Let’s be honest. There are a multitude of commentaries on the market today to include multi-volume sets, one volume treatments of Scripture, and the approach of an Old and New Testament set. Thus, when a new commentary series, volume, or set comes on the market, it is always interesting to ascertain what this new entry has to offer that is different or for that matter the same as everything else available for purchase. Does the commentary provide a quick and simple overview or does it dig down deeper into the text, teasing out theological issues of importance that perhaps have been overlooked.
Fortress Press has recently released a commentary set that takes a look at the Old and New Testaments as well as the Apocrypha. For those not familiar with the Apocrypha, it is a collection of books written in the third to first century B.C. While not part of the Jewish Bible or most Protestant Bibles, they are part of the Roman Catholic canon and for that matter part of the Scriptures in some Orthodox churches.
There is much to enjoy in this two volume commentary set. The contributors to both volumes do an admirable job of explaining the main themes and issues of each section of Scripture. For instance, in the Old Testament commentary, there is a section that addresses the themes and perspectives of the Torah, the Historical Writings, Wisdom literature, and the Prophetic writings. As noted earlier, the Apocrypha is included as well in the Old Testament commentary and there is a helpful introduction to those books.
In the introduction to both volumes, it is noted that these commentaries seek “to provide students with diverse materials on the ways in which these texts have been interpreted through the course of history, as well as helping students understand the texts’ relevance for today’s globalized world. It recognizes the complexities that are involved with being an engaged reader of the Bible, providing a powerful tool for exploring the Bible’s multilayered meanings in both their ancient and modern contexts.” To that end, both volumes meet that stated goal as there is much information provided concerning each book of the Bible and the Apocrypha to include the various perspectives taken on the Scriptures on quite a number of important junctures.
There are some aspects of the commentary provided specifically in the Old Testament volume that I humble submit I found disagreement with, specifically in relation to the approach taken to the Genesis account as well as the support provided for the Documentary Hypothesis, heretofore noted as JEDP. It is stated that the Genesis creation account is “connected to the Babylonian myth the Enuma Elish and/or the battle between the Canaanite god Baal and Yam, each of which centers on order’s conquest of chaos.” Based on that belief, it is asserted that modern science cannot be found in Genesis nor can the text be utilized to address matters of a scientific nature. I would humble disagree that the Genesis creation account is specifically tied at all possible angles to addressing the Babylonian myth and thus has no relevant bearing on other issues. God provided us the how and why of creation, the how being related to matters of science and theology, and the why related to matters of theology to include the need to reveal that God is the Creator over and above the popular pagan religious myths of that time period.
Additionally, the support of JEDP or the position that Moses did not write the whole Torah is another point upon which I found disagreement. This concept is largely rooted in noting the different names for God used in various places in the Torah, those providing supposed support for multiple authors over an extended period of time far beyond that of Moses. This type of approach makes the claim that a single author could not have used different names or addressed varying issues within his same body of material. Many scholars have noted the difficulties in supporting the JEDP hypothesis. Thankfully, the section devoted to this approach is short and does not reveal itself too much later in the commentary.
Outside of those two points of disagreement, I found most of the commentary provided by the contributors to be helpful and devoted to engaging the text in a consistent manner. With any commentary, there is bound to be points of disagreement, especially in a set of volumes where many have contributed their thoughts and ideas. These volumes are no exception to that rule. Those who read these commentaries will find a great deal of valuable information to include the variety of thought presented by scholars through the years. Some may find the commentary and information to be a bit on the scholarly end of the spectrum; however, students and scholars are the intended audience.
I appreciated the inclusion of some rather lengthy bibliographies at the end of each section. It is always valuable to assess the material from which the contributors utilized. Additionally, having additional resources noted that one can dig into is always a helpful addition. If anything, these lengthy bibliographies provide and introduce to the reader material for which they may not be aware is available. For the voracious reader, such material is always welcome.
This is a commentary set I would recommend for the Bible College and Seminary student and for the more seasoned believer. The material provided in these commentaries is helpful and the contributors do a good job of presenting both the interpretive tradition as well as some contemporary application. With that said, this is a scholarly leaning commentary set, focused on digging into matters of society, history, linguistics, and interpretive tradition more so than everyday application of the text. Even so, this is a commentary set worth wading into as there is much to glean from its pages.
These books are available for purchase from Fortress Press by clicking here.
I received these books for free from Fortress Press for this review. 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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” Hebrews 2:1
The writer of Hebrews provides four warnings concerning “drifting away,” or leaving the faith, throughout the book. Christians are warned about the reality of becoming a “Demas” (2 Tim. 4:10, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed…”), someone who has left the faith. The Apostle John, regarding believers who left the faith, states this:
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).
