Book Reviews

Review of Paul: A Biography by N. T. Wright
Book Reviews , Featured , New Testament / December 4, 2018

Wright, N.T.  Paul: A Biography. San Francisco, CA: HarperOne, 2018, pp 464, $29.99, Hardcover. N.T. Wright is widely known as one of the most prominent Pauline scholars of today and a retired Anglican bishop.  He has gained much attention in the academic field for his view on the new perspective on Paul, which has stirred up much debate among Pauline scholars.  One of his most recent works that addresses this issue is Paul and the Faithfulness of God, which was published by Fortress Press in 2013. Currently, the author holds the position of Chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. In this book, Wright takes a biographical approach in dealing with Paul’s life and theology.  He begins with Paul’s upbringing as a young Jew living in Tarsus, and takes the readers through Paul’s entire life until the final years before his death.  In order to help the reader better understand the shaping and substance of Paul’s theology, Wright traces through known aspects of Paul’s missionary journeys while filling in gaps of knowledge with his thoughtful speculations.  The author divides his work into three parts: the beginning of Paul’s…

Review of The Crosses of Pompeii: Jesus-Devotion in a Vesuvian Town by Bruce W. Longenecker
Book Reviews , Featured , New Testament / November 29, 2018

Longenecker, Bruce W. The Crosses of Pompeii: Jesus-Devotion in a Vesuvian Town. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2016, pp. 366, $39,00, paperback. Bruce Longenecker undertakes a historical study in this book that inquires into the evidence for Jesus-devotion in the Roman city of Pompeii prior to its destruction when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE. He finds the answer by looking at cross-shaped symbols in the city’s archeological record. Having previously taught in the UK, Longenecker is the W. W. Melton Chair of Religion at Baylor University. Among his previous publications, Remember the Poor: Paul, Poverty, and the Greco-Roman World (Eerdmans, 2010) and The Cross before Constantine (Fortress, 2015) are particularly pertinent to the volume currently under review. The book begins with an account of its origins. Longenecker began to study the Vesuvian region in order to understand better the concrete realities of first-century life in which early Christianity developed. After noting that certain traditional elements in Vesuvian scholarship are being reevaluated in fresh ways, he locates his book as part of this scholarly movement. The book “will demonstrate that first-century Jesus-devotion did, in fact, have a Vesuvian foothold in the town of Pompeii” (p. 8). For readers accustomed to studying early Christian…

Review of Knowledge, Belief, and God: New Insights in Religious Epistemology edited by Benton, Hawthorne, and Dabinowitz
Book Reviews , Featured , Philosophy / November 20, 2018

Benton, Matthew, John Hawthorne, and Dani Dabinowitz, eds. Knowledge, Belief, and God: New Insights in Religious Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 345, $70.00. Reformed epistemology is roughly the thesis that religious belief can be justified or warranted apart from argumentation. As the editors of Knowledge, Belief, and God note, Reformed epistemology is the dominant position in the epistemology of religion (p. 3). While there has been a lot of work done in the 90s and 00s, discussing how belief in God can be properly basic, the editors aim to produce a new volume discussing recent developments within the field. The volume is broken up into the following four sections: Historical, Formal, Social, and Rational. The historical section addresses traditional problems in the field of epistemology of religion with recent developments in analytic epistemology. For example, Charity Anderson’s interesting essay applies Maria Lasonen-Aarino’s work on knowledge and defeat to Hume’s arguments against miracles. Anderson argues that a subject can possess knowledge that a miracle occurred, while her belief at the same time fails to meet the standard of reasonability. Other interesting essays in this section include Richard Cross’ essay on Scotus and Aquinas. Here, Cross discusses Scotus’ and Aquinas’…

Review of The Brain, the Mind, and the Person Within: Enduring Mystery of the Soul by Mark Cosgrove
Book Reviews , Featured , Philosophy / November 13, 2018

