Psalms Commentary Q & A with Author C. Hassell Bullock

 

7 Questions on Psalms in the Teach the Text Commentary Series

psalms commentary book coverC. Hassell Bullock (Ph.D., Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion) is professor of Old Testament studies at Wheaton College and former president of the Evangelical Theological Society. Dr.

Bullock has served as both a professor and as a pastor in 10 different churches. He is the author of An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books, Encountering the Book of Psalms, and An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books. Dr. Bullock resides in Wheaton, Illinois.

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

I have taught the Psalms for many years at Wheaton College (IL), and led my students in singing them from the various Christian traditions. Many of these students have come to recognize and use the Psalms as a resource of faith and guidance for life. Additionally, during my thirty-six years on the Wheaton faculty, for thirty of those years I have served the church in pastoral and educational capacities, most of which involved preaching on a regular basis. In my last position I preached a sermon series on the Psalms as I was writing the commentary.

2. Who is the intended audience for the Teach the Text series? Would your Psalms commentaries benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The intended audience is pastors and teachers in the church, but I have also written the commentary in such a way that it will be useful for the college and seminary classroom. I have also revised my introduction to the Psalms, Encountering the Book of Psalms (Baker, rev. ed., 2018), and brought it into a coordinate relationship with the commentary, dealing with some issues in the introduction that seem less appropriate for the commentary.

The format of the commentary consists of ten rubrics: Big idea, Understanding the Text, The Text in Context, Key Themes, Outline/Structure, Historical and Cultural Background, Interpretive Insights, Theological Insights, Teaching the Text, and Illustrating the Text. Pastors and teachers of the church will find helpful insights into the theology of each psalm, guidance for preparing a sermon on each psalm, and useful illustrations to reinforce the sermon or lesson. Professors of Bible will also find the canonical approach to contain many insights about how the book was compiled and the various thematic strands that weave their way through the many collections of psalms and the Psalter as a whole. Lay persons may also find the commentary a helpful way to study and rehearse the psalms on a continuing basis by reading the commentary as a devotional guide.

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

This commentary follows the canonical method and helps the reader to see the background against which each of the five books of the Psalter was collected and how the various themes of the book as a whole correlate. While there are multiple themes in the Psalms, some portions of the Psalter are dominated by specific themes and emphases that stretch through entire collections.

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

Book 5 of the Psalter (Psalms 107-150) is composed of numerous layers of material, most of which reflects Israel’s return from the Babylonian exile and the rebuilding of the temple and restoration of worship. It is the most stylized of the five books, and deals with the historical and theological issues of Israel’s reconstitution as a people in the postexilic era. While Books 1 (Pss. 1-41) and 2 (Pss. 42-72) are composed largely of David psalms, his voice falls away significantly in Books 3 (Pss. 73-89) and 4 (Pss. 90-106), with only one David psalm in Book 3 and two in Book 4, but comes back strong again in Book 5, and that for a theological reason.

5. What personally edified you in writing these commentaries, increasing your affections for Christ?

I have been personally edified by discovering and rediscovering the loving and faithful character of God portrayed in the Psalms, and the unfaithful nature of humanity, and to learn that Paul’s lesson is so acutely taught in the Psalms, that where sin abounds, grace more abundantly abounds.

A second point of edification, among others too numerous to name, is that in biblical theology and the worship of the church, creation and redemption should stand alongside each other, and are the validating truths that the God of Scripture is worthy of our worship. The Creator God and the Redeemer God are the same God, and redemption, acclaimed and appropriated by the psalmists, can only be recognized in its full dimensions and power when the Redeemer is also the Creator. Indeed, only the Creator can redeem.

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

1. John Calvin, A Commentary on the Psalms (5 vols.)

2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible

3. Amos Hakham, Psalms, A Commentary, 3 vols. (Jerusalem Commentary series)

4. Konrad Schaefer, Psalms (Berit Olam series)

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

I am working on a theology of the Psalms. Also I just finished reading the galleys for the revision of my Encountering the Book of Psalms, that will appear in May 2018 (Baker Academic).

I am on Facebook and can receive messages there. Also LinkedIn.

