Book Reviews

Review of Dating Acts in its Jewish and Greco-Roman Contexts by Karl L. Armstrong
Book Reviews , New Testament / April 26, 2022

Armstrong, Karl L. Dating Acts in its Jewish and Greco-Roman Contexts. LNTS 637. London: T&T Clark, 2021, pp. 229, $115.00, hardback. The emergent consensus that Acts was written post-70 CE but pre-90 CE is not much more than “political compromise” says Karl L. Armstrong in Dating Acts (p. 3): fraught with methodological and interpretive problems; Armstrong received his PhD (Christian Theology) from McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario Canada, and Dating Acts is a revised form of his PhD dissertation there under Dr. Stanley E. Porter.  According to Armstrong, the re-asserters of a late (post-100 CE) date for Acts—a growing minority—fare no better than the current consensus, given as they seem to be to ideological literary theories which, while commendably creative, have not come to grips with the powerful traditional arguments for an early date of Acts made in days gone by. In Dating Acts, Armstrong demonstrates these assertions and completely re-founds a case for the early date of Acts (à la Rackham) in light of contemporary historiography and linguistics. Summary: Following his introduction (summarized above), Armstrong offers a chapter on historiographical method (chapter 2) and advances a series of principles which define the procedure of the study: for selecting…

Review of Calvin, the Bible, and History: Exegesis and Historical Reflection in the Era of Reform by Barbara Pitkin

Pitkin, Barbara. Calvin, the Bible, and History: Exegesis and Historical Reflection in the Era of Reform. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2020, pp. xii + 250, £64.00, hardback. Barbara Pitkin is Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Stanford University, where she teaches on the history of Christian thought, including the sixteenth-century reformations and the history of biblical interpretation. She is the author of What Pure Eyes Could See: Calvin’s Doctrine of Faith in its Exegetical Context (OUP, 1999), editor of Semper Reformanda: Calvin, Worship, and Reformed Traditions (V&R, 2018), and co-editor with Wim Janse of The Formation of Clerical and Confessional Identities in Early Modern Europe (Brill, 2006). Pitkin also serves as an editor for the Sixteenth Century Journal and is a former president of the Calvin Studies Society.  In Calvin, the Bible, and History, Pitkin investigates Calvin’s biblical exegesis through a series of case studies and seeks to show how he was consistently historically attuned. Though Pitkin argues that Calvin was not a historian per se, she demonstrates that Calvin was an astute exponent of the Bible as history. Chapter 1 functions as the book’s introduction, which summarises, in broad terms, how Calvin’s biblical interpretation was influenced by…

Review of Inscriptions from the World of the Bible: A Reader and Introduction to Old Northwest Semitic by Peter Bekins
Book Reviews , Old Testament / April 14, 2022

Bekins, Peter. Inscriptions from the World of the Bible: A Reader and Introduction to Old Northwest Semitic. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Academic, 2020, pp 300, $79.95, hardback. If you know Biblical Hebrew, then you essentially know ancient Edomite, Moabite, Ammonite, and Phoenician. You can add those to your résumé. They are all basically the same language. The differences among them are rather minor. For example, the direct object marker in Hebrew and Moabite is ’t (aleph-tau), whereas in Phoenician (and Aramaic) it is ’yt (aleph-yodh-tau). A modern analogy might be English spoken in London, New York, Minnesota, and Georgia. Moreover, if you know Biblical Hebrew, then you are well on your way to a knowledge of Aramaic. We should not think of Biblical Hebrew as a completely unique language all alone, as if it were per se a holy language. It was part of the common language spoken throughout the area of ancient Syria and Palestine. It was, you might say, part of the lingua franca of that area, much like the Koine Greek of the New Testament in the Greco-Roman world. There is a theological message here. The Creator chose to communicate with his human creatures in an everyday language,…

Review of The Story of Sacrifice: Ritual and Narrative in the Priestly Source by Liane M. Feldman
Book Reviews , Old Testament / April 14, 2022

