Book Reviews

Review of Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering by Makoto Fujimura
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / August 30, 2016

Fujimura, Makoto. Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2016, pp. 261, $26, hardback. Makoto Fujimura is a distinguished contemporary visual artist, specializing in a traditional Japanese style of painting known as nihonga. As the founder of the International Arts Movement and the director of the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts at Fuller Theological Seminary, Fujimura is a prominent voice in the field of theology and the arts. He has written multiple books in this field, including Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture (NavPress, 2009) and Culture Care (Fujimura Institute and International Arts Movement, 2014). In Silence and Beauty, Fujimura interacts with Shusaku Endo’s acclaimed twentieth-century novel, Silence, to explore the nature of faith and grace in the midst of failure—and to engage with philosophical issues such as the problem of evil and the hiddenness of God in times of suffering (pp. 27-28). For Fujimura, Endo’s novel grants insight into the nature of Japanese culture, aesthetics, and Christianity. The novel chronicles the apostasy of seventeenth-century Christian missionaries to Japan who publicly renounced Christ by stomping on fumi-e, which are “relief bronze sculptures [of Jesus and Mary]” (p. 23). Those…

Review of A Time to Keep: Theology, Mortality, and the Shape of Human Life by Ephraim Radner
Book Reviews , Philosophy , Theology / August 15, 2016

Radner, Ephraim. A Time to Keep: Theology, Mortality, and the Shape of Human Life. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2016, pp. 304, $49.95, hardback. The significance and meaning of the anthropos has and continues to capture the imagination of ancient and contemporary reflections. Several recent reflections highlight human constitution, the afterlife, sexuality, and race, among others. Ephraim Radner’s A Time to Keep touches on these important topics, but his approach is unique. Radner claims that an understanding of humanity must take into account the theological nature of time. Radner makes an important contribution that advances a rich vision of humanity situated in the scriptural story, guided by various theological authorities, and informed by the social sciences. Radner advances the argument that humans are relational (i.e., filliated) beings shaped and molded by God’s design of creation, redemption, and death. On that basis, he exhorts us to count our days. Our days are numbered as creatures. Between birth and death, we have a vocation and purpose. Life, death, toil and generative relationship shapes and forms the patterns of human living (p.16). Radner sees this reality in the “figural” portrayal of redemption in “tunics of skins” or clothes, which is a metaphor for the…

Review of Paul: The Apostle’s Life, Letters, and Thought by Sanders
Book Reviews , New Testament / June 24, 2016

Sanders, E. P. Paul: The Apostle’s Life, Letters, and Thought. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2015, pp. 777, $39, paperback. E.P. Sanders is one of the most well-known New Testament scholars in the world today due to the tremendous influence of his 1977 book Paul and Palestinian Judaism. His commanding explanation of the “pattern of religion” found in rabbinic and Second Temple Jewish sources turned Pauline scholarship away from previous caricatures of Judaism to a fresh interaction with the primary sources. It also laid the foundation for the “new perspective” on Paul. But although we are familiar with Sanders the scholar, in this book we meet Sanders the teacher. Paul is a book written by the retired Duke professor for undergraduate students. It is a complete exposition of the apostle’s undisputed letters, and, while Sanders has written several books on Paul, this is the first one in which he addresses all of Paul’s thought in one place. This book gives us another side of Sanders—here we get a peek inside of his lecture hall where Sanders quotes Shakespeare, Milton, Kipling, and Poe; explains how he teaches his Greek students to bring out the force of Paul’s phrase me genoito (“Hell, no!”); tells us…

Review of The Flow of the Psalms by O. Palmer Robertson
Book Reviews , Old Testament / June 7, 2016