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Luke Commentary Q & A with Author Joel Green

 

7 Questions on Luke in the NICNT Commentary Series

luke commentary book cover

Joel B. Green, Ph.D. (University of Aberdeen, Scotland) is a New Testament scholar, theologian, author, Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Green is a prolific author who has written on a diverse range of topics related to both New Testament scholarship and theology.

Dr.Green’s books include Dictionary of Jesus and the GospelsJesus of Nazareth: Lord and Christ: Essays on the Historical Jesus and New Testament ChristologyWhat about the Soul?, Neuroscience and Christianity Anthropology. He is an ordained elder of the United Methodist Church.

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

I had written on the death of Jesus in the Gospels, and a book called How to Read the Gospels and Acts. The invitation from F.F. Bruce to write this commentary, though, was in some ways a life-changer, since it focused my attention early in my career on the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. I found myself more and more interested in what it means to “inhabit a narrative,” and to learn how narratives help us to think about what God is doing in the world and how we respond faithfully to him.

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

Commentaries in the NICNT are especially for pastors and students, and then for scholars. In fact, most of the correspondence I receive about my commentary on Luke comes from preachers, adult education teachers, and theological students.

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

When it was first published, my commentary on Luke stood out for its relative lack of attention on what was going on “behind the text” – its general lack of concern with determining “what actually happened,” with the sources Luke might have used, that sort of thing. Instead, it focused on what Luke has given us in his Gospel, on Luke’s theological representation of historical events.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how best to represent Luke’s own theological concerns, his spirituality, his understanding of salvation and discipleship. And I worked a lot on how best to invite my readers into their own encounters with Luke’s Gospel.

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

It’s hard to pick out a single section as particularly memorable, since the whole process of research and writing was meaningful and fruitful.

Actually, what was most fascinating to me was preparing to write. While working on Luke, I often spoke on the Gospel at family camps or pastors’ retreats or conferences or adult education classes. I listened carefully for the sorts of questions that people raised about this or that part of Luke. These helped to guide me in my thinking about Luke, and in my work on Luke.

As time has gone on, the section of Luke that I’ve returned to over and over has been Mary’s Song, Luke 1:46-55. I’ve come to think of this song as Luke’s understanding of God (his faithfulness and saving purpose) and of human response to God in a nutshell.

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

I remember the first time I taught the Gospel of Luke in a seminary classroom, and read on the course evaluations this comment from a student: “What was serendipitous about this course? Luke! Who would’ve known?” I often felt the same way as I worked on the commentary. In fact, when I first started writing, I was on sabbatical in Durham, England, working away, often alone, in a study carrell in one of the basements of the library. Unhindered by protocols that usually govern library work (!), I found myself praying, even singing, as I experienced Luke leading me by the hand through Jesus’s Spirit-saturated ministry.

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

Most importantly, I encourage people to read Luke’s Gospel, and his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles! Additionally, they will find a wonderful resource in the Dictionary of Jesus & the Gospels. In the revised edition (2013), I wrote the essay on the Gospel of Luke, so people can find additional bibliography there.

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

I have several related projects in the works, including the NICNT on the Acts of the Apostles, and two volumes in the “discovering” series: Discovering Luke and Discovering Acts.

People can follow me on Twitter (@JoelBGreen), Academia.edu (fuller.academia.edu/JoelBGreen), or Facebook (facebook.com/joel.b.green). I try to keep an updated website at JoelBGreen.com.


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Jonah Commentary Q & A with Author Kevin Youngblood

 

7 Questions on Jonah in the ZECOT Commentary Series

jonah commentary book coverKevin Youngblood (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Bible and Religion at Harding University.

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

I first became interested in Jonah when I translated it as a student in college for my first Hebrew readings course. The book came to life for me when I was able to see all of the rhetorical and literary devices often only discernible in the original language. My doctoral studies in OT interpretation (Septuagint) and text linguistics with Professor Peter J. Gentry equipped me with many more tools for even greater insight into the genius of this literary master piece. When Daniel Block, Editor in Chief for the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the OT, invited me to contribute a volume to the series and serve on the editorial board, Jonah was one of the books we all decided should be part of the series debut. I volunteered to submit a sample of how to handle Hebrew narrative for the series, made Jonah my test case, and ultimately wound up writing the entire volume.

