Posts Tagged ‘Resources for Ministry’

In continuing effort to recommend quality resources that are available for cheap, I’m letting you know about two great resources available online for free.  And free is, as you know, the cheapest of cheap.

Craig Keener and The Pneuma Foundation have made available Keener’s notes for a class on Biblical Interpretation (link for zip file which can open into a Word Document, link for a pdf).  I think it turns out to be 88 pages of notes.  According to his website, he wrote this as a beginner’s class for work in Africa, so there is no required technical knowledge needed to use it.  This would be perfect for a small group or a church class.  You can also find translations of this material in French, Spanish, Russian and Bulgarian at The Pneuma Foundation site!  You may recall Keener from my “5 Good Read Bible Scholars (for the non-academic)” post- you can add this helpful work to the list.

Biblical Training has posted I Howard Marshall’s A Pocket Guide to New Testament Theology for free at their site!  If printed out, this comes in at a mere 67 pages!  I own Marshall’s slightly larger (almost 800 pages) book, New Testament Theology, and have been very slowly reading portions of it.  At any rate, the Pocket Guide is a nice resource to have handy if you have basic questions on what the NT teaches. 

Happy reading!

Read Full Post »

A few days ago I wrote a post called “5 Must Read Scholars (for the non-academic),” and this is intended as a quick follow-up (that’s taken me 3 days to write).  You can call this the “honorable mention” list, the “B-Team,” the “JV Squad,” etc.  I’d like to follow this up with a list of scholars I wish would write for a non-academic audience, but that probably won’t happen for a few weeks as I’ll be off the radar for a while.  Anywho, see my previous post if you want to know my angle on this.  Without further ado…

(1) Craig Keener.  Of the 5 on this list, Keener was the hardest for me to leave off the original.  Part of this is because he’s a great scholar.  His knowledge of ancient backgrounds is simply astounding (though he can overdo this and include much that is less relevant, such as in his large Matthew commentary).  But what I appreciate about him the most is his humility.  Keener sees himself primarily as a servant of the church.  I was hooked just reading the dedication page of his Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament, which is dedicated to those working on the “frontlines” of ministry and do not have the time to research historical and cultural backgrounds to the Bible.  Keener isn’t simply amassing knowledge to write books; he’s dispensing it for the benefit of the church.  (I should also mention, he fits firmly in the Pentecostal/Charismatic camp and, thus, I have a soft spot for him.)

If you want a feel for his humility, check out these two interviews: with Matt at Broadcast Depth and with Nijay Gupta (Part I and Part II).

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(2) Douglas Stuart.  I need to give a shout-out to one of my former profs.  Stuart is an excellent combination of scholarly rigor and pastoral sensitivity, and I’m privileged to say I’ve learned from him firsthand.  One top of the “How to Read the Bible…” books he’s coauthored with Gordon Fee, Stuart has written a couple commentaries for both pastors and scholars (and the mix, of course), as well as an excellent book on OT exegesis.  While I’m here, I might as well plug (once again) his OT Survey course, available for free at Bible Training. 

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(3) Darrell Bock.  In my last post, Nick mentioned Bock as another option, and I heartily agree.  His massive 2-volume Luke commentary is outstanding, and has written 2 shorter ones that would be great for laypeople.  One main reason he didn’t make my first list is that I haven’t read a ton of his stuff, so I can’t speak first hand about everything (maybe Nick can chime in if he reads this).  Nonetheless, the stuff he has written on the popular level, specifically dealing with the trustworthiness of the biblical Gospels, would benefit anyone who reads them.

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(4) Tremper Longman III.  Longman is an excellent OT scholar and widely respected.  Some of his more popular level stuff I haven’t read, though IVP sent me How to Read Exodus a while back and it looks helpful.  Again, I think I appreciate his desire to communicate effectively with non-scholars, so I’m including him on this list.

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(5) George Eldon Ladd.  Ladd may seem like an odd choice here, and not just because he’s the only deceased scholar on either list, but his inclusion is definitely deliberate.  Given all the confusion regarding eschatology in the church, I think it is important to read solid biblical scholarship on the issue (part of why I recommended N T Wright on my first post).  Greg Beale is also good here, but I think Ladd’s influence is greater than many realize.  I see bits of his work on eschatology and the kingdom in many different places, from scholars like Gordon Fee & Craig Blomberg to men like John Wimber.  Someday, when I have a year with nothing to do (read: never), I’d love to do a side-by-side reading of George Ladd and N T Wright.  Between the two of them, I think you can end up with a pretty solid view of God’s ultimate plan of redemption.

