Book Reviews

Review of The Messianic Hope: Is the Old Testament Really Messianic by Michael Rydelnik
Book Reviews , Old Testament / February 27, 2019

Rydelnik, Michael. The Messianic Hope: Is the Old Testament Really Messianic? Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2010, pp. 206, $19.99, hardcover. Born in a traditional Jewish home, Michael Rydelnik became a believer in Jesus after listening to the witness of his mother. Her faith in Christ led Rydelnik’s father to divorce her and as a consequence Rydelnik decided to study “the messianic prophecies of the Hebrew Bible” in order to prove his mother “wrong in attributing their fulfillment to Jesus of Nazareth” (p. 12). As time went on, Rydelnik also put his “trust in Jesus as Messiah and Lord” and became convinced that it is “essential to understand the Hebrew Bible as messianic.” (p. 12). As such, Rydelnik’s life experiences makes The Messianic Hope all the more compelling for evangelical circles. Given the modern consensus to “reject the idea that the Hebrew Bible has specific predictions of the Messiah” (p. 1), Rydelnik’s purpose in writing The Messianic Hope is to call evangelical scholars to “rethink this trend” since direct messianic prophecy “is the foundational element for identifying Jesus as the true Messiah” (p. 190). Rydelnik begins his first chapter with tracing the trend away from viewing the Hebrew Bible as messianic….

Review of Engaging the Doctrine of Creation: Cosmos, Creatures, and the Wise and Good Creator by Matthew Levering
Book Reviews , Old Testament , Theology / February 15, 2019

Levering, Matthew. Engaging the Doctrine of Creation: Cosmos, Creatures, and the Wise and Good Creator. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017, 372, $44.99, hardcover. Matthew Levering is one of the most prominent contemporary Roman Catholic systematic theologians, the author or editor of many books on topics ranging from Mary to predestination. Readers of this journal will appreciate his ecumenical posture with evangelicals: he is a member of Evangelicals and Catholics Together and is noted for his constructive engagement with evangelical thought. He currently holds an endowed chair at Mundelein Seminary. This book is the third in Levering’s series on topics in systematic theology (following books on revelation and the Holy Spirit). Levering starts by considering God as the creator with chapters on the divine ideas and on divine simplicity; more on those later. Levering then considers creation itself, arguing that the unnecessary diversity of creation—such as vast numbers of extinct species and regions of empty space—are not evidence against God’s goodness. These are followed by chapters defending a substantivist view of the imago dei, the command to be fruitful and multiply in light of contemporary environmental concerns, a historic Fall, and a broadly retributive atonement theory. In each chapter Levering…

Review of The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate by Tremper Longman III and John H. Walton
Book Reviews , Old Testament / February 12, 2019

Longman, Tremper, III and John H. Walton. The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2018, pp. 192, $18.00, paperback. Tremper Longman and John Walton have served as professors of Old Testament and separately published books on Old Testament topics as well as commentaries on several biblical books. The Lost World of the Flood is the second book they have published together, having co-authored How to Read Job in 2015 (IVP Academic). This book is the fifth of IVP Academic’s “The Lost World” series, all of which are either authored or co-authored by Walton. The chapters of this work are a series of seventeen propositions, a format which has been consistent throughout the Lost World series. The main benefit of the chapter titles being full-sentence proposition statements is that the reader can gain an understanding of the whole book simply by reading the table of contents. The risk involved in such an approach is that some readers may react to a proposition that they find to be provocative by dismissing the book without letting the authors explain their position. The propositions step through a logical progression, and each chapter builds on…

Review of They Say / I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein

Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say / I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. Fourth ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2018. 328pp., $29.98 paperback. Two highly qualified academic practitioners produced this work. First, Gerald Graff (Ph.D., English and American Literature, Stanford University, 1963), is Emeritus Professor of English and Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and former president of the Modern Language Association of America. Graff’s co-author, Cathy Birkenstein (Ph.D., American Literature, Loyola University Chicago, 2003), is lecturer at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and teaches freshman-level writing and English courses using the book as her central recourse. Both Graff and Birkenstein, who are husband and wife, have lectured at numerous institutions over the years promoting the concepts and templates which make up their best-seller, They Say / I Say, now in its fourth edition and sixth printing. The book’s overarching theme is simple, yet vital: all academic writing occurs within a larger conversation. It is to this idea the book expands and offers templates for students to employ, helping remind them that they are entering paths traversed by others. Because of the ongoing dialogue in which the academic writer participates, the book…

Perspectives on Israelite Wisdom: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar edited by John Jarick
Book Reviews , Old Testament / January 25, 2019

