Proverbs Commentary Q & A with John Kitchen

7 Questions on Proverbs in the Mentor Commentary Series

proverbs commentary coverJohn Kitchen (Doctor of Ministry, Trinity International University) has been the senior pastor at Stow Alliance Fellowship in Stow, Ohio, since 2001. Prior to that, Dr. Kitchen pastored the Plymouth Alliance Church in Plymouth, Wisconsin from 1987-2001.

In addition to his Doctor of Ministry degree, Dr. Kitchen earned a B.A. from Crown College and Master’s of Divinity from Columbia International University.

Dr. Kitchen has published several Bible commentaries. Besides Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary, he has written Colossians and Philemon for Pastors, The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors, and Philippians for Pastors. Please see Dr. Kitchen’s Amazon page for his other books.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Proverbs?

The roots of the commentary came from a daily, disciplined engagement with the book of Proverbs for my own personal edification. I spent years, daily engaging one verse of Proverbs at a time, digging into the Hebrew text, scouring commentaries, praying over the text, turning the aphorisms over in my heart and mind … and daily disciplining myself to write about what I was discovering. Some of the results began to be shared on a weekly basis with interested parties, mostly from within our local congregation. When finally I arrived at the last verse of the thirty-first chapter I looked back and realized I had a manuscript 900 pages long. I wondered if this could ever be of further use in God’s Kingdom. Through a remarkable series of events Christian Focus Publications decided to include the revised commentary in their Mentor Commentary series.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? Professors? Students? Lay Christians in the local church?

All the works in Christian Focus’s Mentor imprint are designed for “Bible College and seminary students, pastors, and other serious readers.” The Proverbs commentary is true to this intent. It deals seriously with the text of both the Hebrew and English Bible, but is written in a way that those without technical knowledge of either will find accessible. I’ve heard pastors, professors and lay Christians speak of its helpfulness to them—by which I am humbled and for which I am grateful to God.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Proverbs?

In my personal study of Proverbs over the years I was frustrated in trying to find a commentary that dealt seriously and in sufficient depth with each verse of the book. Often commentaries focus on chapters 1-9 and then deal with the aphorisms of chapters 10ff in thematic ways. This often left individual proverbs without comment. I wanted to write in such a way that anyone asking a question about any given verse of Proverbs would find solid interaction with the text and, hopefully, insightful help in understanding and applying it. Additionally, I endeavored to see the text of Proverbs related properly to the larger canon of Scripture and to the flow of God’s redemptive purposes that are realized in Christ.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Wrestling with the amazing assertions made about wisdom personified in Proverbs 8 was particularly stimulating, especially verses 22-31 which speak of the origin of wisdom. Prayerfully and carefully relating these words to what God later says about His Son, Jesus Christ, as the embodiment of divine wisdom (e.g. John 1:1-3; 1 Cor. 1:24, 30; Col. 2:3) proved a rich and challenging venture.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

As mentioned earlier I began my careful analysis of Proverbs for my own edification. Within days of having begun my study I recognized a fresh wave of desire for God and His Word swelling inside me. My favorite part of each day quickly became the time set aside to meet with God for this careful study of His Word. I do not exaggerate when I say that I could hardly wait to get to my study and soak myself in His presence and His Word each day. Looking back now perhaps twenty-five years removed from those days I can say that, though I had long been a daily and careful student of God’s Word, He quite literally reworked my daily schedule and set in place patterns of study and of seeking Him which have persisted to this day. It is not an overstatement to say that my study of Proverbs launched me into the most spiritually intense period of my Christian life.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Proverbs?

Charles Bridges’s commentary is a classic, though one has to work through the dated nature of some of the language. When my commentary was in production at the publisher, Bruce Waltke’s magisterial two-volume commentary (NICOT) was released. It is a masterpiece and very helpful, though at times quite technical for those without knowledge of Hebrew. I had enjoyed a doctoral class on Proverbs with Dr. Waltke and was delighted, as were so many, when his lifetime of study in Proverbs found its way into publication.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

Interested parties in the Middle East have worked with Christian Focus Publications to see Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary translated into Arabic. At this moment the text is being formatted in preparation for being sent to the printer. I pray that God will use this across the Arabic speaking world to draw people to Himself and into His truth.

Additionally, I am several years into writing a commentary on 1 & 2 Peter and Jude. I also have two books set for release in 2019: He is Able is to be published by JourneyForth Press and Chosen People, my first foray into fiction, is to be published by Cruciform Press.

I would delight to have people follow my writing ministry by going to my website (www.jkitchen.org) and by liking my Facebook Author Page (John Kitchen Author).


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Jonah Commentary Q & A with Author Reed Lessing

7 Questions on Jonah in the Concordia Commentary Series

jonah commentary coverDr. Reed Lessing is the Senior Pastor at St. Michael Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Previously, he was the Professor of Exegetical Theology and director of the graduate school at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He studied at St. John’s College, Winfield, Kansas (B.A.), and Concordia Seminary (M. Div., S.T.M., Ph.D.).

Dr. Lessing is married to Lisa and their marriage has been blessed with three wonderful children. He enjoys jogging, biking, camping and following the St. Louis Cardinals.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Jonah?

My published dissertation, Isaiah’s Tyre Oracle: Interpreting Discontinuity (Eisenbrauns, 2004) launched my studies into Israel’s prophetic corpus. When I was on the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, I frequently taught the book of Jonah. Eugene Peterson’s book, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Eerdmans, 1994) added to my interest in Jonah.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The commentary targets pastors/theologians with a working knowledge of Hebrew. That said, the detailed textual notes are also intended to assist first-time Hebrew students as well as those who want to recover what they have lost of the language.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Jonah?

