Saving the Bible from Ourselves

Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read & Live the Bible Well

InterVarsity, 2016

Modern Bibles come with all sorts of tools that are intended to help us engage the text better: verse and chapter divisions, cross references, study notes, and so on. But do they actually help us read the Bible? Glenn Paauw is vice president of global Bible engagement at Biblica, and his answer is a definitive “no.” This book is his manifesto on how the design of our Bibles has encouraged us to distort what the Bible is—breaking it into tiny pieces that can be shuffled around—and how to return the Bible to what it ought to be by adopting what he calls “big readings” of the text.

Specifically, Paauw thinks we need to make seven changes in how we view the Bible. We need to move from a complicated Bible to an elegant Bible; from a snacking Bible to a feasting Bible; from a de-historicized Bible to a historical Bible; from a de-dramatized Bible to a “storiented” Bible; from an otherworldly Bible to an earthly Bible; from a private Bible to a synagogue Bible; and from an ugly Bible to an iconic Bible. In sum, he thinks our Bible should be “presented as literature, eaten in natural forms, grounded in history, inviting in its narrative, restorative in its theme, engaged in community and honored in its aesthetic presentation” (213).

As someone who has participated in creating a Bible translation and a study Bible, I found Paauw’s arguments thought-provoking and convicting. Whatever your thoughts on Paauw’s specific prescriptions for change, this is a great book for anyone who is interested in thinking deeply about our engagement with the Bible and how it could be improved.

ELLIOT RITZEMA

The Book of Zechariah (NICOT)

The Book of Zechariah (New International Commentary on the Old Testament)

Eerdmans, 2016

For almost 50 years, evangelical scholars and pastors have benefitted from the magisterial New International Commentary on the Old Testament. In this series, high-quality scholarship combine with a strong commitment to the reliability and authority of the biblical text. Mark J. Boda continues this noble tradition with his volume on Zechariah.

Boda’s work shines brightly in three areas: structure, historical context, and intertextuality. First, Boda carefully observes the internal clues and literary devices of Zechariah, grounding readers solidly within the book’s structure. Second, Boda situates each passage, and the whole book, within its historical setting, showing the post-exilic Jewish community struggling to maintain its identity as the people of Yahweh within the Persian Empire. Throughout, Boda shows the influence of the Torah and prophetic texts; Zechariah’s words receive detailed attention in light of their history of usage in other Hebrew Scriptures.

Boda aims his comments chiefly at academics who may have particular questions regarding historical and linguistic details. The commentary offers such extensive detail in its research—and less attention to the big picture (especially the New Testament)—that it is not well suited for readers seeking to simply understand or teach the main message of Zechariah.

PETER KROL

Theology of Work Bible Commentary

Theology of Work Bible Commentary (5 Volumes)

Hendrickson, 2014-2016

Much of a church’s ministry takes place when its members are not gathered together. Preachers want to know how to, as Ephesians says, “equip the saints for the work of ministry”—namely, connecting weekend worship to Monday morning work.

The distinctive contribution of the Theology of Work Bible Commentary, edited by William Messenger of the Theology of Work Project, is that it seeks to explore “what the entire Bible says about work” (series foreword).

Each biblical book has a short introduction, including a summary of what that book says about work. There are long stretches of Scripture not discussed at all, but the commentary explains passages it sees as directly relating to the theology and practice of a Christian’s work.

Ephesians 4:1, for example, says, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” The commentary notes, “Every Christian shares in this calling. Thus our truest and deepest vocation (from the Latin word for ‘calling’) is to do our part to advance the multifaceted mission of God in the world” (5:101). Though its brevity may not always permit depth, the commentary provides unique and helpful theological and practical connections between the Bible and Christians’ working world.

ABRAM KIELSMEIER-JONES

The Biggest Story

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden

Crossway, 2015

This richly illustrated children’s book tells the metanarrative of the Bible in 10 short lessons. Written by pastor Kevin DeYoung, himself a father of six, and illustrated by Don Clark, the book skims major Old Testament stories on its journey to Jesus.

“Our kids can become acquainted with many Bible stories without ever grasping the Biggest Story that makes sense of all the others,” writes DeYoung.

With phrases easy enough for a toddler to understand yet deep enough for older children and adults to consider thoughtfully, DeYoung connects the biblical texts to God’s redemptive purpose. Readers journey from the garden of Eden where God promises a future “snake-crusher” (a redeemer), to the cross where our redemption is made, to the promise of a future garden on the new earth. Vivid and creative imagery complete this collectible book that families and children’s ministers will want on their shelves.

KELLEY MATHEWS

The Acts of the Apostles: Interpretation, History and Theology

The Acts of the Apostles: Interpretation, History and Theology

IVP Academic, 2016

Osvaldo Padilla calls his Acts of the Apostles “an ‘advanced’ introduction” (13). Acts is a “Hellenistic historical monograph in the Jewish tradition” (62), but Luke took an existing form and “appropriated it to communicate an essentially theological message of salvation through Jesus Christ” (65). The author of Acts, then, is a historian, but a decidedly “theological historian” (107).

In his final chapter, Padilla moves into conversation with postliberal theology. Interesting as the section is, even the theologically trained reader might be content with the good work of the first five chapters.

This book is not a comprehensive introduction; there is no outline of Acts nor concern for dating its composition. But for what Padilla aims to cover (theological and philosophical interpretation, specifically around genre and history), the book proves to be well-researched and engaging.

ABRAM KIELSMEIER-JONES

John (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament)

John (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament)

B&H Academic, 2016

Murray J. Harris’ commentary on John is part of the new Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament. While there is an overabundance of John commentaries on the market, Harris’ contribution is fresh and exciting, as it exposes readers to the nuances of the original Greek.

Harris introduces each passage by presenting key themes and summarizing highlights. He then exegetes each verse carefully, analyzing the meaning of the Greek text while focusing on main themes. At the end of his exegesis, he suggests study resources and potential sermon outlines.

Readers do not need a background in Greek to appreciate Harris’ work. He actively translates for readers, while pointing out the contours and functions of the language. This aspect will be appealing to those learning Greek or those who need a refresher.

Harris is very thorough in his examination of the text. This commentary is different from most on the market, as it is more analytical than interpretive in some respects. Such an approach will be especially helpful to students writing research papers.

BEN ESPINOZA

Romans (The Story of God Bible Commentary)

Romans (The Story of God Bible Commentary)

Zondervan, 2016

The first volumes of The Story of God Bible Commentary series were published in 2013. The intent of the series is to look at each biblical text as part of the grand story of the Bible that reaches its climax in Jesus. In Michael Bird’s volume on Romans, he argues that “Romans is the gospel at theological depth,” in which “Paul explores how the gospel creates a community of worshipers from Jews and Gentiles who are united in the Messiah” (xvi).

The commentary on each text is organized into three sections: “Listen to the Story,” “Explain the Story,” and “Live the Story.” The first provides the NIV translation of a passage, along with an introduction to the context. The second explains the text in light of the Bible’s greater story, examining key words and the historical background. In the third section, Bird illustrates how the text’s message can be applied as the story continues in the Church.

Romans has generated so many interpretations that no one is likely to agree with all of Bird’s conclusions, but he carefully engages the text with his trademark humor to shed light on how we can live the story of Romans today.

ELLIOT RITZEMA