Cosgrove Mark. The Brain, the Mind, and the Person Within: The Enduring Mystery of the Soul. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2018. 180 pp.  $18.00. 978-0825445262. Is there a nexus to be found between the fields of neuroscience and theology? According to Cosgrove’s short work The Brain, the Mind, and the Person Within, there is ample evidence that suggests the two fields belong together. While many introductory works on neuroscience and neurobiology are filled with technical jargon and philosophical esoterica, Cosgrove has an eye towards pedagogy without falling into the temptation of oversimplification or over-extrapolation. Over ten short chapters, Cosgrove carefully introduces and discusses the state of the question concerning the anatomy, functionality, and theology of the mind. Chapters 1 and 2 introduce the reader to the mysteries found within the studies of the brain. Glial cells and neurons make the person, but the mind is no mere combination of chemicals (p. 27 ff). According to Cosgrove, it is problematic to accept the mind as a “machine” view of the human brain. For consciousness exist in four realms: (1) Frontal Lobes (time), Parietal Lobes (meaning), Temporal Lobes (symbols), and Corpus Callosum (imagination) (p. 30–34). Chapter 3 further explores the transmitter chemicals (NE,…

Review of Chanting the Hebrew Bible: The Art of Cantillation, 2nd Edition by Joshua R. Jacobson
Book Reviews , Old Testament / November 6, 2018

Jacobson, Joshua R. Chanting the Hebrew Bible: The Art of Cantillation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2017, pp. xxx + 844, $90.00, hardback or eBook (PDF). “Don’t be attracted to any interpretation that conflicts with the punctuation of the te‘amim; don’t even listen to it!” (Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra, p. 23). Whether or not you agree with Ibn Ezra’s claim, the sad reality must be faced: most students of biblical Hebrew cannot even read the te‘amim [accents] so as to discern their meaning. Joshua Jacobson presents a monumental work to remedy this situation. Now expanded into a second edition, Chanting the Hebrew Bible introduces readers to the Masoretic accent system and guides them all the way up to “the art of cantillation.” Jacobson (D.M.), professor of music and director of choral activities at Northeastern University, teaches and conducts around the world. He had published hundreds of compositions, arrangements, and articles. His background in Jewish literature, musical performance, and experience as a cantor instructor allows him to produce such an encyclopedic guide. Chanting the Hebrew Bible provides readers with a tool to learn interpreting, reading, and singing the Hebrew Bible according to the Masoretic tradition. Jacobson divides this massive volume…

Review of Flawed Perfection: What it Means to Be Human; Why it Matters for Culture, Politics, and Law by Jeffrey A. Brauch
Book Reviews , Ethics , Philosophy , Theology / November 2, 2018

Jeffrey A. Brauch. Flawed Perfection: What it Means To Be Human; Why it Matters for Culture, Politics, and Law .(Bellingham: Lexham Press, 2017). 344 pages. $15.99. Theological anthropology is a thriving area of study. Part of the reason for this growth is due to the growing studies from the brain sciences and psychology, which have and continue to raise interesting and thought-provoking implications for what it means to be human. Another reason for the growing interest in theological anthropology has to do with the growing tensions within the broader cultural conversation on what it means to be human. Jeffrey Brauch enters these discussions as a fresh voice. He argues that, at the heart of this conversation, to be human means that we are created with dignity, value, personal responsibility, but we are also marked the Fall—in other words, Flawed Perfection. Flawed Perfection is not your typical book on theological anthropology, however. It is unusual, but I mean that positively. Brauch is not integrating classical theological anthropology with one of the sciences or re-branding it with a particular philosophy. Brauch, also, is not writing, primarily, with the academic in mind. He writes with a broad audience in view. As a legal expert…

Review of Approaching Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction to Key Thinkers, Concepts, Methods & Debates by Anthony C. Thiselton
Book Reviews , Philosophy / October 30, 2018