The commentary interacts with themes in the New Testament and takes the position that Jonah is an accurate historical account. Seven excurses discuss broader themes such as Mission in the Old Testament and When Yahweh Relents.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Jonah’s psalm in chapter two echoes and/or quotes from twenty-five verses in the Psalter. The prodigal prophet is at his best when he is faced with Sheol.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Jonah is the only prophet Jesus compares himself with. The primary connection is that both fell under God’s judgment and both survived to talk about it. Jonah ends with a question—should Yahweh show compassion to the Ninevites and their animals? (Jonah 4:11) We don’t know how Jonah responded, yet we know what Jesus said when faced with similar questions regarding compassion. Jesus said, “yes,” and he wrote this answer in his own blood.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Jonah?

Fretheim, Terence. The Message of Jonah: A Theological Commentary. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1977.

Magonet, J. Form and Meaning: Studies in the Literary Techniques of the Book of Jonah. Sheffield: Almond Press, 1983.

Sasson, Jack M. Jonah. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I’ve finished a commentary on Zechariah and plan to begin editing it late this year.

You can follow my work at: https://books.cph.org/concordia-commentary


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Luke Commentary Q & A with Mike McKinley

7 Questions on Luke in the For You Commentary Series

luke commentary coverPastor Mike McKinley was raised in suburban Philadelphia. He received a B.A. in Religion and Classics from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and an M.Div from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

In 2004, Mike was brought onto the pastoral staff at Capitol Hill Baptist Church as a church planter. In 2005, he brought a small group of people from CHBC to Guilford Baptist Church in order to help revitalize the church’s ministry. He served as Guilford’s pastor until 2013, when Guilford merged with Sterling Park Baptist Church, where he now serves as Senior Pastor.

Mike has been married to Karen since 1997, and they have five beautiful children: Kendall, Knox, Phineas, Ebenezer, and Harper. In his free time, Mike loves to spend time with his family, reading all kinds of books, and daydreaming about the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Eagles.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Luke?

Luke was the first book of the Bible I read upon my conversion, and I am always particularly compelled by his portrait of the Lord Jesus. My main preparation was the joy and privilege of preparing and preaching Luke’s gospel to the church that I serve.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The work is pitched at Christians who want assistance understanding, applying, and even teaching Luke. It does not engage the many “beneath the surface” questions that occupy academic commentaries, but rather takes the text as it is and attempts to help Christians step into the story and understanding how the book of Luke is still speaking to us today.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Luke?

As I mentioned above, the goal is not to break any new ground in the field of Lukan studies. If there is anything unique about the commentary, it is the “God’s Word For You” series’ commitment both to serious exposition and also practical application.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

This might seem like a strange answer, but I got very excited about the genealogy that concludes chapter 3. On the initial read it seems like it’s out of place, but when you look closely it turns out to be Luke’s interpretive key to the baptism and temptation narratives that bookend it.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

It would have to be the narrative of Christ’s suffering, particularly the events leading up to the cross. Seeing someone so wonderful being treated so shamefully is sickening; but the fact that he endured that willingly for the sake of his sin-sick people makes my affections for Christ soar.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Luke?

[Darrell] Bock, [Joel] Green, and [James R.] Edwards are all very helpful and learned commentaries. If I can be so bold, I have published two other books on Luke. Passion: How Christ’s Final Day Changes Your Everyday is a slow mediation on the suffering and death of Jesus in Luke’s gospel. In a similar way, The Resurrection in Your Life walks through Luke’s account of the resurrection and ascension.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

Currently, I’m working on a devotional in a series that P&R is publishing (https://www.prpbooks.com/series/31-day-devotionals-for-life). In terms of following my ministry, my sermons are available at sterlingparkbc.org.


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Song of Songs Commentary Q & A with Iain Duguid

7 Questions on Song of Songs in the REC Commentary Series

song of songs coverRev. Dr. Iain Duguid (PhD, Cambridge) is professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Dr. Duguid’s academic interests include various topics of Old Testament theology. His doctoral research was on Ezekiel, which was published in the Supplements to Vetus Testamentum series, and he remains part of the small but lively group of scholars around the world interested in the theology of that prophet. He has also published scholarly work on Esther, Nehemiah, the Song of Songs, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi as well as more popular treatments of the patriarchs, Esther, and Daniel.

Current research projects include Judges, the biblical theology of worship, and preaching Christ from the different genres of the Old Testament. As part of the oversight committee for the Holman Christian Standard Bible, he engages in regular discussions about best practices in Bible translation. He has also contributed to many study Bibles.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Song of Songs (Reformed Expository Commentary)?

When I started teaching the Psalms and Wisdom Literature course at Westminster Seminary in California in 2000, I knew I wasn’t equipped to help people preach the Song of Songs. I had very little instruction on it myself, and so I gave as little time as possible to it in the course. But if I couldn’t deal with it, with a Ph.D. in Old Testament, how did I expect pastors to handle it well? Gradually, I started to research it with a view to finally preaching it myself and figuring out a methodology that worked for the book. I finally began to preach it in 2012, and from there wrote the commentary.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

I published a more academic version of my research in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series, but the REC version is essentially a series of sermons. So it is accessible to everyone, but would also really help pastors preparing to preach or teach from the book.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Song of Songs?

