Question and Answer with Andrew Hill on 1 and 2 Chronicles

Learn more about 1 and Chronicles in the NIV Application Commentary Series

NIVAC application chronciles

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.


Link: Get Dr. Hill’s commentary on 1 and 2 Chronicles on Amazon


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Question and Answer with Willem VanGemeren on Psalms

Learn more about Psalms in the Revised Expositor’s Bible Commentary Series

vangemeren psalms

Dr. VanGemeren (Ph.D, University of Wisconsin) taught at Geneva College and Reformed Theological Seminary for eighteen years. He has taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School since 1992. He is now Professor Emeritus of Old Testament and Semitic Languages (TEDS) and Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Theology at Chongshin University (Seoul). Dr. VanGemeren is the author of a number of books.

Dr. VanGemeren was born in the Netherlands and immigrated to the U.S. for further education to serve the Lord. His studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem confirmed his interest to specialize in the Hebrew Old Testament.

Dr. VanGemeren’s areas of expertise include Old Testament theology, poetical and prophetical books, and the books of Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah. He has served as director of the PhD (Theological Studies) in the past.

Dr. VanGemeren’s publications include contributions to such works as The Bible Almanac, Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Baker’s Encyclopedia of the Bible, Continuity and Discontinuity, and Layman’s Bible Handbook. More of Dr. VanGameren’s published books are mentioned in the interview below.

Dr. VanGemeren and his wife Evona have three married daughters and seven grandchildren, and find it to be a joy to be living close to two of their grandchildren and to watch their development.

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

I had written The Progress of Redemption (Zondervan/Baker) and was completing Interpreting the Prophetic Word (Zondervan), when Zondervan approached me with an invitation to write a commentary on the Psalms for the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC) series. I had been greatly stimulated by the work of Brevard S. Childs. He had argued for a more holistic approach to reading the Old Testament as Scripture in Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture of the Church (1979). About the same time James Kugel had opened the door to a literary approach to biblical poetry inThe Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and its History (1981). By the time of the publication of the revised commentary in the REBC, I gained a clearer vision of the shaping of the book of Psalms and had benefited from the more recent studies by Robert Alter (The Art of Biblical Poetry, 1985) and of Adele Berlin (The Dynamics of Biblical Parallelism1985). I have written about these developments in “Entering the Textual World of the Psalms: Literary Analysis” (in The Psalms: Language for all Seasons of the Soul, ed. Andrew J. Schmutzer & David M. Howard, Jr. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2013, 29-48). Further, I was going through a period of eucatastrophe during which I experienced what John Calvin describes as a search for the knowledge of myself (who am I?) as I came to know God better. This period of spiritual wrestling was not unlike that experienced by Martin Luther and John Calvin, as they, too, found themselves in the book of Psalms (see Willem A. VanGemeren, “The Reformation and the Appropriation of Scripture: Dwelling in the Psalms.” Plenary Address Korean Evangelical Theological Society. November 11, 2017).

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

The commentary is written for the Church and has benefited many. More technical textual questions are treated in notes, but the issues raised by form criticism are intentionally sidelined. That my original concern was with the life of the Church was expressed in the Introduction to the commentary, (The Psalter is) God’s prescription for a complacent church. It reveals how great, wonderful, magnificent, wise, and utterly awe-inspiring he is. If God’s people before the incarnation could have such faith in the Lord … how much more should this be true among twenty-first century Christians! The book of Psalms can revolutionize our devotional life, our family patterns, and the fellowship and witness of the church of Jesus Christ.

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

The EBC and its revision (REBC) were intentionally written for the Church. Originally Zondervan had restricted me to about 500 pages. When first published it was about 900 pages and when revised, it was well over 1000 pages. The commentary reflects my personal growth in Scripture, hermeneutics, and in interpretation.

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

I was taken by the movement from lament to praise, see especially Psalms 146-150. More recently, I was privileged to develop this in “God’s Faithfulness, Human Suffering, and the Concluding Hallel Psalms (146-150): A Canonical Study” (Building on the Foundations of Evangelical Theology: Essays in Honor of John S. Feinberg, Gregg R. Allison and Stephen J. Wellum [eds.], Wheaton: Crossway, 2015, 263-84).

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

The recognition of the depth of human depravity as David and other writers wrestle with their guilt before God, express their ultimate trust in him, grow in grace and wisdom, and rest in the promise of God’s ultimate fidelity.

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

Of the “Best Bible Commentaries on the Psalms” I particularly recommend the NICOT commentary, the Word Bible Commentary, the commentaries by C. Hassell Bullock, John Goldingay, Allen P. Ross, and Gerald H. Wilson, and, for those who want to probe deeper, the more technical Hermeneia commentaries by Frank-Lothar and Erich Zenger.

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

After my retirement from TEDS (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) in 2015, I have given myself more fully to a global ministry of teaching and preaching: the TEDS’ Korean DMin program (Seoul, SKorea), the Chongshin University and Theological Seminary (Seoul, SKorea), and in churches, schools, and seminaries in Brazil, Greece, Lithuania, the Netherlands, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, the USA, and wherever God calls me.

I regularly write articles on theological and exegetical topics and have begun writing a volume on seeking the face of God.

My wife (Evona) and I live on a farmette in central Illinois where we tend to many gardens and enjoy meeting with friends, family, and former students.

I suppose that the occasional updates to the Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willem_A._VanGemeren) will inform people as to my activities past and present.


Link: Get Dr. VanGemeren’s commentary on Psalms on Amazon


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Question and Answer with John Kitchen on Philippians

Learn more about Philippians in the Kress Biblical Resources Series

philippians pastors

John 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 1897-2001.

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 Philippians for Pastors, he has written Colossians and Philemon for Pastors, The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors, and Proverbs in the Mentor Commentary series. 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 Philippians

Philippians for Pastors is the third volume in my “… for Pastors” New Testament commentary series (along with The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors and Colossians and Philemon for Pastors) with Kress Biblical Resources (Kress Biblical). I have also written the volume on Proverbs in the Mentor Commentary series with Christian Focus Publications. The work on these was a big part of my ongoing desire to produce quality Bible commentaries that specifically aid serious students of the Bible who have a ministry bent. Philippians, specifically, was a passion because I am profoundly moved by the history-changing events set in motion when Paul and his band crossed the narrow neck of water that separated Asia Minor from what would come to be known as the European landmass. When they entered the city of Philippi my own salvation-story as well as the history of western civilization was involved. The story of the advance of the Gospel into Philippi is a part of my story.

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

As the title indicates this entire series of commentaries are written “. . . for Pastors,” but I often quickly add, “They aren’t just for pastors!” The target audience is all serious students of the Bible who have a heart of ministry. Sadly, it seems not all students of the Bible have a disposition toward ministry and not all who have a ministry bent are serious students of the Bible. It is my hope to engage the former through serious study of the text of Scripture and then to direct their minds toward application in the context of ministry and to urge the latter to ground their commitment to ministry in the text of Scripture itself.

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

This volume, like the others in the series, contains several unique features. I’ve designed each volume in the series to serve as a commentary, counselor, and coach.

As a commentary Philippians for Pastors provides a wealth of exegetical information regarding the text of this NT epistle. I suggest readers engage the commentary with a Greek (or Interlinear Greek/English) New Testament open to the passage and follow the development of the passage. This, I trust, will aid in personally understanding God’s Word, in preaching and teaching these texts, and in explaining the meaning of these Scriptures to the people to whom we minister.

In the midst of commentary on every verse of Philippians is included a call out box called a “Ministry Maxim.” They are designed to counsel the reader in further application of the truth found in that particular verse. These are pithy, pointedly stated principles of ministry which arise from or are suggested by the verse where they are found. Each is stated in such a way as to distill the wisdom of the given Scripture into a pointed—and sometimes provocative—statement of principle which applies in ministry contexts of all cultures and at all times. They are stated in thought-provoking ways in order to stimulate one’s mind and rouse one to interaction with the truth.

This volume serves also as a ministry coach in that it never allows you to leave a section of Scripture without stopping to ponder how its truth applies to your life and ministry. It provides bridges of application from the truths found in the text of Scripture to the work of ministry. You will find these “Digging Deeper” questions dispersed throughout the text of the commentary. My hope is that these stimulate reflection on how the truths of Philippians apply to life and local church ministry.

In addition I have provided several appendices that I believe are helpful to faithful students of Scripture devoted to ministry. One appendix provides a detailed exegetical outline as well as examples of preaching outlines for preaching Philippians in one sermon, in a shorter series of nine sermons, and in a longer series of eighteen sermons.