Feldman, Liane M. The Story of Sacrifice: Ritual and Narrative in the Priestly Source. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2020, pp. 245. 104€, hardback. Liane Feldman is Assistant Professor at New York University in the Skirball department of Hebrew and Judaic studies. Feldman earned her PhD from the University of Chicago Divinity School in Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East. In The Story of Sacrifice Professor Liane Feldman explores the “literary function” of the priestly ritual materials. Feldman is clear in the introduction that she intends to read and explain these ritual materials “as part of the story”, in conjunction with, not separated from their narrative setting (11-18). Her inquiry is simple: what happens when one assumes that the ritual and narrative texts in the Priestly source were intentionally placed together, and one chooses to read them as literature? Feldman divides the book into six chapters: Introduction, Moses’s Private Audience: The Construction of Space in the Story World (Exod 40–Lev 7), Yahweh’s Public Performance: The Creation of a Cult (Lev 8:1–10:7), Inside and Outside: Yahweh’s Delineation of Boundaries (Lev 10:8–15:33; Num 7:1–8:4), The Possibility of Decontamination (Lev 16–17), and Conclusion. This review will summarize the book’s contents, follow with a critique,…

Review of The Path to Being a Pastor: A Guide for the Aspiring by Bobby Jamieson

Jamieson, Bobby. The Path to Being a Pastor: A Guide for the Aspiring. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021, 185, $17.99, paperback. Bobby Jamieson is an Associate Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Formerly, Jamieson was an assistant editor for 9Marks. He did his doctoral work at the University of Cambridge and his MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written on all areas of pastoral ministry, including Guarding One Another: Church Discipline, Leading One Another: Church Leadership, and Hearing God’s Word: Expositional Preaching. The Path to Being a Pastor is a brief discussion about the necessary conversations that need to be had before one goes from participant to pastor. When one becomes a pastor, they join an elite group that God has used to do mighty works. Jamieson maintains that some have made this leap without realizing what they are getting involved in. As a result, the churches have suffered, and pastors have experienced burnout. Although Jamieson admits to not having been a pastor himself, he has helped many on the journey. This book is the fruit of that labor. The first third of the book sets up the dialogue about whether or not someone should…

Review of Restless Devices: Recovering Personhood, Presence, and Place in the Digital Age by Felicia Wu Song

Song, Felicia Wu. Restless Devices: Recovering Personhood, Presence, and Place in the Digital Age. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. pp. 216. How do we understand personal identity in a time where we do not simply go online, but we live online? Song’s work in Restless Devices examines the question of personal identity in a digital age through the lens of an unapologetic Christian theological anthropology. It takes a supple voice and keen mind to navigate the complexities of digital media to an overwhelmingly uninformed audience about the ethical issues behind technology used every day. The expertise and tenure of Song’s work here shine in the landscape of the contents of Restless Devices. Anyone studying the ethics of technology understands the complexity of the relationship between the device as a mere instrument and the device as an implement of power. For example, Part 1 (“Being at Altitude; The Terms of Agreement; and The Industrialization of You and Me”) examines how “smart” technologies shape the user through the values laden by the producers of said technology (cf. Jürgen Habermas’ economic thesis). Tech companies use and exploit behavioral psychology and insights from neuroscience to make addictive products without much concern for the ethical…

Review of Inward Baptism: The Theological Origins of Evangelicalism by Baird Tipson

Tipson, Baird. Inward Baptism: The Theological Origins of Evangelicalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020, hardcover, $79. It is safe to say that within the conservative Protestantism of the last hundred years, there has been no common understanding of the relation in which the modern movement stands to earlier Protestantism. In the Victorian era, conservative Protestants saw things differently. With a sense of urgency provided by a resurgent Papacy bent on re-exerting international influence and by movements within Protestantism, such as the nineteenth-century Oxford Movement – which aimed at the re-Romanization of Anglicanism, Protestant historians tended to maximize the continuity of Protestant movements from one era to the next. Born in the age of Reformation, Protestantism was understood to have been reinvigorated in the age of Puritans and Pietists and enlivened in the era of transatlantic awakenings, but still been a constant. This broad-brush approach was in need of refinement and it has come about, beginning with the 1988 release of David W. Bebbington’s Evangelicalism in Modern Britain. While chiefly about developments within the United Kingdom, Bebbington’s work suggested elements of discontinuity between the transatlantic and trans-denominational evangelical movements arising in the 1730’s and what had gone before. Meanwhile, a…