Thiselton, Anthony C. Approaching Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction to Key Thinkers, Concepts, Methods & Debates. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2018, pp. 224, $23.99, paperback. Anthony Thiselton is emeritus professor of Christian theology at the University of Nottingham, as well as the University of Chester. Thiselton has authored numerous books in theology, spanning topics such as systematic theology, hermeneutics, and postmodernism, as well as exegetical works on various New Testament books. Thiselton’s work in theology necessarily overlaps with topics found in philosophy of religion, which occasioned his recent book in the philosophy of religion, Faith, Doubt and Certainty (2017). Thiselton’s latest work is the result of a fruitful ministry of writing and research, providing newcomers and seasoned students of philosophy a helpful resource for the key thinkers, approaches, and terms of the philosophy of religion. While readers can certainly read Approaching Philosophy of Religion from cover to cover, one does not necessarily have to do so, for it serves as a resource to be visited as research or interest dictates. Thiselton divides the book into three primary parts, though the Introduction can serve as a standalone section as well, thus giving the book four parts. In the Introduction, Thiselton…

Review of LLoyd-Jones on the Christian Life: Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire by Jason Meyer

Meyer, Jason. Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life: Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2018, pp.265, $19.99, paperback. Dr. Jason Meyer is the Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He also serves as Associate Professor of New Testament at Bethlehem College and Seminary. He has made contributions to the ESV Expository Commentary series and is the author of Preaching: A Biblical Theology. The work being considered in this review is his theological biography on Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones entitled, Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life: Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a massively influential preacher in the eighteenth century, and it will be shown that some contend that Lloyd-Jones’ influence is greater today than it was in his own day. Remarkably, the ministry of Lloyd-Jones was a preaching and teaching ministry that did not include writing. The works that are in print are transcribed lectures and sermons. To write this theological biography of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jason Meyer was challenged with the task of reviewing the sermons and lectures of Lloyd-Jones in order to succinctly and accurately present the Doctor’s theology. Lloyd-Jones’ conviction is made clear: there must…

Review of Herman Bavinck on Preaching and Preachers edited and translated by James P. Eglinton

Eglinton, James P., editor and translator. Herman Bavinck on Preaching & Preachers. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2017, pp. 150, $16.95, paperback. Often considered a standard text among theologians and preachers, Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics reveal a careful dogmatician whose theological reflections brim with scrupulous insight and practical application. Though mainly known for the academic theology he championed at Kampen and the Free University of Amsterdam, James Eglinton (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh), the Meldrum Lecturer in Reformed Theology at New College, University of Edinburgh, offers readers insights into Bavinck the preacher. Eglinton, himself an accomplished Bavinck scholar, fills a glaring hole in the Bavinck corpus, for English readers know little of Bavinck’s pastoral theology or his approach to homiletics. As Eglinton notes, Bavinck preached for forty-two of his sixty-seven years, so it is surprising on many levels a study of this scope only now became available. Readers will note quickly the uniqueness of Eglinton’s book, for Eglinton serves as both its translator and editor. In sum, this book consists of a biographical introduction followed by five translated sections. In the biographical introduction, Eglinton assists readers in discovering Bavinck the preacher, having preached his first sermon at twenty-four years of age in…

Review of Creation Care: A Biblical Theology of the Natural World by Douglas J. Moo and Jonathan A. Moo

Moo, Douglas J., and Jonathan A. Moo. 2018. Creation Care : A Biblical Theology of the Natural World. Biblical Theology for Life. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan., pp. 250, $18.46, paperback. Douglas J. Moo holds a Ph.D. from the University of St. Andrews and teaches New Testament at Wheaton College. He is a respected New Testament scholar with over a dozen commentaries and works, mostly in the epistles.  Jonathan Moo holds his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, teaches New Testament and environmental studies at Whitworth University in Spokane, WA, holds a graduate degree in wildlife ecology, and has published extensively on Christianity’s understanding of nature. The book is aptly titled as it pursues a theology of creation that considers humankind’s relationship and duty to it. This is the fifth installment in the reputable Biblical Theology for Life series. This volume is divided into three major sections: “Queuing the Questions,” “Arriving At Answers,” and “Reflecting on Relevance.” Chapters 1-2 begin by positing the question, “What role does non-human creation play in God’s plan?” (p. 23). The authors set out to prove that creation plays a significant role in God’s eternal plans. They thus eschew the labels “nature” and “environmentalism” in favor of…