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

The goal of the commentary is to make the latest insights of biblical scholarship, especially in the areas of text linguistics and discourse analysis, accessible to pastors, Bible class teachers, and interested Bible students. The editorial board and authors make a special effort to either avoid technical language or, where it cannot be avoided, explain it very simply and succinctly, and to maintain an emphasis on the book’s primary message to both the original audience and the contemporary one. We really want the insights we enjoy as handlers of the Hebrew text to become available to the church as a whole. Therefore our primary target audience includes pastors, church leaders, seminary students, and Bible class teachers. Scholars have also been receptive to the early volumes in the series due to the attention to cutting edge research and insights as well as the methodological distinctiveness of our linguistic/literary approach.

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

The consistent application of discourse analysis to the entirety of the Book of Jonah is the first unique feature of the commentary. In addition, I tried to draw insights from some lesser known but nonetheless insightful resources such as T. A. Perry’s delightful treatment in “The Honeymoon Is Over: Jonah’s Argument with God” and a little known, seldom referenced article by Isaac Kikiwada and Arthur Quinn on the relationship between Jonah and Genesis 1-11. Bringing these resources to light by letting them inform my own treatment brings much needed and deserved attention to these generally overlooked works. I also think that concluding each exegetical unit with a discussion of the unit’s canonical and practical significance helps to locate Jonah both in the Christian Bible and in the Christian life – two emphases seldom found in traditional biblical commentaries.

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

I especially enjoyed and struggled with Jonah 4:5-11. This concluding section of the book has always puzzled me. It’s hard to know exactly what Elohim’s point is with the object lesson involving the plant, the worm, the sun, and the wind, but writing this commentary really forced me to think about the significance of this final exchange between Elohim and Jonah in light of the entire book. I found that once I understood the author’s penchant for genre manipulation and his decision to parody the well known commission narrative genre, the meaning of this final unit of the book opened up to me. The experience resulted in a deepening of my own understanding and of my own ability to relate appropriately to the God whose mercy knows no bounds, especially those that separate me from my most dreaded enemies.

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

I was continually amazed by YHWH’s patience, and even playfulness, with Jonah. YHWH brilliantly balances Jonah’s severity, depression, and anger with a gentle playfulness that encourages both Jonah and the reader to take ourselves less seriously and God more seriously. Seeing YHWH in this light renewed my appreciation for many of the occasions when Jesus revealed this side of God in his own ministry, especially in his dealings with certain priests and certain Pharisees whose concern for their own and their people’s survival sometimes blinded them to the larger mission of God.

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

Jonathon Magonet’s “Studies in the Book of Jonah”

T. A. Perry’s The Honeymoon Is Over: Jonah’s Argument with God

And for technical issues I recommend Jack Sasson’s Jonah in the Anchor Bible Commentary

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

I am currently working on the Lamentations volume in this same ZECOT (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the OT) series as well as on a separate commentary on the Septuagint version of Lamentations for the NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint) Commentary series to be published by Scholars Press.


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Job Commentary Q & A with Author Richard Belcher

 

7 Questions on Job in the Focus on the Bible Commentary Series

job commentary book cover

Richard Belcher, Jr. (Phd. Westminster Theological Seminary) is the John D. and Frances M. Gwin Professor of Old Testament and the Academic Dean at both RTS Charlotte and RTS Atlanta. He is an ordained minister in the PCA and pastored an urban nondenominational church in Rochester, NY for ten years before pursuing the Phd.

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

My PhD work was done in the area of Wisdom Literature. My dissertation examined the breakdown of the deed-consequence relationship in Ecclesiastes. This relationship is prominent in wisdom literature. Proverbs teaches a nuanced view of the deed-consequence relationship. It does not guarantee that blessings will go to the wise, but there is a clear connection between the two. If a person does not understand how a proverb works, it is easy to draw inappropriate conclusions about the deed-consequence relationship. Job and his friends wrestle with this problem because the friends draw the conclusion that Job must be suffering because of sin he has committed. The reader knows from chapters 1-2 that Job is not suffering because of sin. The book pushes the reader to wrestle with the question of innocent suffering and God’s sovereignty.

