Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Epistles of 2 Corinthians and 1 Peter: Newly Discovered Commentaries - J.B. Lightfoot

This is quite an eclectic collection of works by J. B. Lightfoot.  It includes two (both to some degree incomplete)commentaries , one on 2 Corinthians and the other on 1 Peter,  and five lectures/sermons/essays by Lightfoot as appendices.  You get quite a bit of content in this volume.

The Commentaries in this book are unfinished/incomplete, but you still get a good deal to work with. There is an editor's introduction at the beginning of the book that presents an interesting look at the production of this book and the discovery of the 'lost' writings of Lightfoot, as well as bit of info on Lightfoot's life, scholarship and some of his method of writing commentaries.  I particularly liked to see it pointed out that Lightfoot was a stickler for context, James D. G. Dunn is quoted in the book as saying, "time and again Lightfoot 'clearly demonstrates the importance of reading a historical text within its historical context, that the meaning of a text does not arise out of the text alone, but out of the text read in context and that the original context and intention of the author is a determinative and controlling factor in what may be read or heard from a text…'"

Next in the book comes the 2 Corinthians section, starting with a sort of historical look/critique of Paul's life and the dating of his letters.   2 Corinthians is then broken down into sections, mostly as chapters, but at times the chapters are divided.  At the beginning of some of the sections is a paraphrase of the texts to be dealt with, (apparently composed by Lightfoot himself), next comes a section dealing with textual issues for various verses in the passage and lastly commentary on the text itself(which also includes some textual criticism).  The commentary on 2 Corinthians basically ends at chapter 11 (though even that chapter only has a few notes on some textual issues for that chapter.

Then comes 1 Peter, which, though divided by chapter, it does not have textual critical commentary separate from the regular interpretative commentary, rather it is interspersed throughout the commentary. 

There is a good deal of useful commentary on 2 Corinthians and 1 Peter in this book, despite their  unfinished form.  Some verses have more notes than others, and some verses don't have any commentary at all, but I still think that the many notes that are here would be of use.  It is very scholarly, there is much quotation of the Greek and a good deal of analyzing of various texts, and specific words within verses.  I find it rather amusing that Lightfoot has no hesitation in pointing out errors in translation in the English version of the Bible (frankly stating "E.V. is wrong…or graciously conceding that, "E.V. not unaccountably wrong") , and he also critiques the views of other commentators on certain passages, again, often with no qualms about stating their wrongness very bluntly.

I've found that he has some very interesting  thoughts/insights on some of the passages, for instance part of his comments on 2 Corinthians 3: vs. 18 (Paul speaking of how we Christians contemplate the Lord's glory with unveiled faces and are transformed) read thus, "This transformation is what is called elsewhere ' putting on Christ' (Rom 13:14( what is spoken of in Gal 4:19 as Christ being formed in us (here he quotes the Greek)… But this transformation is not sudden, the change is gradual.  We advance from one grade of glory to a higher one.  The glory on Moses; face faded away each time as he left the presence of the Lord and had to be renewed again; but with us it is different.  We are constantly in His sight, and so instead of the reflected brightness which is coming and going, it is ever becoming more and more bright, i.e. more and more like the image from which it is reflected - Christ himself." 

After the 2 Peter section come the Appendixes, Appendix A being, "The Mission of Titus to the Corinthians", Appendix B "St. Paul's Preparation for the  Ministry", Appendix C, "The Letter Killeth, But the Spirit Giveth Life", Appendix D, "Lessons From the Cradle of Christianity",   Appendix E, "The Christian Ministry" and Appendix F., "J. B. Lightfoot as Biblical Commentator".  Many of these essays are very interesting, though I found the section on the Mission of Titus to the Corinthians rather boring, but that's simply because that topic does not interest me at the moment.    I especially liked sections of the "lessons of History from the Cradle of Christianity", particularly Lightfoot's Critique of Philo.  One  flaw in particular that was noted about Philo was his tendency impose allegory upon the Scriptures and even history, "The facts to him were meaningless except so far as he could extract from them a series of allegories, indeed sometimes even denying the facts themselves…"  That statement seems to fit well in describing some of today's popular methods of preaching. 

Overall, I think that this is a good and useful collection of works to own, the editors did a good job of putting it together.

