Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bonhoeffer (Abridged) - By Eric Metaxas

Having read the unabridged Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas I was interested to see that there was an abridged version and was curious to see how the abridged version would compare to the original.  It was a nice attempt, but it definitely isn't even half as good.  For one thing, it seemed choppy at parts, for instance, at one point, the Nazi party is a small minority party in the government and then all of a sudden Hitler is in power. As far as I can recollect, It didn't really talk about the growth of the Nazis like the other one did.  I understand that in order for it to be 'abridged' lots of things would have to be 'cut', but I thought that it should have had a little bit more of the background of what was going on politically in Germany just for clarities sake.  And another example of its 'choppiness' was where Bonhoeffer declares that he won't go to the 'Fano' conference if a particular 'Reich-church' leader went too, and then we find that Bonhoeffer goes to the conference, but I didn't notice any mention of whether or not that 'Reich-church' leader was there. 

This all just my opinion, and it may just be that my knowledge of what's missing biases me towards the fuller account.  You might want to look at a review by someone who hasn't read the original to see what they thought of it, it may not seem as choppy to them.  Ultimately, you get a pretty good overview of the events of his life, and I still have the same caution towards his view of Catholicism, like I mentioned in my review of the unabridged account of his life, it seems that he may have thought that the beliefs of Catholicism were accurate enough that the people who hold to them are saved.  It makes me a bit nervous of what he actually believed about the salvation of God.  If he actually loved Roman Catholics, then he would try to explain to them what God's word actually says about there being only one Mediator between us and God, and how our works will not save us, earn us any points before God, nor will the 'merits' of the saints give us any 'clout' before God.  God Himself provided us Righteousness in His Son Jesus Christ.   

All in all, I just felt that one didn't get 'acquainted' with Bonhoeffer in this abridgement, it was more like a recounting of events in his life rather than a look at what was going on in the man himself.  But again, some people may like summaries. 
 
I received a free review copy of this book from the Booklook blogger program in exchange for my review which did not have to be favorable.
 
This book may be purchased from Amazon and Thomas Nelson's site.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Polycarp: a destroyer of our gods - by Rick Lambert

I've started a shadow blog that sounds more like a 'theological' blog than a 'cooking blog'.  I'll still keep this one up as my 'main' blog, but I do want to recommend a Christian novel that just came out, Polycarp: A destroyer of our gods - by Rick Lambert: You can read my review on my other blog, HERE 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Evangelism Study Bible

http://store.kregel.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=3404The Evangelism Study Bible is intended to help with Evangelism.  It has a lot of footnotes, commenting on the relevance of many verses to evangelism.  It also contains various charts explaining/expounding on certain topics, like the fruit of the spirit, the whole armor of God…etc.  There are many 'commentary' boxes, discussing various evangelism related topics, that are inserted throughout the Bible as well.  One in particular I appreciated dealt with the question, "Do You Have to Know the Date You Were Saved?", and it deals with the source of our assurance of our salvation being Christ, "…when Scripture speaks of salvation, it goes back to a fact, not a date.  If you are trusting in Christ alone, you are saved, regardless of when the divine transaction took place…..The one who saved us gives us security, not the 'when' of our salvation." I also appreciate that many of the footnotes remind us that, though we are privileged to serve God by giving out the Gospel, we are not responsible for anyone's conversion, salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit, He can convince/change people's hearts, and we cannot do that. 

I haven't read/looked at many topical Bibles, and I don't really like the concept of a topical Bible.  I think that they have the tendency to distract from what the various texts of the Bible are actually saying, and rather than exegesis, I think they probably promote more eisegesis  .  I have found my misgivings justified by this Evangelism Bible.  Here are some examples:  in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, Paul writes:  "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:  On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside…"  The footnote for theses verses reads, "We are to give financially to promote God's work.  Some of those finances should be specifically designated for evangelism.  Jesus taught a basic principle in Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34 - our hearts follow our treasure.  Investing in non-Christians encourages a heart that cares for unbelievers."  Paul said nothing about evangelism in these verses, rather, he is talking about caring for the needs of fellow believers.  The emphasis of the Scriptures is on loving our fellow believers in  Christ, and cultivating that love, and this is emphasized so much that it appears that it ought to be our priority, rather than our love for unbelievers.  We love unbelievers of course, but our priority is to love our family in Christ, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another. (Joh 13:35)

And a second example, in their comments on Phil. 1:6 which says, "being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;"  They write, "'You' is plural.  Paul was not referring to their individual spiritual growth, but rather to their work together in spreading the gospel.  We should keep this perspective in mind in our own evangelistic efforts - working together produces greater results than working alone."  Huh?  That sounds to me like a ridiculous conclusion.  Of course 'you' was plural! He was writing to the Philippian church which consisted of several people, not just one person.  That does not mean that Paul was not speaking about their spiritual growth/sanctification/work of salvation.    The editors of the notes in this Bible may be a bit too biased on the 'theme' of this Bible, or, to put it in an odd way, too focused on Evangelism, which makes me wary of their ability to truly exegete the Scriptures. And I'm sure that this would be the case for me in in regards to any topical Bible. 

All in all, I've not seen anything about this Bible that changes my opinion on topical Bibles.  It's okay, but I wouldn't particularly recommend it. 