Jarick, John, ed. Perspectives on Israelite Wisdom: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016, pp 520, $128, hardback. Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar focuses on ‘Perspectives on Israelite Wisdom,’ and covers broad issues in the wisdom tradition and corpus.  The volume has no overarching thesis, hermeneutic, or methodology, but provides essays from diverse theological perspectives.  After an introduction by John Jarick, the book divides into three sections.  The first section covers ‘Issues in the Study of Israelite Wisdom.’  Stuart Weeks evaluates the watershed article by W. Zimmerli ‘The Place and Limits of Wisdom’ and finds his conclusions wanting.  John Barton writes on four different issues on ethics in the Old Testament but unfortunately covers each briefly with no conclusion or synthesis.  Jenni Williams employs Samuel and Proverbs to illustrate women’s relationship to wisdom.  Aulikki Nahkola offers a paremiological study of Proverbs to understand the worldview of Israel.  Will Kynes ends the first section with a fundamental critique of wisdom literature. The second section covers ‘The Wisdom Corpus of the Hebrew Bible’ with two essays on Proverbs, two on Job, and three on Ecclesiastes.  In the first essay on…

Review of Integrative Preaching: A Comprehensive Model for Transformational Proclamation

Anderson, Kenton C. Integrative Preaching: A Comprehensive Model for Transformational Proclamation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017, pp. 208 pages, $22.99, paperback. Kent Anderson’s contribution to the field of homiletics is multifaceted. In addition to authoring several books in the field, he has provided an online preaching resource, www.preaching.org, for more than two decades. Anderson describes his recent contribution to homiletics, Integrative Preaching, as his “most comprehensive [book]” and “the best that [he has] to offer” (p. vii). In the final chapter of his previous work, Choosing to Preach (Zondervan, 2006), Anderson introduced his idea of the integrated sermon. Thus, Integrative Preaching is the full expression of this homiletical model, and it is presented in the following four parts. In Part One, Anderson suggests that the imagery of a cross as the best way to understand his integrative model. Among various points, the cross shows the intersection of vertical and horizontal axes, and it pictures the addition of diverse elements without compromising the nature of each element. In this way, integrative preaching is “not a choice between options but the addition of one to the other – head plus heart and heaven added to the human” (p. 9). In Anderson’s…

Review of The Prince of this World by Adam Kotsko

Kotsko, Adam. The Prince of This World. Stanford: California, Stanford University Press, 2017, pp. 240, $22.95, paperback. In this engaging study of the Devil, Adam Kotsko, assistant professor of humanities at Shimer College, offers a rigorous piece of political theology. Whilst making a trenchant contribution to critiques of contemporary modernity, this book will appeal to both specialists and a general audience alike. The introduction recalls the testimony of police officer Darren Wilson, who claimed to be frightened of Michael Brown, the young, unarmed black man he shot and killed. Brown was “no angel”—Wilson euphemistically positioned his victim as not just criminal, but as actively demonic. Yet, if anyone is the demon in this situation it must be the personification of racist structural violence. From somewhere has sprung “a profound theological reversal,” (p. 4) where the demonic, once the theological tool of the oppressed seeking to explain their sufferings, becomes a weapon of those who oppress. With this context, Kotsko argues that this theological discourse on the devil, the demonic and of evil emerges from a long and under-acknowledged heritage and sets himself the task of tracing the story of how this reversal has taken hold. Chapter one explores the confrontation…

Review of The Christian Idea of God: A Philosophical Foundation for Faith by Keith Ward
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / December 27, 2018

Ward, Keith. The Christian Idea of God: A Philosophical Foundation for Faith. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017, pp. 229, $32.99, paperback. Keith Ward, Regius Professor of Divinity (Oxford University) and Professor of Philosophy of Religion (University of London), launches in this book a thorough case for what he calls personal idealism. While this book builds successively on previous publications (particularly More than Matter? and Christ and the Cosmos), it explores in further depth the fruitfulness of framing the Christian faith within an idealist framework. Ward is a stern critic of materialism and in The Christian Idea of God he gives further reasons for maintaining that mind is prior to matter. The first part, “The Nature of Mind”, explores the distinctiveness of personal idealism, the epistemic priority of experience, and the objectivity of value (chapters 1-7). On this version of idealism, there is no strict separation between the universe and God; rather they form a unity, “though one in which the mental or spiritual aspect has ontological and causal priority” (p. 11). Indeed, the universe should be understood as a developing and progressing self-expression of God. But, why should we take idealism to be true and what can be said…

Review of The Story of Scripture: An Introduction to Biblical Theology by Matthew Y. Emerson

Emerson, Matthew Y. The Story of Scripture: An Introduction to Biblical Theology. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2017, $19.99, hardcover. Matthew Emerson (Ph.D. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is associate professor of religion and holds the Dickinson Chair of Religion at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Emerson’s work in this volume is a part of the Hobbs College Library Collection at Oklahoma Baptist University which promises to offer additional volumes in the areas of Bible, theology, and Christian ministry. In under one hundred pages, Emerson captures the essence of biblical theology for those training for Christian ministry. Consisting of six succinct chapters, the book begins with a helpful introduction to the discipline of biblical theology in its historical and academic background. Anyone new to this field will appreciate Emerson’s overview and clarity. Following an evaluation of Johannes Gabler’s contribution to the discipline, Emerson explains three primary schools or approaches: the Dallas School which focuses attention on the Israel/Church relationship; the Chicago School which seeks to understand how any given text fits within the overall biblical narrative; the Philadelphia School which asks similar questions of the previous approaches, but also investigates aspects of literary context. Emerson then moves beyond these helpful categories…

Review of Paul: A Biography by N. T. Wright
Book Reviews , 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…