Generally, interpreters force you to choose between a “natural” interpretation, in which the song is about two human lovers, and a “spiritual” interpretation, in which the primary meaning of the song is in terms of the relationship of God and his people. Both alternatives have wilder exponents, whose interpretations are basically free associations from the text, and more textual exponents, who are trying to do justice to a genuine understanding of the text. Often one side acknowledges that the other side is not impossible, but most commentaries in practice choose one or the other. I believe that the genre is that of wisdom literature (like Proverbs 5) and so the central focus is the human marriage relationship. However, since the human marriage relationship itself points us to Christ, a book about our relationships naturally leads us to Christ and the gospel, not just tips for a healthy marriage.

I’m also convinced that Solomon is not the hero of the song, but represents a worldly paradigm in which “love” and marriage are seen as a means to power and wealth, as indeed the historical Solomon did in 1 Kings. But I don’t think there is an active “love triangle” between Solomon, the Shulammite and her shepherd boy lover. There are two models of love in competition, not two potential mates.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Chapter 2, on the necessity of waiting in love was fascinating. So many critical commentators think that there is no interest in marriage in the book – only love and sex. But in an ancient context, what would a woman insist on waiting for, when she acknowledges that all of her hormones and the natural world around her are crying out to consummate love? Marriage is the only logical answer.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Wisdom literature is mostly indirect law: it shows us the beauty of the life of wisdom, which it then convicts each of us of having fallen short of. All of us are failed lovers, whether single or married, same-sex or heterosexually attracted, young or old. We all yearn for someone to love us deeply and unconditionally with a love that is stronger than death. In the gospel, we meet our true heavenly spouse, Jesus Christ, who washes away our many failures and clothes us in clean marriage garments.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Song of Songs?

Richard Hess, Song of Songs, BCOTWS (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005) was very helpful, as was Michael V. Fox, The Song of Songs and Ancient Egyptian Love Songs (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985). But I have to say that I often find literary studies more useful than any conventional commentary and this was no exception. My number one pick is Elie Assis, Flashes of Fire: A Literary Analysis of the Song of Songs (New York: T. & T. Clark, 2009).

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I’m currently preaching through Judges, with the sermons being posted at Christarp.com. That will appear in the Reformed Expository Commentary eventually, along with another volume on Psalms 1-41, which I’m co-writing with my son, James. This summer, I have a book exploring the OT background of the Christian Armor in Ephesians 6:10-20 coming out from Crossway, and a Bible Study on Jonah from New Growth Press.


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Revelation Commentary Q & A with Author Mark Wilson

7 Questions on Revelation in the ZIBBC Commentary Series

revelation commentary coverMark Wilson is the director of the Asia Minor Research Center in Antalya, Turkey, and is the host for BAS’s tours of Turkey. Dr. Wilson received his doctorate in Biblical studies from the University of South Africa (Pretoria), where he serves as a research fellow in Biblical archaeology.

He is currently Associate Professor Extraordinary of New Testament at Stellenbosch University. He leads field studies in Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean for university, seminary and church groups.

Dr. Wilson is the author of Biblical Turkey: A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor and Victory through the Lamb: A Guide to Revelation in Plain Language. He is a frequent lecturer at Biblical Archaeological Society’s Bible Fests.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Revelation?

Two things prepared me for writing the commentary. In 1992 I made my first trip to the Seven Churches in western Turkey with several friends from my home church in Virginia. It was an amazing experience to walk through Ephesus, Pergamum, and Sardis for the first time. The Seven Churches were little explored in NT studies at that time, so I determined to focus my research on them and Asia Minor’s early Christian communities. I was also beginning my doctoral studies at the University of South Africa. My thesis, which I completed in 1996, focused on the promise/victor sayings at the conclusion of each of the seven prophetic letters. One of my research correspondents was Clinton Arnold, who had written a volume on Ephesians. Zondervan had asked Clint to serve as the NT editor for a proposed Bible Backgrounds commentary. Clint knew about my interest in the Seven Churches as well as my recently completed doctoral thesis, so he invited me to contribute the volume on Revelation.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The target audience for the commentary is pastors, students, and interested lay persons. While some of the language may be technical, it is non-academic. Professors unfamiliar with the background of material culture in first-century Roman Asia would also benefit from it.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Revelation?

The commentary series is unique in that it was among the first to approach material culture as a serious background for interpreting the NT. Since then numerous other commentaries, handbooks, and encyclopedias with that approach have appeared. Two decades after publication the commentary is still relevant, being dated only in archaeological research which, of course, has unearthed more discoveries, especially at Laodicea.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Wow, that is a difficult question to answer. To consider the overall structure and message of the book written in twenty-two chapters to Seven Churches in Asia took much consideration and meditation to sort out. Chapter 12 for me is pivotal because it is situated at the book’s chiastic center. Its apocalyptic vision of the male child’s incarnation and triumph is foundational to Revelation’s message. The fall of Satan and his angels is spiritually inaugurated here for the Lamb’s followers and then proleptically announced, with its full realization coming in chapters 19–20 with the return of the Rider on the white horse.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Christology is taught through names and symbols throughout the book. A pivotal moment occurs in 5:6-8 when the slaughtered paschal Lamb stands and takes the scroll from the One who sits on the throne. The saints then sing a new song declaring the Lamb “Worthy…!” Whenever I sing the worship song based on this pericope, tears come to my eyes. I feel caught up to heaven to join the heavenly chorus ascribing the sevenfold attributes to our Risen Lamb.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Revelation?

