Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Christmas book for my daughter

My five-year-old daughter likes princesses and Christmas, both of which come together in A Royal Christmas to Remember. The book is part of The Princess Parables series produced by ZonderKids, and it's geared towards children between the ages of 4 and 8.

The story follows five princesses named Joy, Grace, Faith, Charity, and Hope, each of whom embody the virtue they are named after. As they get ready to celebrate Christmas, they decorate the castle and talk about what they hope to receive Christmas morning. The night before Christmas thieves break into the castle, tie up the princesses, and begin to loot the place until they are captured by the palace guards. The whole scenario struck me as odd, but it didn't seem to phase my daughter. The story ends with the princesses giving out gifts to the villagers who were also robbed by the bandits. The point of the adventure is that rather than being focused on getting things, we should instead imitate God, who gave up everything, even his own Son. The whole idea comes from the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:15-21.

The anti-consumerism and pro-giving message is a welcome reminder to both children and parents that the Christmas season is not a time for storing up treasures on earth.

The book has one significant error worth mentioning. It describes Luke 12:15-21 as "the parable of the Rich Young Ruler." However, the rich young ruler was not a parable, but an actual even that took place during the ministry of Jesus and which occurs in Luke 18. This seemingly minor mistake suggests that the authors and the editors aren't as biblically literate as I would expect of Christian authors and publishers. I can still recommend this book, but it's a good reminder to exercise discernment even when getting children's books from trusted publishers.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of writing this review.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Septuagint: A tool for students of New Testament Greek

I’ve written before (here and here) that 2016 is my year for working on my biblical Greek and Hebrew. As the year draws to a close, I have to admit that I haven’t been as consistent as I wanted to be at the start of the year, but I have made some great gains. I’ve been most surprised by how much I’ve retained even without having gone over vocabulary lists or parsing out words.

I recently had the opportunity to secure a review copy of Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader, edited by Karen Jobes, professor at Wheaton and author of a number of highly acclaimed commentaries, including one on Esther in the NIV Application Commentary series.

This volume, as the name implies, introduces Greek students to the Greek text of the Septuagint. Jobes introduces the work and highlights the background and significance of the Septuagint for understanding the New Testament and the world in which it was written. What follows are 10 chapters from 9 different Old Testament books, including passages not considered part of the canon of Scripture like Psalm 151 and additions to the book of Esther. I found these passages fun to work through simply because I couldn’t rely on my familiarity with the English versions to help me out. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction about the Greek text of the book, pointing out differences and similarities to the Hebrew (Masoretic) text. Then follows a passage from the book (some have another introduction, like the non-canonical Psalm 151) broken up verse by verse with notes on vocabulary words and phrases in the text. Each section then ends with an English translation.

My early New Testament Greek classes had me work through 1 John and other passages to help me learn the language. Working through the Septuagint only further cements these lessons. Because the language of the Septuagint is a little archaic compared to the Koine period and it has significantly more vocabulary, it makes for a great next step in language learning. Words that don’t appear frequently in the New Testament can be studied in different contexts. Parsing verbs used in ways different than you’re used to forces you to think through it more.

I would love to be able to take a class that uses Discovering the Septuagint because the book was intended to be used as a textbook. However, it’s still a useful tool for improving your grasp of biblical Greek, and if you’re able to do your own independent study, I’d recommend checking it out.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Book Recommendation: Christ All Sufficient

I have a shortlist of authors whose books are worth adding to my library, sight unseen. Brian G. Hedges is on that list because he writes books that provide a solid exposition of Scripture using vivid illustrations which he follows up with clear and practical application. I first read License to Kill: A Field Guide to Mortifying Sin back in 2013, which lead to me picking up Hit List: Taking Aim at the Seven Deadly Sins in 2014. His most recent book, Christ All Sufficient, is his first commentary.

Commentary is a bit of a misnomer. When people think of commentaries, they usually have in mind some dry, academic tome the size and weight of a college biology textbook. That's not what this is. Hedges wrote 10 chapters on the book of Colossians taking readers verse-by-verse through the New Testament letter explaining the flow of thought and directing readers to take hold of the timeless truths first penned by the Apostle Paul. The chapters all felt like quick reads, but each was worth pondering for a while before moving on to the next because Hedges has a way of bringing out what's in the text and calling readers to apply it immediately.

The book reminded me of the God's Word for You book series, which I absolutely love (a few titles are on my Christmas list this year). If that series is aimed at introducing people to the rich truths of the Scripture, Christ All Sufficient builds on that idea and gets a little deeper into some theological concepts. I highly recommend it to anyone who is considering preaching or teaching through Colossians. Even if you're just planning on reading through the letter, Hedges book will bring out great insights you probably would have missed without doing an in-depth study.

In short, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Berenstain Bears and the Christmas Angel

I have fond memories of reading the Berenstain Bears with my parents, and now I'm reading the books with my kids. I still prefer the original stories, but the recent additions by the Berenstain couple's son are enjoyable reads as well.

In The Berenstain Bears and the Christmas Angel the bear cubs make an angel out of snow and learn about how Gabriel announced the coming of Jesus to Mary and the angels told the shepherds that he had been born. The illustrations are on par with those done by Stan and Jan Berenstain, and the focus on the angels of Christmas is one of the more unique emphases I've seen in children's books. It even has a list of Bible passages for parents and children to look up about angels.

The Berenstain Bears have been around since 1962, and I'm glad they're going to be here for a long time.