Other appendices include a topical guide to all the Ministry Maxims, another includes several charts that may prove helpful as teaching aids, and another provides an extensive annotated bibliography of over 85 commentaries on Philippians.

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

The entire letter to the Philippians is so rich, but I would have to say that the study of 3:7-14 was particularly enriching for me. Paul’s example of utter abandonment to knowing Christ and the passion with which he shares it is a powerful call to us all in our pursuit of Christ. The determination to lose all else if only he may know Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings reminds me of the core of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

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

I was most edified by the daily-ness of the careful study of the Greek text of Philippians over an extended period of time. Every day immersing myself in Paul’s words brought the light of truth to shine upon my own life. For me, writing a commentary is first about my own encounter with Christ in His Word and secondarily about producing a written document for the benefit of others. Others can only be helped by my writing if I have first met Christ in the process of the study and production of the commentary. I write because it is a key way in which God makes my soul to thrive. By that I mean simply that God uses all of the study and careful preparation of the books as a primary means of ministering to my own heart. I wrote like this before there was any thought that someone might publish the commentaries. Study of God’s Word and writing about what God shows me there is a primary way in which I express and grow my love for Christ.

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

I provide an appendix in the back of the book which contains my annotations regarding over 85 commentaries on the book of Philippians. There I note that as I prepare to preach a book of the New Testament I seek several commentaries that work closely and carefully with the Greek text, engage in technical discussions and provide in depth insights into the original text. I then look for two or three commentaries that are more exegetical or theological in nature. Finally, I want one or two that are more expositional or homiletical in character. After my own exegetical work, I work through the commentaries in that order. Those in the first category help me with analysis (taking the pieces apart). Those in the second category assist in the transition from analysis to synthesis (putting the pieces back together). Those in the last category help me move from text to message.

To that end, after reviewing them all, I recommend (in addition to my own volume!):

Technical Commentaries:

Joseph H. Hellerman: Philippians (EGGNT)

Gerald F. Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin: Philippians (WBC)

Theological/exegetical Commentaries:

Matthew Harmon: Philippians: A Mentor Commentary

Gordon D. Fee: Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (NIC)

Walter G. Hansen: The Letter to the Philippians (Pillar NT Commentary)

Expositional Commentaries:

Tony Merida and Francis Chan: Exalting God in Philippians (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary)

A.T. Robertson: Paul’s Joy in Christ

R. Kent Hughes: Philippians: The Fellowship of the Gospel (Preaching the Word)

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

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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What was the nature of the star that appeared at Jesus’ birth? Read 30 Views from Classic and Modern Commentaries

Was the star that appeared at Jesus’ birth natural or supernatural? Was it a star or some other phenomenon?

star Jesus birthAccording to the Gospel of Matthew, a star appeared in the night sky when Jesus was born. Was it an actual star? If so, how did it move? Was it a visible manifestation of God’s glory or an angel? If so, why does Matthew called it a star? Was there a cosmic event at the time, like an unusual alignment of heavenly bodies? Is the appearance of a star rooted in Greek and Roman mythology? Is it rooted in the Old Testament? For hundreds of years, commentary authors have wrestled with questions like these when reflecting on Jesus’ birth story in Matthew 2.

Below you will find commentary authors, past and present, reflecting on the nature of the star. Some are sure of their position, while others offer a best guess. Some write pages on the phenomenon (though only snippets are quoted below), while others write a single sentence. How will you weigh the evidence? What will you think about the nature of the star?

Verses in Mathew that Mention the Star

Matthew 2:2 in popular English Bible translations:

ESV: “saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'”

NIV: “and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'”

NASB: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

KJV: “Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”

NLT: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

Matthew 2:9-10 in popular English Bible translations:

ESV: “After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”

NIV: “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.”

NASB: “After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”

KJV: “When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”

NLT: “After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!”



The View from 30 Different Commentaries

1. David L. Turner | Matthew | Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament | Baker Academic


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2:2: “Modern readers wonder whether the rising of the star may be explained scientifically as a comet, a planetary conjunction, or a supernova providentially arranged by God. Whether or not modern explanations have merit or not, Matthew would evidently view the occurrence as a miracle.” p. 80

2:9-10: “As they go, the star they originally saw unexpectedly reappears and miraculously leads them to the vicinity of Jesus, perhaps to his exact location This astral guarantee of God’s guidance exhilarates the magi. Whatever the merit of positing a providential basis for what the magi saw earlier (2:1), no comet, supernova, or planetary conjunction would exhibit the phenomena observed here by the magi.” p. 85



2. R.T. France | The Gospel of Matthew | The New International Commentary on the New Testament | Eerdmans


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On 2:2: “Despite the fascination with astronomical explanations, it may in the end be more appropriate to interpret Matt. 2:9 as describing not a regular astronomical occurrence but the miraculous provision of what appeared to be a star which uniquely moved and then stopped (or at least which appeared to observers on the ground to do so), though of course there is no improbability in a natural astronomical phenomenon being the basis on which the magi made their initial deductions and set off on their journey.” p. 69

On 2:9-10: “[The Magi] already knew from Herod that Bethlehem (a mere five or six miles from Jerusalem) was their destination, so that they did not need the star to tell them that; their extravagantly expressed joy is hard to explain unless the star somehow indicated the actual house rather than just the village as a whole. It seems, then, that the star’s movement gave them the final supernatural direction they needed to the specific house ‘where the child was.'” p. 74



3. Robert Mounce | Matthew | Understanding the Bible Commentary Series | Baker Books


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2:2: “The journey from the East was prompted by a remarkable phenomenon that they had seen in the heavens. It may have been the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in the spring of 7 B.C. We know that ancient astronomers were able to calculate the orbits of planets years in advance.” p. 13

2:9-10: “The star is said to go ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was (v. 9). This has been taken either as a miraculous movement of the star leading them to the very house where the baby Jesus was (no problem for ancients; a star is said to have led Aeneas to the spot where Rome was founded; Virgil, Aeneid 2.69ff.) or as no more than a way of saying that what they had seen in the heavens ‘led’ them to find the newborn Messiah (cf. Plummer, p. 12).” p.15



4. Donald A. Hagner | Matthew 1-13 | Word Biblical Commentary | Zondervan


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2:2: “Although we cannot be certain, it may well be that in ton astera, ‘the star,’ we are to understand a ‘natural’ astronomical phenomena such as a conjunction of planets (Jupiter and Saturn, for example, came in line in 7-6 B.C. in the constellation Pisces…a comet (Halley’s passed in 12-11 B.C.), or a supernova (i.e. an exploding star). In this phenomena, whatever it was, the magi-astrologers perceived the sign of the fulfillment of the Jewish eschatological expectation concerning the coming king and so would have set off on their journey toward Jerusalem.” p. 27

2:9-10: “This verse makes difficult the explanation of the star as a strictly ‘natural’ astronomical phenomenon. If the ‘natural’ explanation of the star is accepted nevertheless, the the present tense…must be understood either as a touch of romantic myth growing out of the historical kernel or else as referring to something actually experienced by the magi and interpreted in terms of the leitmotif of the star that first ‘led’ them from the east to Jerusalem. The real point is that by divine guidance they are able to complete their quest and find the child.” p. 30



5. W.D. Davies and Dale C. Allison Jr. | Matthew 1-7 | International Critical Commentary | T & T Clark


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2:2: “The story of the star and of the magi from the east seeking a king would not have been foreign to the ancients…the association of astronomical phenomena with the appearance of a new king was common.” p. 23-24

2:9-10: “This raises difficult questions. Why would one need supernatural guidance to make the six-mile trek from the capital to Bethlehem? And how could a heavenly light be said to go ahead of people, or stand over a precise place, seemingly a particular house? It seems likely enough that Matthew, like so many commentators before Renaissance astronomy, understood the star to be animate and so an angel. Certainly modern attempts to identify it with a planetary conjunction, comet, or supernova are futile. The Protoebangelium of James (21.3), Ephrem the Syrian, and Chrysostom all rightly recognize that the so-called star does not stay on high but moves as a guide and indeed comes to rest very near the infant Jesus.” p. 26



6. John Nolland | The Gospel of Matthew | New International Greek Testament Commentary | Eerdmans


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2:2: “The identity of the ‘star’ has been extensively debated. The main options which have been canvassed may be divided between those which look for a natural astronomical explanation (the conjunctions of planets, a comet, or a supernova) and those which look to a miraculous event (a new star in the heavens, a wandering ‘star.'” p. 110