Many thanks to Kregel Academic and Ministry for sending me a free copy of this Bible for me to review (My review did not have to be favorable.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

HCSB Large Print - Personal Size Reference Bible(Brown Leather-touch)


The first time I remember hearing about the HCSB translation was in John Macarthur's book: 'SLAVE: The hidden truth about your identity in Christ', in which this translation is used because it translates 'doulos' literally as 'slave' rather than the less accurate translation of 'servant' or 'bondservant'.  That made me curious to take a better look at the translation.  This translation uses "Optimal Equivalence" as the translation method which they consider to be a careful cross between formal equivalence an dynamic/functional equivalence.  Also, the translators do not give in to gender neutrality, as they mention in their 'introduction':  "…the translators have not changed 'him' to 'you' or to 'them,'  neither have they avoided other masculine words such as 'father' or 'son' by translating them in generic terms…" 

There were some specific things that I looked for, in particular the usage of other translations of the Old Testament for textual criticism.  In Genesis 4:8 instead of the verse reading , "And Cain told Abel his brother. And it came to pass, when they were in the field…"( ASV) it relies upon the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Septuagint, Syriac and Vulgate and reads, "Cain said to his brother Abel, 'Let's go out to the field.' And while they were in the field…"  Including that statement there is added clarity, and, though not in the Masoretic text, it has numerous supports in other available texts.  They support their translation choices/sources with footnotes explaining where the variants are taken from and also to give alternate readings that are not found in the Masoretic text of the OT.  I did appreciate that, unlike the NIV, at Isaiah 7:14 where it says "the virgin will conceive…" they do not have a footnote saying "or young woman".  But I didn't like that, unlike the NIV, in Psalm 40 where they follow the Masoretic wording of "my ears you have opened" they don't include a footnote mentioning that other ancient translations like the LXX read "body you have prepared for me".   

It reads in a sort of cross between modern English and a more literal style, though I think it is leaning more towards a literal translation which I appreciate.  But overall, I think I like the translation.   Oh, I also liked how they converted measurements into feet, inches, miles…etc.  It makes it easier to picture. 

And now, as for the external/material things,  the binding of this version was silky smooth, and I like the simple yet decorative cover.   On the inside the font is nice and large and easily readable, even the footnotes are a nice size.  This Bible has a topical concordance at the back and at the beginning a summary of God's plan for salvation in which I particularly liked some of their wording for instance, "First, God says we must repent.  The word 'repent' means a change of direction.  This means when we turn to God, we are turning away from sin and giving up on the attempt to make ourselves right before God." 

Many thanks to B&H publishers for sending me a free copy of this Bible to review!(My review did not have to be favorable)
 
 
This Bible may be purchased on Amazon and on the B&H Publishing Group website
 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Samuel Rutherford -Bitsized Biography by Richard Hannula

I did not know much about Samuel Rutherford before reading this 'bite-sized'  biography by Richard Hannula.  I associated his name with the song "The Sands of Time are Sinking" and thought that he was the author.  The content of the song made me desire to know more about Mr. Rutherford. It turns out that the song was written by Anne Ross Cousin, but it was inspired by Mr. Rutherford's writings and sayings, so my curiosity stayed. Samuel Rutherford was a Scottish pastor who lived in the 1600s who underwent persecution along with other Christians under the reigns of Charles the I and II.   He was married twice(his first wife died) and had nine children altogether, only one survived him.  One of the things I admired about God's working in him was his deep love for his congregation, even when banished from them he was concerned with their welfare, and kept up a correspondence with them to keep encouraging them in their lives as Christians. 

Though very focused upon the life that we will have with Christ "beyond the veil", Mr. Rutherford seemed to morph the worldly kingdoms/governments of this life set up by man(Christian or not)with the Eternal Kingdom that Christ will set up Himself.  And the author seemed to agree to some extent as he mentions at one point that Rutherford, "unwisely linked the cause of the covenanter army with the cause of Christ".  Rutherford and his colleagues seemed intent upon having all of the Scottish people governed not just physically, but spiritually as well, even to the point of coercion, "Rutherford urged Parliament to impose the true Christian faith in a unified national church…".  He appears to have defended 'Christian armies', fighting for their rights when a King uses His power wrongly.  Ironically, in his defense of Covenanter resistance to King Charles he compared the King to Nero, the same wicked Caesar who was probably in power when the Apostle Paul wrote, "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God."(Rom 13:1 NASB)  Paul did not call for the Christians to raise up an army in defense of the faith, nor did any of the Apostles when there was persecution from the government or from religious leaders.  Also, another problem I had, and this is going to sound really odd, Mr. Rutherford seemed so focused upon Christ that God the Son almost seems to eclipse God the Father in his eyes.  But that might just be because of the quotes that were selected for this book.  

All in all this was a nice look at the life of Rutherford, and, as with all biographies of Christians, it makes one amazed and comforted by the amazing grace of God in using such flawed instruments as mankind. The book is quite small, and truly is 'bite-sized' enabling you to quickly learn about Rutherford and to get a taste for whether or not you'd like to read his works, or a larger biography like the ones listed at the end of this book. 

I'll end  with one of my favorite quotes from the book by Rutherford, "Look beyond time…they have but children's wit who are delighted with shadows and diluted with feathers flying in the air."

 

Many thanks to the folks at Cross Focused Reviews for sending me a free review copy of this book to review(My review did not have to be favorable.)
 
This book may be found on Amazon

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary

When I first looked at Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary I was quite impressed.  It is very nicely bound, and quite "fancy".  It has several maps, modern pictures of the places being described, pictures of various archaeological finds and many other illustrations.  Much of the information it gives seems quite good. For instance, in their definition of Agape love, they explain that the term "unconditional love" is not the right definition, Agape love is:  "primarily a love of the will rather than the emotions.  The New Testament never speaks of God loving unbelieving human beings with emotional love…He loves with His will…". I loved a lot of their entries on particular people in the Bible, in a nice condensed summary of who they were and the events in their lives, I also really like the descriptions of various Biblical places, where they were located, what happened there...etc.