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

This commentary seeks to explain the many speeches in the book of Job and shows how they relate to the overall message of the book. It is easy to get lost in the argument as it goes back and forth. The commentary would be great benefit to pastors as they try to understand the book of Job to preach from it. Students would benefit from it if they study the book of Job. It is not a technical commentary and so lay Christians should be able to understand it. There are Study Questions after each chapter that makes it useful for a Bible study. It could also be used for devotions as someone reads through the book of Job.

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

There is something unique in this commentary that very few commentaries have. A personal story of suffering is told as one reads the commentary. Nik and Lindsay Franks had a son named Pierce born April 12, 2011 at 23 weeks. He was born almost seventeen weeks premature and was not supposed to live. Nik and Lindsay wrote each day concerning their struggles and reported on Pierce’s condition. After each chapter of the commentary their story unfolds until the day Pierce is released from the hospital. This personal example of suffering puts a human touch on the discussion of suffering that unfolds in the commentary

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

The speeches of Job show that a person who is suffering is not always consistent in how they respond. Job is deep in despair at times and sees no hope. These times of despair come when he is talking with his friends and they are accusing him of sin as a reason for his suffering. Job also wrestles with his relationship with God and his negative perception of how God is treating him. As the drama unfolds, it is fascinating to see how Job’s hope grows stronger even in his despair. He begins to see that God is his only hope even as he struggles with God. He looks for an arbiter, a witness in heaven, and then a kinsman-redeemer. Job ends his speeches with a strong statement of his innocence (chap. 31).

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

After each section of the commentary there are reflections on what this means for God’s people today. Many of these reflections focus on how Christ relates to Job’s suffering. The friends believe that someone suffering as much as Job must have committed a grievous sin. There is a parallel with the Jewish leaders who questioned how Jesus could be the Son of God and be hanging on the cross. It was edifying and encouraging to see the many ways that Job’s suffering related to Christ and how this is a blessing to God’s people who are suffering. There is also a concluding chapter on theological issues covered in the book of Job.

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

The commentaries that helped me the most were [John] Hartley [NICOT], [Tremper] Longman [BCOT], and [Norman C.] Habel [OTL]. A book on Job with an interesting angle is Robert Fyall, Now My Eyes Have Seen You: Images of Creation and Evil in the Book of Job. Two books that deal with suffering in general are D. A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil and John Currid, Why Do I Suffer? Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.

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

I am finishing up a book on the theology of wisdom literature that will focus on Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. A list of my publications can be found at the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) website, the Charlotte campus. RTS also has a free mobile app that has seminary lectures on it. Many of the OT lectures are ones I have given.


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Romans Commentary Q & A with Author John Harvey

 

7 Questions on Romans in the EGGNT Commentary Series

romans commentary harveyJohn D. Harvey (Th.D., Wycliffe College) is the Dean of the Seminary and School of Ministry at Columbia International University. He joined the faculty of CIU’s Seminary and School of Ministry in 1992 and taught New Testament and Greek until 2011.

Dr. Harvey has served as dean from 2011 until the present. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. He has had opportunities to teach in Germany, the Netherlands, Moldova, Zambia, and South Africa. His books include Interpreting the Pauline Letters and Anointed with the Spirit and Power. He is an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.

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

My doctoral work focused on Paul’s letters. I have taught Romans (both Greek and English Bible) previously as well as New Testament Theology, which included a major section on Paul’s thought. I recently completed work on Interpreting the Pauline Letters in Kregel’s series, Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis.

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

As the General Introduction to the EGGNT series notes, the volume can serve a variety of readers, including students, pastors, and professors. It will be most helpful for readers who have at least some understanding of Greek grammar and syntax.

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

This volume is not a commentary in the strict sense of the word; it is an exegetical guide as the series title indicates. As such, it seeks to provide a comprehensive, in-depth guide to the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of Romans. It also provides scholarly bibliography on important topics related to each paragraph of the letter as well as suggestions on how to move from text to sermon.

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

I found that working on the letter’s closing (15:14-16:27) was particularly enjoyable, including thinking through the significance of the extended greetings in chapter 16.—perhaps because I had not taken the time previously to work through it in detail.

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

Working through the text in detail and at length was an enriching experience, especially seeing the way in which Paul “unpacks” the richness of the gospel that is “God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes” (1:16).

