Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Book on Romans 8-16

The Good Book Company now has six titles out in their God’s Word for You series, of which I’ve read five. The books are mostly the same length, and since the New Testament volumes are mostly verse-by-verse studies, Romans was split into two volumes, one on Romans 1-7, and the other on Romans 8-16. I’ve reviewed the first, and now that I’ve just finished reading through the appendix of the second, I can reflect on the two as a pair.

Like the first book, Romans 8-16 for You features clear exposition of the text of Romans that not only helps the reader understand what he’s reading in the Bible, but drives the points home to his heart, with probing questions and personal application—there’s a lot of theology, but nothing is theoretical. Tim Keller has developed a reputation as a Bible teacher, and his handling of the text of Romans shows that he carefully seeks to both understand the meaning of Scripture and how that meaning should inform and direct the life of a believer.

The book, like all others in the series, suggests it be used for:
  • Reading—a study guide, kind of like an academic commentary for people who don’t read commentaries
  • Feeding—a devotional walk through Romans for spiritual growth and meditation on the word
  • Leading—a tool for teaching, whether in a one-on-one or small group discipleship setting, or even for sermon preparation

Having now experienced 5 out of the 6 titles available, I think they’ve nailed it with their read, feed, lead idea. I’ll be looking at their curricula for the youth group I lead once we’re done with our current study (that also comes from The Good Book Company). Additionally, the book offers an outline in the back of the book that I will likely consult when preparing future sermons on Romans.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Baptist's Bookshelf: A new commentary on Exodus

A Baptist minister’s bookshelf is sacred. It bears the weight of centuries of thought from people of all different backgrounds and faith traditions. A Baptist minister often relies on the recommendations of others when deciding what books to add to his library. That’s why I’ve decided to do periodic book reviews of new titles I’ve added to my library from the standpoint of being a Baptist in the SBC.

My most recent scholarly addition is A Commentary on Exodus from the Kregel Exegetical Library series. This is a relatively new commentary series, but the volumes that are already out by Allen P. Ross and Robert B. Chisholm, Jr. impressed me enough that I’ve committed to filling my shelves with future volumes. I was able to snag a review copy straight from the publisher, and after reading through much more of it than I had need to, I can say it’s a worthy addition to anyone’s bookshelf.

A Commentary on ExodusBackground Information
The author, Duane A. Garrett, is a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he’s written both a Hebrew grammar and a handful of commentaries on Old Testament books, including two volumes for the New American Commentary (NAC) series, published by Broadman and Holman, the SBC’s publishing arm. I have both the grammar and one of his NAC volumes, and he is definitely good at what he does.

ReviewThere are a lot of commentaries on Exodus available on the market, but many deny the historicity of the events and people contained in the book. Owning a commentary on Exodus written by a Bible-believing scholar is essential for any SBC pastor, which is why so many pastors I know look to the NAC as their default commentary series. Since Douglas Stuart wrote the NAC’s volume on Exodus in 2006, and since I own that commentary, I decided to compare the two. After reading through a couple hundred pages and skimming the rest of Garrett’s commentary, I opened it up next to Stuart’s. On the whole, I think that Garret’s volume is marginally better. Here’s why:

First off Garrett devotes much more space to introductory matters. Whereas Stuart gives a scant few paragraphs indicating his assumption of an early date for the Exodus and Jebel Musa in the southern Sinai Peninsula as the site of the biblical Mount Sinai, Garret spends a good 130 pages on introductory matters, delving much deeper into the arguments for various dates, an overview of Egyptian history and Pharaohs, various proposed locations for the Red Sea crossing, and the various sites proposed for the biblical Mount Sinai. Although Garrett does not settle on a specific date or Pharaoh, his treatment of these subjects was much better than what amounts to non-engagement on the part of Stuart: “In this commentary we have accepted the evidence, debated as it is, for a fifteenth-century exodus…” Both commentators have a number of “excursuses” into various topics throughout their commentaries, and Stuart’s excursuses may be more plentiful, but between the introductory material and the excursuses, Garrett comes out on top.

Second, Garrett provides his own translation, as well as copious footnotes, for the entire book of Exodus. Stuart relies on the NIV translation (1984), and although he does dedicate some space to discussing translation choices and the Hebrew text, pairing his commentary with the NET Bible translator’s notes still wouldn’t come close to what Garrett has done. Whether the reader is ultimately persuaded of each of Garrett’s translation decisions or not, he provides ample information regarding the underlying Hebrew text to help those of us without a Ph.D. in Biblical Hebrew better understand the book.

Third, although both commentaries offer an introduction to each passage of Scripture, an analysis of its structure, and expositional commentary on the verses, Garrett includes a concluding summary of the key theological points of each passage. The summary is useful for organizing thoughts and identifying the significance of the passage for believers today. Pastors and teachers who prefer to go verse by verse through a book of the Bible can use these summaries to organize their thoughts and make sure their teaching has a point rather than doing a run-on commentary on each verse of Scripture.

SummaryHaving compared the two commentaries, either would be a good addition to the pastor’s bookshelf. Garrett provides the most value in his analysis of the Hebrew text and his introductory materials. He also includes a useful summary of the theological points from each passage.

If you’re interested, there’s an interview with the author available online at the SBTS website as well as a brief book review.

If you have any questions about this commentary, or if you’d like to share your thoughts on your favorite commentary on Exodus, there’s space in the comments for you.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

January in Review

It's hard to believe that we're already one month into 2015. Last year when Hannah and I received so many Christmas cards with a "year in review" letter, I decided that I wanted to do that this year. But since so much happens in one year, I thought it better to do a "month in review" and later pick the best of the best for our annual Christmas letter.

Hannah and I rang in the new year by going to bed early. We knew the kids would get up early anyway, so we decided to treat New Year's Eve like any other night and enter the new year well rested.

On January 10 I officially began carrying out my duties as Associate Pastor of Youth and Young Adults (Youth Pastor) at Enfoque Ministerio de Alabanza, our Spanish-language church that meets on Saturday night. It's part-time, so I won't be giving up my full-time Government job anytime soon, but it's my first paid ministry position. I hold two classes: one for high schoolers and one for college-age young adults, and my focus is on exposing them to the gospel of God's amazing grace and helping them get grounded in the faith.

Hannah began the second half of her school year as a part-time teacher for WEE Care, a preschool and kindergarten at the church. Lukas and Abigail both attend as well and they're always bringing home new pictures and craft projects, as well as new ways of expressing themselves. Lukas's vocabulary has exploded and he's beginning to talk in 2- and 3-word phrases.

On January 24 we traded in our 2007 Ford Freestar van for a 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan. The extra space is much appreciated, and the handling is definitely better. Even though it's primarily Hannah's vehicle, I got to drive the exact same model to Cleveland for work the very next day. In a snowstorm. It was more a trial by ice than a trial by fire, but it performed well and we're confident we made the right choice.

In addition to my four-day trip to Cleveland, the last week of January marked the start of my last Hebrew class for my seminary studies and the first time I got to preach as Youth Pastor. That made it the busiest week of our year so far.

We've been very blessed by God, and we are thankful for his provision and care. Now that we're settled in to 2015, we're beginning to plan out the rest of the year, and I think that the best is still ahead.