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

Is there anyone else I’m missing?

Read Full Post »

A conversation over at Marcus’ blog reminded me of a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time.  I’ve wanted to do a list of must-read scholars for a while, but have never been sure how to approach it.  Do I do a list of the best?  Most influential?  Most interesting?  Do I restrict it to OT scholars?  NT scholars?  Theologians?  Do I go completely subjective and list my favorites, or do I include those with whom I’m less enamored?  Will anyone even care about my stupid list?  These are the questions in my mind…

I’ve opted to consider my main audience for this blog: the average churchgoer.  I know people from my church read this blog who are not academically trained but are still interested in learning from Bible scholars.  They may not know Greek and Hebrew, but they desire to glean from the insights of those who do.  So I’ve decided to tailor this list to this (somewhat imaginary) group.  Because of this, I will leave off scholars who have made a major impact on scholarship but are less helpful to the layperson (the Rudolf Bultmann types).  I’m also sticking to my area of “expertise” (if I may be permitted a moment of hubris), which mostly NT & OT scholarship (so no systematic theologians).  The list is presented in no particular order.

Allow me to make a couple other notes:

  • I’m weighing more heavily toward the NT side of things.  This is for 2 main reasons: 1) I know NT scholarship better than I do OT scholarship, and 2) most of my favorite OT scholars have written little for the layperson in mind (I’m thinking of Gordon Wenham and guys like that). 
  • I’ll give a couple reading recommendations for each scholar, in case my reader(s) want(s) to dig deeper.
  • The scholars on this list are invited to mention their inclusion on their resume or CV.  You’re welcome. 
  • If you think this is just an excuse to talk about scholars and books, you know me very well.  =)

(1) Gordon Fee.  Come on, if you’ve been reading this blog for more than 5 seconds you knew Fee was making the cut.  In fact, I’d have to turn in my charismatic membership card if I didn’t include him.  I appreciate any man who writes the book on exegesis, but insists that exegesis is merely the first step in applying the Bible to the life of the church.  I also appreciate any scholar whose lectures are more like sermons.  I heard a line from his daughter, theologian Cherith Fee Nordling, about Fee that sums up what I appreciate about him (paraphrase): my father loves the Lord and loves the Bible, but never in reverse order. 

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions:

(2) Christopher J H Wright.  It’s funny, 6 months ago I may not have included Wright.  But the more I read his stuff, the more I want to give him a high-five (see my previous post for an indication).  In some ways, he’s an interesting bird- how many OT scholars are also missiologists?  A Cambridge PhD who trained church planters in India and now heads up John Stott’s ministry organization?  This is my kind of guy. 

Layperson reading suggestions:

Academic reading suggestions

(3) Richard Bauckham.  Bauckham has actually written less for the layperson than the rest of the scholars on this list, but I wanted to include him anyway because he’s one of the few scholars refered to as “groundbreaking” that may actually deserve the title.  Mind you, no one is really groundbreaking.  When I mentioned in a class at my church that Bauckham had written a book defending the eyewitness connection to the Gospels, I was met with “no duh” stares.  It’s not his conclusion that is groundbreaking, it’s the manner in which he makes his case that sets him apart from so many others.  Bauckham is the toughest read on this list, but may well be worth the trouble.

Reading suggestions

(4) D A Carson.  This is not Carson’s first appearance on this blog.  There are few scholars who have made so much of their work accessible to the church, as you can see here on his resource page at The Gospel Coaltion website.  This son of a church planter in French Canada has planted churches, travels around the world every year speaking in churches and conferences, teaches and advises students, yet still finds time to write somewhere around a million books a year.  He cranks out a book faster than I write a blog post.  If I had to pick one scholar on this list for the average layperson to read I think Carson would be it, not because he’s the best scholar but because he does the best job of communicating to the audience I’m aiming for.  Note: this list of books is highly selective, there are many more I could include.