But, sadly, the negatives outweigh the positives so that I can't recommend this dictionary.  The primary reason is that some of the illustrations were extremely inappropriate(completely unclothed people), they are absolutely unnecessary and would prohibit children(or even adults like me) from being able to use the dictionary until the pictures are blotted out. The only ones I can think of right now were drawings and hieroglyphic type of pictures, but I don't think that makes it any more decent.  I would have rated it higher if it weren't for these pictures.  Also, some of the entries are biblically inaccurate.  Their view of the creation account in Genesis is appalling, "Skeptics have ridiculed the creation story in Genesis because it reports that the creation occurred in six days.  But the indefinite meaning of 'day' takes care of this objection.."  A "day" with an evening and a morning is not indefinite!!! It means one 24-hour day!  Who cares what the Skeptics think, we should care about what God SAYS happened, not disregarding His Word simply because some people doubt it.   But if it weren't for the bad pictures, I'd still have recommended it highly because of the information on the Biblical places, people, and things.

I received a free review copy of this book from the Booklook blogger program in exchange for my review which did not have to be favorable.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The People, The Land, and The Future of Israel

The People, the land, and the future of Israel is a collection of essays on those topics by various people including  Michael Rydelnik, John Feinberg and Walter Kaiser Jr.  The Essays are Divided into several groupings, in sections like Practical Theology, Hebrew Scriptures, New Testament..etc.  All of these men are defending the Biblical view that God is not done with the Jews as a people, that they have a future in  the land of Israel, a future in which as believers in Jesus as the Messiah, and as the Atonement for their sins, they will live in peace in the land under their Messiah's rule(The Millennial Kingdom).

At first I liked the idea of having multiple people contributing in one book, but when I read it, or rather as I was reading it,  I changed my mind.  It just wasn't a smooth flow, once you got used to one person's style of writing you ended up with another one.  And then some of the essays were interesting, some weren't so interesting.  That, of course, is mostly a matter of my preference, some may not have a problem with the styles.  But the worst thing for me was that some writers I had to be more wary of some of the writers than others.  I don't love reading books in which you have to critically analyze every other sentence out of doubt of the truth/accuracy of what the writer is saying.  Of course, it wasn't every other sentence, but enough to At first I liked the idea of having multiple people contributing in one book, but when I read it, or rather as I was reading it,  I changed my mind.  It just wasn't a smooth flow, once you got used to one person's style of writing you ended up with another one.  And then some of the essays were interesting, some weren't so interesting.  That, of course, is mostly a matter of my preference, some may not have a problem with the styles.  But the worst thing for me was that I had to be more wary of some of the writers than others.  I don't love reading books in which you have to critically analyze every other sentence out of doubt of the truth/accuracy of what the writer is saying.  Of course, it wasn't every other sentence, but enough to make me uncomfortable. For instance, one of the writers said things like, "Only one thing stopped God from exercising his parental care:  the people did not wish him to do so.  As a result, the gathering and its protection could not take place.  The same risk applies now to Jesus offer…"  and a similar statement by someone else, "Every effort of Jesus to turn the hearts of the Jewish people was thwarted by the Jewish leaders throughout His earthly ministry who rejected His person and message.  Finally, the Savior comes to the heartbreaking conclusion that He is going to be a rejected by his own people…"  Umm….He knew that before(Lk 17:25;8:9-10;Mt 13:10-17) , He did the will of the Father knowing that would happen, He didn't have to "conclude it".  another writer writes that "When a prophecy is fulfilled essentially the main point of the prophecy (its primary intention) is realized with a degree of literality, but some of the accompanying details may not materialize.  An examination of fulfilled prophecies in 1-2 Kings suggests that Old Testament prophets understood that their predictions might be realized essentially without every detail materializing.  In each case, God makes room for human freedom, which gives the prophecy a degree of contingency, or conditionality."  I'm not sure where he's getting that… isn't there only conditionality when God gives conditions in the prophecy itself?  I mean, if one believes that way then, applying it to Christ, the Messiah would not have had to have met the requirements for Messiahship.  For instance, if Mary had chosen to reject God's choice  of her as the earthly mother of Christ, would He not have been born of a virgin?  Or what about the prophesied crucifixion of Christ?  What if the religious leaders hadn't hated Him and didn't want Him to be killed? Christ would not then have been the Atoning sacrifice for sin.   I know that these things are not what that writer said but that's what his statements imply to me.  Sometimes it wasn't what they said but what they didn't say.  One of the writers, Barry Leventhal quoted sources that seemed to accuse God of injustice for allowing the holocaust, but didn't offer a rebuttal to those accusations, instead he seemed to sort of assent to them, as in his introduction of one quotation:  "it was Eliezer Berkovits who admitted that while we cannot exonerate God for His responsibility in all the suffering of history, one can nevertheless rest in His recompense beyond history"  I think that that was a bad choice of words.  Another thing I didn't like was that a lot of the authors used transliterated Hebrew terms instead of English terms, "Yeshua", "Moshiach", "Shalom,"  etc.  Solely using them or randomly interchanging them with the English term, they just seemed out of place. I don't understand why they don't just use English terms.  I don't see how Hebrew transliterations add anything to their argument, and don't think that Replacement theologians, Jews or any others they are trying to reach will be more convinced by the terms.   

There was one thing I was rather impressed with, but it was technological rather than theological:  At the end of each chapter is a bar code you can scan with your smartphone to watch the actual delivery of the messages by the authors at the conference this book originated from.  All in all, though there were good essays, Rydelnik's being one of them, I just wasn't thrilled enough to recommend it, or really enjoy it.  I could recommend different books by certain of the essay writers that are better than this eclectic defense.   

Many thanks to Kregel Academic for sending me a free copy of this book to review!
 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

NIV Once a day Bible

The NIV Once a Day Bible is a great concept, not only is it chronologically arranged, but it is also divided into 365 daily readings.  Last year our church went through the Bible in a year using a chronological reading plan.  Though it was really neat to be reading it chronologically, it was a bit tiring flipping back and forth to the different texts for each individual day.  Then I started reviewing Bibles that were already chronologically arranged, and that helped a lot.  Some, or all of them, had one year Bible reading plans listed in the back of the Bible; this Bible is neat in that it is already arranged that way so you don't have to flip to the back of the book, you just read until the next 'Day' heading.  It would be nice if they would come out with a hardcover edition as the softcover feels a bit flimsy. 