My contribution to the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary was my first published volume on Revelation. Since then I have published my revised doctoral thesis as The Victor Sayings in the Book of Revelation (Wipf & Stock, 2007). My Charts on the Book of Revelation: Literary, Historical, and Theological Perspectives (Kregel, 2007) remains unique among resources on Revelation. My topical study called Victory through the Lamb: A Guide to Revelation in Plain Language (Weaver 2014/Lexham, 2018) is especially geared to a lay audience. Students and readers have stated that each of these volumes has been helpful for them to understand the book.

For my ongoing research and writing related to Revelation, I still return to the older commentaries of Swete and Beckwith. Among contemporary authors I regularly consult Aune, Beale, Osborne, Koester, Bauckham, and deSilva. When I teach Revelation, my recommended textbook is Stephen Smalley’s The Revelation to John (IVP, 2005). It is the right length, technical enough for scholars and students, yet still readable for non-academics.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

Last year the ESV Archaeology Bible was released with my contribution of the Revelation section. Three articles–Thyatira, Philadelphia, and Patmos– will appear later this year in the Lexham Geographic Commentary: Acts through Revelation. I am also interested in the archaeological history of the Seven Churches so am editing a volume of the earliest photographs of the sites published in 1869 by Alexander Svoboda. Since the publication of Biblical Turkey: A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor in 2010, readers have asked for a condensed version focusing just on the Seven Churches. So I am working on that volume now. I am on the committee for the Revelation Consultation at the Evangelical Theological Society annual meetings. Our consultation will sponsor focused sessions over the next three years toward the goal of an edited volume tentatively called Revelation under Fire: The Apocalypse of John among Its Critics. I also regularly lead study tours to the Seven Churches and am the program chairman for the “Global Smyrna Meeting on the 7 Churches of Revelation” to be held in Izmir (Smyrna), Turkey in June 2020 (http://www.globalsmyrnameeting.com/). All of my published articles are available to read and download at www.academia.edu.


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Philippians Commentary Q & A with Author Mark Keown

7 Questions on Hebrews in the Lectio Continua Commentary Series

philippians commentary coverMark J. Keown (Th.D., Laidlaw College) is a Senior Lecturer in New Testament at Laidlaw College in Auckland, New Zealand.

Other than writing the Philippians volume in the Evangelical Exegteical Commentary series, Dr. Keown is the author of Discovering the New Testament: An Introduction to Its Background, Theology, and Themes (Volume I: The Gospels and Acts) and Jesus in a World of Colliding Empires, Volume One: Introduction and Mark 1:1-8:29: Mark’s Jesus from the Perspective of Power and Expectations.

Dr. Keown is an ordained minister and served at Greenlane Presbyterian Church from 1997-2003.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Philippians?

I became a Christian in my mid-20s and was very active in evangelism. I studied theology at Bible College on NZ, and in a class a lecturer stated that Paul never tells churches to preach the gospel, only mentioning individuals. He mentioned some scholars considered that he didn’t expect churches to be proactively evangelistic. Hence, I did my ThD on the question of whether Paul wanted congregations to share the gospel. I found Philippians a letter in which I believe Paul does urges his congregations to be evangelistic (esp. Phil 1:12–18a, 27–30; 2:15–16; 4:9) and this led to my first book, Congregational Evangelism in Philippians in which I defended this position. This gave me a good foundation to write the commentary.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The purpose of the EEC commentaries is to work from the Greek and produce an academically rigorous work that can be used by academics, Christian leaders and thinkers with Greek, in particular. However, I believe the commentary is worthwhile for all Christians with an interest in Philippians. My commentary has a good deal of analysis on the Greek language but is written with an eye on those who cannot engage with the Greek. I have a couple of friends who are reading it without any real theological training, and they are finding it useful. There are also sections on Biblical Theology and Devotional aspects which are helpful. Hence, I believe it will be valuable to all who are serious about growing in their understanding of the Scriptures.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Philippians?

Some of the unique features are these. First, in recent times, the point of writing has been debated vigorously—did Paul write from Ephesus or Rome? This leads many of the more recent commentaries to be a bit bland in terms of what is going on in Paul’s setting. Convinced by the traditional view and arguments and the imperial dimensions of the letter, I opt for Rome and rather than writing a commentary that is vague on Paul’s situation, I assume it and push it. I look closely at the situation Paul is in while in Rome and how that might have affected the letter. One example is the influence of Poppaea Sabina on Nero at the time of writing, and how that might lead him to persecute Paul more fiercely. I also date the letter as late as AD 63 rather than in the period of Acts 28:30–31. I really push the Roman setting.

Second, I further defend the perspective argued in my earlier book, strengthening my arguments concerning the appeal for the Philippians to continue to engage in evangelism in their community and more widely. I note that the whole letter is missional in the sense that the central issue in the letter is a conflict between two co-workers and key church leaders, Euodia and Syntyche. As such, unity or partnership in mission is critical to understanding it. The western church has tended to see mission as an overseas thing. It is not. It starts as we leave our Christian gatherings and engage. Philippians is a treasure trove of ideas for how we do it well.