2:9-10: “In the preesnt form of the story, the Magi clearly do not need the star to direct them to Bethlehem, so its necessary role is reduced to identifying the place of residence of the child. Nonetheless, the star appears to take up its guiding role already at the point of departure from Jerusalem. In an originally separate Magi story it is likely that the star is needed already to identify Bethlehem as the goal of the journey because the Magi fail to get direction from Jerusalem. The exceeding joy of the Magi at the reappearance of the star is better motivated in relation to a quest which has otherwise dead-ended in Jerusalem than (as in the present form) in relation to the relatively straightfoward task of finding the right home in the small village of Bethlehem.” p. 116 (footnote)



7. Daniel M. Doriani | Matthew | Reformed Expository Commentary | P & R Publishing


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2:2, 9-10: “One theory surmises that the star was an exploding supernova that slowly traversed the sky. If so, that tells us something both about the Magi and about God. The Magi studied the heavens in a day when the boundary between astronomy and astrology vague.The Bible forbids astrology…yet God reverses field and chooses to speak to stargazers through a star.” p. 28



8. Stanley Hauerwas | Matthew | Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible | Brazos Press


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2:2, 9-10: “The cosmic signs heralding this birth should not be surprising, given that the love born in this humble place is the love that moves the sun and the stars…the star stops over the place where Jesus is born, paying homage to the child and eliciting from the wise men overwhelming joy.” p. 40-41



9. Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (editors) | Moody Bible Commentary | Moody Publishers


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2:2, 9-10: “What was this star? Jupiter and Saturn were aligned in Pisces in 7 BC, but such planetary alignments were never called ‘stars.’ Halley’s Comet was visible in 12 BC but this is certainly too early. That this star appeared (2:7) suggests it had not been documented previously, and 2;9 implies that this star moved around, supporting a supernatural origin, and may parallel the pillar of fire that led the Hebrews in the wilderness.” p. 1457



10. D.A. Carson | Matthew | Revised Expositor’s Bible Commentary | Zondervan


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2:2: “The Magi saw a star ‘when it rose.’ What they saw remains uncertain”…Matthew uses language almost certainly alluding to Numbers 24:17, ‘A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel’…both Matthew and Numbers deal with the king of Israel (cf. Num. 24:7), though Matthew does not resort to the uncontrolled allegorizing on ‘star’ frequently found in the early postapostolic Christian writings….Matthew neither condemns nor sanctions [astrology]; instead, he contrasts the eagerness of the Magi to worship Jesus, despite their limited knowledge, with the apathy of the Jewish leaders and the hostility of Herod’s court – all of whom had the Scriptures to inform them.” p. 85-86

2:9-10: “The Greek text does not imply that the star pointed out the house where Jesus was; it may simply have hovered over Bethlehem as the Magi approached it. They would then have found the exact house through discret inquiry since (Luke 2:17-18) the shepherds who came to worship the newborn Jesus did not keep silent about what they saw.” p. 88



11. Grant Osborne | MatthewZondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament | Zondervan


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2:2: “The ‘star’ has been variously explained with reference to natural phenomena, but the most likely is a supernatural event, possibly similar to the pillar of fire in Exodus (that moved before the Israelites). Actually both may be true; since the Magi were astrologers, they may well have been originally brought to Jerusalem by astrological phenomena and then were guided supernaturally to Bethlehem and the house.” P. 87

2:9-10: “It must have been a supernatural manifestation, for it not only ‘went before’ them but also stopped and ‘stood’ above the home in which Jesus was staying.” P. 90



12. Craig S. Keener | Matthew | The IVP New Testament Commentary Series | IVP Academic


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2:2: “Magi were Persian astrologers, and that they would respond to celestial phenomena in the manner in which the text depicts is not implausible…yet even supernatural guidance like that of the star can take the astrologers only so far; for more specific direction, they must ask the leaders in Jerusalem where the king was to be born (2:2).”

2:9-10: “Possibly the moving star in Matthew alludes to the pillar of cloud guiding Israel in the wilderness, suggesting that however the astrologers viewed the star, God used it in a manner reminiscent of Israel’s salvation history.”



13. G.J. Wenham, J.A. Motyer, D.A. Carson, and R.T. France (editors) | New Bible Commentary | IVP Academic


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“[The magi’s] insights were derived from sophisticated astronomical observation combined with the sort of ‘interpretation’ which present-day horoscopes provide. By such calculations made in the east (probably mesopotamia, mod. Iraq) they had conluded that an important royal birth had taken place in Palestine, which called for a ‘state visit.’ Matthew clearly sees this as an acceptable Gentile response to genuine revelation, despite dubious means…the star probably echoes Balaam’s prophcy of a star…out of Jacob’ (Nu. 24:7).” p. 908-909



14. R.C. Sproul | Matthew | St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary | Crossway


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2:2, “Perhaps no text has been subjected to more speculation than the description of the star that led these men from the East…I think it would be very difficult to follow the tail of a comet, or even an inordinately bright conjunction of two planets, to Jerusalem and then from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. I suspect that this is another account of a miracluous work of God to guide me to their proper place.” p. 29



15. Michael Green | The Message of Matthew | Bible Speaks Today | IVP Academic


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“But the most probable suggestion is that it was not one new star so much as the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the area of the sky known as Pisces…so this conjunction of planets, giving the impression of one very bright star, would have meant to the competent astonomer that a new age was beginning, in which the sovereignty of the world would shift to Judea. Jerusalem was the capital city of Judea, and it is natural that the Magi should have gone there first.” p. 69



16. Knox Chamblin | Matthew 1-13 | A Mentor Commentary | Mentor


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2:2, 9-10″Yet Matthew, speaking as he does of only one heavenly body, offers no hint of a planetary conjunction…I conclude that the ‘star’ is a miracous and mysterious phenomenon whose precise identity cannot be ascertained. Yet, its purpose is clear: God provides it to herald the birth of his Son, and to bring into his presence those persons intent upon honoring him.” p. 218-219



17. John MacArthur | Matthew 1-7 | The MacArthur New Testament Commentary | Moody Publishers


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2:2, 9-10, “That the star was not a physical heavenly body is again evident from the fact that it was able to stand directly over the house where Jesus and His family now lived – which for obvious reasons could not be possible for an actual star.” p. 35



18. Ulrich Luz | Matthew 1-7 | Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible | Fortress Press


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2:2: “The star is the prime reason that associations with astrology cannot be completely excluded; but Matthew represses it indirectly by not indicating how the Magi recognized the significance of the star. God’s guidance alone is decisive…Matthew is thinking of the widespread idea that each person has his or her star, the important and rich people a bright one, the others an insignificant one which appears at birth and is extinguished at death. The popular astrology of that time is based on this idea. Matthew, however, thinks of the star as a miraculous star.” p. 135

2:9-10: “The Magi travel by night, not because this was generally customary in the Orient, but because this gives the narrator the opportunity to speak anew of the star.” p. 137



19. Frederick Dale Bruner | Matthew 1-12: A Commentary, Volume 1: The Christbook | Eerdmans


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“The Magi story can also teach us a little doctrine of revelation…The star brings us to Jerusalem; only Scripture brings us to Bethlehem. Creation an bring us to the church; the church’s Bible brings us to Christ…I am inclined to think that Matthew is depicting a miraculous star, a ‘Wunderstern,’ that took on a natural star’s form.” p. 59



20. Craig Blomberg | Matthew: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture | New American Commentary | Holman Reference


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2:2: “A new star in the sky was often believed to herald the birth of a significant person in the land over which the star shone. So the Magi’s question is a natural inference from their observation…the NIV margin ‘when it rose’ is perhaps a more likely translation and would explain how the Magi’s attention was called to this new celestial feature.” p. 62-63

2:9-10: “Meanwhile, the star guides them to Bethlehem. This is the first time the star is actually said to move. The text leaves open the question of whether or not it had so moved previously. If it had not, this could explain why the Magi had managed to get only as far as Jerusalem…its motion here seems to require a supernatural event. Various attemps to link the star with different astronomical phenomena, especially for purpose of dating (e.g. a comet, or a conjunction of planets), prove interesting but are probably irrelevant.” p. 65



21. Charles Talbert | Matthew | Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament | Baker Academic


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“Matthew’s story of the star that alerted and guided the wise men from the east would also be an appropriate part of an encomium on Jesus’ birth. The First Evangelist follows the conventional rules for an encomium in Mediterranean antiquity, and in so doing he uses the items honored as part of the Jewish context within which the Gospel was written.” (p. 39)]



22. James Montgomery Boice | The Gospel of Matthew 1-17 | Baker Books


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“More than likely, however, the ‘star’ was a miraculous phenomenon, possibly an appearance of the Shekinah glory that had accompanied the people of Israel in their desert wanderings, signifying God’s presence with them. Only something like the Shekinah could have led the wise men over the desert to Jerusalem, reappeared after their meeting with King Herod, guided them to Bethlehem, and then ‘stopped’ over the place where the child was.” (p. 30)



23. Michael Wilkins | Matthew | The NIV Application Commentary | Zondervan


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“Another plausible suggestion is that the supernatural phenomenon was actually an angel sent to the Magi to announce the birth of Messiah and to guide them to Jesus…good angels are referred to as stars (e.g. Job 38:7; Dan. 8:10, Rev. 1:16…)…[this view] is consistent with the prominent place of the angel of the Lord in the overall infancy narrative.” (p. 96)



24. Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges | public domain | available online

The simplest explanation of this is that a Star or Meteor appeared in the sky to guide the Magi on their way first to Jerusalem, then to Bethlehem. It is, however, quite possible that the Magi were divinely led to connect some calculated phenomenon with the birth of the “King of the Jews.”



25. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible | public domain | available online

2:2: What this star was is not known. There have been many conjectures respecting it, but nothing is revealed concerning it. We are not to suppose that it was what we commonly mean by a star. The stars are vast bodies fixed in the heavens, and it is absurd to suppose that one of them was sent to guide the wise men. It is most probable that it was a luminous appearance, or meteor, such as we now see sometimes shoot from the sky, which the wise men saw, and which directed them to Jerusalem.

2:9-10: “From this it appears that the star was a luminous meteor, perhaps at no great distance from the ground. It is not unlikely that they lost sight of it after they had commenced their journey from the East. It is probable that it appeared to them first in the direction of Jerusalem. They concluded that the expected King had been born, and immediately commenced their journey to Jerusalem. When they arrived there, it was important that they should be directed to the very place where he was, and the star again appeared. It was for this reason that they rejoiced. They felt assured that they were under a heavenly guidance, and would be conducted to the new-born King of the Jews.”



26. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary | public domain | available online

2:2 “Much has been written on the subject of this star; but from all that is here said it is perhaps safest to regard it as simply a luminous meteor, which appeared under special laws and for a special purpose.”

2:9-10: “and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east—implying apparently that it had disappeared in the interval…went before them, and stood over where the young child was—Surely this could hardly be but by a luminous meteor, and not very high.”



27. John Wesley | public domain | available online

2:2: “We have seen his star” – Undoubtedly they had before heard Balaam’s prophecy. And probably when they saw this unusual star, it was revealed to them that this prophecy was fulfilled. In the east – That is, while we were in the east. “Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” – To do him homage – To pay him that honor, by bowing to the earth before him, which the eastern nations used to pay to their monarchs.

2:10: “Seeing the star” – Standing over where the child was.



28. John Calvin | public domain | available online

Were the magi led by their acquaintance with astrology to conclude that it pointed out the birth of Christ? On these points, there is no necessity for angry disputation: but it may be inferred from the words of Matthew, that it was not a natural, but an extraordinary star. It was not agreeable to the order of nature, that it should disappear for a certain period, and afterwards should suddenly become bright; nor that it should pursue a straight course towards Bethlehem, and at length remain stationary above the house where Christ was. Not one of these things belongs to natural stars. It is more probable that it resembled [179] a comet, and was seen, not in the heaven, but in the air. Yet there is no impropriety in Matthew, who uses popular language, calling it incorrectly a star.

This almost decides likewise the second question: for since astrology is undoubtedly confined within the limits of nature, its guidance alone could not have conducted the Magi to Christ; so that they must have been aided by a secret revelation of the Spirit. I do not go so far as to say, that they derived no assistance whatever from the art: but I affirm, that this would have been of no practical advantage, if they had not been aided by a new and extraordinary revelation.



29. Geneva Study Bible | public domain | available online

2:9-10: “When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.”



30. Pulpit Commentary | public domain | available online

2:9-10: “And lo, the star, which they saw in the East. They would, in accordance with Eastern custom, probably travel by night. Observe that the joy they felt at seeing the star (ver. 10) implies that it had not continued visible (ver. 7, note). They had fully used all means; now they receive fresh Divine guidance. In the East (ver. 2, note). Went before them. Continuously ( τροῆγεν); “taking them by the hand and drawing them on” (Chrysostom). Not to show them the way to Bethlehem, for the road was easy, but to assure them of guidance to the Babe, over whose temporary home it stayed. The road to Bethlehem is, and from the nature of the valley must always have been, so nearly straight (until the last half-mile, when there is a sudden turn up the hill) that the star need have moved but slightly. Bethlehem itself is seen soon after passing Mar Elias, a monastery rather more than half-way from Jerusalem (Socin’s ‘Baedeker,’ p. 242). Till it came and stood over where the young Child was. Does the true reading ( ἐστάθη) suggest the unseen hand by which this star was itself guided and stationed (Matthew 27:11)? or is it used with a kind of reflexive force, indicating that it was by no chance that it stood still there – “took its stand” (cf. σταθείς, Luke 18:11, 40; Luke 19:8; Acts 2:14, et al.; cf. also Revelation 8:3; 12:18)?”



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Commentary Authors Interviews (index)

 

Question and Answer With David McWilliams on Galatians

Learn more Galatians in the Mentor Bible Commentary Series

galatians bible commentaryDr. 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 Galatians: A Mentor Commentary and the Hebrews volume for the Lectio Continua 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 Galatians/Hebrews?

The first book that I taught through as a young Bible teacher was Galatians and I have dearly loved it ever since. Early on I learned to read it by sight in my Greek New Testament and have studied commentaries and articles (good and bad) for years. My concerns over defection in the church from the essential and foundational truth of justification by grace through faith in Christ alone also motivated the writing of this commentary.

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

I hope that any serious believer can benefit from my Galatians commentary, but I wrote it especially with the busy pastor in mind. I hope that the commentary can model for the minister of the Word the serious work in which those of us who are pastors should be engaged. The writing of commentaries and other quality theological work should not be left to “professionals” in academic settings, no matter how valuable those contributions may be. Rather, the Minister of the Word is called to be a pastor-theologian. I have always thought that the minister had a real advantage in understanding something of the pastoral heart and circumstances of Paul. Moreover, in the Reformed heritage the very best Reformed comment and theology has been written often in the pastoral setting. This commentary was, at least, an attempt to honor that tradition and those Reformed, pastoral commitments.

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

Allow me to point out one contribution. When Dr. Glen Clary reviewed my commentary, having ‘field tested it’ as he preached to his own congregation, he saw that I had pushed consistently through the commentary an emphasis on the Pauline eschatology (in the Vos – Ridderbos sense of the expression) and was relentless in bringing it to the fore – because it is really there.

Perhaps I should add that I have attempted to open up what Paul said and the text really means with what Calvin called “lucid brevity.”

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

Working on Galatians 3:6-14, “When Curse Turns to Blessing,” was most memorable. Here Paul moves from the plight of sinners to our redemption through Christ’s substitutionary work. Christ became a curse, huper, ‘instead of’ us.

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

In a time in the history of the church in which the ‘standing or falling doctrine of the church’ is denied or radically reinterpreted out of existence, my soul has been thrilled to find, once more, the doctrine of justification by faith clearly taught on the pages of Holy Scripture and particularly in Galatians. In Galatians Paul preached to my heart by the Spirit’s application and Christ was placarded before my very eyes as crucified (3:1-5). I owe everything to Jesus Christ my penal substitute.

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

[J.B.] Lightfoot, John Brown, [F.F.] Bruce, [Leon] Morris and [Herman] Ridderbos to name a few of the best commentaries. Betz must be consulted at every turn.

The insights of J. Gresham Machen in The Origin of Paul’s Religion are helpful, wonderfully so, in understanding the true Paul. The same is true in understanding the inner logic of Paul’s thought when one pursues Vos’ The Pauline Eschatology. The work of Seyoon Kim is remarkable.

The work of Sir William Ramsay was stimulating and is too neglected or forgotten today.

Articles of Lategan, Verseput and a number by C. E. B. Cranfield are helpful.

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.

I much regret that there are a number of editorial mistakes that were not corrected prior to publication. I hope that these can be corrected in the future and but sincerely hope that these will not hinder the reader who pursues the Galatians commentary.