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

As the Introduction notes, Longenecker’s commentary explores the history of scholarship at some length; Schreiner’s commentary does a good job of discussing the overall argument of the letter; Moo’s commentary is helpful on exegetical details; Jewett’s commentary is helpful on the structure of each passage and on scholarly bibliography as a whole.

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

I hope to have an expository commentary on Romans submitted to the publisher by the end of 2017. It builds on the exegetical work of the EGGNT volume with a focus on communicating the message of the text. I would then like to take a similar approach either to Matthew’s Gospel or to Paul’s prison letters.


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Question and Answer with Lydia McGrew on the Gospels and Acts

 

Learn more about the new book Hidden in Plain Sight: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts

Linda McGrew Hidden in Plain ViewLydia McGrew is a widely published analytic philosopher, home schooling mother, blogger, and the wife of philosopher and apologist Timothy McGrew. She received her PhD in English from Vanderbilt University in 1995 and has published many articles in theory of knowledge and probability.

Dr. McGrew’s work has appeared in such journals as Philosophical Studies, Acta Analytica, the Journal of Philosophical Research, and Erkenntnis. She and Timothy McGrew co-wrote the article on the resurrection of Jesus for the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, and she wrote the article on historical inquiry for the Routledge Companion to Theism. She specializes in both formal theory of knowledge and its application to topics such as the evaluation of testimony and the evaluation of miracles. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband and children.

1. What inspired you to write the book Hidden in Plain View? What does the title mean?

My husband, Tim, really inspired me to write this book. He had encountered the argument from undesigned coincidences in the older writers he was reading and found it very exciting, and he began incorporating it into the talks he gave at churches. In 2014 I began reading about it, and by the spring of 2015 I was just as convinced as he was that it needed to be brought to a 21st-century audience in a new book. We agreed that whoever got the time first would write the book, and that happened to be me.

The title refers to the fact that these coincidences are right there in the text of the Bible. They don’t require specialized knowledge to see them. Yet at the same time they are easy to miss if you aren’t looking for them. So they really are hidden in plain view. Once you have seen them, you can’t “unsee” them, yet you might easily overlook them if your attention were not drawn to them.

2. Please give an example of an “undesigned” coincidence. How do such coincidences show that the Bible is reliable?

An example that a lot of people find intuitively forceful starts with the place in Matthew 14:1-2 where Herod is speculating about who Jesus might be. Herod says that this must be John the Baptist risen from the dead. Matthew (and only Matthew) records that Herod said this “to his servants.” If one stops to think about it, it’s a little surprising that Matthew would know what Herod was saying to his servants. In fact, this is precisely the kind of situation where a skeptic or a liberal critic would probably say the whole thing was made up, a fictional detail, because how could Matthew know what Herod was saying to his servants? But if you go to Luke 8:2-3, you find a list of women who were contributing to Jesus’ ministry. Among these is Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager. This explains how the Christian community, including Matthew, could know what Herod said to his servants: One of Herod’s chief servants was married to a woman who believed in Jesus and was supportive of his ministry. There are many more such coincidences in the Bible.

These coincidences show that the Bible is reliable because the best explanation for them is that the authors really had a close connection to the events. The authors are describing different aspects of a reality that fit together in this coincidental way, without any effort on the part of the authors. They just describe what they happen to know, and the details fit together. Neither Matthew nor Luke seems to have been thinking of the other passage when they wrote these two passages. They are completely different contexts. Luke wasn’t trying to provide an explanation for the passage in Matthew. He just happened to know that Joanna, the wife of Chuza, was one of Jesus’ followers. This casually explains the passage in Matthew. This is what witness testimony is often like. Different witnesses mention different bits and pieces of the truth, and these fit together without any special attempt on the part of the witnesses to make that happen, because truth itself is consistent and contains all sorts of causal relationships like this.

