Book Reviews

Review of Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament by John D. Currid
Book Reviews , Old Testament / July 18, 2019

Currid, John D., Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament. Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2013, pp. 153, paperback. John D. Currid (PH,D., University of Chicago, is the Carl McMurray Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC.  He lectures worldwide on biblical and archaeological topics. He serves as Pastor of Teaching and Preaching at Sovereign Grace Church (PCA) in Charlotte. He has authored many books and journal articles. The title of the book Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament (AG) is an accurate statement of the contents.  In the prologue, he acknowledges that the main content of the book was presented at a conference at Reformed Theological Seminary—Charlotte in 2007.  He states that: “the book is about the relationship between the writings of the Old Testament and other Ancient Near Eastern literature.”  “And so, the question for modern minds in this regard is, what precisely is the relationship of the Old Testament to Near Eastern Literature?” The book is divided into 11 chapters: A Brief History of Ancient Near Eastern Studies. The Nature of Polemical Thought and Writing. Genesis 1 and Other Ancient Near Eastern Creation Accounts. Ancient Near Eastern Flood…

Review of Paul and the Gift by John M. G. Barclay
Book Reviews , New Testament / July 15, 2019

Barclay, John M. G. Paul and the Gift. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015, xvi + 656 pp., $70, hardback.  In one sense, Paul and the Gift is a book about many things. It includes anthropology and the history of interpretation. It is a comparison of Paul and Second Temple Jewish authors. It is part Pauline theology, part commentary on Galatians and Romans. In another sense, though, Barclay’s monograph is a book about one thing: grace. While its methodology traverses a wide array of disciplines relevant to biblical studies, its content never strays far from the concept of beneficence. Barclay, who a decade and a half ago succeeded James D. G. Dunn as Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at Durham University, has proved himself a fitting heir to that professorship. Prior to Paul and the Gift, Barclay was perhaps best known for Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora (1996), an overview of Jewish reactions to the wider culture, as well as many well regarded articles, chapters, and edited volumes on Paul and Hellenistic Jews. But it is Paul and the Gift that secures his legacy. With it, he presents Paul’s theology of grace from a genuinely new perspective — no small feat! —…

Review of Das Alte Testament als deutsche Kolonie. Die Neuerfindung des Alten Testaments um 1800 by Simon Wiesgickl
Book Reviews , Old Testament / June 7, 2019

Wiesgickl, Simon. Das Alte Testament als deutsche Kolonie. Die Neuerfindung des Alten Testaments um 1800. Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuen Testament (BWANT), Band 214. Netherlands, 2018, pp.262, €75,00. The main point of this book is that both Orientalism and colonizing in practice were driven by German biblical scholarship of the OT. There is a need for a critical history of commentary, which this book seeks to meet. Roland Boer has pinpointed Martin Noth but the problem goes further back; German scholarship has not been self-aware (cf. E. Stegemann).  We see it already well documented in recent histories of philosophy, e.g. Hegel’s Master-Slave derived from discussion of slave trade in Haiti. When Schiller observed that less developed peoples remind us of childlike love, this is part of the same ‘primitivism’ to which the likes of Herder and the Humboldts subscribed. Despite being a fascinating account there are times when the book ‘jumps’ or even doubles back on itself, repeating or expanding points already half made elsewhere. Secondary literature is rather dealt with as it goes along, like more flavouring thrown into the soup as it simmers,  and usually added uncritically. In Search of the Hebrew People. Bible and Nation in…

Review of Art as Spiritual Perception: Essays in Honor of E. John Walford edited by James Romaine

Romaine, James, ed. Art as Spiritual Perception: Essays in Honor of E. John Walford. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012, pp. 288, $40, hardback. E. John Walford is an important figure in the engagement of Protestant evangelical theology with art historical studies. His interest in this relationship has been fuelled by a dual concern with the relative paucity of religious voices in the literature of art history and criticism, not least in scholarly readings of seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting, and the related issue of the spiritual substance of artworks. These concerns reflect aspects of his own life journey as an art lover who converted to Christianity in his twenties and as a former student of the late art historian Hans Rookmaaker at the Free University (Vrije Universiteit) of Amsterdam. These interests, and the various ways they have been expressed in Walford’s career—not merely in publications (most notably Jacob van Ruisdael and the Perception of Landscape and Great Themes in Art), but also in teaching art history courses in Amsterdam and at Wheaton College, Illinois—are highlighted in this Festschrift’s Forward entitled “Mentoring Eyes” by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker, daughter of Hans Rookmaaker. She shows, in what is a fittingly generous and clearly personal tribute (Hengelaar-Rookmaaker…

Review of Basics of Classical Syriac: Complete Grammar, Workbook, and Lexicon by Steven C. Hallam
Book Reviews , Old Testament / May 3, 2019

Hallam, Steven C. Basics of Classical Syriac: Complete Grammar, Workbook, and Lexicon. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, pp. 318, $49.99, paperback. Steven C. Hallam is Assistant Professor and Chair of the General Studies department at Alaska Christian College in Soldotna, Alaska. He earned his PhD from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and has taught courses in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac. His Syriac grammar is the most recent addition to Zondervan’s language series of grammars and workbooks, and its stated aim is to get students reading the Syriac Peshitta as quickly as possible (p. 10). The grammar follows a standard layout, with specific sections on the nominal system (chapters 1-6), the G-stem of the verbal system (chapters 7-11), the derived stems of the verbal system (chapters 12-16), and weak verbs (chapters 17-23). Each chapter concludes with a vocabulary list specifically relevant for interpreting the New Testament Peshitta and a set of exercises. Hallam also includes several appendices that recommend resources for further study, provide a summary of all relevant paradigms, and that presents a comparison chart of the three Classical Syriac scripts. Syriac literature, of course, is written in three main scripts: Esṭrangelā, Western, and Eastern. Hallam takes a unique…