At the end of each day's readings, there are little reflective paragraphs at the end, talking about what you've just read.  Some are pretty good, others…not so much.  For instance, one of them, speaking of God's planned future mercy to Israel in spite of their sin, the comment is made, "God is still planning and dreaming.  He never gives up."  First, that statement sounds too irreverential(God has 'dreams' not fixed plans?), makes God seem as though He is not sovereign, and finally, almost implies that there is no Hell.  How is that?  Well, the statement, "He never gives up" implies that He will never judge sinners who are not in Christ, but we know from God's Word that He will, and it is His choice when He will do so.  His patience does have an end, the judgment is coming. 

But, aside from some things like the above, this chronological Bible is a great tool to keep yourself in the Word.  Oh, and I want to mention that I appreciate that this chronological arrangement has all of the prophecies of Isaiah before the exile and the return of Israel under Cyrus.  One chronological Bible I reviewed had the prophecies of Cyrus given at the time of Cyrus simply because God had Isaiah state his name in the prophecy, the arrangers seemed to think that God couldn't know what Cyrus's name was before he came on the scene.  I appreciate that the arrangers for this Bible acknowledged God's sovereignty and accuracy in prophecy.
 

I received a free copy of this book from the BookLook bloggers program in exchange for a review(my review did not have to be favorable)
 
This book may be purchased from Zondervan and Amazon

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The King is coming - by Erwin Lutzer

The King is ComingErwin Lutzer gives a high level overview of the return of Christ and the events that will be associated with this return.  Writing from a premillennial standpoint he examines the events that have yet to take place and helps us think, "how should I live in light of this?"  The chapters are all written in light of our Lord's coming, as is evidenced by their titles, "The King Returns for us", "The King Judges us", "The King Marries His Bride", and so on.  He states that, "Some of the events associated with His glorious return will be shocking, ,especially for those who think of Jesus only in terms of the gospel accounts, when He went about healing the sick, raising the dead, and blessing the poor.   In the event before us, we see not only the love of Jesus but the meticulous justice of Jesus."  And so you also have chapters like, "The King Destroys Nations" and "The King Returns to Conquer". 

I like that Lutzer is careful about the timeline of the events of the last days,  as he says, "It is possible to be right about the facts but very wrong about the timeline".  I also like his emphasis on how our knowledge of the coming events should be sobering, and motivating at the same time.  "The goal of this study in biblical prophecy is to change our lives, moving form the pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of holiness and from the love of the world to the love of God."

 All in all, The book is okay, but I'm not thrilled with it.  Some of his language seems a little too…how do I put it…well, almost irreverentially modern.  For instance, towards the beginning of the book he states that "My desire is for you to fall in love with Jesus all over again."  That seems too much like romance, and doesn't evoke the reverential, respectful, obedient love we are supposed to have for our Lord.  And then another thing I didn't like was his explanation of how we Christians will be judged "fairly".  He explains that, "Because He knows all things, He(Christ) will take all of the contingencies into account.  He will take a careful look at your life:  how you were impacted by your parents, and the positive or negative effect that others had on you, and every other relevant factor as you stand before Him.  His evaluation will be accurate and perfect and fair."  This sounds too much as if Lutzer thinks we'll be 'given a pass' if we weren't  obedient to God in something because someone else influenced us not to, in one way or another.  I doubt whether the effect, positive or negative, that others had on us will be relevant at all.  If we respond the wrong way in any way because of someone else, we are wrong, and have given up an opportunity to exercise faith.  I believe that the Christian who didn't do a good work because a bad influence will not be given a reward for that act of faithlessness.  This conclusion may not be what Lutzer meant when he talked about the judgment of Christians, but it certainly implied something like this to me.   

The book didn't meet my expectations…but like I said it's okay, and gives an interesting look at how Lutzer thinks the order of end times events will probably happen.

 
Thanks to MoodyPublishers for sending me a free copy of this book to review(my review did not have to be favorable)!
 
 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Exposition of Romans chapter 11 - by Martyn Lloyd Jones

Martyn-Lloyd Jones' enthusiasm about this 11th chapter of Romans is evident in every chapter of this book.   My dad likes to point out that the most interesting messages are given by people who are actually interested in what they are speaking about.  Lloyd-Jones is definitely interested and excited about sharing what he has learned in God's word, and so this commentary(a collection of his sermons on this chapter)is very interesting.  In Romans 11 Paul is continuing his explanation of what is going on with the ethnic people God chose, namely the people of Israel, and whether or not God is done with them as an ethnicity.  The majority of Jews were rejecting the Gospel, while most of the people who were responding to the 'call' were  Gentiles.  

Despite his apparently Amillennial views, Lloyd-Jones emphatically rejects the view that the term 'Israel' is speaking of the 'Church' anywhere in this passage.  He explains that it is speaking of the ethnic people descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and refutes arguments against it.  Here is an overview of his view, he explains this passage as, God is not done with the people of Israel(Paul himself being evidence of this), God has a 'remnant' of Jews, in every age, who are believers.  Lloyd-Jones believes that the Olive tree in this passage is the people of God, and expounds on what Paul is saying in this passage  in his  speaking about how God has cut off the Jews because of their unbelief, and has grafted in 'wild olive branches'/the Gentiles. 