Many thanks to the folks at Intervarsity Press for sending me a free review copy of this book (my review did not have to be favorable)

Here are a couple of websites where you may purchase this volume:  Amazon.com and Christianbook.com



Monday, December 12, 2016

A Syntax Guide For Readers of the New Testament - Charles Lee Irons


A Syntax Guide For Readers of the New Testament by Charles Lee Irons is a nice addition to one's NT Greek tools library.  It is not a stand-alone tool, but meant to be used with  other lexical aids.  Irons notes that, "This Syntax Guide does not duplicate the help provided by such tools.  Rather, it picks up where these other tools leave off" and "presupposes their use…"   The introduction explains that in this guide, "select cases, glosses and parsing are not the focus".  Rather, in some places it gives specific explanations of "syntactical, clause-level features".

There is a chapter for each book of the New Testament, and each book is divided into chapters and each chapter has a list of select verse references from that chapter and next to the reference there may be  a section of the Greek wording of the verse and some comments .   Some of the verses only have a brief suggested translation without any grammatical comments, I give an example below:

(Note:  I've attempted - probably not very well - to transliterate the Greek words which are actually presented in Greek font in this book)

1 Cor. 1:22, "Epeideh kai  = 'for indeed'"

And other verses are dealt with more in depth:

"4:23 [erketai hora kai nun estin = 'an hour is coming and is now here,' erketai  is ingressive-futuristic present (W 537) ]  kai gar = 'for indeed' ] ha patair toioutous zatei tous proskunountas auton = 'the father is seeking such people to worship him' (ESV), 'the Father wants people of this kind as his worshipers' (ZG)"

At first I was a bit disappointed that it is not more detailed, and still am.  But again, as the intro explains, this guide is not meant to be a stand-alone resource, but rather used along with a parsing guide or other similar tools.  Irons wants to encourage people to read the Greek NT as a whole instead of merely tiny portions of it, and created this tool with that idea in mind.  In this book Irons tries to eliminate the "need to stop and look up intermediate, advanced or unusual grammatical features of the Greek text".  Irons believes that a very good way to truly learn NT Greek is to familiarize oneself with the text by reading through large portions of it or preferably the whole NT. 

I think that that is a good idea and it makes sense, that simply reading through the Greek New Testament will  build up one's skill in a more natural way than just memorizing individual Greek words and tenses, verb forms..etc.  Even having to look things up in a parsing guide and a syntax guide almost every step of the way will build one's knowledge over time.

At the end of the book is an index of subjects where you may look up many of the verses (it's not exhaustive) by their grammatical form, for instance, under "ACCUSATIVE" you may look up verses that are "adverbial accusative",  or under "NOMINATIVE" you may look up verses under the section "qualitative predicate nominative". You may find  the adjectival genitive section, or pluperfect periphrasitic - (I'm still only a beginner in Koine Greek so at the moment many of those terms don't make any sense yet…).  There is also section in the index that lists verses that have "Septuagintisms" - which I find interesting as I have been doing some study on the Septuagint, its history and its quotation in the NT. 

It is an interesting and handy work for students of Greek who wish to start building up their ability to easily read and comprehend Koine Grk.

My rating:  4 stars (out of 5)


Many thanks to the folks at Kregel Academic for sending me a free review copy of this book!  (My review did not have to be favorable)

Among other places this book may be purchased at Amazon and at the Christian Book Distributors Website

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Martin Luther - Simonnetta Carr



Martin Luther by Simonetta Carr is a nice overview of the life of Luther for children.   It starts with Luther's birth and moves on through his life as a child in schooling and then on to his college days, where the thunderstorm happens that scares him into a monastic life where perhaps he could earn his way to Heaven.  As a Monk we learn that Luther was very meticulous and very much into examining his own thoughts and motives for sin; his ritualistic confession of his sins grew so frequent (sometimes happening just moments after he had  confessed other sins) that it irritated his superiors who then "told him to confess only big sins."

