divine Christ in Paul.

If you have not subscribed to Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters, you are missing out on a wealth of quality scholarship.

Shively, Elizabeth E. Apocalyptic Imagination in the Gospel of Mark: The Literary and Theological Role of Mark 3:22- 30. BNZW 189. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2012. 295 p.  $140.00 Link.

Elizabeth Shively is a lecturer in New Testament at University of St Andrews.  Her book Apocalyptic Imagination in the Gospel of Mark is a light revision of her 2009 Ph.D. Emory University dissertation written under the guidance of Luke Timothy Johnson.

The basic thesis of the study is that Mark 3:22-30 functions as a programmatic statement for the Gospel of Mark. Three short parables and logion are placed together in order to construct the symbolic world which shapes the Gospel of Mark on both a literary and theological level. Shively understands parables of the Kingdom / House Divided and the Strong Man as apocalyptic discourse which is used to answer the question of the source of Jesus’ authority to cast out demons, but also to interpret Jesus for a new community of believers who are suffering.  For Shively, Mark 3:22-30 is “cluster of apocalyptic topoi” that Mark expands to “reveal a word of cosmic conflict manifest in Jesus’ ministry” (p. 5).

ShivelyShively points out that most scholars who work on parables do not work with these three short sayings, despite the fact that Mark specifically calls them parables in 3:23. The reason for this is that most monographs on parables have defined the genre in a way which rules out these sayings.  By taking this pericope as a programmatic statement for the gospel of Mark, Shively hopes to read Mark as a coherent, unified narrative within its own symbolic world.  That world is “Jewish apocalyptic thought” as expressed in parabolic forms. By constructing this paragraph has he has, Mark is “describing Jesus’ ministry as ‘more than a rescue operation,’” Jesus is beginning the “reconstructive work of the Kingdom of God” (p. 82).

While the Gospel of Mark is obviously not apocalyptic in terms of genre, Mark is an “apocalyptic thinker.” Following Luke Timothy Johnson’s definition of symbolic worlds, she points out that symbols are “social structures in which people live” (p. 29). Clusters of symbols help people to understand the world and communicate that understanding to others who share these symbols. Like most modern scholars who work on symbols and metaphors, she stands on the foundation of Lakoff and Johnson Metaphors We Live By, applying their insights to the apocalyptic worldview of first century Judaism. Figurative language appears in this pericope to “stage a cosmic drama” (p.81).

Shively explains that apocalyptic symbols have two dimensions. There is a vertical dimension to this literate in which cosmic forces are involved in earth. This may take the form of angels and demons active in the world, for example. The horizontal dimension is a movement toward an imminent eschatological salvation. The righteous are undergoing persecution and look forward to God breaking into history to liberate them from their oppressors. This description of apocalyptic thinking is clear from texts that are considered apocalyptic by genre; Shively argues in this book that Mark reflects that thinking in his Gospel and uses it to shape his theological interpretation of Jesus’ ministry.

By way of method, Shively reads Mark 3:22-30 both “inner-textually” and intertextually.  By inner-textually she means the “story world of Mark.”  This means that she will pay attention to the Gospel of Mark as a whole, examining the rhetoric, plot, and characters of the book in order to trace the author’s interests.  The second chapter of this book places this pericope in the overall context of the gospel by examining how it functions rhetorically at the beginning of the Gospel, and her fifth chapter  examines the larger context of the Gospel, primarily the Gerasene Demoniac (5:1-20) and the apocalyptic speech (13:5-37).

By intertextual, she intends to read the Gospel of Mark in the light of textual traditions outside of the Gospel. Following on Richard Hays, she proposes to hear echoes of the Hebrew Bible in Mark 3:22-30. She acknowledges that intertextual elements do not only exist in quotes of allusions, but also in the form of metaphors and symbols in Jewish apocalyptic thought (p. 36). She says that “we cannot understand Mark’s intertextuality simply by looking at discrete OT citations and allusions” because Mark is “weaving citations, allusions and themes” in order to “awaken the reader’s memory” (261).  (I made this point in my own dissertation on Jesus’s use of eschatological banquet traditions from the Hebrew Bible.) Since Mark wrote as an “apocalyptic thinker” he does not have to consciously cite a text from the Hebrew Bible.  He may use a well-known metaphor from apocalyptic literature without having a specific text in mind.  On the other hand, he may have a cluster of texts in mind rather than a single context.

I find this to be very helpful and interesting, but in practice there is not much which can be described as intertextual with respect to the Hebrew Bible in Mark 3:22-30.  She does comment on the potential allusion to Isaiah 49:24-26 in Mark 3:27.  Several commentaries have noticed this allusion, although there are only a few words shared by both texts.  In LXX Isa 49:24 the strong one is a “giant” (γίγαντος), and he is captured (αἰχμαλωτεύω), not bound (δέω) and plundered (διαρπάζω) as in Mark 3:27.  The word λαμβάνω is repeated in Isa 49:24-26 several times but does not appear in Mark 3:27. At best, this is an “echo” of Isa 49:24-26 and might be better described as an allusion to the tradition that the Lord is the ultimate Strong One who rescues his people from their enemies.