I liked his address of an objection some people might bring up in regards to Paul's warning the Christian Gentiles about becoming arrogant, and the statement, "if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise you too shall be cut off".   Some might think that this passage teaches that a person can lose their salvation.  Lloyd Jones explains that the only persons who will heed the warnings given to Christians are true Christians.  The people who do not care and do not heed the warnings of God prove that they are non-Christians.  I'll give an excerpt here:  "…these passages are ways in which God actually secures the perseverance of His saints and people……The only people who are ever frightened by a statement such as this are true Christian people.  Nobody else.  The whole trouble with these others who think they are Christians - temporary believers, temporary professors, call them what you like - the trouble with them is that they are always self-satisfied, they are perfectly happy, nothing ever disturbs them at all, and they can read through the warnings of the scripture without anything troubling them…..it is through passages similar to this that God ensures and secures the perseverance of His own people.  It is only to His own people He ways, 'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling', One of the best tests of assurance is that we know something about fear and trembling.  'Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men'.  This is God's way, then, of securing the final perseverance and the ultimate glorification of His people." 

Amongst other things, I disagree with his view that the only future plan God has for ethnic Israel is their spiritual salvation as a whole.  My problem is not with his view that there is coming a day when Israel as a nation will come to believe in Christ, and they will all be saved.  My problem is that he does not believe that when Israel is saved they will dwell in the land of Israel, and that there will be a Millennial reign of Christ on this earth.  "We have given an explanation of what is meant by 'all Israel' but what is meant by 'being saved'?  This is most important.   What Paul is concerned about is the salvation of 'all Israel'.  He does not say anything here about the future of the Jewish nation from any kind of governmental point of view, or even in terms of the land of Palestine.  That is not what he is talking about.  He is talking about its salvation and Jews are going to be saved in exactly the same way as anybody else."  He seems to think that all 'premillennialists' believe that the Jews will be saved by a means other than Christ's sacrifice.  Perhaps some do believe that way, but I do not.  The Jews will be saved the exact same way Gentiles are saved, but when the Jews are saved they will be given the land of Israel that was promised to them forever when they are a righteous people.  They will not become righteous on their own, God will have given them His own Righteousness through Christ, that will fulfill the requirement for their continued residence in the land promised to them(Isa 60:21; Ezek 37:21-28;Deut 32:43…etc.).  

He quotes Charles Hodge, speaking of the correct interpretation of prophecy, "'Great events are foretold but the mode of their occurrence, their details and their consequences can only be learned by the event'…Now history, you see, tells you not only about the great events it gives you the details….Prophecy tells us about the great events that are going to happen, 'but the mode of their occurrence, their details, and their consequences can only be learned by the event' - by when it happens."  He goes on to illustrate this by the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah, "All they knew was that there was a promise concerning a Messiah.  But you and I with the Gospels in our hands and the knowledge of the story, look back and read the Old Testament prophecies and see the amazing character of it all, the detailed information that was given: hidden of course at that time, but to us perfectly clear because we are looking at it in retrospect.  That is what Charles Hodge is saying.  He says you must not go to prophecy and expect it to be a sort of detailed account of what is going to happen…The principle, he says, of the interpretation of prophecy therefore is this, that it is concerned with the big things not with the details."  But there were some details given in prophecy, for instance, that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, would come out of Egypt, be born in Bethlehem, would perform miracles…etc.  Of course they didn't know how they would all work out or fit together, but these most definitely were details concerning the Messiah. It is the same with the Premillennial view, we know that Israel will be brought back to the land of Israel,  they will be saved by Christ's sacrifice, they will never disobey again, Christ will reign over them…etc.(Ezek. 37; Jer. 32:38-42; Jer. 31:31-37; Zech 12:10; Rev 20;…etc.)  These are details, we do not know exactly how or when they will happen, but we believe that they will happen. 

Despite the fact that his Amillennial views pop up in various forms throughout the book, despite the fact that he sometimes confuses me when he is citing a view that he is about to critique and at first I think that he is giving his own view, and despite some other disagreements(like his view that Paul changed certain quotations of the Old Testament by inspiration of the Holy Spirit), I still think that this is a good commentary.  I especially liked his review of the doxology at the end of the book.  I'll end with a quote from that section.  Here Lloyd Jones is critiquing people/churches who think that we should have a 'dialogue' with people of other religions, to deal with it as an intellectual debate,  to listen and learn from them.  Rather than being too dogmatic in our belief in the Scriptures as the source of truth, we should be open to their views:  "…Now that is the trouble with modern man.  It is that man, by nature, is sinful, has got a carnal mind, hates God, and the devil whom he unknowingly serves, has blinded the minds of them that believe not.  It does not matter how clever or able he is.  The devil has blinded his mind 'lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them'.  That, according to the Apostle and according to the whole of the scriptural teaching, is the one and only explanation as to why men and women do not believe.  Therefore what have I to learn from such a man?  What has a man who is blinded by the devil got to tell me about these matters?  Why should I have a dialogue with him?  No, no, I am sorry for him.  The man is blinded, he is ignorant, he knows nothing.  I have the knowledge which alone can help him.  It is not mine, it has been given to me, it has been revealed to me, and it is my duty to tell him.  I am doing him a disservice by letting him talk.  He is not capable of expressing an opinion.  He is in the dark, 'dead in trespasses and sins'.  That is the whole of the scriptural teaching.  But, the modern teaching denies this utterly and absolutely, and this is the spectacle by which we are confronted, that the modern church is paying compliments to the unregenerate man and says, 'Now we must preach less to you, we have been speaking too much, let us sit down, you talk, I want to listen, I want to learn from you'.  I do not hesitate to assert that this is a denial of Christ.  Not only do I not learn from the natural unregenerate man, I do not learn from the Hindu or the Muslim, the Confucian or the Buddhist; they have nothing to tell me.  The Bible, and the Bible alone, contains the knowledge and it is given by God….The greatest need in the world tonight is the authoritative proclamation of this one and only gospel." 