Third, I really emphasise what I call the “Christ-pattern.” That is, what is commonly called, cruciformity. In my read of Philippians, Phil 2:5–11 lies at its theological heart. Philippians 2:5 summons us to have the mindset Christ has and had in his mission to save his world. Philippians 2:6–8 explains what this is. I dig into this passage, discussing the meaning of the form of God, harpagmos, equality with God, self-emptying, self-humbling, and argue that Phil 2:6–8 challenges us to a new way of being human while revealing who God is and what he is like. We are thus summoned to take on the same mindset and live selflessly, sacrificially, as servants, suffering even to death, in humility and love, serving the world. This is our central call. The examples Paul gives in the letter are all evangelistic, and all embody this Christ-pattern: the well-motivated Romans (Phil 1:14–18), Timothy, Epaphroditus, the Philippian co-workers in their history, and Paul himself. The negative examples do not, either violating the ethics of the gospel (the poorly motivated Romans) or its theology (the Judaizers, the enemies of the cross). Sacrificial service and partnership in the gospel is the summons of Philippians.

Timothy, Epaphroditus, the Philippian co-workers in their history, and Paul himself. The negative examples do not, either violating the ethics of the gospel (the poorly motivated Romans) or its theology (the Judaizers, the enemies of the cross). Sacrificial service and partnership in the gospel is the summons of Philippians.

Fourth, I posit the idea that Phil 1:19–26 may be premised on Paul having an escape plan if things do not go well in his trial. There is a dilemma for interpreters: Paul appears to be in danger of dying, yet, Paul knows he will be released. I look at the options in scholarship and explain why they are unsatisfactory. I reject the idea of bribery but wonder if the dilemma is solved if Paul has decided that if he needs to, he will escape (something common). I have published another article exploring this further.

Fifth, every Greek word in Philippians is explored to a level I have not seen in other commentaries, in terms of background at least. Extensive research is done in wider Greek sources, the LXX, Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, and of course, the NT. This gives a great basis for understanding the semantic range of these terms and possibilities. I found some really interesting connections in doing this research, enabled by contemporary software.

Sixth, following older scholars, Fee, Ware, and others, I seek to argue that 2:16a should be translated “hold forth the word of life.” Then, unlike others, I push this and propose a range of motifs that this excites as we consider the possibilities that flow from this. There have been some rather strange scholarship seeking to shut down this idea that needed exposing (acknowledging that there are other possibilities to my interpretation).

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

The part that moved me the most was the so-called Christ-hymn in Phil 2:5–11. In my earlier work on Philippians, I had not engaged seriously at an academically critical level with the passage as it is a minefield and did not greatly affect my research question. For the commentary, I really dug into it, as one must do, into one of the hardest and most rewarding passages in Scripture. I wept at times as I realized what its implications are for human existence. I realized afresh that our God is astonishing. The passage tells us what God is like. He is a Servant. He did not need to create, but he did. He does not need us, but he made us in his image. Then, when we rebelled, he sent his Son. Philippians 2:6–11 nestled as it is between two passages telling us what attitudes we are to have as we engage in Christian community and mission, is the most important verse in Paul for ethics. It summons us to the life I mentioned in the previous question. It calls us to question all forms of power that self-aggrandize, that use force, that manipulate, that do not reflect Christ. It can only be understood regarding empire and its patterns.

The hymn articulates the patterns of God’s reign, which do not rely on armies, good looks, charisma, arrogance, violence, manipulation, intrigue, wealth, and the like. The hymn challenges such things found in Satan, Adam, the rulers of the ancient empires such as Alexander and the Caesars, leaders in churches, and political leaders today. It speaks of cross-bearing for a world, taking up our crosses and towels and following Jesus. I realized afresh that cruciformity undergirds the ethics of the whole NT. It shapes how Paul lives, ministers, and preaches. It should shape our lives and churches. I was moved to become a better person walking in the pattern of Christ.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Aside from what is mentioned above, the whole experience has edified me. Writing a technical commentary is grueling. There is the thrill of initial discovery and then the hard work of writing it. As Paul says in Phil 3:10, he wants to share in the sufferings of Christ. In Rom 5, he tells us that such suffering grows us. I have grown from the experience.

When I was a young Christian, I set out to do theological training thinking I could know everything (typical youthful optimism). I have learned that I can’t. Commentary writing takes you deep into a text, digging, turning over rocks, pausing, exploring. As you do, links explode from the text into other Scripture, your own life, the historical setting, the surrounding culture, and so on. Every Greek word and phrase is literally a repository of possibilities. Doing this commentary challenged me to go to another level, and it is great. I encourage all who can to learn the biblical languages. Discipline yourself, take time to dig, grow, learn, and it is amazing what will come.

As I have mentioned, the Christ-hymn has reshaped me, causing me to question my motives as a person, leader, and Christian scholar. It has forced me to confront my own arrogances and seek the humility Paul calls for in Phil 2:1–4—to renounce selfish ambition and empty-glory and to truly try to live in the pattern of the cross. It has made me a better husband as I have seen the link from Phil 2 to such passages as Eph 5:21–6:9, which is a summons to the paterfamilias of the home to be a joyful servant to his wife and family.

My passion for evangelism is rekindled as I read Paul urging the Philippians to stand firm in one Spirit, contend for the faith of the gospel, refuse to be intimidated by opponents, emulate Christ, Timothy, and Epaphroditus, imitate his own example, and repair their relationships. I am amazed by the courage of these pioneer Christians. In Phil 1:12–18a, Paul is in prison in Rome, and Nero’s craziness is on the rise. His life is in danger. Yet, he does not withhold the gospel but is delighted that it is advancing among the prison guards and into the wider community. Even though some other Christians want him dead and preach Christ to make it happen, all he does is delight in the gospel. The gospel is his priority, more than his life and needs. This must be our take on life. This resonates with the example of Christ, and to this I and we are called.