 Luther ultimately is promoted to higher positions, moving on to the city of Wittenberg to be a professor of Bible studies. Ultimately he also ends up preaching in the city church as well as "supervising ten monasteries".  Tetzel comes into Germany with his indulgences and as a consequence Luther writes his "ninety-five questions" (I like how Carr simplifies much of the language for children). He simply wanted to discuss them on a scholarly level, but they end up being translated into the common language of the people and causing a big stir in the nation and around Europe.   And then of course the famous 'Diet of Worms" happens, Luther gets taken away to a Castle…etc. Ultimately Luther ends up marrying and having several children.  We see how generous Luther and his wife are, they help many people during hard times. They also go through hard times themselves, losing some of their children in death, but they still trust God.  The book comes to a close with Luther's death followed by a quick summary of his influence. 

There are pictures scattered around the book: old and new paintings and drawings of Luther in various events God ordained that he would go through.  There are also pictures of some of his relatives and other historical people mentioned in this book.  Also included throughout the book are photographs and old drawings of the various towns and buildings Luther frequented, as well as a few photographs of objects, such as a lute and a chest used to "collect money from the sale of indulgences".

Carr writes in a way that I think children will easily understand and also manages to simplify  explanations of erroneous beliefs of the day as well as important Biblical concepts. As Examples, Carr talks about people thinking that they could earn their salvation or the salvation of others, and that many believed that Christ and God were both angry judges of sinners to be appeased by 'saints' (described as "godly people who had died") .  She also conveys Luther's struggle with what "the righteousness of God" (as discussed in the book of Romans) actually means and his final realization that in this verse (Rom 1:17), "this is not a righteousness God demands,  but a righteousness God gives in Jesus Christ."

At the end of the book there is a Did  You Know? section and after that a selection of excerpts from Luther's small catechism. I found the "did  you know" section especially interesting. I did not know (or at least I didn't remember) that Luther's last name at birth was actually Luder but he changed the spelling to Luther, "as a wordplay on the Greek eleutherius, which means "free man".  I think that kids (and adults) will both enjoy that section as a potential discussion prompting conclusion to the book. 

All in all, I really liked this book.  I really appreciated that she does not make Luther come across as a hero to be worshiped but rather as a man, saved by God's grace and not his own merit, who was used by God to bring people to a correct knowledge of the Gospel and to point them to the Word of God as the only authority.

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

Two of the websites (among others) where you may buy this book are at the Christian Book Distributors site and Amazon.com 


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Greek For Everyone - A. Chadwick Thornohill

Greek for Everyone by A. Chadwick Thornhill presents a unique book on New Testament Greek.  His  stated goal is to have those reading this book learn "Greek in order to become better students of the Scripture rather than students of Greek." The aim of the book is not to "gain reading proficiency but rather are working to establish the ability to use various tools to study the text in Greek".  

And I think that Thornhill accomplishes his goals with this book, he takes you through a basic (though it still seems quite thorough) overview of the various parts of Greek so that you may then use lexicons, parsing guides, and other Greek tools in your Bible study without having to become an expert Greek scholar.

 Thornhill starts out by explaining that one of the most important things to do in acquiring a knowledge of Koine Greek that is useful to Bible study is to remember to keep looking for the 'big picture' in a text/passage.  One of the interesting points he brings out is that "words do not have meaning", they have ranges of meaning and we only find out what exact meaning an individual word has by looking at the words that surround it, and the words that surround those words…etc.  Rows of zeros are used as examples to illustrate this concept. Thornhill states, "More exegetical errors are probably made through haphazard word study than in any of the other steps in the process".  I was very pleased that great emphasis is made of the fact that context is VERY important in Bible study. 

Thornihill then moves on to quick overviews of Greek phrases, clauses, conjunctions, verbs, nominals, cases, participles, etc.  Again, this is mainly so that you will be able to use Greek tools with comprehension in your study without having to memorize the various forms and endings that indicate the word's 'makeup' and thus its meaning and relation to the surrounding words. You will learn what the breakdown that these tools give you means, but mainly so that you know what the lexical aids mean when they break it down for you, not so that you'll break it down yourself.  At the end of many of the overviews he gives you some common Biblical Greek words to memorize and then  a Greek sentence to practice on using a parsing tool or an analytical lexicon. 

All in all, I think that this is an excellent aid for Bible study, and probably more especially a good resource for pastors as well since seminary is SO expensive nowadays (My brother was not able to afford to go to any Seminary, though he had a desire to do so). 


Many thanks to the folks at Baker Books for sending me a complimentary review copy of this book! (My review did not have to be favorable)

Here are a couple of the places where you may purchase this book (other places carry it as well):