The key word in Mark 3:27 for Shively is ἰσχυρός.  In Isa 49:26 it is the Lord who is the “strong one” who will end the exile for Judah by destroying the strong nations.  In Mark 3:27, Jesus is stronger than the “strong man” (Satan) and is presently binding him in order to inaugurate the Kingdom. Mark “recontextualizes Israel’s captivity and rescue using apocalyptic topoi” (p. 74).

A second stage of the intertextual method in this book is a comparison to other Jewish apocalyptic literature.  This is the subject of chapter 3. She begins by offering a brief orientation to seven apocalyptic texts she has chosen to compare to Mark 3: 1 Enoch, Jubilees, Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, The War Scroll (1QM), Melchizedek (11QMelch), and Testament of Solomon.  Shively then uses Daniel as a “template” for apocalyptic thinking and develops three themes from the book: persecution of the righteous, the activity of heavenly beings, and God’s protection through a future judgment. These three themes are key elements of apocalyptic thinking in Daniel and Shively demonstrates that they are found in each of the apocalyptic books chosen for comparison. This section is well-documented and the she makes the case that apocalyptic thinking from Daniel onward does in fact include these three areas.

I like how this chapter is designed, but I wonder if the results would differ if she had chosen another set of examples from Jewish apocalyptic literature. For example, she does not use her template on 4 Ezra or 2 Baruch, two books written after the fall of Jerusalem, perhaps only two decades after Mark was written. It is likely that the three elements of her template are present there, although the “coming judgment” may look different than Mark’s Kingdom of God. I am thinking specifically about 4 Ezra 9:22 where the “rescue” at the time of judgment concerns only a very tiny remnant which survives the final judgment. By broadening the database, perhaps the template would look different.

When she applies her observations to Mark 3:22-30, Shively finds that there is a “shared symbolic world” (p. 147-52).  In Jesus’ ministry there is a persecution (by the human scribes or the demons), and Jesus is actively opposing these demonic forces by casting them out. Finally, he announces that the strong man has been bound and that those who oppose him will be judged guilty in the coming judgment (Mark 3:28-29).

Shively applies the findings of the study to Mark’s Gospel. Chapter 5 examines two examples of “power” in Mark’s apocalyptic thinking in the context of a story and a speech. The story Shively selects is Mark 5:1-20, the Gerasene Demon.  In this exorcism story, Mark “engages in apocalyptic discourse directly reminiscent of Mark 3:22-30” (p. 183). An evil spirit is oppressing a human and Jesus appears to judge that demon. The result of this demonstration of the power of God is that the man proclaims what God has done throughout the Gentile region.  Later in the book Shively suggests that the response of the man “becomes Mark’s Great commission” (p.250). The Olivet Discourse (Mark 13:5-37) concludes with a parable of a householder, reminiscent of the Strong Man parable in Mark 3:27. Shively states that the Mark’s apocalyptic discourse is “persuasive rhetoric” which seeks to persuade the followers of Jesus that righteous suffering is God’s will, they ought to act self-sacrificially (like Jesus) in anticipation of a final judgment on the world (p. 218).  God’s power is acting through Jesus to overcome the strong man already, but Mark’s audience is told to look forward to the decisive return of the Son of Man.

The nature of the power which overcomes the strong man is developed in chapter 6.  Shively examines Mark 8:27-10:45 as a unit, beginning with the confession of Peter and ending with the “ransom for many” logion. In this section Jesus subverts expectations by describing the “things of God” as his coming suffering. Jesus demonstrates the power of God which overcomes the strongman by suffering. Those who suffer manifest the power of God, even in death.  This is the point of the empty tomb account (Mark 16:1-8).  Through the resurrection Jesus asserts his power over the strong man.

Conclusion. Elizabeth Shively has made a significant contribution to the study of Mark’s gospel by suggesting Mark 3:22-30 as a programmatic statement which reflects Mark’s apocalyptic thinking. While not an apocalyptic writer, Mark reflects the sort of thinking which was common in the first century in order to communicate his interpretation of the life and ministry of Jesus as the “stronger man” who overcomes the power of Satan and enables his followers to understand their own struggle against the powers of darkness as they look forward to the return of the Son of Man to render final judgment.

Thanks to de Gruyter for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Themelios 38.1Two new recent Journals are available for free to online readers.

The latest issue of Themelois has been posted to the Gospel Coalition website, Issue 38.1 features an excellent article by Eric Ortland “The Pastoral Implications of Wise and Foolish Speech in the Book of Proverbs.”  This issue has a large number of book reviews, including  my review of Jonathan T. PenningtonReading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012).  The Gospel Coalition allows you to download a PDF of Themelios or you can read it online.  An interesting feature for the online reader is the ability to make comments directly on the article as if the journal were a blog.

The Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament 2.1 (2013) has several interesting articles, including Andrew E. Steinmann  on the Song of Solomon (“Gazelles, Does, and Flames: (De)Limiting Love in Song of Songs”), John G. Ferch, “The Story of Torah: The Role of Narrative in Leviticus’s Legal Discourse” and  Spencer L. Allen, “An Examination of Northwest Semitic Divine Names and the Bet-locative.”  There are 23 book reviews, including my own review of Pentateuchal Traditions in the Late Second Temple Period: Proceedings of the International Workshop in Tokyo, August 28–31, 2007, edited by Akio Moruya and Gohei Hata (Leiden: Brill, 2012). The journal is available for free in PDF format.  You can download it or read it online, but there is no feedback option for online readers.  Printed copies will be available through Wipf & Stock.

Phillip J. Long:

Jason reviews Charts on the Life of Paul, by Lars Kierspel.  I reviewed this book in May.  Check out what Jason has to say on this useful book.

Originally posted on Εις Δοξαν:

Charts on the Life, Letters, and Theology of Paul by Lars Kierspel

Kregel | Amazon | CBD

Thanks to the kind folks at Kregel for this review copy, which I received free of charge in exchange for an unbiased review.

For many readers in the fields of theology and biblical studies, the juxtaposition of “charts” and “theology” in a book’s title may conjure images of elaborately composed end-times scenarios or depictions of history’s progression toward that end. Thankfully, we need not entertain such possibilities here, for Kierspel has done a fine job amassing a wealth of material and condensing it all into a single reference volume. In fact, it’s really rather stunning to consider how much work must have gone into this volume when you begin poring over its pages. While it’s a bit overextending to say that Kierspel has left no Pauline stone unturned, it’s not far from the truth…

View original 550 more words

BARBiblical Archaeology Review is giving away a copy of their ‘Top Ten Archaeological Discoveries in exchange for your email address. Follow the link and sign up for the BAR daily emails and you will get a link to the book in PDF format, easily read on any platform.  I saved the file right to my Dropbox and opened it on my iPad and opened it with the Kindle Reader, although it will open with many other PDF readers.

The “top ten” articles are drawn from past issues of BAR and are accompanied by a number of illustrations (both B&W and color).  Some of these illustrations are better than others, I presume that the better photographs are from more recent articles (such as the Tel  Dan inscription).  The book is 148 pages, each article is 10-12 pages long. In a few cases, the original sidebars are also included.  Since the articles are from the BAR magazine, they are written for the non-specialist. (This book looks alot like the older “Best of BAR” series.)

As for the list of Top Ten archaeological discoveries, it is mixed list.  The Nag Hammadi library is first on the list, a worthy inclusion. But the book omits the Dead Sea Scrolls.  At first I thought this was because the discoveries were all after 1974 (when the Biblical Archaeological Society was founded), but the Nag Hammadi library was discovered in 1945, the same time as the Dead Sea Scrolls.  I think that the mosaic from Sepphoris on the cover of the book is beautiful, but I am not sure it rates the top ten.

For the cost of your email address, this is good book to download.  Everyone will disagree with about any “top ten” list, at least this one is free.

Keener ActsHere is a link to three reviews of Craig Keener’s Acts: An Exegetical Commentary, Volume 1 on Review of Biblical Literature.  Keener’s commentary is a a masterpiece, the introduction is at least three or four monographs worth of material.

Richard I. Pervo is quite complementary, despite a careful review of Keener’s view of the value of the history of Acts.  Even though Keener does not accept Pervo’s view on Acts as Novel, Pervo finds much in this commentary similar to his own thinking.  Pervo argues in this review that “every episode should be evaluated for historical worth on its own merits,” rather than resorting to literary  or historical theories in each case.  For the most part Keener does not interact with Pervo since his work was more or less finished by the time that Pervo’s commentary was released.

Joseph B. Tyson looks more closely at Keener’s approach to “Acts as an apologetic historiography.”  As he states, it is hard to judge how this will work out in the commentary since the only the first two chapters are included in the first volume.  But it is clear that Keener is willing to accept more as historical than most modern commentaries, especially miracles.  “to dismiss claims about miracles is a Western ethnocentric, largely academic, worldview and that an unbiased approach would consider their possibility,” writes Tyson.  This is not really a surprise since Keener has also written a lengthy defense of miracles.

Daniel L. Smith is a bit less complimentary, finding that the length of the book makes for difficult reading, with “occasional redundancies and repetitions.” The commentary is “cumbersome at times” yet still in many ways “fresh and appealing.”  Despite any misgivings, Smith still describes the commentary as “the result of the careful, balanced work of a senior scholar.”

All the more reason for you to invest in Keener’s first volume on Acts!

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Phillip J. Long

I am a college professor who enjoys reading, listening to music and drinking fine coffee. Often at the same time.

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