Therefore, the admonitions which are provided for us to be aware of drifting away are sincere. In Hebrews, the writer utilizes two sailing terms (in the Greek) in the above verse (2:1). The first word is translated into English as “drift away.” This Greek word is pararreō, which literally has the connotation of a ship drifting from its mooring. Richard Phillips states, “One of the key ideas here is that this drifting away is something that happens largely unnoticed.”  The second Greek term is prosechō, which is translated as an imperative verb, to beware. Phillips states, “…it was used to denote holding to a course or securing an anchor.”  Later, the writer of Hebrews will conclude, “we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (6:18b-19).
This reminds me of a day at the beach years ago. A woman was on a raft in the Atlantic Ocean. As she tanned, relaxing on vacation, and most likely nodded off, she had no idea that her raft had drifted beyond the breakers. The lifeguards were frantically blowing their whistles, but to no avail, the woman drifted further and further to sea, not being able to hear due to the Ocean’s soothing roar. The lifeguards quickly called on the Coast Guard, who dispatched a rescue helicopter, which was immediately on the scene. However, the woman was still oblivious to her demise and situation, even as many people yelled from the shore, along with constant lifeguard whistles in warning. As the Coast Guard helicopter hovered over her, causing a downdraft of water spray, a voice came over the helicopter’s loud speaker, startling the woman. She quickly shot up on the raft, but was close to ¾ to a mile off of the shore. The good news is, The Coast Guard lowered a rope and pulled her to a vacant area safely down the beach.
My account reminds me of the famous scientist, we all know, who was at one time very orthodox in his faith. He attended Seminary and received his degree and almost set out for a life as a pastor. In his autobiography, he writes:
“Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at…for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality…But I had gradually come by this time, to see that the Old Testament was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos.”  Sadly, Charles Darwin drifted slowly away from the faith. It is obvious to see that the rope holding him to the mooring of his faith was broken free, and he unnoticingly, sailed into uncharted waters. Although Darwin had heard whistles and yells of warning, he kept on drifting, to the point of no return.
Therefore, heed the message today about your faith in Christ, are you anchored in Him? Make sure that your faith is tied securely to its mooring. Pay attention to those in the faith around you and take heed of their warnings. If you are drifting in the ocean of this world, it is not too late, wake up and look to the seashore. God always sends His Coast Guard to make sure that you hear His voice.
 Richard D. Phillips. Hebrews Expository Commentary. (P& R Publishing, 2006) 47.
 Ibid, 49
 Dr. John van Whye. 2002. The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online. http://j.mp/8lT2dT [Accessed Jan. 6, 2009]
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Right before I got married, a wise man, married for many years, gave me a piece of advice. He said, “Dan, always talk favorably about your wife when she is not around. She can hear what you say about her even when she is not around.” This is a maxim I have tried to follow in my marriage. We’ve all been around folks who dis their spouses with regularity. It’s cringe-inducing for those of us who have to hear it and it only makes us wonder how good that marriage can be. I also believe, strongly, that spouses can sense when we don’t have their back, when we’re kind of smiling when we are in their presence, but cutting them down when they are gone. Real love doesn’t do this.
I also think this is an important principle when it comes to our children. It’s easy to criticize our kids when they are not present, especially when parents get together and kind of share “war stories” of whose kid is more difficult. There’s nothing wrong with retelling funny or difficult moments from parenting with trusted friends. But I think we do harm to our kids when we disparage them to other parents. Even when they aren’t physically present, they can hear us. Kids instinctively sense when their parents are disappointed in them, when their parents don’t believe in them. And yet it’s so easy to fall into a trap of kind of always lamenting our kids. My kid is so stubborn. My kid is not really smart. My kid is always doing this or doing that. When we do this, it sets a tone, a tone that no matter what our kids do, they will never measure up to our standards, standards we probably couldn’t reach ourselves. Every kid needs their parent to be proud of them. I’m not talking about over-the-top flattery, but I’m talking the kind of approval every child longs for and needs from their parents. Jesus received this at His baptism, when the Father called down from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Dads, your kids especially need this from you. Don’t be stingy with encouragement and praise.
I think we often forget that our children are not just our offspring, but they are our neighbors as well. Do we love them well? And if our children are Christians, they are also brothers and sisters in the Lord. Do we treat them appropriately this way? This doesn’t diminish our roles as fathers and mothers. This doesn’t lessen the need for love and discipline. But we’d do well to remember our kids, like us, also deserve grace. They were created in the image of God and deserve our respect and they are sinners who deserve our forgiveness when they fall short.