Review of Trinitarian Theology: Theological Models and Doctrinal Application edited by Keith S. Whitfield

Whitfield, Keith S. ed. Trinitarian Theology: Theological Models and Doctrinal Application. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2019, pp. 197, $19.99, soft cover. Trinitarian Theology presents three theological models from scholars of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest U.S. Protestant denomination. The editor Keith S. Whitfield is associate professor of Christian theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Between Whitfield’s introduction and conclusion, six chapters follow a multi-perspectives pattern: opening arguments lead to responsive rebuttals. The authors provide a general defense of their Trinitarian models and specifically address the question of eternal relational authority and submission (ERAS). First, Bruce Ware, author of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (2005) and editor of One God in Three Persons (2015), presents ERAS as biblically necessary and historically defensible. Second, Malcolm B. Yarnell, author of God the Trinity (2016), conditions ERAS theologically. Third, Matthew Y. Emerson, Christ and the New Creation (2013) and The Story of Scripture (2017), and Luke Stamps, Thy Will Be Done (to be published by Fortress Press) criticize ERAS as contradicting the pro-Nicene tradition. These models differ regarding their grounding. Ware surveys Scripture guided by Hebrews 1-2 to ground ERAS directly, while also providing historical and philosophical support. He states that “since the Bible…

Review of Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek: A Refreshing Guide to Grammar and Interpretation by Benjamin L. Merkle
Book Reviews , Hermeneutics , New Testament / March 11, 2022

Merkle, Benjamin L. Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek: A Refreshing Guide to Grammar and Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019, pp. 163, $14.19, paperback. Benjamin Merkle currently serves as professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, a position he has held since 2008. He also serves as the editor of the Southeastern Theological Review and series editor of the 40 Questions series.  In the area of biblical Greek, Merkle has co-authored Beginning with New Testament Greek (B&H, 2020), an elementary Greek grammar, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek, Revised Edition (B&H, 2020), an intermediate Greek grammar, and Greek for Life (Baker, 2017), a guide for refreshing Greek. In Exegetical Gems, Merkle offers motivation for students learning or re-learning biblical Greek. Covering various debated passages in scripture, he provides thirty-five ‘exegetical gems,’ which are “substantial insights from NT passages gained by a proper knowledge and use of Greek” (vii). This volume also provides a brief review of Greek syntax normally covered in a second semester/year Greek course.  Each chapter covers a different area of Greek syntax and is broken into three sections: (1) an introduction which presents a verse or passage to…

Review of Preaching to People in Pain: How Suffering Can Shape Your Sermons and Connect with Your Congregation by Matthew Kim

Kim, Matthew. Preaching to People in Pain: How Suffering Can Shape Your Sermons and Connect with Your Congregation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2021, xvi + pp. 223, $21.66, paperback. With the heart of a pastor, the mind of a theologian, and the skill of a soul-surgeon, Matthew Kim navigates the turbulent waters of pain. This insightful work will “encourage pastors to preach less pain-free sermons and to preach more pain-full sermons where preachers disclose their suffering and pain” (p. xi). Kim (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh) serves as the Professor of Preaching and Practical Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, MA, as well as past president of the Evangelical Homiletics Society. He is a seasoned pastor and prolific author of works such as Preaching with Cultural Intelligence and Homiletics and Hermeneutics: Four Views on Preaching Today. Preaching to People in Pain is a balm for each preacher’s soul as well as their weary flock. If after reading this book, you can see the value of preaching on pain, then Kim has fulfilled his goal (p. 201). He arranges his work into two units: Naming the Pain (three chapters) is an invitation to authentic dialog concerning how and why pastors…