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Question & Answer with Dennis Johnson on the Book of Revelation

Learn more about Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation

revelation bible commentaryDennis E. Johnson (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) was professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary California and associate pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Escondido, California, until his retirement in June 2018.

Dr. Johnson taught at Westminster Seminary California from 1982 to 2018. He previously pastored Orthodox Presbyterian churches in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and East Los Angeles, California. He has served as moderator of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church General Assembly and Presbytery of Southern California, moderator of the South Coast Presbytery in the Presbyterian Church in America, member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church Committee on Christian Education, and Trustee of Covenant College.

Dr. Johnson preached and taught in various countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

He is the author of Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures, The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption, Philippians in the Reformed Expository Commentary series, Let’s Study Acts, and Walking with Jesus through His Word: Discovering Christ in All the Scriptures. He is also coauthor of Counsel from the Cross and editor of and contributor to Heralds of the King: Christ-centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney. He has contributed essays to Theonomy: A Reformed Critique; The Pattern of Sound Doctrine; Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry; Resurrection and Eschatology; and Speaking the Truth in Love. He is a contributor to the Reformation Study Bible and the English Standard Version Study Bible.

Dr. Johnson and his wife, Jane, have four married children and many grandchildren. They now live in Dayton, Tennessee.

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

When I began teaching New Testament at Westminster Seminary California in 1982, I was assigned to offer the required course on the General Epistles and Revelation. I initially approached the course in the form that I had taken it as a student: namely, by devoting the lion’s share (pardon the pun—see Rev 5:5) of the course hours to the epistle to the Hebrews, touching lightly on other General Epistles and even more lightly on the Book of Revelation. Over time, my experience followed that of Moses Stuart in the nineteenth century (see the quote from Stuart’s commentary on page 1 of Triumph), as my students asked for more help in interpreting the challenging visions granted to John on Patmos. I began to reserve more class hours for Revelation year by year. Lecture notes were fleshed out into a 36-page essay for students. Then our seminary bookstore manager encouraged me to polish the essay and submit it to a publisher. By the time I had finished “polishing”, the document had become Triumph of the Lamb, 360+ pages in its published form! Along the way, I had opportunity to preach through most of the Book of Revelation in our local congregation. Preaching Revelation showed me how applicable it is to Christian living, and increased the clarity of my explanations. Incidentally, I proposed the title Window on the War of the Ages; but the P&R Publishing’s editors wisely recommended that we call it Triumph of the Lamb—a title that fits perfectly (Rev 5:5, 9-10). I’m so glad they did!

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

Triumph was written, first of all, for seminary students, to introduce them to an interpretive approach that arises from Revelation itself and that will equip them to preach its message of challenge and hope to God’s people. The intended audience certainly includes pastors who have the desire and responsibility to preach through the whole book (not just the obviously-practical letters to the seven churches in Rev. 2-3) and who are searching for an alternative approach to the eschatological/political speculation that often characterizes Evangelicals’ handling of the Apocalypse today. I have been encouraged to hear from many pastors that, heartened and helped by Triumph, they have preached through Revelation, and their congregations have received the blessing promised in Rev 1:3. Triumph engages the scholarly discussion of Revelation’s genre, structure, and historical-cultural background, so it is of interest to biblical scholars. At the same time, its style is accessible also to lay Christians (who are free to skip the technical stuff in the footnotes).

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

I grew up in an Evangelical church in which Revelation was taught through a “literal-where-possible” hermeneutic formed by Premillennial eschatology. We read Revelation in the light of contemporary news, especially in the Middle East. So my assignment to teach Revelation in seminary forced me to reexamine my assumptions about the structure of the book and the interrelationships among its visions, and about the hermeneutical key that opens up the true meaning of Revelation’s symbols not only to twentieth-century Christians, but also to first-century Christians enduring Roman persecution. What I found as I looked at Revelation closely brought me to an interpretation that, I believe, has two benefits: (1) It is consistent with the “cues” that the text itself gives us, and (2) it displays the pastoral relevance of this book to the daily life of Christians in every generation.

The “cues” include such insights as these: (a) Revelation’s purpose is not to puzzle us, but to reveal. We can expect to get its message, rather than finding ourselves mired in confusion or controversy. (b) The topic of this book is not geopolitical conflict, but Jesus Christ. This is “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1), and he is the central protagonist throughout: Son of Man, triumphant Lion/Lamb, the Lord’s Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords riding to victory. (c) Revelation’s symbols are best understood against the backdrop of Old Testament events and prophetic visions. (d) Revelation’s visions, rather than always portraying historically-successive events, often provide multiple perspectives (different “camera angles”) on the same events (reduplication).

Regarding the book’s pastoral purpose, Revelation is given to bless the church as it is under attack from Satan through persecution, deception, and sensual seduction. King Jesus gives his suffering, struggling people reason to endure and stay pure by showing us that history is in his sovereign hand and he is directing it toward the bliss of the New Heavens and Earth. Pastors need to preach this book—the whole book—because our congregations are under Satan’s attack through the same stratagems. In some places, violent persecution threatens and tries to intimidate the followers of Jesus. Elsewhere, peace seems to prevail for the church in its cultural context. But there the devil’s insidious assaults through false teaching, materialism, and sensual pleasure are even more dangerous, since they are harder to see!

I am grateful that, in God’s always wise providence, I began my Christian life in a context where Revelation was read differently from the way I read it today. I think my “eschatological origins and pilgrimage” help Triumph’s readers to walk along with me toward a more faithful reading of this awesome, vivid book, which God gave for our courage, correction, and comfort.

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

I was struck by the parallel between the visions in Revelation 12 and 20:1-10, and how they mutually interpret each other. In both, Satan appears as the dragon/serpent/devil/Satan (12:9; 20:2). In both, Satan suffers a grave setback but is not yet destroyed: In Revelation 12 the dragon cannot destroy the Messiah (12:4-5) and is expelled from heaven, thwarted from accusing God’s people (12:7-11). In Revelation 20, the dragon is bound, thwarted from continuing to deceive the Gentile nations (20:2-3). As I studied the two visions of Revelation 12, I saw that the setback that Satan suffered was brought about by the incarnation and saving work of Jesus Christ, whose blood gives us victory over our Accuser. I realized that, if Revelation 12 and 20 are complementary “camera angles” on the same historical drama, then the “binding” of the dragon that launched the thousand years occurred at Christ’s first coming—as Jesus said it did (Matt 12:29). Now, since Satan cannot keep the nations in the dark, the gospel is going throughout the world (Acts 14:17; 17:30-31; Eph. 2:1-2, 11-12). Satan’s demise will not arrive until Christ’s glorious return, but in the meanwhile Satan’s binding makes world missions—along with suffering and persecution—not only possible but also fruitful!

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

Revelation’s portraits of Jesus Christ showed me even more vividly two astonishing truths about his death for us on the cross. First, his sacrifice displays the depth of his love for us: “to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood…be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev 1:5-6). I need to be reminded over and over that Christ’s death is the display of his love for me, as the inspired New Testament authors remind us over and over (John 15:13-14; Gal 2:20; Eph 5:2; etc.). Second, his sacrificial death is the “weapon” by which he has triumphed over the Evil One, our Accuser (Rev. 5:1-11). Because his suffering is the focal point of his victory, our suffering too becomes the means of our victory in him: “And they have conquered [the Accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:11). The persecuted church is the triumphant church, because our Champion won the decisive victory for us through the apparent shame, foolishness, and weakness of his cross.

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

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation (NIGTC) (Eerdmans, 1999)

Richard D. Phillips, Revelation (REC) (P&R, 2017)

Michael Wilcock, I Saw Heaven Opened: The Message of Revelation (The Bible Speaks Today) (IVP, 1975)

William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation (Baker, 1939, 1975)

Vern S. Poythress, The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation (P&R, 2000)

Scotty Smith and Michael Card, Unveiled Hope: Eternal Encouragement from the Book of Revelation (Thomas Nelson, 1997)

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

Journeys with Jesus: Every Path in Scripture Leads Us to Christ (P&R) an abridgement of Walking with Jesus through His Word; Discovering Christ in All the Scriptures (P&R, 2015), came out earlier this year (2018).

Volume 12 of the ESV Expository Commentary, containing my commentary on Hebrews was recently published (Crossway, July 2018).

I recently submitted introduction and notes on Philippians for the Grace and Truth Study Bible (forthcoming from Zondervan)—Al Mohler is general editor.