There is a range of other things like Paul’s passion for prayer, monetary giving, unity, refuting false gospels, and of course, joy, that summon us from Philippians. All have shaped me and I pray will shape readers of the letter and my work.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Philippians?

I hate answering questions like this because it is like the end of an event where you want to thank others, but you are afraid to because someone is missed out. Still, I understand the question and apologise to anyone I miss out on. To be honest, there is not one work on Philippians that I have read that does not add value and fresh insight. I honor all who from sincere hearts, explore God’s word, and value the writers serving God across the world and time.

The older commentary by Lightfoot is superb with his grasp of the ancient setting. I have always resonated with Fee with whom; I usually see eye to eye. Hansen’s is very helpful. The revised WBC commentary by Hawthorne and Martin is very good and technical. In some ways Reumann’s AB commentary is overly dense, yet, it gives brilliant leads into the options and places to look. Even though it has been withdrawn for plagiarism, O’Brien’s commentary is still worth using giving such a good summary of the main views. I hope that it can be revised with the plagiarism dealt with, so it can have joint publication. Of the German commentaries, Schenk is very good and technical. I also found Ulrich Müller helpful and Gnilka had some good insights. Bockmuehl is really good as is Witherington’s commentaries (as always). Otherwise, I would recommend the work of Schnabel (on mission but helpful), Ware (The Mission of the Church), Hellerman (his commentary and Reconstructing Honor), Martin (Carmen Christi), and Peterman (Paul’s Gift).

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

Since my commentary on Philippians, I have published Jesus in a World of Colliding Empires (Wipf and Stock) which explores Mark’s Gospel from the perspective of Empire. It was the combination of teaching Mark at Laidlaw College and my research into Philippians that led to me recognizing that Mark’s Gospel and Phil 2:5–8 resonate together. Jesus must be understood as inaugurating an empire that is antithetical to the empires of the world then and now. We Christians, especially in countries where we dominate the political landscape, have to realise this afresh.

I have also published Vol. 1 of an introduction to the NT called Discovering the New Testament (Lexham). Volume 2 and 3 are in production. This is developed from my work teaching Introduction to NT in my college and should be completed by 2019 or 2020. It is also available through the Logos platform. It differs from others in that it blends a lot of thematic and theological ideas into the usual things we expect from an introduction (hence its length).

My next major project is a multi-volume work an exploration of evangelism in the Bible beginning in the OT and then working across the NT: Synoptics, John, Paul, Hebrews, the General Epistles, and Revelation. This will explore a range of questions like who did evangelism, how, when, why, what they preached, and how it relates to mission more broadly.

I have also drafted commentaries on Galatians and John 1–8 with a view to building on the John work as I teach it. I am also most of the way through a commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians. These commentaries are not as technical as the EEC one, and more useful for pastors, etc.

There is also a range of smaller article-length works based on conference papers that I am working on which will come out in due course.


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Hebrews Commentary Q & A with Author David McWilliams

7 Questions on Hebrews in the Lectio Continua Commentary Series

hebrews commentary coverDr. David McWilliams is the Senior Minister at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Lakeland and has served there for over 30 years. He is married to Vicky and they have a son Evan who is a pastor in England.

Dr. McWilliams’ passions are the study of Scriptures, Reformed and Puritan theology, Christ-centered preaching, and shepherding people. He is a graduate of Mercer University (B.A.), of Westminster Theological Seminary (M.A.R., M.Div.) and of the University of Wales (Ph.D.) Formerly, Dr. McWilliams served as Associate Professor of Systematic Theology on the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary in Dallas.

Dr. McWilliams has authored numerous articles published in the Westminster Theological Journal, Modern Reformation, and others. Besides Hebrews in the Lectio Continua Commentary Series, he also wrote Galatians in the Mentor commentary series. Dr. McWilliams also serves on the Board at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Greenville, SC.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Hebrews?

When I taught Systematic Theology on the Westminster faculty, the course in which I most delighted was Christology. Consequently, at many points I interacted with the data of Hebrews’ presentation of the person and work of Christ. Also, I had often meditated upon Hebrews personally and had preached Hebrews to my congregation with, I hope, great blessing.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

I hope that this exposition of Hebrews will benefit all of God’s people at various places in understanding and life. The exposition is essentially sermonic and is intended to instruct and apply Hebrews to all sorts of people and various “cases” in the congregation. The sermons were from my heart to the hearts of my people. The lost among us are not neglected in these sermons.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Hebrews?

I hope that the sermons are faithful to the meaning of the text, have considerable depth but also clarity. Strangely, I have the impression that some may dislike or even despise sermonic expositions, but I hope that those with such prejudices will reconsider. Many Puritan commentaries were sermonic and the printed sermons of Calvin are invaluable both for understanding the meaning of the text and applying it. In fact, we should remember that all of the minister’s theological learning and labor comes together in the chief theological medium of preaching.

In addition, there is much application in this book. I am blessed to have read, and continue to read, very widely in theology and church history. Some of this shows through especially in the illustrative material.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

This is difficult to answer. The high, Christological opening of Hebrews, the chapters that particularly deal in depth with the intercessory work of Christ…but, perhaps the “apostasy” passage of Hebrews 6 was the most challenging and filled my heart with sober reflection. I was humbled and thankful to read the review of my Hebrews exposition in Vox Reformata and appreciated professor William’s high estimate of the book as a whole. However, he singled out the exposition of chapter 6 for special notice. He really understood what I was about and I could not be more thankful for his sympathetic review. Every minister knows the pain and the perplexity that comes when professing Christians show themselves to be other than what they have professed themselves to be.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Steeping in Hebrews’ high Christology and meditating on the infinitely valuable blood of Christ deepens my worship and also leads me to appreciate the intercession of Christ in all its multifaceted and powerful blessing – this penetrates my soul. I sincerely hope that readers will be led to worship as they contemplate this theme.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Hebrews?