Robertson, Palmer O. The Flow of the Psalms: Discovering Their Structure and Theology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2015, pp. 302, $ 21.99, paperback. Palmer Robertson is director and principle of African Bible University in Uganda and is the author of many books, including The Christ of the Covenants (P&R, 1987), commentaries on the books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah in the New International Commentary Series (Eerdmans, 1990), and The Christ of the Prophets (P&R, 2008). His latest work, The Flow of the Psalms: Discovering Their Structure and Theology, represents one of the most recent contributions to the ongoing investigation of the “shape” and “shaping” of the Hebrew Psalter. Robertson’s burden in this book is to show that the Psalter is not a random collection of psalms; rather, it exhibits an intentional arrangement or “flow” from beginning to end (p. 50). Two preliminary chapters precede Robertson’s attempt to demonstrate the presence of this “flow” within the Psalter. Chapter two draws attention to twelve different elements of basis structure in the Psalter, while chapter three is devoted to a discussion of the Psalter’s redemptive-historical framework. The heart of the book then follows in chapters five through nine, where Robertson traces the predominant structural,…

Review of Origins: God, Evolution, and the Question of the Cosmos by Philip Rolnick
Book Reviews , Philosophy / May 23, 2016

Rolnick, Philip. Origins: God, Evolution, and the Question of the Cosmos. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2015, pp.vii + 252, $39.95, hardback. Philip Rolnick serves as Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota as well as Chair of the Science and Theology Network in the Twin Cities. In addition to Origins, Rolnick has authored and edited several books, such as Person, Grace, and God (Eerdmans, 2007), Analogical Possibilities: How Words Refer to God (Oxford, 1993), Reflections on Grace (Cascade Books, 2007), and Explorations in Ethics: Readings from Across the Curriculum (Greensboro College Press, 1998). Rolnick has also written numerous chapters in books, articles, and book reviews whose topics range from evolution and theology to anthropology. Origins is a helpful book for any student of the Bible who seeks to understand the current debate between evolution and theology. Rolnick approaches Origins with the view that “science and religious faith are not only compatible, but even mutually illuminating” (p. 4); they are “partners in the search for truth” (p. 5). When it comes to the origin of the universe, “divine creativity and reason are unquestionably present and scientifically discoverable” (p. 6). Thus, for the believer today, learning…

Review of The Song of Songs by Duguid
Book Reviews , Old Testament / May 3, 2016

Duguid, Iain M. The Song of Songs. Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 2015, pp. 160, $15, paperback. Iain Duguid (PhD, University of Cambridge) is professor of religion and Old Testament at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. Duguid has written several works including Hero of Heroes: Seeing Christ in the Beatitudes (P&R Publishing, 2001) and Ezekiel and the Leaders of Israel (Brill, 1994). He has also contributed volumes to several commentary series including the Reformed Expository Commentary (Daniel, Esther & Ruth), the NIV Application Commentary (Ezekiel), and Preaching the Word (Numbers). Song of Songs is a work that will benefit both student and pastor in their study of Solomon’s love poem. Duguid wrote Song of Songs based on “a conviction that it [Song of Songs] was not generally being preached adequately (or at all) in the evangelical or Reformed circles in which I move” (p. 9). The book sets out to provide a comprehensive commentary on the text to alleviate this perceived shortcoming. This is accomplished methodically by examining questions of authorship and date, themes and structures, and concluding with an analysis of the text itself. Duguid’s work shines in two areas. First, his sensitivity to the hermeneutical issues and tendencies at…

Review of Abschied von der Priesterschrift? Edited by Hartenstein and Schmid
Book Reviews , Old Testament / April 11, 2016

Hartenstein, Friedhelm, and Konrad Schmid, eds. Abschied von der Priesterschrift? Zum Stand der Pentateuchdebatte. Veröffentlichungen der Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft für Theologie 40. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2015. pp. 218. €38, paperback. The collapse of the Documentary Hypothesis beginning in the 1970s left many of the traditional results of critical Pentateuchal research in its wake. Despite the renunciation of the existence of the Yahwist and Elohist sources by Rolf Rendtorff and others, the Priestly Writing (P) has survived largely unscathed, although its characterization as a source is no longer taken for granted. A litany of questions now revolves around the nature of P as a source or redactional layer as well as P’s extent and internal stratification. A group of continental scholars gathered to address these and related issues in the Old Testament section of the Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft für Theologie in May 2012 at Stuttgart-Hohenheim. Christoph Levin surveys the history of research on the nature of P and its composition, particularly within the framework of documentary, fragmentary, and supplementary models. Levin finds persuasive the arguments in favor of P’s literary independence and attributes the emergence of a separate Priestly history parallel to the Yahwistic/non-P history to the uniqueness of the Priestly worldview, particularly…