My next project may be an introduction to Biblical Theology (redemptive-historical hermeneutics)


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Question and Answer with David Strain on Esther and Ruth

Learn more about Ruth and Esther in the Focus on the Bible Commentary Series

ruth esther bible commentaryDr. David Strain was born in Glasgow, Scotland.

He holds degrees from Duncan Jordanstone College of Art, Trinity College Glasgow/School of Divinity, the Free Church of Scotland College in Edinburgh, and Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson.

He was ordained to the gospel ministry in the Free Church of Scotland in September 2003, and has held pastoral charges in London, England, and Columbus, MS.

Since May 2013, David has served on the pastoral staff of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson and was installed as Senior Minister in May 2014. He was awarded a Doctor of Ministry degree from Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson) in 2016.

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

The commentaries on Ruth and Esther both grew out of a deep love for Old Testament narrative, and began life as several series of sermons preached in two different congregations. Suffice it to say, the emphasis in both books on the covenant faithfulness of God and his sovereign providence has been a piece of profound comfort to me, and I trust, some help to those who first listened to much of the material that made its way into this volume.

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

In keeping with the ethos of the Focus on the Bible series in general, this commentary is aimed at the lay reader. There is a concern throughout to connect the narrative to the broader themes of redemptive history, and to lead the reader by safe paths to Jesus Christ crucified. The applicatory character of the material is undoubtedly popular and devotional rather than scholarly, though I hope that it will be precisely here that preachers will find it useful in their preparations for the pulpit.

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

I have tried to model Christ centered exposition, helping connect the already vivid, though sometimes quite alien, Old Testament narrative to the gospel. Many academic commentaries are invested in the study of philology and the various disciplines of biblical criticism. One sometime wonders if, in order to be credible as a scholar one must refrain from reading the Old Testament as Christian scripture, clearly pointing us to and teaching us about Christ and the salvation he has won. I contend that this is the only way for a Christian to read it faithfully.

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

Its very hard to single out a single passage in either Ruth or Esther, partly because they are both such brilliantly written works of literature. The story is a unit. Having said that the obvious absence of the name of God in Esther is a challenge, as are some of the obscure customs Ruth (like the fascinating scene in 4:7f. at the city gate where Boaz and Mr. So and So agree that Boaz should marry Ruth. The man takes off his sandal and gives it to Boaz. What Boaz was supposed to do with it, or how Mr So and So was supposed to get home after that, I don’t know.) One important note to sound in writing is to capture something of the humor and the pace of the narrative. In both there are laugh-out-loud-funny moments when sin is shown to be self defeating, or when the machinations of a scheming mother-in-law are unmasked. The text is meant to evoke joy and make us delight in the wise and good providence of God. We should finish reading Ruth and Esther with a broad smile on our faces. I didn’t want to write a commentary that left the reader frowning.

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

To see in both the marvelous wisdom of God who works in both the macro and the micro levels of life for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose!

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

Daniel Block, Judges and Ruth, NAC, (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 1999), Robert L. Hubbard, The Book of Ruth, NICOT, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 1988), Iain Duguid, Esther and Ruth, REC (Phillipsburg, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed, 2005) Karen Jobes, Esther, NIVAC, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999).

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

Please visit David Strain’s staff page at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi. You can listen to his sermons here and read his articles here.

Follow David Strain on Twitter here.



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Question and Answer with Daniel Smith-Christopher on Micah

Learn more about Micah in the Old Testament Library Commentary Series

micah bible commentaryDaniel Smith-Christopher (Ph.D., Oxford University) is Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University with specialization in Old Testament Studies and Theology.

Besides Micah in the Old Testament Library series, Dr. Smith-Christopher’s recent publications include, The Religion of the Landless: The Social Context of the Babylonian Exile, The Old Testament: Our Call to Faith and Justice, and Sacred Scripture: A Catholic Study of God’s Word.

Dr. Smith-Christopher lectures frequently for various adult education venues of the Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Uniting Church in Australia, and other Christian churches.

He is frequently quoted in the History Channel’s Mysteries of the Bible and other documentaries on religious themes for A&E, the History Channel, National Geographic, and PBS.

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

The initial request to work on MICAH came from editors at Westminster/John Knox. 8th-7th Century is not really my main period of specialization in OT, so I was a bit surprised. I normally work on Exile/Persian Period materials (Daniel, Esther, Ezra-Nehemiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah). I certainly admire the 8th Century Prophetic traditions, of course. So, it is not that I ignored the Neo-Assyrian period of Prophetic material – and I was certainly aware of James Luther Mays’ wonderful older work on Micah in this venerable series, “The Old Testament Library”, so I was frankly honored to be asked to work on this new volume. I don’t care if I was their 3rd choice…or their 15th choice…I was still honored!

Micah, of course, is a wonderfully complex and profound work. It features some of the most famous passages in all the prophets – “swords into plowshares”, “what does the Lord require of you…?”, etc. But Micah is also a work that is passionate about justice, about the dangers of corrupt leadership, the dangers of war-mongering, and yet words of encouragement when you feel overwhelmed about what you see around you. It was a delight to work on.

I also made the decision to be quite forthright about my own interests. These days, it is considered important to state one’s own orientation to scholarship in scholarly work – so I decided to not only be open about my Quaker background (informed by Anabaptist ideas as well) but also to actually assert those values as part of my analysis. For example, I believe that an anti-war perspective actually enhances a more accurate reading of Micah and I passionately argue the case that the prophet behind this book was stridently anti-war (which is not quite the same as claiming he was “pacifist”, which I do not claim)!

However, given that Micah is such a stirring read, I should not have been surprised (but I was!) with HOW MUCH scholarly material there is on Micah! The background reading was far more extensive that I originally anticipated. It was a joy, of course, to be able to read so much on 7 chapters of Hebrew Bible – but the debates and writing on Micah is rich and varied, and it was a real pleasure. Along the way – there were some delightful discoveries, such as Wessels’ essays in South African journals. I tried to pay attention to writers from non-Western countries as well, of course, as I believe that cross-cultural interpretation is an extremely important development in Biblical Studies.

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

I wrote this work for anyone willing to seriously engage the text of the Bible, but with the old adage firmly in mind: “The Bible in one hand, the Newspaper in the other”. Some attribute that statement to Karl Barth, but I’ve heard others credited with it, too. I do a great deal of sociological and political observation in the commentary because I believe it is essential to maintain a dialogue on these matters when reading Biblical texts…precisely because I would argue that the Bible is ALSO a socially informed writing, and thus deeply political in orientation.

This applies even to issues of textual interpretation, including reading the Hebrew and Greek texts. Questions of nuanced translation can ALSO be influenced by social observations, for example. Nothing about Biblical interpretation is just pure theoretical mathematics, after all! Attitudes, experiences, insights, cultural experiences, all matter deeply.

But if there was a readership that I had in mind – I would have to say that it was foreshadowed by my personal comments at the front of the book. For example, I have many treasured friends among Maori Anglicans in Tairawhiti including the young Maori Anglican Archbishop, Rev. Donald Tamihere they are based on the East Coast of the North Island of Aotearoa/New Zealand, and I have learned a tremendous amount from them about interpreting scripture in the context of indigenous issues and identity. So, besides colleagues already interested in Micah and Prophetic literature, and besides my fellow Quakers and Mennonite who will certainly recognize many themes throughout, I hope that my work is found to be useful to my Maori Christian brothers and sisters, and indigenous Christians struggling with issues of identity, justice, and renewal.

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

I don’t know if it is “original” but I hope that my observations are considered helpful in that they are informed by an abiding interest in issues of social justice, minority and indigenous rights, and a critique of all forms of militarism and violence. Given the setting, the book of Micah speaks with a powerful critique. There is no mistaking this commentary as anything other than a serious Quaker’s reading of Micah, deeply informed by my Mennonite teachers in seminary, and continuing to be informed by my reading of progressive people of faith (esp. Jewish, Muslim, and Christian) in the modern world. In short, there are lots of “Micahs” out there!

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

The opportunity for a Quaker Bible teacher to work hard on the famous “Swords into Plowshares” passage was a gift. There is so much more to be said about this famous passage. I am convinced that there is a monograph in there somewhere…

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

Two passages haunt me. The first one is quite difficult in Hebrew, and the NRSV does the following:

Micah 2:8 But you rise up against my people as an enemy; you strip the robe from the peaceful, from those who pass by trustingly with no thought of war.