Layperson reading suggestions

Academic reading suggestions

(5) N T Wright.  I’ll confess, I’ve been debating whether or not I should include Wright on this list.  If we’re talking about most interesting, he’d easily make the list.  Everything he writes is worth reading, even if he’s dead wrong (note, over 1100 people went to a conference at Wheaton centering on Wright’s scholarship).  Wright is brilliant- sometimes brilliantly right, and sometimes brilliantly wrong.  I’ve put it this way: Wright is a classic pendulum swinger.  He’ll notice an over-emphasis on something, then in attempt to correct this problem he’ll go too far in his emphasis.  If you know that going in, you’ll do well in reading him.  Anyway, I love reading his stuff, but you must always read with discernment.

Layperson reading suggestions

Academic reading suggestions

So there’s my list; maybe on another post I can give my “near miss” category (I’m at 1300+ words already though).  I’d love to hear thoughts from others out there, either about the people on this list or others you think should be included.

Read Full Post »

For those who don’t have the time or energy to work through a D A Carson book, you’llbe happy to know that there are a plethora of articles and essays at the TGC website.  If you’re looking for a place to start, I’d be happy to recommend his essay “Worship under the Word” (opens a pdf file) from the book, Worship by the Book, published in 2002.  As he notes at the beginning of this essay, writing about worship, especially about the theology of worship, is a trying task, largely because there are as many opinions about worship as there are churches, many of which reveal personal preference more than a theological stance.

Even using the term “worship” to speak of music and singing is misleading, since the Bible itself doesn’t restrict that term in such a manner.  Carson weeds through biblical texts and and tries to make sense of it all.  It’s helpful to remember that just because the Bible uses the word “worship,” it doesn’t mean it’s using it in a way that we would.  So, for example, when Jesus is about to give the Great Commission, it says the disciples “worshipped him” (Matthew 28:17).  What does this mean?  Did the fall to their knees or fall prostrate, as the verb proskuneo literally means?  Did they shout in praise?  Did Peter pick up the guitar and lead the disciples in a round of Lord I Lift Your Name on High?

Carson even gives his own definition of “worship” in the most Carsonesque fashion:

Worship is the proper response of all moral, sentient beings to God, ascribing all honor and worth to their Creator-God precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so.  This side of the Fall, human worship of God properly responds to the redemptive provisions that God has graciously made.  While all true worship is God-centered, Christian worship is no less Christ-centered.  Empowered by the Spirit and in line with the stipulations of the new covenant, it manifests itself in all our living, finding its impulse in the gospel, which restores our relationship with our Redeemer-God and therefore also with our fellow image-bearers, our co-worshipers.  Such worship therefore manifests itself both in adoration and in action, both in the individual believer and in corporate worship, which is worship offered in the context of the body of believers, who strive to align all the forms of their devout ascription of all worth to God with the panoply of new covenant mandates and examples that bring to fulfillment the glories of antecedent revelation and anticipate the consummation.

Have you ever seen a definition so ready-made for a power point slide?

Don’t let the long definition (which Carson even calls “too long and too complex”) throw you off.  He does a great job of breaking it down and making it manageable.  Along the way you’ll learn a ton about what the Bible says regarding worship, and even pick up some insightful comments on contemporary practice.  In a nutshell, it’s the kind of essay every pastor and worship leader should read, as well as anyone interested in the theology and practice of worship.

Read Full Post »

This month we’re highlighting some D A Carson resources that we think will be helpful to anyone interested in the intersection of biblical studies and the Christian life.  In this post I want to recommend Carson’s sermons; you can find many of them here.  Listening to a Carson sermon will probably be a different experience for most people.  He’s definitely a scholar, and it shows in his preaching.  There is a depth not present in most sermons preached in churches on Sunday mornings.

Yet, his sermons aren’t lectures, nor are they step-by-step guides on how to live a better life.  He digs into a text, but pulls back to show how this text ought to influence our worldview and practical living.  Chances are it will take some listeners a couple Carson sermons to get used to his style.  You might, at first, think it’s like listening to a commentary.  But after some careful listening, you’ll realize that he’s penetrating into the heart of what’s going on in the Bible and today.

If you’re looking for somewhere to start, I recommend the series he preached last December at Mars Hill Church in Seattle (also know as Mark Driscoll’s church) at an event called A Day with Dr. Don– it’s easier to access the audio or video at this link than the TGC site.  (Irony alert: the event was advertised “A Day with Dr. Don” with the subtitle “It’s All About Jesus.”  I found that funny.)

For instance, in his sermon on John 11 (the raising of Lazarus), you get all sorts of insights: mourning practices in ancient Judaism (historical background), thoughts on the relationship of God’s love and delay (theology), how this chapter fits into the surrounding context (literary context), and so on.  And along the way you just might have your perception of God and His Son broadened.