Review of Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching: A Guide for Students and Pastors by Paul D. Wegner
Book Reviews , Old Testament / May 1, 2019

Wegner, Paul D. Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching: A Guide for Students and Pastors. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2009, pp. 176, $19.99 paperback. In Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching, Paul D. Wegner provides current and former students of biblical Hebrew with the necessary tools and ample encouragement to maintain and use their knowledge of biblical Hebrew. Wegner currently serves as the Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies at Gateway Seminary in Ontario, CA. He is also the author of other works that may be familiar to many seminary students: The Journey from Texts to Translations and A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible. Wegner writes Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching with a certain audience in mind: seminary students who have taken at least one year of Hebrew and pastors who need encouragement to maintain their Hebrew knowledge (p. 8). Observing the lack of Hebrew resources—compared to the abundance of Greek resources—Wegner provides his readers with practical tools for using biblical Hebrew in sermon preparations (p. 8). In the first chapter, Wegner answers the question of how Hebrew is helpful in ministry. In the second chapter, he provides his readers with the “crucial tools” for…

Review of The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher

Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. New York, NY: Sentinel, 2017, pp. 304, $17, paperback. Rod Dreher is a popular Christian author and blogger and is senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written several books: Cruchy Cons (2006), The Little Way of Ruthie Leming (2013), and How Dante Can Save Your Life (2015). His most recent book, The Benedict Option, is a bestseller and has prompted discussions in churches and small groups around the world. In The Benedict Option, Dreher announces that conservative Christians have lost the culture war and that a new dark age is approaching. According to Dreher, the Waterloo of Christian conservatism was the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges (p. 9), and the enemies are several: secularism (9), moral therapeutic deism (the belief that God just wants us to be happy, pp. 10-11), and consumerism (p. 11). In response, Dreher calls Christians to withdraw strategically and form communities modeled after the sixth-century monastic, Saint Benedict, who, in order to preserve Christian culture and values safe from the cultural demise following the fall of Rome, started a monastic community at Monte…

Review of Life in Kings: Reshaping the Royal Story in the Hebrew Bible by A. Graeme Auld
Book Reviews , Old Testament / April 12, 2019

Auld, A. Graeme. Life in Kings: Reshaping the Royal Story in the Hebrew Bible. Atlanta, GA: SBL Press, 2017, viii + 321, $39.95, paperback. A. Graeme Auld is Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Bible at Edinburgh University. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including I and II Samuel: A Commentary in the Old Testament Library series (WJK, 2011) and Kings without Privilege: David and Moses in the Story of the Bible’s Kings (T & T Clark, 1994). Life in Kings opens with a statement about the focus of the book, a history of interpretation, and two brief case studies that start the argument of the book. Auld opens by stating Life in Kings “is about writing and rewriting the biblical book of Kings—it is a book about words and their use and their reuse, about meanings and changes in meaning . . . our principal concern is with the words themselves” (p. 1). After this thesis Auld summarizes the works of “the Fathers” who have explored the compositional history of Kings (as well as Samuel and Chronicles). These include de Wette, Wellhausen, and Noth from previous generations and also some more recent scholars. After tracing his own progression…

Review of Moses, David and the High Kingship of Yahweh: A Canonical Study of Book IV of the Psalter by Michael G. McKelvey
Book Reviews , Old Testament / April 9, 2019

McKelvey, Michael G. Moses, David and the High Kingship of Yahweh: A Canonical Study of Book IV of the Psalter. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2014, pp. 358, $50, paperback. Michael G. McKelvey is an assistant professor of Old Testament at the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Jackson, Mississippi. He received his M.Div from RTS (2005) while receiving his Ph.D from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland (2008). McKelvey is also an ordained Presbyterian minister and has served as a pastor for numerous years in various locations.  As such, almost all of McKelvey’s publications are written in a style that bridges the academic with the ecclesiastical [see, for example, “Ecclesiastes” in A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised (2016) and “The Table of the Showbread” in Table Talk (2017)]. Moses, David, and the High Kingship of Yahweh is the publication of McKelvey’s doctoral dissertation. Within this work, McKelvey seeks to evaluate the nature of three literary figures—Moses, David, and King Yahweh—within the context of Book IV of the Psalter (Pss 90–106). This analysis follows a canonical approach to reading the Psalter. In McKelvey’s utilization of this approach, he has been primarily influenced by the work of Gerald Wilson (The Editing…

Review of Christ is King: Paul’s Royal Ideology by Joshua W. Jipp
Book Reviews , New Testament / April 1, 2019

Jipp, Joshua W. Christ is King: Paul’s Royal Ideology. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2015, pp. viii + 380, $44, paperback. Joshua W. Jipp received his PhD in New Testament from Emory University in 2012. He is currently an associate professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Early in Jipp’s post-graduate studies he became intrigued by “the incredible amount of attention devoted to reflections upon the good king in Greek and Roman writings” (p. vii). In 2013, Jipp began to formally explore the relevance of this ancient kingship discourse (hereafter “AKD”) to NT interpretation. Jipp’s paper (a pre-publication of Chapter 2) won him the SBL Paul J. Achtemeier Award for New Testament Scholarship (p. viii). Jipp’s thesis is that Paul’s teachings about Christ are best understood within the framework of AKD (p. 42). Jipp relies upon abductive reasoning (finding the simplest and most likely explanation), evaluating his claims on the basis of their historical plausibility (pp. 135–137). With his focus squarely on the historical Paul, Jipp is not interested in drawing distinctions between the “Messiah” and the “king” in the LXX (pp. 29–30), or between “biblical” and “extra-biblical” language (p. 79n11), or between “Jewish” and “Greco-Roman” concepts (p. 17);…