Book Reviews

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,…

Review of Called to Attraction: An Introduction to the Theology of Beauty by Brendan Thomas Sammon
Book Reviews , Theology / October 11, 2019

Sammon, Brendan Thomas. Called to Attraction: An Introduction to the Theology of Beauty. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017, pp. 160, $22, Paperback. Brendan Sammon is an Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He teaches courses on both The Beauty of God and Beauty and Consciousness at the Movies. In his first book, The God Who is Beauty: Beauty as a Divine Name in Thomas Aquinas and Dionysius the Areopagite (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2013), Sammon examines the Medieval thoughts binding theology and beauty together. In Called to Attraction: An Introduction to the Theology of Beauty, he  broadly explores how beauty and theology have interacted from ancient origins to the twentieth century. Sammon moves through time periods for each of the seven chapters of his book. A helpful introduction sets up the book with three introductory arguments to set  the boundaries for what he intends to accomplish in his short volume. First, he argues his theology of beauty is derived from a divine name approach. Consequently, all of his conclusions flow from the idea that beauty is an attribute of God. He writes, “These divine names could be called God’s public identity, or the appearance…

Review of A Commentary on the Greek Text of Second Corinthians by Don Garlington
Book Reviews , New Testament / October 8, 2019

Garlington, Don. A Commentary on the Greek Text of Second Corinthians. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2016, pp. 473, paperback. It has been said that “of the writing of commentaries there is no end.” Even though this reality could lend itself to a stale treatment of texts already analyzed, A Commentary on the Greek Text of Second Corinthians is a welcome resource to Greek students and pastors alike. In distinction from other kinds of commentaries, this commentary by Pauline scholar Don Garlington has as its target audience “students of the Greek New Testament” and thus functions as “a kind of ‘halfway house’ between the likes of Murray Harris and Margaret Thrall, on the one side, and Philip Hughes and Mark Seifrid, on the other” (p. xi). The result of this endeavor is a commentary that focuses on analysis of the Greek grammar and syntax of 2 Corinthians. Even though Garlington occasionally mentions the historical-cultural background of a passage, the focus is more on exegetical insights deriving from grammatical and syntactical analysis. The introduction, therefore, is understandably minimalistic, with a brief section on the purpose of the letter (to prepare the Corinthians for Paul’s upcoming visit), the contents of the letter (the opponents…

Review of Old Testament Law for Christians: Original Context and Enduring Application by Roy E. Gane
Book Reviews , Old Testament / October 4, 2019

Gane, Roy E. Old Testament Law for Christians: Original Context and Enduring Application. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017, 464 pp, $35.00, paperback. Second Timothy 3:15–17 stands as a pillar text of biblical inspiration. Bible school students embrace it, pastors proclaim it, faithful Christians memorize it and recite it from a young age. Yet for all the attention this text receives, too many neglect one of its central claims: “all Scripture is . . . profitable.” The dearth of sermons, bible studies, devotional writings, and blog posts expounding the “profit” of Leviticus for Christians today suffices for evidence. Roy Gane, professor of Hebrew Bible and ANE languages at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, comments on the current situation, “A rich source of wisdom regarding values is contained in OT laws. However, Christians have generally neglected these laws, to our loss, because we have not regarded them as relevant to our lives” (p. xiii). So, in order to help Christians profit from “all Scripture,” Gane presents this guide to appropriating Old Testament law in every age of God’s people. While Gane surveys numerous approaches to applying God’s law as God’s new covenant people, he advocates for an approach he calls…

Review of Invitation to Biblical Hebrew Syntax: An Intermediate Grammar by Fuller and Choi
Book Reviews , Old Testament / September 30, 2019

