Book Reviews

Review of Leadership in Christian Perspective: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Practices for Servant Leadership by Irving and Strauss

Irving, Justin A. and Strauss, Mark L. Leadership in Christian Perspective: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Practices for Servant Leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019, pp.218, $22.99, pb. Leadership books set themselves to a series of common tasks—they promise to encourage, inspire, equip, and motivate leaders and organizations to greater effectiveness and increased success. Typically, the warrant for such a book is the success and effectiveness of its author, a highly qualified exemplar whose personal use of the methods testifies to its implicit worth. Irving and Strauss, in their 2019 volume Leadership in Christian Perspective: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Practices for Servant Leaders, are not those kinds of figures. Instead, what they have done is bring together biblical commentary (from Strauss), together with a broad summary of insights from research into leadership models (from Irving), in a topic by topic survey of what they consider to be the key qualities of ‘servant leadership.’ The result is a competent if forgettable book on ‘Christian’ leadership. The governing idea for Irving and Straus’s book is that “the most effective approaches to leadership move leaders from a focus on follower control to a focus on follower empowerment” (p. 12). Toward this goal they…

Review of The Greek of the Pentateuch: Grinfield Lectures on the Septuagint 2011-2012 by John A Lee
Book Reviews , Featured , Old Testament / January 15, 2020

Lee, John A. The Greek of the Pentateuch: Grinfield Lectures on the Septuagint 2011–2012. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 384, $99, hardback. John A. Lee is Senior Research Fellow at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, where he taught Greek for 27 years. His recently published The Greek of the Pentateuch: Grinfield Lectures on the Septuagint 2011–2012 is an expansion of his 1983 revised dissertation A Lexical Study of the Septuagint Version of the Pentateuch (Chico, CA: Scholars, 1983). Whereas his revised dissertation sought to demonstrate the lexical correspondences between Pentateuchal Greek and koine in general, The Greek of the Pentateuch seeks to demonstrate from the Pentateuch itself that the linguistic “instrument the translators deploy is fundamentally Greek” (p. 2). In other words, Lee makes a case for why and how we can know that the translators of the Pentateuch primarily utilized the language of their time. To support his thesis, Lee relies heavily on ancient classical Greek literature, third-century BCE papyri, and even modern Greek—all of which he presents countless examples. Seven chapters and eight lengthy appendices make up Lee’s book. Chapter 1 provides “illustrations of the important ‘evidence’ in studying the Greek of the LXX” (p. 39), which…

Review of 1 Corinthians in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament by Paul Gardner
Book Reviews , Featured , New Testament / January 13, 2020

Gardner, Paul. 1 Corinthians. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018, pp. 811, $49.99, hardback. Paul Gardner received a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. After being ordained as deacon (1980) and later priest (1981) in the Anglican Communion, Gardner undertook a curacy at St. Martin, Cambridge. He then taught at Oak Hill Theological College for seven years, before undertaking parish ministry in Cheshire for over a decade. He served as Archdeacon of Exeter from 2003 to 2005 and as Senior Minister of ChristChurch Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia from 2005 to 2017. Gardner’s 1 Corinthians focuses on verse-by-verse exegesis of the original Greek of 1 Corinthians. Each unit of the letter gets its own chapter (e.g., 1:1-9 = Chapter 1; 1:10-17 = Chapter 2; etc.). At the beginning of each chapter, Gardner summarizes the literary context and offers a one- or two-sentence summary of the main idea of the pertinent passage. Following is a translation presented in graphical layout, to show the flow of thought in the text. Then comes a summary of the unit’s structure and an exegetical outline. Next, Gardner offers verse-by-verse explanation of the text, heading each verse with the Greek text. Each chapter…

Review of A Latin-Greek Index of the Vulgate New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers by Theodore A. Bergren

Bergren, Theodore A. A Latin-Greek Index of the Vulgate New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018, pp. 274, €114.00, hardback. Readers who are interested in textual criticism of the New Testament will recognize the value of the Old Latin and Vulgate translations for accessing early forms of the text. The translations make available textual forms from roughly the second through the fourth centuries, while the impact of the translations on the biblical text and wider Christian history extends much further. Although the Latin translations are sometimes overlooked in New Testament textual criticism because of the number of Greek manuscripts that are extant, students of the Apostolic Fathers are not in the same fortunate position. For many texts that have been brought together in this collection, the Latin translations provide key textual evidence due to the paucity of manuscripts. Theodore Bergren’s index offers an important resource for anyone interested in Greek and Latin texts in early Christianity. Bergren is an emeritus professor in the Religious Studies Department at the University of Richmond. He has written commentaries on Fifth and Sixth Ezra and has also compiled A Latin-Greek Index of the Vulgate New Testament (Scholars, 1991). He is thus…

Review of The Hiddenness of God by Michael C. Rea
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / January 6, 2020

Rea, Michael C. The Hiddenness of God. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018, 198pp., $30.00, hardcover. Michael C. Rea is Rev. John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Philosophy of Religion. In this book, Rea deals with two problems induced by divine hiddenness. They are [1] the argument against the existence of God, most notably by J. L. Schellenberg; and [2] the challenge of the idea of God’s love. Rea’s approach to the issues involves two steps to respond to these two problems respectively. The first step involves two arguments to show that the hiddenness problems are based on an unfounded assumption about divine love. The first argument, in Chapter 2, is that Schellenberg’s problem is based on a concept of God which is different from and fails to target specifically Christian belief in God. For Rea, the problem of divine hiddenness is fundamentally “a problem of violated expectations” (p. 25). In Chapter 3, Rea argues that the concept of God in biblical portrayals emphasizes two key attributes, personality and transcendence, which are woven together while they are also in tension with each other. In short, we cannot understand divine love without the light of divine…