A couple random things I appreciate about Carson’s sermons:

1)  He’s funny, though sometimes unintentionally.  I always get a kick out of his insistence on pronouncing foreign words with the proper foreign accent.

2)  Since he’s ministered in contexts all around the world, he has valuable insights into how culture and the church fit together.

3)  I thoroughly enjoy his thinly veiled shots at N T Wright.  I say “thinly veiled” because he doesn’t name him, but if you’ve read Wright and Carson’s critiques of him, you’ll definitely pick them up.  It’s not that I dislike Wright, in fact, I’m a fan.  It’s just that I like finding the potshots, almost like a Where’s Waldo? game or something.  For the record: he does give credit to Wright when it’s due, such as Wright’s work on the resurrection.

4)  Most importantly: Carson does an admirable job making Jesus the center of all things.  Sounds like an evangelical cliche?  I can assure you that when he connects different themes of the Bible to Jesus, it isn’t in some cheesy worship tune way.  Christ, and what He has accomplished, stands in the middle of all that God has done and is doing in this world.

So, go check out some of his stuff.  Like I said, I recommend the talks at Mars Hill.  I also recommend his series, Missions as the Triumph of the Lamb, from the missions week at Reformed Theological Seminary in 2004.  The format at the TGC site is a little confusing (and I think the dates are wrong), so I’ll give you them here in the order preached: Revelation 4, Revelation 5, Revelation 21:1-8, Revelation 21:9-22:6, Revelation 12, Revelation 13, Revelation 14.  That’s right- a missions conference preached entirely from Revelation.  No wonder I like this guy so much.

Read Full Post »

Disclaimer: Yes, we are aware that our Resource of the Month is more like Resource of Whatever Month We Have Time.  Our sincerest apologies to our reader(s).

Andy Naselli is a PhD student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and research assistant for D A (Don) Carson, one of the foremost evangelical NT scholars alive.  Andy has done everyone a tremendous service by collecting and organizing a bunch of Carson resources available for free at The Gospel Coalition website.  This includes dozens of sermons, articles in pdf format and even 7 full books for free download.  You could spend the next year working through everything included here.

At first my intention was to write one post recommending a few of these resources.  But, after much careful self-deliberation (actually, a random thought while watching the NBA Finals), I opted to resurrect our Resource of the Month feature. This way, we can spend more time highlighting individual sermons or sermon series, books, articles, etc.  While we’ll probably focus on the materials available at the TGC site, we may post on a book or commentary that you’d have to purchase.


While I’m here, allow me to take a moment to reflect on why we provides links to sites like The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, Sovereign Grace, as well as scholars such as N T Wright, Douglas Moo and Tom Schreiner, and teaching sites such as Biblical Training (see the links to the right for these and more).  Because BBG exists to help Christians and churches know the Bible better and apply it faithfully, we try to put resources in the hands (computers) of those who read this site.  We heavily favor those sites and scholars who make their resources available for free (or very cheap, but mostly free).  Most of those we minister to in church (in one of the most expensive cities in America) do not have the money to spend on commentaries, collections of essays, sermon cds/MP3s, etc.  And, naturally, they shouldn’t spend the money on them if they can access quality materials for free.

We applaud these scholars, pastors and organizations for making their sermons, articles, devotionals and even books available for anyone with internet access.  While we naturally don’t agree with everything they say or endorse everything contained within them, we are happy to say that we have learned greatly from much of their content and hope you do as well.

Read Full Post »

The spring is one of my favorite times of the year in our training school because it means our unit on Revelation is finally here.  I enjoy teaching it so much largely because it gives me an excuse to study it and learn more deeply (I hope) the life-changing truths of this book.  It is also one of the biggest challenges in teaching; you never know what kind of background everyone has coming into the class.  Over time I’ve collected a list of resources, so I’ll share them here.