I still prefer Philip E. Hughes among the more modern commentaries on Hebrews and the old classic of John Brown of Edinburgh still in print through Banner of Truth.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I recently completed an article on the free offer of the Gospel (Puritan Reformed Journal) and I am working on some small writing projects including an article on an aspect of the thought of Cornelius Van Til. I also have notes for two additional volumes of NT exposition if the Lord is pleased to bring this to fruition.


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Ephesians Commentary Q & A with Author Thomas Winger

7 Questions on Ephesians in the Concordia Commentary Series

ephesians commentary book coverThomas M. Winger is President and Professor at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary (CLTS), St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. He is also a graduate of that institution (MDiv, 1990), after having studied at Concordia College, Ann Arbor, Michigan (BA, 1985), and Westfield House, Cambridge, England. He pursued graduate studies at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri (STM, 1992; ThD, 1997).

Dr. Winger is the author of dozens of articles, many published in Lutheran Theological Review, the (co-)editor of three books, and a contributor to The Lutheran Study Bible. He has written studies for the theological commissions of Lutheran Church–Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE). He was a member of the liturgy committee of Lutheran Service Book, and is currently writing for its Pastor’s Desk Edition. He was pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Catharines, a German-English congregation, for six years before being called as tutor at Westfield House. After seven years of teaching at that theological training house of the ELCE he returned to Canada, and has been a professor at CLTS since 2006 and its president since 2012.

Born in Coventry, England, into an ELCE parsonage, Dr. Winger has lived his life alternately between England and Canada, with some years also in the United States. From the latter he received his dear wife Sara, now a happily naturalized Canadian, with whom he has two children, Anne and Benjamin. Their house is filled with music.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Ephesians?

I had written my MDiv treatise (back in seminary days) on Ephesians four and its teaching on the pastoral ministry. The biblical roots of the ministry has long been a research interest. I also have been involved in a number of liturgical projects, including the hymnal Lutheran Service Book (2006). Ephesians is notable for its liturgical style, which peaked my interest. Along the way I wrote the study notes on Ephesians for The Lutheran Study Bible (2009).

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The Concordia Commentary series aims at the well-educated pastor who has some skill with Greek and Hebrew. My volume in particular aims to be pretty thorough in the textual notes. However, the “Commentary” section doesn’t require any knowledge of Greek/Hebrew for the reader to benefit. I have heard from many lay people who have found it enriching. The theological perspective is best described as “Evangelical Catholic”, which is a good way to understand traditional Lutherans.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Ephesians?

In the preface I suggest three ways in which my commentary is distinctive. Firstly, it affirms the traditional view that Paul wrote the letter while also rejecting circular letter theories and arguing that it was genuinely written to the church at Ephesus. This perspective led me to investigate what Acts teaches about Paul’s ministry in Ephesus in order to understand the content of the letter he wrote to them. Secondly, I discern and develop a number of important themes: Baptism as the overarching motif; the unity of the Church in Christ and the Church as His body; a liturgical and sacramental flavour, coupled with a focus on the office of the ministry; and an emphasis on spiritual warfare, including the opposition between idolatry and true worship. Thirdly, flowing from my doctoral research into the oral character of Paul’s epistles, the commentary pays close attention to the letter as an act of proclamation of Law and Gospel within the context of the Christian divine service. It also draws upon classical rhetorical analysis to uncover Paul’s strategies of argumentation and persuasion. Put in churchly terms, it seeks to discern the Christian rhetoric that characterises the letter as sermon.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Paul’s treatment of holy marriage (5:21-33) was at the same time the most difficult and the most rewarding. It goes without saying that the biblical view of marriage is counter-cultural today. I would argue that it was always so—Paul isn’t simply old-fashioned or patriarchal, but reads marriage in light of its divine institution. The challenge is to discern how God’s order in marriage can be beneficial to us both in terms of Law and Gospel. We can have “better” relationships when we listen to how God created us and designed our families. But more importantly, I learnt how much Paul wants us to be drawn closer to Christ through the picture of the Gospel that marriage offers, that God in fact designed marriage from the very start to proclaim Christ and the Church. It is the section of the commentary that has been most appreciated by readers.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

The great gift of being compelled to spend thousands of hours in deep study and contemplation of God’s Word is something for which I am grateful. It’s hard work, but spiritually uplifting at the same time. Perhaps to pick up on a small detail, my understanding of what it means to be “in Christ”—a favourite expression of Paul in this letter—was enriched. For Paul what’s important is not so much that Christ is in me as that I am in Him, that by being baptised into Him I share in His intimate relationship with God the Father and join Him in all the blessings of the heavenly places.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Ephesians?

I have always appreciated Andrew Lincoln’s commentary (Word) for its careful attention to detail and sound judgement, even though I would disagree in his sceptical assessment of Pauline authorship. Late in the game I found Clinton Arnold’s Power and Magic to be enormously helpful in understanding the focus on spiritual warfare in Ephesians. For those who can read German, Heinrich Schlier’s commentary is theologically inciteful. But mostly I would urge people to read the Greek text of Ephesians closely and learn to understand it in light of the rest of Scripture, which is its best interpreter.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

Since the commentary was published I have been regularly presenting on Ephesians, mostly pastors’ conferences, but also lay-oriented Bible studies. As a full-time seminary professor and administrator I keep very busy, but I continue to devote time to research and writing. I recently published Lutheranism 101: Worship (Concordia Publishing House, 2017), and continue to write for the pastor’s desk edition of Lutheran Service Book, due to be published in a year or two.