 

Many thanks to The Banner of Truth for sending me a review copy of this book!(My review did not have to be favorable)

This book may be purchased at Amazon and on the Banner of Truth website

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? - By Michael Rydelnik

How defensible are Old Testament prophecies of Christ?  If someone came up to you and declares that, in the Hebrew manuscripts of the OT, Psalm 22:16 does not read, "they pierced my hands and my feet," rather, when it is accurately translated it reads, "like a lion are my hands and feet." What would your answer be?  And what if they say that Isaiah 53 was not speaking of a Messiah, but rather of Israel as a suffering servant?  Nowadays, too many Christians believe that many, if not all, of the prophecies of the Messiah are only indirect prophecies, not direct prophecies.  And many Christians might say that these prophecies are allegorically fulfilled, or that it is perfectly alright for the Holy Spirit , in His inspiration of the Apostles, to change His own prophecies.  Others say that many prophecies have a 'double fulfillment', that these prophecies were fulfilled historically, in the prophets' life-time, and that they were fulfilled spiritually by Christ.   

Michael Rydelnik offers the best defense I have read on the topic, arguing for the literal/direct fulfillment of Messianic/end time prophecies.  I was fascinated by his information on Rashi and his followers,  how they influenced, and to some degree instigated, the change from the literal interpretation of the Messianic prophecies, to interpreting these prophecies as having historical fulfillments in the time they were prophesied. In doing this, they countered the Christians' proof texts that Jesus is the Christ.  These Jews' claimed to be using a literal hermeneutic, and that the literal interpretation of these prophecies was to view them as historically fulfilled.  For instance, Isaiah 7:14 is speaking of a woman in Isaiah's day, most likely Isaiah's wife, who will have a baby, it is not speaking about a virgin birth.  This method of interpretation was eventually picked up by the church, and now, "As a result, much of contemporary, Christian interpretation uses anti-Christian Jewish polemic to interpret messianic passages of the Hebrew Scriptures."  And Christians try to apply them to the Messiah by saying that these prophecies had double fulfillments, that their primary fulfillment was their literal fulfillment in the days they were spoken, but that they have a secondary spiritual fulfillment in Christ.   

 Rydelnik is also very good in his explanation of the Masoretic Text(the Hebrew text our modern Old Testaments are based upon) and his defense of ancient versions of the Old Testament:  "…the Masoretic Text is a post-Christian, Jewish version of the Old Testament.  As such, it reflects the theological perspective of post-Christian, rabbinic Judaism.  Thus, there are several significant examples of the Masoretic Text interpreting Old Testament messianic texts in a distinctly nonmmessianic (or historical) fashion, whereas other ancient versions interpret the same texts as referring to the Messiah." He goes on to show some examples of where the Masorites changed the text, talking about how the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible(and other translations) reads the same passages Messianically rather than historically.  For instance, the Greek OT translation of Psalm 22:16 reads, "they pierced my hands and feet" rather than, "like/as a lion are my hands and feet".  He explains how obscure the Hebrew is vs. the Greek which makes more grammatical sense.  He counters the view that we should go with the Hebrew since it is the "harder reading" by the statement, "…defining the harder reading depends on the audience reading it.  For a Masorete, 'they pierced my hands and my feet,' a seeming prediction of the Messiah's crucifixion, would certainly have been the harder reading."  And he also notes that in 1997 a Hebrew fragment of the book of Psalms was found, dated "between AD 50-68" containing this Psalm and it reads "they pierced".  Rydelnik ends up stating that, "The careful interpreter of messianic prophecy should be aware of text critical issues because these predictions may be buried in the Hebrew Bible's critical apparatus rather than in the Masoretic Text itself."   

My only real problem with this book is that Rydelnik doesn't believe that certain texts were actual prophecies.  For example, he believes that Matthew 2:15, where Matthew states events that "fulfill" Hosea 11:1,"Out of Egypt I have called my Son", is a typological fulfillment, because he believes this passages was actually speaking of Israel.  I disagree here, and think that John Gill has a better answer, that the passage actually is speaking of Christ, and that it(Hosea 11:1) can be interpreted/read something like this, "Because of God's love for Israel, He has called His Son out of Egypt."  Israel and her King were rebellious, and the King of Israel was 'disowned', 'cut off' or 'cast out'(chpt.10:15) but God loves Israel so He will call His own  Son out of Egypt to be their King.  I don't believe, as the author does, that Numbers 23-24 establishes 'Israel' as a valid 'type' of the Messiah, I don't believe that it makes Israel a type of the Messiah at all.  You see Him coming out of/from the people of Israel(Num. 24:17,19), but I do not see that He is called 'Israel'.  I believe that Rydelnik's excellent comments on Psalm 110 apply here:  "If one presupposes that there are no direct messianic predictions or any concept of a Messiah in the Hebrew Bible, then certainly it would be necessary to look for alternative interpretations of Psalm 110.  However, if there is a good reason to presuppose that the Psalms are indeed messianic, then this will yield a messianic explanation of the psalm."   I believe that we have good reason to believe that Hosea 11:1 is Messianic, and so we ought to look for an 'alternative interpretation that yields a direct Messianic meaning, rather than just settling for the view that the verse is not essentially Messianic.  If an Apostle appears to view a passage as being literally fulfilled, I believe that we should presuppose that the passage is directly Messianic. Knowing that the Apostles had much older copies of the Old Testament than we do should also bias us towards them, and make us less biased towards our own limited modern textual assortment of manuscripts and supposed superiority of our own modern manuscripts and interpretations.   

Despite my disagreements, I consider this  a GREAT book on the topic of Messianic prophecy and an excellent source of information on textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible and on modern interpretations of the Old Testament.  Even the conclusion is great.  He ends with an example of the Scriptures Accomplishing God's purposes at a time when he failed in his presentation/defense of them.   I am very pleased that Rydelnik has a bias towards the authority, inspiration and literal-grammatical-historical interpretation God's Word;  that type of bias is sadly declining/has declined in 'Christian' circles.  I highly recommend this book. If you are studying prophecies of Christ, or just want more information on their interpretation, get this book!