3. What can we learn about the authors of the books from these coincidences?

The distribution and frequency of these coincidences point to the conclusion that the authors were close to the facts, knew what they were talking about, and reported accurately. For particular authors we can say even more. For example, the author of the Gospel of John appears to have been an eyewitness of the events he records and to be a very scrupulous recorder. He reports a lot that is not in the synoptic gospels, and he is confirmed repeatedly. The author of Luke and Acts definitely was a companion of the Apostle Paul and was a meticulous “detail person.” In general the undesigned coincidences support the claim that these authors either were witnesses themselves or were in contact with witnesses, which indirectly supports the traditional ascriptions of authorship of the books. I think we can also learn that the authors of these books don’t seem to be changing things for reasons unconnected with facts, such as literary reasons or a desire to make a theological point. New Testament scholars far too often attribute changes in reportage, disconnected from truth, to the authors of the Gospels. They’ll say, for example, that John changed the day of the crucifixion or that the authors of the gospels knowingly manufacture dialogue that never took place or deliberately displace a teaching of Jesus to a context other than the one in which it occurred. The undesigned coincidences really push back against that view of these authors and give us reason to think that they were truthful in a perfectly normal sense of the word, that they didn’t play literary games like that.

4. What contribution does your book make to the discussion of the Synoptic Problem?

My book argues that the synoptic problem really doesn’t matter much to conclusions about the reliability of the Gospels. The synoptic problem is taken to a big deal because of invidious assumptions against direct knowledge in the allegedly dependent portions of the synoptic gospels. So if someone says that he accepts Markan priority and the two-source hypothesis, he will often build in the assumption that Matthew had no independent access to the truth of the events in the parts of Matthew that are similar to Mark and that, where Matthew differs from Mark in some account, Matthew is just redacting or changing Mark without any truth-connected justification. But if, as my book argues, all of the Gospel authors had significant, independent knowledge of the truth, then it becomes more of a mildly interesting puzzle for scholars to decide which one came first and exactly where the literary dependence between them lies. “Markan priority” shouldn’t import all of this baggage from redaction criticism. In several places I show independent, reliable knowledge on the part of Matthew or Luke even in passages that appear very similar to Mark. So their independent information does not show up merely in the totally separate “special M” or “special L” material, though of course it does show up there. I have tables coded to indicate where a coincidence shows the reliability of, say, Matthew or Luke through confirmation of unique information. I also show that coincidences go in all different directions, with different Gospels acting as explanatory in different coincidences. So no redaction-critical theory based on some particular theory about the synoptic problem is going to explain these.

5. How has writing this book increased your affections for Christ?

Bonhoeffer famously said, “When God calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Even for those of us living in comfortable circumstances, the call is there. We’re called to die daily. And all Christians experience times of discouragement, doubt, and bitterness. It’s at those times that we have to hang on to the knowledge that Christianity is true. This evidence has helped me to be even more confident of that truth.

Another thing that these coincidences have done for me is to help me picture what really happened more vividly, which makes Christ and his apostles come alive. As I researched the undesigned coincidences about the Last Supper, for example, I got a more vivid sense of why he washed the disciples’ feet. As I researched the coincidences concerning Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance by the Sea of Galilee, I got a clearer sense of what the Apostle John was like as the author of the fourth Gospel and what that meeting was like.

6. How has this book changed people’s perspectives on the New Testament?

As of now, the book has been out officially only since March 1, so it hasn’t had a whole lot of time yet to make an impact. But I think it is changing some people’s minds about the boldness with which we should argue. I just saw an apologist recently saying that he has decided to make use of all of the Pauline epistles in his arguments rather than just the ones acknowledged to be genuine by everyone, including liberal New Testament scholars. I can’t prove that this is due to my influence, but I have been in contact with him, and this is the kind of thing that I’m urging. Similarly, I recently read a draft of a review of my book written by a philosopher interested in apologetics, and he was convinced that we need to take what I call in my conclusion the “forward position.” This means not deferring to the consensus of New Testament scholars across the ideological spectrum but rather just going where the evidence leads, which is actually in what would be called a more “conservative” direction. I’m also glad to report that Gary Habermas has publicly clarified since my book has come out and since he wrote an endorsement for it that Christian apologists should endorse the reliability of the Gospels generally, not just a more minimal set of facts. So I think I’m having an influence in that area, and that’s quite important.