Review of Fundamentals of New Testament Textual Criticism by Porter and Pitts
Book Reviews , New Testament / April 4, 2016

Porter, Stanley E. and Andrew W. Pitts. Fundamentals of New Testament Textual Criticism. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015, pp. xvi + 202, $22, paperback. Stanley Porter and Andrew Pitts have written a new introduction to the subject of New Testament textual criticism that aims to be a “distinctly midlevel textbook” for people who have at least a basic working knowledge of New Testament Greek. The authors note the current lack of such an intermediate work on the subject. Metzger’s classic work The Text of New Testament (Oxford, 2005) provides a scholarly treatment of textual criticism some of which is too detailed to be useful to seminary students. On the other hand, introductory works, such as Greenlee’s Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism (Baker, 1993), while they are suitable for college and first-year seminary students, do not cover some subjects or do not provide the kind of detail that students with more than one year of Koine Greek will find useful for applying text critical principles to the New Testament. In large part, the authors have succeeded in meeting their goal of an intermediate textbook. The book’s aim of being useful to seminary students is enhanced by its covering subjects not…

Review of A Vision for Preaching by Abraham Kuruvilla

Kuruvilla, Abraham. A Vision for Preaching: Understanding the Heart of Pastoral Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015, pp 224, $21.99, softcover. Abraham Kuruvilla (MD, University of Kerala; PhD, Baylor College of Medicine; PhD, University of Aberdeen) is research professor of pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is also a dermatologist in private practice. As the consummate skin doctor, Kuruvilla treats abnormalities of the epidermis in a clinical setting and academically reflects upon divine words transcribed on vellum scrolls. His academic emphasis centers on the intersection of hermeneutics and homiletics for faithful expository preaching. This intersection is explored in his latest book, A Vision for Preaching. Kuruvilla’s hermeneutical and homiletical proposal is encapsulated in his vision statement. He says, “Biblical preaching, by a leader of the church, in a gathering of Christians for worship, is the communication of the thrust of a pericope of Scripture discerned by theological exegesis, and of its application to that specific body of believers, that they may be conformed to the image of Christ, for the glory of God—all in the power of the Holy Spirit” (p.1). This vision forms the chapter divisions of Kuruvilla’s book and casts a theological vision chapter by chapter…

Review of After the Invasion: A Reading of Jeremiah 40-44 by Keith Bodner
Book Reviews , Old Testament / March 7, 2016

Bodner, Keith. After the Invasion: A Reading of Jeremiah 40-44. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. viii + 179, $90, hardback. Keith Bodner is Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in New Brunswick, Canada.  Bodner has written several books and commentaries including Elisha’s Profile in the Book of Kings: the Double Agent (Oxford, 2013), Jeroboam’s Royal Drama (Oxford, 2012), and 1 Samuel: A Narrative Commentary (Sheffield Phoenix, 2008), among other titles. Bodner’s writings have largely been within the area of narrative criticism. After the Invasion is an excellent work that will help any thoughtful student of the Bible understand the text of Jeremiah, and particularly Jeremiah 40-44, better. After the Invasion was written “to make a contribution to the interpretation of Jer 40-44 by undertaking a reading of the text with a primary interest in the narrative poetics of the text” (p. 3). In doing this Bodner examines that text of Jeremiah 40-44 in a sequential manner and focuses on features within the narrative like characterization, geography, point of view, temporal compression, plot, intertextuality, and irony. There are two features of this book that I would like to highlight. First, it is well-written and well researched. This work combines…