Monday, April 13, 2015

HCSB Study Bible(Large Print) - Mahogany Leather-Touch

I was very impressed when I first opened up the package that contained my review copy of The HCSB Study Bible(large print), it has a beautiful cover, it looks very…..well, I guess the expression that seems most fitting as a description would be 'simply elegant'.  I just hoped that the inside 'features' would be  impressive as well, and that it wouldn't just be a study Bible that looks really good but doesn't have truly helpful/exegetical study notes.  I am glad to report that this Bible is impressive inside and out. 

I really liked the goal of the study Bible as stated in the introduction, "As servants of the text, the study tools are designed to keep the focus on Scripture and never on the tools themselves."  And, from what I can tell, they do a pretty good job at meeting that goal.  Even the font for the text of Scripture doesn't hinder or distract one hermeneutically as even the words of Christ are printed in black, not red(I don't know if I've ever seen a Bible where they weren't), so they do not stand out from the rest of God's revelation in the New Testament.   I was also very pleased that the study notes in this Bible have a 'premillennial' bias, at least the ones I read did, the writers of the notes evince a belief in God's future plan for the Jews as a sanctified ethnic people, and His reestablishment of them in the land of Israel with the Messiah reigning over them.  Even in Galatians 6:16 they view the "Israel of God" as being saved Jews, and I've read 'dispensationalists' who doubt the meaning of that phrase, so it was refreshing to have it taken at face value. 
The book has several lists/charts to aid in your reading, charts of the Priests of the OT, Kings, and even charts of the sacrifices/offerings listing which type of offering had what sacrifice.   It also has maps throughout and some neat renditions of what Rome and Corinth  may have looked like, and it also has full color photos of various biblical places throughout.
Of course(no study notes are perfect), there were some things that I don't think were biblically accurate, for instance, there were some notes holding to the common belief that Christ permitted remarriage after a divorce that was instigated by adultery.  But if marriage is annulled (before God) by adultery then there would be no room for forgiveness because divorce would be a mandate, not an option.  If God views marriage as ended by adultery then the couple would absolutely have to get a divorce otherwise they would be living together out of wedlock….right? And they'd also have to divorce if one of the spouses was lustful in their mind as well because Christ said that that type of lust is adultery.  
Also, I was disappointed that there is not an assumption that the Apostle's quotations of the OT were accurate and not simply paraphrased or adjusted to fit what they were saying.  When you get to Hebrews 10, they don't even mention that, though the author of Hebrews' quotation of Psalm 40 doesn't match up with the Hebrew manuscripts available to scholars(they read something like, "sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have opened") it does match the Greek translation of the Old testament that would have been around in that day(and that that translation was probably used by the Apostles) in that they both read, "a body you have prepared for me"(instead of ears being opened).  I wish they would have at least mentioned in the textual footnotes that other manuscripts agree with certain texts of the Apostles quotations. 
Anyway…moving on.  Other than things like what I addressed above, I like this study Bible a lot(including its large print), it truly seems like a helpful study Bible, though I must warn you, though I don't mind it,  it is very large and a bit heavy - for me that adds to its overall appeal. Its a bit reminiscent of the reformation era style of books...though I guess I'd have to except some editions of Tyndale's Bible and the other ones that were designed to be smuggled...
Many thanks to B&H Publishers for sending me a free review copy of this Bible to review!(My review did not have to be favorable)
This Bible may be purchased at Amazon and directly from the publisher.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Acts: EP Study Commentary - by Guy Prentiss Waters

If you're looking for a commentary on the book of Acts that is more of an overview but still exegetical, this commentary by Guy Prentiss Waters is a pretty good choice.  He hits at a high level on some controversial issues/textual debates where he deems it necessary, but it is still kept at a minimum and further reading for delving deeper is usually suggested in the comments. 

I think that it is a nice commentary to have that you can start with in your studies, turning to it first to get the 'high-level' view and then after reading Waters on a text, turn to the ones that are more critical. Or you can just 'read it through' on its own, the author really helps you get your thoughts moving on a text, for instance, in the account of Pentecost, I had never considered that "Like wind, fire is a sign of God's presence with his people", which caused me to 'connect the dots' and remember the tabernacle in the wilderness and the cloud that had the appearance of fire by night and the tongues of fire possibly partly symbolizing the presence of God in our bodies/temples(1 Cor 6:19).    

At the end of different sections he has an 'application' part that summarizes the ways the accounts of Acts apply to us today.   In his discussion of the application of chapters 4:32-5:11 where it speaks of Christians selling their property and giving the proceeds to the Apostles to be distributed to the needy Waters points out that, "Many commentators note, as we have done, that this passage does not warrant the abolition of private property in the church.  In saying this, we need to take care not to ignore the main point of these verses:  one mark of a church filled with the Holy Spirit Is that believers  are from the heart concerned for the physical needs of their brothers and are prepared to take extraordinary steps, if necessary , to meet those needs……How do we view our possessions?  Are we enslaved to them or have we been freed from that bondage in the service of our Savior God?  If we profess to know this freedom, then are we taken providentially-appointed opportunities to assist our brothers in Christ?" 

I need to note that Waters is 'Reformed' and holds to the Westminster Standards, so if you, as I do, hold to an earthly millennial reign of Christ in a redeemed Israel(having redeemed, and given new hearts to  the descendants of Jacob- see Ezek 36:26-38) note that Waters does not see that, and this is evinced especially in his views on the first chapter of Acts.   

But overall I think it is a good commentary, and a good tool for assisting in the study of Acts.

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.)