Fuller, Russell T.  and Choi, Kyoungwon. Invitation to Biblical Hebrew Syntax: An Intermediate Grammar. Kregel: Grand Rapids, 2017, pp. 528, $64.99, hardback. Fuller and Choi’s Invitation to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (IBHS) is a thorough discussion of biblical Hebrew syntax from a traditional Semitic approach. The book serves as a companion to their elementary Hebrew textbook: Invitation to Biblical Hebrew. Whereas the elementary grammar focused on morphology, the intermediate grammar focuses on syntax. Fuller is an expert of Hebrew morphology and syntax and was trained at Hebrew Union University in Cincinnati, OH. Choi too is an expert in Hebrew studies. He received his training under Fuller from SBTS. The widespread use of the author’s elementary grammar to train thousands of students in biblical Hebrew leads to great expectation; IBHS exceeds expectations. The book is divided into three main sections: The first section is a discussion of biblical Hebrew syntax proper (pp. 21–237). Although these discussions occupy the bulk of other Hebrew syntax books, this section comprises around half of IBHS. This section of the book is arranged in outline form and by section number. Moreover, grammatical terms are represented in all caps. Concise definitions of these terms are found in the…

Review of The Heartbeat of Old Testament Theology: Three Creedal Expressions by Mark J. Boda
Book Reviews , Old Testament / September 25, 2019

Mark J. Boda. The Heartbeat of Old Testament Theology: Three Creedal Expressions. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017. 220 pp. $24, paper. Mark Boda is professor of Old Testament at McMaster Divinity College. Boda has made many scholarly contributions to the study of the Old Testament. His most recent works include a commentary on the book of Zechariah in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series and ‘Return to Me’: A Biblical Theology of Repentance in the IVP New Studies in Biblical Theology series. The volume under review is part of the Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology series. In The Heartbeat of Old Testament Theology Boda sums up the theology of the OT in “three creedal expressions.” These expressions are explained through a metaphor related to the heart. He says, “I invite you to don your theological stethoscope and listen for the heartbeat that represents the very core of the theology of the OT” (pp. 1-2). With stethoscope in hand, then, the reader is invited to listen in to “three basic rhythms that compose the heartbeat of the OT, identified with three basic creeds that can be discerned throughout the OT: narrative, character, and relational creeds” (pp. 7-8)….

Review of Come, Let Us Eat Together: Sacraments and Christian Unity edited by George Kalantizis and Marc Cortez

Kalantizis, George and Marc Cortez, eds. Come, Let Us Eat Together: Sacraments and Christian Unity. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2018, pp. 238, $26, paperback. This edited volume is the proceedings of the 2017 Wheaton Theology Conference jointly sponsored by the Wheaton College Department of Biblical and Theological Studies (with which both editors are affiliated) and the Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies. It brings together scholars from diversely ecumenical backgrounds to investigate theologically the role the sacraments play in bringing about, promoting, or inhibiting unity between Christians. Although such sacraments (or sacramental rites or ordinances) as baptism and holy orders receive some attention, as the title might indicate, the essays in this volume focus primarily on the sacrament/ordinance of the Eucharist. As such, this volume contributes to the renaissance, of sorts, of theological engagement with the doctrine of the Eucharist. This recent renaissance comes in the wake of George Hunsinger’s The Eucharist and Ecumenism (Cambridge University Press, 2008) and has been followed by David Grumett’s Material Eucharist (Oxford University Press, 2016), James Arcadi’s An Incarnational Model of the Eucharist (Cambridge University Press, 2018), and J. Todd Billings’ Remembrance, Communion, and Hope (Eerdmans, 2018). I here offer some comments on…

Review of Remembrance, Communion, and Hope: Rediscovering the Gospel at the Lord’s Table by J. Todd Billings

Billings, J. Todd. Remembrance, Communion, and Hope: Rediscovering the Gospel at the Lord’s Table. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018, pp. 217, $25, paperback. J. Todd Billings is the Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, USA. He has written extensively on systematic and historical theology in the Reformed tradition. In addition to his academic work, Billings is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America. The balance of academic rigor and pastoral sensitivity that is part of Billings’ own persona permeates his theological approach to the Lord’s Supper in this text. This book is a theology of the Eucharist in the Reformed tradition. Billings unabashedly theologizes from within a broad Reformed mode that takes seriously—and with relative authority—the confessional tradition of this theological and ecclesial family. Billings begins, however, with surfacing the need for a book of this nature in the contemporary Protestant scene. He helpfully diagnoses the functional theologies that often undergird the Sunday morning experience in North American churches today. In many churches, a conjunction of an overly individualistic and judicial understanding of the gospel and an overly cognitive engagement with the Eucharist, result in an anemic worship experience….