 

Many thanks to B&H publishing group for sending me a free review copy of this book. (My review did not have to be favorable)
 
this book may be purchased on Amazon.com

Monday, July 21, 2014

C. S. Lewis and Mere Christianity: The Crisis that Created a Classic - By Paul McCusker

World War II England, and in particular, WWII London, was an intimidating place to be; itt seems that around 40,000 civilians in total were killed in England during the war.  During this time, when many bombs were being dropped by Nazi Germany on the civilian population, the director and the assistant director of the BBC's Religious Broadcasting department, James Welch and Eric Fenn, were searching for someone to draw people to the religious programs they were broadcasting on the BBC's radio station which were apparently being passed by in deference to stations/programs that were entertaining.  C. S. Lewis was the man they ended up recruiting. 

C. S. Lewis and Mere Christianity by Paul McCusker is the story of how C. S. Lewis' book, Mere Christianity came to be.  It took a little bit for me to get used to the way the book was put together.  The story is told, not by mere sequence of events, but also by 'flashbacks' to C. S. Lewis' history, and constantly switches from section to section from what C. S. Lewis is doing, to what is going on at the BBC, and also explanations of what world events are happening in regards to Hitler, Churchill and the war in general.  I got used to it quite quickly, and it does keep the interest pretty well, though sometimes you want the part you were just reading to continue going instead of switching to a different topic.    

There are also what I'll call 'information boxes', some of them very large/long, that pop up in the middle of the part you were just reading, some give biographical summaries of people who were just mentioned in the narrative, others explain different aspects of the war, and there were still other topics as well.  It was a bit odd and I couldn't quite figure out if it was annoying or not.  At least I know I didn't absolutely dislike them, it was just unusual to me.
 
This account of the making of "Mere Christianity" (of which I have only read snippets) is quite interesting.  I didn't fully realize that it originated from some of the radio broadcasts Lewis did during the war on various topics related to Christianity.  The book gives quite a bit of information of what was going on in his life at the time.   As he was working on the scripts for the radio broadcasts, he was taking care of, and dealing with, his 'adopted' mother(who apparently was quite bossy), helping and encouraging his brother who had problems with alcohol, teaching at Oxford, doing his duties as a home guard, writing books, as well as other tasks. 

I'm always a bit wary of Lewis because of his rather ecumenical views, and my perspective is no different having read this book.  As an example of where I am concerned about his views, it seems that during the war Lewis felt as though he should go to a 'confessor', and convinced himself of it by thinking of a quote, apparently speaking of Christian beliefs, "Let us hold on to that which has been believed everywhere, always, by everyone", and went to an Anglican confessor, apparently continuing the practice throughout his life.  I find his reasoning very flawed and dangerous, especially considering Christ's command:  "Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it. "(Mat 7:13-14 ASV)   

But I did find the book a very interesting read, and a very intriguing look at WWII.

 

Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book!(My review did not have to be favorable)
 
This book may be purchased at Amazon

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

the Israeli Solution - By Caroline Glick


The Israeli Solution:  A one state-plan for peace in the middle east is an excellent and very compelling argument for the abandonment of the "two-state solution".  Just today, I heard that, though Israel had accepted a cease-fire, Hamas  rejected it. So Israel still has to defend itself against their enemies who do not desire peace with them, but desire their annihilation instead.  This has been the case for many years, beginning even before Israel even existed as a state.   

In this book, Caroline Glick takes us on a trip through history to examine the Arabs' constant rejection a Palestinian state. As she puts it so well, "Israel's desire for peace with the Arabs has been amply proven".  They have put themselves at risk multiple times, releasing their proven enemies from prison, giving up land that could be used as a base of attack against them, even approving the entry of known terrorists into the land they relinquished.  In peace talks they have been willing to make huge concessions, some in particular that would make them greatly vulnerable to their enemies, all in order to have peace with the Arabs; but the Arab's have consistently rejected these offers.  Glick shows that history makes it clear that the Arabs do not want peace with Israel, nor do they want a Palestinian state, they simply do not want Israel on the map of the world. 

Reading this book really made me ashamed of America.  We have consistently supported and deferred to the Arabs for 20 years or more, and we have never supported Israel, our ally, as we ought.  Glick points out that "In 2013 alone, the US committed $440 million taxpayer dollars to direct financial support for the Palestinian Authority." I was appalled to learn about how much America has snubbed and spurned Israel, treating them as the 'bad guy' simply for trying to defend themselves, and despite Israel's proven desire for peace.  Even President Reagan literally protected Israel's enemies from Israel sending in Marines to protect them from Israel's forces.  It was embarrassing, frustrating, but also interesting to see the comparison of Obama and Bush's policy towards Israel.  Surprisingly, Glick shows that they both favored the Palestinians, "The distinction between Bush and Obama is rhetorical, not real." 

Glick shows the absurdity of the United States make Israel give up land for a Palestinian state, "This demand is without precedent in the in the history of warfare.  There is no precedent of a civilian population, displaced by a war that their leadership started and lost, claiming a right to return to territory that they failed to conquer."  By the same argument, America should start giving back the land they conquered from the Confederates, and then in turn, both the Union and Confederates should give America back to the British and then the "Native Americans" .  And every country should be held to this standard and so the world will be in chaos with everyone trying to figure out what land belongs to whom as they go further and further back into history to see who had what land, and who should give it up to a certain people, and who that certain people should give it up to…and it won't end for a long time, if ever.   

 This book is a very concise argument, one that emphasizes the obvious in a readable way.  This book serves as an excellent history lesson regarding the State of Israel and its relations with the United States.  Glick has a good, logical, present day application of that history.  There is repetition, but, in my opinion, it is done in a way that enhances the argument, rather than rendering it boring.  