Before I get to them, though, I must give credit where credit is due.  The single most profound influence on my understanding of Revelation comes not from a book but from a professor at Gordon-Conwell, Sean McDonough.  I took his Exegesis in Revelation class a few years back and was amazed at Dr McDonough’s ability to make the text come alive and make sense.  This isn’t surprising, given that he has studied under G K Beale and Richard Bauckham, though he doesn’t mind charting his own course when necessary.  That doesn’t mean that I always agreed with him; I still remember his look of disappointment when I told him I differed from him on the Millennium.  But all in all, his teaching was full of humility, reverence and pastoral insight; I stand in his debt.

bauckham-revelationThe single best book I’ve ever read on Revelation is Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation.  Though it’s short (160+ pages), it packs a lot of good stuff in there.  In my experience, many people coming into a study of Revelation want to know about details.  The problem, however, is that it’s easy to miss what Revelation is actually about because you spend all your time wondering about some small portion of it.  This is where Bauckham’s book comes in handy.  It clearly and concisely demonstrates the major themes of the book and what it teaches about God and His relation to this world.  Phenomenal book.

My favorite commentary is still G. K Beale’s commentary in the NIGTC series.  It contains a wealth of information, especially in regards to the use of the OT in Revelation.  If you don’t know Greek, this will be an extremely difficult read.  If you do know Greek, it’ll still be a bit of work to get through, but well worth your time.  Another beale-revelationdetailed work is David Aune’s 3 volume commentary in the WBC series.  For my kind of teaching, it’s value is less than it would be for someone doing prolonged exegetical work.  I use it as a resource here and there rather than a constant guide.

As far as shorter commentaries go, I’ve been using Ben Witherington’s work in the NCBC series.  It’s one of his better commentaries, in my opinion, and a good counterpart to Beale’s massive work.  Hendrickson recently sent me a review copy of Ian Boxall’s commentary in the Black’s series (Kathy of Hendrickson informed me that they’re coming out with paperbacks of this series, so you might want to wait to purchase it).  I haven’t worked all the way through it yet, but I’ve been thoroughly impressed thus far.  It has replaced Witherington as my “portable commentary.”  Look for a review in a few weeks.  Boxall’s work boxall-revelationreplaces G B Caird’s commentary, which I also own.  I like this one a lot, but most of his good insights have been incorporated into others’ works so I only use it when I run into divergent views and I’d like another opinion.

There are other commentaries I don’t own, but would love to.  Robert Mounce’s in the NICNT series has been an evangelical standard for some time, for good reason.  Grant Osborne wrote the Revelation commentary for the BECNT seriesThe Denver Journal (Klein, Blomberg, & Hecht- which sounds like a good law firm) ranks it above Beale as the top detailed commentary on Revelation, so that has to count for something.  For some reason, though I’m with Osborne over Beale on the Millennium, I’ve still found Beale’s to be more helpful.  Perhaps more time with Osborne could change this, however, so if anyone wants to buy me a Cinqo de Mayo present…

One last commentary I’d like to get my hands on is Craig Keener’s commentary in the NIVAC series.  People I trust rave about this commentary; I regret that I haven’t used it much.  Maybe that could be a Memorial Day present…

Beale and McDonough cowrote the Revelation portion of the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.  Naturally, since I think so highly of their work on Revelation, it’ll come as no surprise that I have a great nt-use-ot1appreciation for their insights here.  And if I haven’t mentioned it already, this book is worth every penny you would spend on it.

For those interested in studying apocalyptic literature in general would do well to consult Mitchell Reddish’s book Apocalyptic Literature: A Reader (which you can often find for cheap at CBD Warehouse sales) and John Collins’ The Apocalyptic Imagination, which we used in seminary.  Reddish has also written a good commentary on Revelation, but in a series is so expensive that it isn’t worth purchasing (seriously, someone needs to inform the Smith & Helwys folks that there’s a recession going on).

I’ve been pleased with the quality of resources on the internet for studying Revelation.  There is always Dan Wallace’s outline and discussion of Revelation.  Wallace is a dispensationalist and teaches at Dallas Seminary, which means I certainly have my disagreements, but I recommend folks read him for his clarity and to get the dispensational side of things.  For an audio teaching, I advise you to listen to Craig Blomberg’s teaching on Revelation as part of his NT Intro class (I’ve mentioned this in my post on 1 Peter resources as well- you can get the idea that I recommend the class).