Review of Substance and the Fundamentality of the Familiar: A New-Aristotelian Mereology by Ross D. Inman
Book Reviews , Philosophy / December 19, 2019

Inman, Ross D. Substance and the Fundamentality of the Familiar: A Neo-Aristotelian Mereology. New York, NY: Routledge, 2018, 304, $145.00, hardcover. Ross Inman is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth Texas and also serves as the senior editor for the journal Philosophia Christi. He holds an M.A. in Philosophy from Talbot School of Theology and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin. He also completed research fellowships at the University of Notre Dame and Saint Louis University. Based upon this Inman has the necessary credentials and training to wade into the difficult waters of mereology in his book on the fundamental nature of substance. Mereology is about wholes and their parts, determining which is most fundamental to identity and existence. The typical views in mereology affirm either the whole as prior to its parts or the parts as prior to the whole. Inman, on the other hand, defends a via media thesis that at least some intermediate composite objects like people, trees, and tigers are the most fundamental objects, being substances in their own right. Rather than following Monism or Pluralism about fundamentality in whole, where either the bottom or the top of…

Review of God & the Gothic: Religion, Romance, and Reality in the English Literary Tradition by Alison Milbank

Milbank, Alison. God & the Gothic: Religion, Romance, and Reality in the English Literary Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2018, pp. 354, hardback. $44.35. Although traditionally seen as a marginal form within the wider world of English literature, the Gothic novel has become increasingly popular with both academic researchers and students since at least the 1970s. Lending itself to a diversity of theoretical and critical approaches, from the psychoanalytic to the Marxist, the Gothic novel has spawned a host of academic monographs and a thriving field of Gothic studies. That said, a surprisingly small amount of attention has been given to the theological and religious elements within this kind of writing—an oversight which stems from both literary studies lack of comfort with the theological and the reticence of theology to take seriously the heterodox and heretical Gothic. Happily, this lacuna has started to be corrected, with increased scholarly attention being given to the intersection of theology and Gothic writing. Into this area, Alison Milbank, associate professor of theology and literature at the University of Nottingham, has produced what will be the landmark text for years to come and an indispensable guide for both students of the Gothic and researchers of…

Review of Old Testament Theology and the Rest of God by Nicholas Haydock
Book Reviews , Old Testament / October 28, 2019

Haydock, Nicholas. Old Testament Theology and the Rest of God. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2016, 87 pp., $16, paperback. Nicholas Haydock with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students provides a short study of 86 pages on “rest.”  He notes how the field of Old Testament theology has devoted scant attention to the concept of “rest” with two noteworthy exceptions.  Gerhard von Rad supposes there were competing understandings and applications of the concept of “rest,” while Walter Kaiser, Jr. considers both Testaments to present a unified view.  Haydock intends to trace how the theology of “rest” developed and progressed through ancient Israel’s history and to show how its essence remained the same.  He defines “rest” as “having a holistic state of being, freely given by God in accordance to his word” (p. x).  It is never achieved by human effort but always a gift from God.  Haydock seeks to demonstrate the thesis that ancient Israel held one coherent theology of “rest” that was central in Old Testament theology and distinct in the context of the Ancient Near East. He begins with “rest” in the creation narrative and Genesis 2:1-3 where God “rested” on the seventh day.  Haydock notes that God’s…

Review of The Greatest Possible Being by Jeff Speaks
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / October 22, 2019

Speaks, Jeff. The Greatest Possible Being. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, 175pp, $45. In The Greatest Possible Being, Jeff Speaks takes aim at critically analyzing the method of perfect being theology. Perfect being theology is a philosophical method for developing a specific doctrine of God. In particular, the method claims to guide one’s thoughts towards deriving the divine attributes. Speaks is skeptical about the ability of this method to accomplish this task. Over the course of eight chapters, Speaks offers an analysis of metaphysical, epistemological, semantic, and theological issues related to the task of perfect being theology. Speaks starts out by offering an introduction to the general idea of perfect being theology. According to Speaks, perfect being theology involves two basic steps in order to derive a specific conception of God through reason alone. The method is meant to help one identify which attributes are divine attributes. In step 1, a perfect being theologian selects a modal principle about God’s greatness. In step 2, a perfect being theologian selects a greatness condition that fits with the preferred modal principle. In these two easy steps, one should have a recipe for identifying which attributes are God’s. With regards to step 1,…

Review of The Greek Verb Revisited: A Fresh Approach for Biblical Exegesis by Steven E. Runge
Book Reviews , New Testament / October 14, 2019

Runge, Steven E. and Christopher J. Fresch, eds. The Greek Verb Revisited: A Fresh Approach for Biblical Exegesis. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016. 688 pp. $34.99. The topic of verbal aspect has been highly contested since the publication of Stanley Porter and Buist Fanning’s dissertations over twenty-five years ago. Despite the copious amount of literature written on the issue, there appeared to be no way forward in the debate. That is, the paradigms set forth by Stanley Porter, Buist Fanning, and those who followed did not create a paradigm by which solutions could be found. However, with the publication of Steven E. Runge and Christopher J. Fresch’s The Greek Verb Revisited: A Fresh Approach for Biblical Exegesis, the apparent stalemate in this quarter-of-a-century debate shows tremendous promise for new ways forward. For that matter, the impact of Runge and Fresch’s new monograph upon the topic of verbal aspect within the Greek verbal system can be summarized in the remarks of Constantine Campbell, who states that this volume “deserves careful consideration” since it will “no doubt occupy a significant position within modern discussions of the Greek verbal system” (endorsements page). In The Greek Verb Revisited: A Fresh Approach for Biblical Exegesis,…