Parenting can be exasperating, tiring, and sometimes lonely. Venting, at the end of the along day, is sometimes therapeutic. But let’s make sure we don’t damage our kids by talking about them behind their backs. Because despite what we think, our kids can hear us when we are speaking. Even if they are miles away.
The purpose of this series is to help our readers this holiday season to think through the doctrine of the person and work of Christ.
“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’”
Jesus Christ, the God-Man, committed the most scandalously humble act in human history: He made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born as a man who was obedient to the point of death, slaughtered by His own creation (Philippians 2:7-8). Try to wrap your mind around that one.
Shamefully, man was so proud to have done it. Sin blinded our eyes to the beauty of this Christ. And those who hated Him cried, “Crucify Him!!!” again and again. They would not settle for any ordinary death; it had to be one of intense suffering and shame. As Jesus, an innocent man, hung there, He opened his lips not to curse his oppressors but to plead with the Father on their behalf.
THE ROOT OF MAN’S NEED
I love A.W. Pink‘s words on this:
The first important lesson which all need to learn is that we are sinners, and as such, unfit for the presence of a Holy God. It is in vain that we select noble ideals, form good resolutions, and adopt excellent rules to live by, until the sin-question has been settled. It is of no avail that we attempt to develop a beautiful character and aim to do that which will meet with God’s approval while there is sin between him and our souls. Of what use are shoes if our feet are paralyzed. Of what use are glasses if we are blind. The question of the forgiveness of my sins is basic, fundamental, vital. It matters not that I am highly respected by a wide circle of friends if I am yet in my sins. It matters not that I have made good in business if I am an unpardoned transgressor in the sight of God. What will matter most in the hour of death is, Have my sins been put away by the Blood of Christ?
THE GROUNDS OF FORGIVENESS
Every single one us us is born dead in our sins (Ephesians 2) and without life. There is no one perfect. Because of this sinful nature, you and I cannot justify ourselves before God. We can try, but we will fall short, every one of us. And guess what. God would still be a good God if He left us in this state, ushering each of us to suffer under His righteous wrath. The only ground on which a Holy God will forgive sins is this: One had to satisfy His good and righteous wrath in our place. And One did. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. Through Him, we have the forgiveness of sins.
“IT IS FINISHED.”
Divine forgiveness is complete forgiveness. It is not half-hearted. It is not in need of additional labor or recompense. We don’t need to purify in purgatory. We don’t have anything to add to this free gift of salvation. It is finished.
If you are reading this as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, then rejoice! Rejoice in the forgiveness of God which you have received through the finished work of Jesus Christ.
You are completely and eternally forgiven!
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There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,t he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
With Murray Harris’ inaugural book on Colossians and Philemon the potential for success of the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series was looking bright – and it continues to be so. Though only in its third of twenty books, this series has already made its mark as a standard Greek text commentary series for serious students of the Greek New Testament.
The most recent installment is on 1 Peter by Greg W. Forbes who is the head of the Department of Biblical Studies at Melbourne School of Theology in Australia. In his contribution to the series, Forbes shows himself to be an able exegete of what many regard to be the some of the most difficult Greek in the New Testament.
In keeping with the aim of the series, Forbes book accomplishes two primary services for the reader. First, the commentary is solely based on the Greek of the New Testament primarily using the fourth edition of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament with some minor variations (xvi). 1 Peter is divided into pericopes by its Greek text, block diagrammed and then exegeted phrase-by-phrase. A good grasp of New Testament Greek is required to benefit from this book as well as an ability to understand the grammatical abbreviations used in the book.
Second, as a guide, the reader is presented with a number of helps in their own study of the Greek text. The purpose of the book is not to do all of the work for the reader, but, rather, to “provide all the necessary information for understanding the Greek text.” (xvi) Having a lot of the time consuming work done for you helps the reader to focus more on interpreting the information and developing the sermon. By breaking the book up into pericopes the reader already has a good idea as to how to lay out their sermons. There are suggested homoletical outlines (often giving more than one) as well as suggested further reading based on the subject matter of each verse or group of verses examined. When more than one suggestion is offered by commentators Forbes presents them along with his reasons for which one seems to fit the text best.
All of the books in The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament are must haves for every pastor, student and teacher who is a serious student of the Greek. Murray Harris started a remarkable series and I trust that each successive contributor will be able to follow suit in his ability to handle the Greek New Testament. Forbes book is a must have for preachers and teachers of 1 Peter who want to dig into the original Greek.
I received this book for free from B&H for this review. 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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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Join Dave as he continues the study on the Gospel of John by looking at John 1:15-18 with the men at his local church. In this study Dave looks at the uniqueness of Jesus, law, grace, Bible study, and prayer.
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