But perhaps an even greater surprise is the quality of sermons you can find on Revelation from top notch scholars.  Most pastors avoid teaching on Revelation, which, in my opinion, sends the message to the church that it is a book not worth diving into.  After all, if my pastor won’t touch it, why should I?  But, in fact, the message of Revelation needs to be heard.  Tom Schreiner, of Southern Seminary in Louisville, has been preaching on Revelation at Clifton Baptist Church.  You can access the audio of their sermons here (but I can’t promise they’ll be there forever).  The Gospel Coalition website hosts a number of sermons by various preachers, including some by D A Carson on Revelation.  I haven’t listened to all of these, but I’ve been working through his 7 part series on Revelation for a missions conference a few years back.  You can also listen to the audio from a weekend conference hosted by Desert Springs Church and taught by the aforementioned G K Beale (scroll down a bit and you’ll see it).

As an end to this post, I’ll pass along a piece of wisdom from my previously mentioned professor, Dr Sean McDonough.  He remarked that studying Revelation is 50% orientation and 50% perspiration.  In my experience, he’s right.  If you can have a good approach to reading this enigmatic book, you’ll find it is not as difficult as you previously thought.  But, it will require time and effort, perhaps moreso than any other biblical book.  It is not an easy read, both because it is difficult to understand at points and because it contains a convicting message for the church of God.  Read it, study it, be confused by it, allow that confusion to drive you to read it again.  May you be changed forever by this world changing book.

Read Full Post »

We’ve begun a new unit in our training school, moving on to the NT Epistles, focusing on 1 Peter.  In the class we use Fee & Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth as our base text (along with its companion volume, How to Read the Bible Book by Book), which has 2 chapters dedicated to studying epistles, one on exegesis and one on hermeneutics.  One of these days I hope to get around to writing more about HTRTBFAIW (yes, I can type that out rather quickly), but for now it’ll suffice to say that I think it’s the most helpful entry level book for teaching the basics of studying the Bible.

But there are other resources I’ve been using in my teaching prep for 1 Peter, and I thought I’d recommend a few for our readers.  Note well: if I were focusing on a more academic study of the book, I’d use far more resources than what I’m putting here.  Since this is a part-time job for me, and I no longer have access to a wealth of commentaries and books like I did at seminary, I can only use what I have at home.  It just so happens that I have some good resources on 1 Peter.

As far as commentaries go, the two I’m using the most are Karen Jobes’ 1 Peter in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament and Thomas Schreiner’s New American Commentary on 1 Peter (this volume also covers 2 Peter and Jude).  This is the first time I’ve really used Jobes’ work, and I have been very pleased thus far.  She’s a very clear writer, which helps sort through the technical issues she deals with.  Schreiner’s commentary is not as technical, and he’s more limited in his space, which keeps him from diving into issues like one might want.  For instance, in dealing with the term “exiles” (or “foreigners”, etc), Schreiner simply dismisses Elliot’s view (see below) as “not compelling,” whereas Jobes gives a more nuanced treatment of the issue.  Like I said, it’s hard to knock Schreiner on this, since he has less space to work with.  Also, for those who have read Schreiner’s works before, it’s not surprising that he takes a strong Reformed reading of the letters (which tends to show up more in 2 Peter than 1 Peter).

Two other commentares I own, but aren’t using as much, as John Elliot’s 1 Peter in the Anchor Bible series and Paul Achtemeier’s commentary in the Hermeneia series.  Elliot’s is interesting, but honestly not all that helpful.  Or, better said, the benefits of his commentary are found in others, and it’s less helpful for someone teaching a 4-week class at church.  He does offer up an interesting argument for Peter’s readers actually being literal exiles (or people displaced from Rome to the provinces mentioned in 1 Peter), rather than seeing the term metaphorically as most have done.  Achtemeier’s still is the best technical commentary, in my opinion.  I’m using it less than Jobes and Schreiner mainly because I don’t have the time to dig as deeply as I’d like.  But in the past, I’ve really enjoyed his commentary, even when I disagree with him rather strongly (such as on the authorship issue).

I’ve used other commentaries in the past, but no longer have access to them.  I Howard Marshall’s commentary in the IVPNT series is really good; I’m disappointed it’s not available on the Bible Gateway site, where some of the commentaries from this series are available for free.  This is the best of the non-technical commentaries, in my opinion.  In the “semi-technical” category, many really like Peter Davids’ commentary in the NICNT series.  To be honest, when I’ve used this commentary in the past, I’ve been disappointed.  But, other people love it, so maybe the problem is with me.  The same goes for J Ramsey Michaels’ commentary in the Word Biblical series.

For more thoughts on 1 Peter commentaries, check out Cousin Jeremy’s post on his own website from 12/06, where he deals with a few more than I do here.  You can also check out the list at Best Commentaries, including forthcoming volumes (I’m most excited about Hafemann’s).