I have (what I believe to be) strong reasons to read this passage differently. The details of how I think the Hebrew  grammar can make sense for my reading are a bit complex, but suffice it to say that I think that the Hebrew can quite fairly read to actually refer to what we would call today: “war-mongers” – and I believe he is referring to officials in Jerusalem who insist on mustering “war-mongers” – and I believe he is referring to officials in Jerusalem who insist on mustering local villagers (like Micah’s village) for wars that will only result in destruction of their peaceful villages in the foothills even if Jerusalem – a city with it’s walls and wells – might well survive. I read Micah as a very angry villager bitterly angry at Jerusalem for fomenting unnecessary rebellion for it’s own ends. On this, by the way, I think Micah may significantly differ from the “city-boy” Isaiah. It would certainly not be the first time that Biblical voices disagree, and I am by no means the first to propose that Micah and Isaiah might see things somewhat differently!

The other passage is far easier to understand, and is a really good sample of Micah’s fiery rhetoric of justice and injustice:

Micah 3:1 And I said: Listen, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Should you not know justice?– 2 you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin off my people, and the flesh off their bones; 3 who eat the flesh of my people, flay their skin off them, break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat in a kettle, like flesh in a caldron. I am convinced that the contemporary American (esp. Evangelical) Christian obsession with political and economic conservatism (everybody for themselves) does a serious disservice to the passion for justice in a book like Micah – and the passion of the ministry of Jesus. I have for some time been concerned about reading and hearing Jesus as Prophet (among other aspects and titles). This particular emphasis has been sadly neglected, in my opinion. There is always a potential revolution when Christians begin to be as concerned to live what Jesus taught – just as concerned with living the message as they are concerned to be dogmatically specifically about who Jesus was (and is). It’s like the early Church councils. For example – some of our dear Christian predecessors spent so much time debating the specific Greek words to DESCRIBE Jesus (homo-ousias…homoi-ousias) but I wish they had spent some more of that time deciding how to minister to the poor and feed the hungry in OBEDIENCE TO Jesus rather than talking ABOUT Him. Now, maybe they did – but the point is that we don’t hear much about it. Wouldn’t it have been marvelous if an early Christian “Micah” had shaken up Nicea or Chalcedon with the needs of the urban and rural poor? Surely reading Micah might help shake us out of endless bickering about such doctrine? Especially when we face dark times? Contrast Nicea and Chalcedon with Medellin, Columbia, in 1968 when the Catholic Bishops met and gave official sanction to the movement we know today as Liberation Theology! Now THERE was a Church council Micah would have approved of!

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

[Hans Walter] Wolff, of course, has written some of the classic works on Micah. The Anchor Bible volumeAnderson and Freedman, is essential (even though I don’t go in for their detailed poetic verse analysis); and Dempster’s brand new volume on Micah is also helpful (but it came out after mine). Willi Wessel’s journal articles, written mostly in South African journals, is compelling reading. Mays’ previous volume in the Old Testament Library was a classic and still worth a serious read. Some of the feminist readings of Micah are also quite provocative, like Erin Runions.

But if you want to understand a really interesting way of reading Micah, read the lyrics of the great socialist anthem, “The Internationale“. There are so many thematic parallels, I would almost believe that the French writer of the original, Eugene Pottier, had been reading Micah while manning the barricades of the Paris Commune! 

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

I am becoming increasingly fascinated with late 19th, early 20th Century Christian Socialists and their reading of the Bible. I am working on a book on this theme. Obviously, this is moving toward “History of Interpretation” a bit, which is new for me, but I hope to continue proposing that these interesting activists have some readings that are worthy of serious consideration textually and critically as well.

Like many Christians (but, apparently, not quite enough yet), recent events have pushed me to the left (where Jesus is to be found waiting for us), and my reading of the Bible continues to move that direction as well. I have been helped profoundly by the fact that previous generations of activists and social thinkers also derived great inspiration and comfort from Scripture in equally dark times.

I would have to say that – in a profoundly real way – Micah pushed me further left on the social and political spectrum.


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Question and Answer with Paul Evans on 1 and 2 Samuel

Learn more about 1 and 2 Samuel in the Story of God Bible Commentary Series

samuel bible commentaryPaul S. Evans (Ph.D., University of St. Michael’s College) is Assistant Professor of Old Testament at McMaster Divinity College. Dr. Evans specializes in Old Testament studies and in his teaching and research emphasizes the theological significance of the Old Testament and the value of its application for the Church today.

Besides 1 and 2 Samuel in the Story of God Bible Commentary series, Dr. Evan’s earlier work includes a monograph entitled The Invasion of Sennacherib in the Book of Kings: A Source-Critical and Rhetorical Study of 2 Kings 18-19, which was awarded the 2010 R.B.Y. Scott Award by the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies recognizing an outstanding book in the areas of Hebrew Bible and/or the Ancient Near East. Paul also co-edited a volume on the book of Chronicles entitled Chronicling the Chronicler which was published by Eisenbrauns in 2013.

In addition Paul has 17 research articles in print, with most focused on the historical books of the Old Testament, with the most recent appearing in the Journal of Biblical Literature 136.4 (2017): 749-764. Many of Dr. Evan’s articles are accessible through Academia.edu.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel?

The focus of my writing has been on the historical books of the Old Testament. My first book looked at Hezekiah and the invasion of Jerusalem by the Assyrians under their king Sennacherib and I also have written several articles on this part of Israel’s history. I have also written several articles on the historical narratives of the book of Chronicles, many of which have parallels in Samuel or Kings. Given my love of the historical books, I welcomed the opportunity to write a full commentary on Samuel.

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

This commentary is written with pastors, students, and lay Christians in mind. It provides an accessible exposition of Samuel, keeping in mind the larger story of the Bible. At the same time, it is born out of new research, incorporates the best of biblical scholarship, and contributes to the scholarly discussion surrounding this important text.

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

This commentary incorporates the best of critical biblical scholarship but is written from a faith based perspective. For example, important work has been done on the complexity of Samuel’s characterization—that despite being God’s prophet, he shows much self-interest and is not an ideal character. In this commentary I look at where we see this in the text but also wrestle with statements that speak of Samuel as God’s faithful prophet. In the end I suggest Samuel’s flaws and humanity are underscored in the story, as are his faithful service to God. From this we can see that God used flawed people (as there are no other types of people) and this is encouraging to a flawed person like myself. Also, it is not helpful to try to idealize biblical characters and such approaches go against the intent of the text itself.

My commentary also underscores King Saul’s downfall as related to his obsession with superstition and ritualistic assurances of success, the relevance of which has often been overlooked. The relevance of this for Christians’ lives is brought out in the commentary as many people of faith often struggle with similar issues as we try to walk in faith rather than rely on signs. The commentary also highlights the importance of David and the promises to David (2 Sam 7) as a precursor to the Gospel and salvation by faith and not works. David and his role as God’s anointed one (messiah) is also emphasized and there are some amazing ways in which his life often prefigures events in the lives of Jesus, the Anointed One.

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

The story of Absalom’s rebellion in 2 Sam 15-18—which meant that David had to flee Jerusalem—was fascinating to write, especially because much of David’s story resonates with Jesus’ passion narratives in the gospels. David was cursed by Shimei (2 Sam 16) and had stones and dirt thrown at him, and like Jesus, “was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly” (1 Pet 2:23). David rebuked his loyal follower (Abishai) for wanting to kill Shimei in defense of David (2 Sam 16:10) saying that the Lord was behind Shimei’s assault (2 Sam 16:10–11), similarly, Jesus had to rebuke his loyal follower (Peter) for taking up the sword in defense of Jesus (Matt 26:52) similarly saying that God was behind the assault (John 18:11). David’s trusted counselor, Ahithophel, betrayed him to those who would kill him, and Jesus’s disciple Judas Iscariot (John 13:29) betrayed him to his death. Many of the locations mentioned in David’s flight from Jerusalem and Jesus’ passion narrative are the same. Both David and Jesus ascend the Mount of Olives and there learn of the betrayal (David is told by a messenger, while Jesus is betrayed with a kiss there). Also, both Ahithophel and Judas (Matt 27:5) hang themselves after betraying the anointed one. What is more, they kill themselves before the fruits of their betrayal are completed.

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

The book of Samuel was encouraging to my faith in many ways. Examining the complexity of Samuel and David, with both their flaws and their strengths provided encouragement that God can use a flawed person like me. The tragic story of Saul, and David’s downfall in his later life provide cautionary tales about the importance of our choices and the consequences of sin, which continue to urge me to holy living. God’s enduring commitment to David, regardless of his failures (2 Sam 7) elicit continued encouragement to trust God with my future and not rely on my own strength or successes. God’s longsuffering, compassion and amazing love come to the fore in these narratives and lead me to love him more and cling to him in faith as our hope for the future.