7. What’s next for you? How can people follow your ministry?

I intend to ramp up my speaking on the subject of the book. I’m available by Skype to speak to church groups or apologetics groups that aren’t nearby, and I would like to do more speaking locally and within the distance of an easy day trip from where I live in southwest Michigan. I intend to keep on doing my work in technical philosophy, even in areas that might not seem related to Christianity or the philosophy of religion; it’s important to “keep my hand in,” as the British say. I fully expect that my ministry through private correspondence will continue to increase. There has been an uptick in that since the book came out. I’m constantly getting e-mails from strangers with questions. People like to make contact with an author, and I have access to resources that can help them. My web page portal to my blogs and to places where people can buy Hidden in Plain View is lydiamcgrew.com. I also encourage readers to contact me with questions or if they would like to schedule a Skype or local talk. My e-mail address is [email protected]


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Matthew Commentary Q & A with Author Craig Blomberg

 

7 Questions on Matthew in the New American Commentary Series

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Craig Blomberg joined the faculty of Denver Seminary in 1986. He is currently a distinguished professor of New Testament. Dr. Blomberg completed his PhD in New Testament, specializing in the parables and the writings of Luke-Acts, at Aberdeen University in Scotland. He received an MA from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a BA from Augustana College. Before joining the faculty of Denver Seminary, he taught at Palm Beach Atlantic College and was a research fellow in Cambridge, England with Tyndale House.

In addition to writing numerous articles in professional journals, multi-author works and dictionaries or encyclopedias, he has authored or edited 20 books, including The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Interpreting the Parables, commentaries on Matthew, 1 Corinthians and James, Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey, From Pentecost to Patmos: An Introduction to Acts through Revelation, Christians in an Age of Wealth: A Biblical Theology of Stewardship, Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions, Making Sense of the New Testament: Three Crucial Questions, Preaching the Parables, Contagious Holiness: Jesus’ Meals with Sinners, and Handbook of New Testament Exegesis.

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

I had written on both the historical reliability of the Gospels and on the parables of Jesus. While neither topic was limited to Matthew, both involved a fair amount of work with Matthew’s Gospel

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

At the time the conservative resurgence in the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention was still comparatively young and Broadman Press (as the predecessor to B & H Academic was called back then), the publishing arm of the SBC, did not have a thoroughly evangelical commentary series on the Bible. The NAC had local pastors particularly in mind but certainly all of the categories you mention were in view to one degree or another.

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

The uniqueness was that it was an entirely evangelical series written by mostly Baptists for a Southern Baptist readership to begin with, though obviously everyone else was welcome to benefit from the series. It was designed to be a mid-range work that was not too detailed or overly technical but still fully abreast of scholarship, well-footnoted, but written not so much for the scholarly guild as for the church. It was not that there weren’t such series available or that there weren’t individual commentaries on Matthew of a similar scope, but that the SBC at that time had a very large percentage of people who always looked to Broadman Press first before looking anywhere else (and in some cases, not looking anywhere else at all) that convinced me the series would meet an important need in the Christian community.

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

Maybe chapters 8-9. One of the things that I did try to work hard at was a very careful inductive analysis of the overall structure of Matthew. I wound up combining two popular approaches that were usually viewed as mutually exclusive. But to determine, as best as one can, Matthew’s own mind when he composed the outline of his Gospel, one has to look not only for signs that one has reached a literary seam or dividing point but also consider how each main section is structured internally, to see if a coherent segment of text with a natural beginning, middle and end emerges. The amount of symmetry I discovered as I examined these three chapters–three healing stories, two teachings on discipleship, three more dramatic miracles (including miracles over nature), two teaching on discipleship, and three healing stories—was fascinating but also significant because it showed Jesus’ authority over disease, disaster and even the demonic world.

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

Authors were encouraged to end sections of commentary with brief applicational insights, and preachers or writers ought not try to apply the biblical texts to others until they have applied them to themselves first. I suppose the Sermon on the Mount is perennially the most challenging, convicting, and edifying part of this Gospel for many people, and wrestling with the many different approaches to the Sermon down through history enabled me both to solidify my views of Jesus and social ethics and confirm several of our family’s ministry commitments as a result.

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

It’s been 25 years since my commentary was published so a lot of good works have come out since. Grant Osborne (ZECNT), John Nolland (NIGTC) and Don Hagner (WBC) have written very detailed and helpful works. R. T. France (NICNT), Craig Evans (NCBC), D. A. Carson (EBC rev.) and Craig Keener (Socio-Rhetorical) have written good mid-range works, though all of them are at least somewhat more detailed than mine. Focusing on exposition and/or contemporary application but also thoroughly abreast of the original meaning of the text are Keener (NTC), Michael Wilkins (NIVAC), Jeannine Brown (Teach the Text) and Ben Witherington (Smyth & Helwys).