I highly recommend this book if you are interested in learning more about America's role in the Middle East conflict, or if you are wondering what position to take on the issue. 

 

Thanks to Blogging for Books for sending me a free review copy of this book(My review did not have to be favorable)
 
This book may be purchased at Amazon.com

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Commentary on the Psalms v.2 - By Allen P. Ross

It is odd, at least to me, to find a commentary that is both exegetical and Premillennial.   Normally exegetical/linguistic commentaries are really good with their linguistics, and much of their basic exegesis, but are Amillennial, Covenantal and overly typological.  And to my knowledge, most premillennial commentaries are not exegetical/linguistic commentaries but more of the devotional/light type, and like the Covenantal commentaries, are too typological in their views of certain texts.    This commentary on the Psalms, by Allen Ross, is a very refreshing find in that it is both exegetical and Premillennial, and if anything, tries a little too hard not to be typological, focusing on examining the text for what it says. 
Each examination of a Psalm starts out with the Psalm itself, and underneath the Psalm, one of my favorite features, LOTS of footnotes containing textual variants from other manuscripts, such as the Greek version, Symmachus, the Syriac, Targums and other sources. These footnotes discuss the differences between the  Masoretic text and other manuscripts and sometimes explains  why the author favors one rendering over another.     

Next we are brought to examine the "composition and context" of the Psalm, and eventually we will end up at an outline of the Psalm, which happens to be another feature that I like.  Following the outline, we come to "Commentary in Expository Form" which delves into the meaning of Psalm in more detail.  This part deals with the verses in groupings with  headings, such as "The Righteous must not be troubled by the pomp of this world because it cannot redeem and it cannot survive death(5-12)."  This section also has many footnotes, and some rather long ones too, which delve further into discussion of various word meanings and other things about the  verses in question.  And finally, we end with a look at the "message and application" of the Psalm.

My only real qualms with Mr. Ross is that, as I mentioned before, he seems to be a little too careful about not coming to conclusions about whether a Psalm, or verse or two of a Psalm, is prophetic or not.  For example, Psalm 45 vs. 6-7 reads:

"Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever; an upright scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.  You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of rejoicing over your companions…." Part of Ross' commentary on these verses is that, "In Israel the king was never considered divine.  He might be called 'God' as in this psalm, but only because he his vice-regent in the theocracy…It was an easy step for the New Testament writers to apply this passage to Jesus the Messiah, who they were convinced was divine."  That makes it sound like the writers of the New Testament simply looked for verses that they could apply to the Messiah, rather than using actual proof texts.  When the New Testament writers look on a verse as a solid proof text, we should defer to them and assume it was/is such, rather than that they just looked for just looked for similarities to the Messiah in the Old Testament to  use in their defense of the Messiahship of Jesus.   That wouldn't be a solid biblical stance on the Apostles' part, they could have been answered very easily by the Jews that the text wasn't really speaking about the Messiah, and all that they could say in defense of their usage of the verse was that, though it was not speaking of the Messiah, it sounded a lot like the One they(the Apostles) claimed to be the Messiah so they applied it to Him.  Now, this Psalm was quoted in the epistle to the Hebrews, defending and explaining the Messiahship of Christ, and His perfect salvation. But this commentary makes it sound as though the Jews were to be convinced by the Apostles application of the Psalm to Jesus, not by the Psalm as a prophetic text speaking of Jesus, the Divine Messiah Himself. I can't buy that. 

But aside from things like what I just mentioned, the commentary is rather good, and really does give some good insights into the text.  I am pleased with it.

 

Many thanks to Kregel Academic for sending me a free review copy of this book!(My review did not have to be favorable)
 
This book may also be purchased at Amazon

Monday, June 23, 2014

NIV(2011) Read Easy Bible

The NIV Read Easy Bible is just what it claims to be, easy to read.  The font is nice and large, and the Bible generally lays down nice and flat, but the pages tend to turn on their own toward the beginning and end of the book, this could be because I haven't worn it in enough yet.  I really like the look and feel of the cover, it's simple and has a…strange but soft feel to it. 

The only extra thing this Bible has is a 'table of weights and measures' at the end.  Other than that, it's a typical NIV(2011), there are no study notes and no commentary except for the textual notes at the bottom, which is, in my opinion, the best thing about the NIV.  These notes give many variants from the Masoretic Text from the Syriac, several Greek translations(Symmachus, Theodotion…etc.), the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as other sources.  I only wish the translators would have replaced the verses that don't match up with the Apostle's quotations of the Old Testament and put the Masoretic rendering in the footnote instead.   

My main problem with the NIV is that it is not as literal a translation as I would like.  This is especially so in the NIV 2011 in regards to masculine terms that can refer to both men and women. In the Preface the translators use Mark 8:6 which they translate as "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"  They use "someone" and "their" instead of the masculine terms "a man" and "his".  Speaking of the term "a man" They claim that "English speakers today tend to hear a distinctly male connotation in this word."  So what if they do?(and I could argue against that statement) That's like saying that we should change who the letter to Timothy was addressed to as women might not care to read the letter because it was addressed to a man.  Do they really think that when women read more literal translations that read, "What does it profit a man…" they think that what Christ said in that statement does not apply to them? Do they actually think that women reading literal translations conclude that though men don't get any profit by gaining the whole world and losing their soul, women, on the contrary, do?  That's absurd.

But all in all, this is a nice edition of the NIV.  If you'd like more info/critiquing on the NIV 2011 translation, Daniel Wallace has some good articles on the Reclaiming the Mind blog. 
 
I received a free review copy of this book from the BookLook Bloggers book review program(My review did not have to be favorable)
 
You may find this book on Amazon and other sites.