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

Alter, Robert. The David story: a translation with commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel. New York: Norton, 1999.

Anderson, A. A. 2 Samuel. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas, Tex.: Word, 1989.

Bodner, Keith. 1 Samuel: A Narrative Commentary. Hebrew Bible Monographs. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2008.

Brueggemann, Walter. First and Second Samuel. Interpretation, a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching. Louisville, Ky.: John Knox, 1990.

Fokkelman, J. P., Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel: Vow and Desire (1 Sam. 1–12). Assen: Van Gorcum, 1993.

Fokkelman, J. P., Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel: A Full Interpretation Based on Stylistic and Structural Analysis: Vol. 1, King David (II Sam. 9–20 & I Kings 1–2). Studia Semitica Neerlandica. Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1981.

Klein, Ralph W. 1 Samuel. WBC. Waco, Tex.: Word, 1983.

Long, V. Philips, The Reign and Rejection of King Saul: A Case for Literary and Theological Coherence. Edited by David L. Peterson. SBLDS, 118. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989.

Polzin, Robert, Samuel and the Deuteronomist: A Literary Study of the Deuteronomistic History: Part Two: 1 Samuel. Indiana Studies in Biblical Literature. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989.

Polzin, Robert, David and the Deuteronomist: A Literary Study of the Deuteronomistic History. Part Three: 2 Samuel. Indiana Studies in Biblical Literature. Bloomington; Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993.

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 on the history of seventh century B.C. Judah and their recovery from the Assyrian invasion. At issue partly is how the Bible understands the Assyrian king Sennacherib’s retreat as a victory for Judah when most of their fortified cities were destroyed, and the Assyrians understand their campaign against Judah as a success when they failed to depose Hezekiah and take the capital city of Jerusalem. I also continue to work on the narratives of Chronicles and am working towards a book on the method of the Chronicler in his rewriting the historical narratives of Samuel and Kings. I regularly present my latest research in papers given at the meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies and the Evangelical Theological Society and some of my work in print can be accessed on my academia.edu page where many of my articles are available for download.


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Question and Answer with Alex Stewart on The First Days of Jesus: The Story of the Incarnation

Learn more about the mystery of the incarnation

first days of jesus

Alexander Stewart (Ph. D., Biblical Studies, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Academic Dean and Associate Professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Tyndale Theological Seminary.

Dr. Stewart is from Connecticut in the U.S.A. As a teenager and young adult he served with Teen Missions International as a summer missionary in Brazil, Israel, Pakistan, Thailand, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Switzerland. Through these early experiences he gained a vision and passion for God’s global kingdom; a kingdom not limited or hindered by political, economic, or cultural barriers. During Dr. Stewart’s undergraduate studies at Columbia International University God confirmed his call to overseas mission work with a particular focus on theological education.

God has blessed Dr. Stewart with a wonderful wife, Jenny, four boys, Elijah, Benjamin, Paul, and Micah, and two girls, Charis and Sarah Kate.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests helped prepare you to write The First Days of Jesus? How was this particular project born?

It is a bit funny, but my wife always jokes with me about being a scrooge when it comes to Christmas. I don’t particularly get into all the festivities and decorations very much and I don’t enjoy most popular Christmas songs (Jingle Bells, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, etc.). I find them annoying and even heretical (Santa Clause is omnipotent and omnipresent—he sees me when I’m sleeping?!; the little Lord Jesus no crying he makes—really?!). I do love Christmas songs which are theologically rich. This background explains my interest in, to use a very well-worn cliché, understanding the real meaning of Christmas.

I worked with Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor on a previous book which focused on the last week of Jesus’ life called The Final Days of Jesus. This week of Jesus’ life, of course, relates to Easter. That project was well received and we began brainstorming together about a follow-up project on the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life and Christmas. Every year Christians celebrate these two events and pastors preach on passages related to Jesus death and resurrection at Easter and his birth at Christmas. Justin Taylor was not able to directly work on this second project with us but he encouraged the acceptance of the project with Crossway.

2. Who is the intended audience for The First Days of Jesus? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

Any interested Christian could benefit but the book is primarily directed towards pastors. Every year pastors are confronted with preaching sermons related to Christmas for most of the month of December. The goal was to help these pastors be better equipped for this task of preaching and teaching from the infancy narratives.

3. What is unique about The First Days of Jesus? What contribution does it make to biblical studies and/or biblical theology?

I think there are two unique features of this book. First, we seek to blend exegesis, history, theology, and devotional application. This is not as easy as it sounds! Many people who are interested in devotional writing become bored when confronted with exegesis or theology. Others love historical details but become uncomfortable when an author seeks to encourage spiritual commitment and growth. We do the best we can to blend these elements in one book on the infancy narratives.

Second, we include an extended discussion of John’s Gospel in a book on the infancy narratives. Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 are the normal texts on the infancy narratives but John’s prologue provides rich reflection on Jesus’ pre-existence and the incarnation and we include it in this study of Jesus’ birth.

4. How should Christians understand the Bible’s teaching on the virgin birth outside of Isaiah, Matthew, and Luke, where it seems to be so clearly articulated? Is it problematic that other writers like John, Paul, or other Old Testament prophets don’t write of the virgin birth so plainly?

I don’t think it is a problem at all. The Bible contains a united message about God and humanity but it is also incredibly diverse and discusses different things in different ways at different places. Different biblical authors emphasize different points. They are not uniform and we should not expect them to be. Now if some biblical author contradicted Matthew and Luke’s account of a virgin conception it would potentially be problematic but silence is not contradiction.

5. In the book, you contend for the virgin birth of Jesus and answer skeptics who have argued a contrary perspective. What advice do you have for pastors and teachers with regard to communicating this doctrine to congregations?

With most biblical teaching there needs to be wisdom and balance. I don’t think it is necessary to constantly teach or preach on the virgin conception, but it should not be downplayed or avoided when relevant to understanding who Jesus is and how God acted in sending Jesus to the world. Over the past few generations, the virgin birth has often been used as a litmus test for one’s commitment to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. It is a teaching that sounds incredible, could only be miraculous, is rejected by most skeptics, but is clearly taught in the Gospels.

6. What section or passage of The First Days of Jesus was particularly memorable to research and write? What personally edified you in writing this book, increasing your affections for Christ?

My favorite part to research and write was actually the appendix. In the appendix we discuss messianic expectation in the Old Testament and Second Temple Jewish literature. Most pastors and educated Christians will have heard about various Jewish works written in the centuries surrounding Jesus’ birth such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Psalms of Solomon, 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, and 2 Baruch among many others. Most Christians, however, don’t have any idea how to access these books and don’t have the time to read them even if they could find them. In the appendix we explore this literature, give some historical background, and provide examples from these books to illustrate the kind of Jewish messianic expectation that was current around the time of Jesus’ birth. I love grounding our claims in the primary sources and I thrive on this kind of historical research.

The most personally edifying sections to write were the hymns recorded in Luke’s account: the Magnificat (from Mary), Benedictus (from Zechariah), the Gloria in Excelsis (angelic announcement to the shepherds), and the Nunc Dimittis (Simeon’s declaration). These hymns powerfully situate the birth of Jesus within the context of Jewish national hopes for the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people. When reading these hymns it is easy to be caught up in the excitement and hope surrounding the birth of Jesus and God’s plan to finally fulfill his ancient promises.

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

I just came out with a short book on perseverance in the NT: Perseverance and Salvation: What the New Testament Teaches about Faith and Works (Areopagus Critical Christian Issues 9; Energion Publications, 2018). This is a popular level (no footnotes) approach to several important questions like “Can a Christian lose salvation?” from the perspective of biblical studies.

My next academic monograph (lots of footnotes) is focused on the motivational use of fear appeals, scare tactics, and threats in the book of Revelation. Christians today, perhaps responding to our heritage of Hell, fire, and brimstone preaching, are quite afraid of fear and often don’t know how to incorporate a healthy fear of God into their faith.

Additionally, I hope to come out with a popular level book on how to interpret the book of Revelation in the next few years. This was the focus of my doctoral research and I think I have some important things to say on the matter but the problem is that the market is quite flooded with books about how to interpret Revelation. We will see how it turns out.

The best way to follow my writing and research is on academia.eduWhen I am not researching and writing I work full-time as a missionary teacher and academic dean at Tyndale Theological Seminary in the Netherlands. Tyndale is a missions seminary committed to training pastors and Christian leaders for God’s global kingdom.


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