While called a “commentary,” the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament is a commentary of a different sort, as the name indicates.  I haven’t used this a ton just yet, but will in the next week or two and have high hopes.  The 1 Peter section was written by D A Carson, who is one of the better evangelical scholars out there.

As far as dealing with background issues, besides the commentaries, I’m a big fan of Craig Keener’s Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament and David deSilva’s Introduction to the New Testament.  Both of these scholars are excellent at providing cultural information that most of us would never know.  Another interesting take on the culture of the early church is Bruce Longenecker’s Lost Letters of Pergamum, a fictional story that takes place during Domitian’s reign (in the 90’s AD).  Longenecker attempts to show the nature of life under persecution for the early church, which is appropriate for studying 1 Peter (though the nature of the persecution for Peter’s readers in the 60’s is a bit different).

For resources online, you can check out Dan Wallace’s First Peter: Introduction, Argument, and Outline.  It functions as an intro comparable to what you’d find in a commentary, only on a smaller scale but longer than what you’d find in a study Bible.  He’s done this for the whole NT, and I recommend them for those wanting to get a grasp on each of the NT books.  I also listened to the two-part lecture from Biblical Training by Craig Blomberg in his Introduction to the New Testament class.  Blomberg is one of my favorite writers and pretty much everything he does is helpful.  He is not, however, the most engaging speaker I’ve ever heard, but it’s hard to be engaging over an audio recording.  I didn’t listen to Robert Stein’s lecture on 1 Peter, so I can’t comment on it, but I figured I’d link to it so others could check it out if they’d like.

So, that’s about it.  I wonder if anyone reading has any thoughts on resources for studying 1 Peter, particularly non-commentaries (though thoughts on commentaries are welcome, too).  Has anyone heard any good sermons on 1 Peter?  Since I don’t use study Bibles I can’t comment on them, but if anyone has used one for 1 Peter, what did you think?

Read Full Post »

We’re just starting a section on Jesus and the gospels in our missions training school, and much like what Brian did with the Pentateuch, I thought I’d share some good books on this section of Scripture.  After all, it’s about Jesus; you can’t get more important than that!

But let me start with an important point.  There are more books on Jesus and the gospels than I have time to read.  In fact, there are plenty of books that have been published in the last couple years that I have yet to read.  A couple are on my shelves, crying out to me for attention.  Some I possibly haven’t even heard of yet.  So, if you know of any, I’m more than happy to hear suggestions- just leave a comment. 

The pride of place, in my opinion, goes to Craig Blomberg’s Jesus and the Gospels.  I’ve read this book 4 times and have used it every year I teach on the gospels.  In short, it includes everything you need in 5 sections: Historical Background, Methods, Introductions to each gospel, A Survey of Jesus’ Life, and a Historical & Theological Synthesis.  Blomberg includes a ton of information, but is so readable it should put other scholars to shame (note: informative≠boring).  But, before you run out and buy this book, note that a newer edition of this book is supposed to be released this year at some point.  I’d suggest waiting until it comes out, then purchase it ASAP.

Another indispensable resource for me during my teaching prep is the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series), put out by IVP.  It’s full of articles covering a wide range of subjects related to Jesus and the gospels, written by top notch scholars.  It’s nice to have a wealth of scholarship in one book, though perhaps it, too, will need to be updated before too long.

If you’ve paid any attention to Jesus studies (or New Testament studies in general), you’ll have heard of NT Wright.  The first book I ever read of his was Jesus and the Victory of God one of the best books on Jesus in recent times.  Mind you, I disagree with him strongly at points (particularly his understanding of the Olivet Discourse), but you can’t help but come away having learned so much about Jesus and His historical context.  Along with this book is Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God.  Quite frankly, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.  Both of these are heavy reads, so be aware.  You can always pick up his smaller The Challenge of Jesus to get an idea of his approach.

Under the category of Historical Jesus studies, I still find Ben Witherington’s book The Jesus Quest to be helpful.  I’m holding out hope that Witherington will update this helpful survey of scholarly portraits of the Historical Jesus (it’s been over a decade since it’s original publication).  One aspect I appreciate about this book is that you learn how to critique and discern differing views on Jesus simply by reading how Witherington does it.  Thus, it’s still quite helpful even if outdated.  Lastly, though I haven’t read too much of his stuff, I know that Craig Evans also has a number of books that are immensely profitable to read.