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Romans Commentary Q & A with Author J.V. Fesko

7 Question on Romans in the Lectio Continua Commentary Series

romans commentary book cover

J. V. Fesko graduated from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, UK, with an earned Ph.D. in theology. Dr. Fesko’s interests include systematic theology, applied soteriology (union with Christ, justification and sanctification, and the ordo salutis), sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Reformed dogmatics, as well as the integration of biblical and systematic theology. He was the pastor of Geneva Orthodox Presbyterian church from 1998 to 2009. He is now presently the Academic Dean and Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California. He is also an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Fesko’s publications include, Death in Adam, Life in Christ, Spirit of the Age, The Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption, The Covenant of Redemption, The Theology of the Westminster Standards, Songs of a Suffering King, and Beyond Calvin: Union with Christ and Justification in Early Modern Reformed Theology. His scholarly essays have appeared in various books and journals including Perichoresis, Reformed Theological Review, Journal of Reformed Theology, Church History and Religious Culture, Calvin Theological Journal, Trinity Journal, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Westminster Theological Journal.

Dr. Fesko and his wife, Anneke, have three children and reside in Escondido.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Romans?

From the earliest days of my seminary studies I’ve always had a great interest in Romans. For many Christians throughout the ages, the book has been a key point of interest and I was no different. Early in my pastorate I decided I wanted to preach through the book because I wanted to have a better understanding of Paul’s most famous letter. If John Calvin said it was the key to unlocking all of Scripture, then I figured it’d be a good place to start with my own pulpit ministry.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The series editors have intended this commentary for the person in the pew and for pastors who are preparing sermons, as they have shaped the series to be richly exegetical, intensely theological, and imminently practical. Since the series is expositional, however, I believe that any person regardless of their level of theological education can profit from the book.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Romans?

This commentary was forged on the anvil of the pulpit and thus strives to make Paul’s deep and rich truths accessible to the average person. Since the commentary series is dedicated to homiletical exposition, I hope that it contributes to the very growing body of Romans commentaries by modeling exegetical fidelity, theological depth, and pastoral applicability.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

There are many passages that come to mind, but for me Paul’s words about God’s justification of “ungodly” Abraham have a special place in my heart and mind. Romans 4 gives me hope for my own standing before the divine bar.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Any time I pick up one of Paul’s letters he constantly reminds me about the wedding of theology and piety. The distinction between the gospel indicatives (who we are in Christ), which stand out prominently in Romans 1-11 have an unbreakable link with the gospel imperatives (how we are to live) in Romans 12-16. The gospel of Christ leads Christians to live holy and consecrated lives. I pray that in my own life, my own study of Romans has fueled my zeal and devotion to Christ so that I revel in the indicatives and live out the imperatives with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Romans?

There are three that stand out, Robert Haldane’s Romans, Charles Hodge’s Romans, and Douglas Moo’s commentary on Romans in the New International Commentary on the New Testament series by Eerdmans. All three are good in their own ways. Another commentary that I’m looking forward to seeing in a second revised edition is Tom Schreiner’s Romans in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

Right now I’m working on completing a doctrinal book on the covenant of works (the original relationship between God and Adam in the pre-fall world) as a part of a three-volume covenant theology. I also have a few other projects in various stages of completion. Your readers can follow my work and ministry through my personal website, www.jvfesko.com, where I provide updates on my labors.


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1-2 Chronicles Commentary Q & A with Author Andrew Hill

7 Questions on 1-2 Chronicles in the NIVAC Commentary Series

chronicles commentary book cover

Andrew E. Hill is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of the Malachi volume in the Anchor Bible Commentary series, coauthor of A Survey of the Old Testament and the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary on the Minor Prophets, and coeditor of The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Psalms?

The Persian period of Hebrew history is one area of interest for my OT studies. I also teach the Biblical Foundations of Worship course at the Webber Institute for Worship Studies. The books of Chronicles feature prayer and worship in the retelling Judahite kingship.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The NIVAC commentary series is designed for a broad-based audience, pastors, teachers, students, curious laity.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of 1 and 2 Chronicles?

The NIVAC is unique in its emphasis on contemporary application. This contribution is a bit different than other commentaries on 1-2 Chronicles in that I have intentionally tried to make application with the liberal arts disciplines in mind, since I teach in that context. The commentary also connects worship studies to the books of Chronicles.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

I enjoyed writing about King David as a worshiper, and a worship leader. In part, because of the interest one of our sons has in the character of King David. I was also prompted to develop the topics by the work of former students who wrote thoughtful papers on the subject of King David and worship (appropriately credited in the commentary).

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

The emphasis on prayer in Chronicles was and is personally edifying.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on 1 and 2 Chronicles?

Those looking for help in understanding the message and theology of Chronicles will benefit from the commentaries by Martin Selman, 1 and 2 Chronicles in the TOTC series; J. G. McConville, I & II Chronicles in the Daily Study Bible Series and Mark Boda, 1-2 Chronicles in the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I am currently researching and writing a theological commentary on Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther for the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation commentary series published by Broadman & Holman.


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