If you really want to wade through an important- and unique- book, check out Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.  Bauckham is in the category of “you should read whatever he writes.”  In this book, he helps demonstrate that the gospels do in fact go back to original eyewitness testimony, contra the common scholarly view of floating stories about Jesus circulating in distinct “community traditions.”

Though I haven’t had much time to work my way through it, Klyne Snodgrass’ new book on the parables, Stories With Intent, has received rave reviews.  I’m a huge fan of the parables, and from what I understand, once you own this book, you won’t need another one on the parables.  So, since I own it, I guess I don’t need to look for any more books on the parables, huh?  Also note, Blomberg has written extensively on the parables as well, and has good insight in his previously mentioned book.

On the Sermon on the Mount, I know D A Carson has written a useful book.  I’ll confess, I haven’t read his book on the Sermon on the Mount, but I do own his Matthew commentary and find it excellent, so I’ll bet the book is good, too.  Also, John Stott’s book, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, in the Bible Speaks Today series is good.

Before anyone complains that I neglected their favorite author or book, I want to point out that I’m trying to select a representation here.  I’m also intentionally leaving books on Christology and commentaries out for now, though perhaps those will come in later posts.  As I previously stated, there are plenty of books out there that I’m sure are excellent.  I think especially of those by Darrel Bock, but I have yet to read much of his stuff on the gospels (except his Luke commentary, which is tremendous). 

So, I say start with Blomberg and the Jesus and the Gospels.  Mind you, I’m offering my opinion as one who teaches in a local church context, not an academic one.  So, Bauckham’s book might be more important in terms of scholarly research than either of these.  But when I’m teaching, theories of criticism are not as important as dealing with the content of the gospels themselves.  And for that, I have yet to read anything better than Blomberg’s work.

Read Full Post »

I recently had the privilege of kicking off a series of three classes on the Pentateuch at our church’s training school. I mentioned early in the class that the Pentateuch, (or OT in general), is often among the most challenging portions of the Bible.  Why?  Firstly, the Pentateuch is the oldest portion of the Bible, written in the neighborhood of 3,500 years ago.  Secondly, the culture in which it was was written, the Ancient Near East, is vastly different from our own Greco-Roman (i.e., Western) roots.  These increased chronological and cultural differences (as compared to one of Paul’s letters, for example) often require extra diligence on the part of the reader.

Praise be, many resources are available to us as a help to flesh out the richness of the Pentateuch, and close some of the gaps we encounter when we read it.  I would recommend the five books below as some possible starting points:

Our resource of the month, IVP’s Bible Backgrounds Commentary on the Old Testament, is a great starting point, and a helpful, accessible resource for OT study in one volume.

From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Pentateuch is the best book I’ve read on the Pentateuch.  Ever.  It is more concerned with theology than strict exegesis per se, but I’ve yet to encounter its equal. There is only one caveat: There are 100 pages or so at the front of the text about higher criticism. While this is ‘important’ material, it is much more geared for those in scholarly circles, and far less important than understanding the Pentateuch itself. Those interested in higher criticism should read Garrett’s Rethinking Genesis instead. As such, I’d recommend skipping the first section of Paradise to the Promised Land, unless you really enjoy trudging through the annals of what OT critics have (mostly in error) written about Pentateuchal authorship.

Archaeology and the Old Testament is another good resource for OT backgrounds. While the text sticks closely to its subject, archaeology, it is far from a dry history book. You will not find detailed commentaries on biblical passages here, but you will find a great resource that explains what we’ve learned about the history of the ancient near east through archaeology, and how that relates to different passages in the Bible. Hoerth often points to how certain findings bring to life different OT passages. Aside from being a great resource for understanding the culture of the OT, this text is also helpful in affirming the historical reliability of the Bible. Hoerth is very careful (and right!) to note that as helpful as archaeology is, it can never “prove” the Bible. He does well to describe what archaeology can and cannot do for us as we study Scripture.

Handbook on the Pentateuch is effectively a chapter by chapter commentary on Genesis through Deuteronomy that ties together many of the larger themes running through the Pentateuch. It’s also Danny’s favorite, and that’s worth something :)


A final recommendation would be IVP’s New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. Here is another great starting place for those looking for an accessible, single volume commentary of the entire Bible.

Read Full Post »