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

Next for me today is not the same as next after Matthew, because I have been privileged to publish about twenty more books since. I am currently working on a New Testament theology for Baylor University Press. Amazon has a full complement of my books for those who are interested in seeing what I have done. Ministry and travel are posted on the Denver Seminary website (www.denverseminary.edu) under Faculty.


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Mark Commentary Q & A with Author Mark Strauss

 

7 Questions on Mark in the ZECNT Commentary Series

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Mark Lehman Strauss is an American biblical scholar and professor of the New Testament at Bethel Seminary San Diego, which is part of Bethel University, Minnesota. His areas of expertise include New Testament Gospels and Bible translation.

Strauss earned his B.A. from Westmont College, his M.Div and Th.M. from Talbot School of Theology, and his Ph.D. in New Testament from University of Aberdeen. Prior to joining the faculty at Bethel Seminary in 1993, Strauss taught at Biola University, Christian Heritage College, and Talbot School of Theology. He has also served on the Committee on Bible Translation for the New International Version since 2005.

Dr. Strauss is married to his wife Roxanne; together they have three children.

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

I did my PhD work in Luk​e-Acts, and I became convinced that Luke used Mark as a source. So I needed to do work on Mark to understand Luke. It seemed natural, then, after working with Luke for so long to move on to Mark. I became fascinated by Mark’s powerful and dramatic narrative style. It amazes me that many form critics thought of Mark as simply a haphazard collection of traditions about Jesus. On the contrary, it is a remarkably well crafted literary masterpiece.

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

I was really thinking ​more ​about pastors and students than professors ​when I wrote the volume​. This is also the vision of the Zondervan Exegetical series. If written primarily for professors, it would have been more technical, with greater detail​ and more bibliography. But my primary purpose is not to be a research tool (though it can certainly be used for that), but to help the reader understand Mark’s narrative theology. Lay people can use it too, since the Greek is always translated.

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

I have to acknowledge that I​’​m not the most innovative​ or ground-breaking of​​ ​scholars​. ​My best gifts are in taking complex technical material and simplifying it for readers. So I really wanted to write a commentary that was clear and accurate, and that guided readers through the exegetical complexities of the Markan narrative.

Perhaps my most unique contribution is an emphasis on a theological rather than a geographical outline for Mark. Many commentators claim that Mark’s outline is geographical: (1) Galilee (1:14–8:21); (2) The Road to Jerusalem (8:22–10:52); (3) Jerusalem (11:1–16:8). See, for example, R.T. France’s masterful commentary on Mark. Yet while this basic division is correct, the geographical emphasis is not. Unlike in Luke, where Jesus’ Jerusalem destination is identified as early as 9:51, and where the Journey to Jerusalem (chs. 9-19) is a major structural feature, in Mark we don’t hear that Jesus is even going to Jerusalem until chapter 10, near the end of the middle section and just before he arrives! The carefully structured middle section of the Gospel—which is crucial to Mark’s narrative theology—describes the (theological) “way” of the cross, not a journey to Jerusalem. So Mark is organizing around a theological theme rather than a geographical journey.

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

I think I just ​mentioned it :-)​, the middle section that climaxes in the key theme verse of the gospel—Mark 10:45.

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

Mark​’​s call ​for​ believers to take up the​ir​ cross​ and follow Jesus​​ even to the point of death ​​i​s hard to fathom ​in our ​c​omfortable American Christianity​. Yet there are Christians around the world suffering and dying for their faith. We need to empathize with them. Mark reminds us of the true cost of discipleship​.

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

​I mentioned ​R.T. France’s​ commentary in the NIGTC series​​, which is a favorite. David Garland also has an exceptional volume on Markan theology in the new Zondervan series. Mark as Story by Rhoads and Michie was certainly ground-breaking in terms of narrative theology. I’ll stop there since there are too many other good commentaries to mention without leaving some excellent volumes out (and so offending my colleagues who wrote them!).​

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

​I’m presently revising my gospels textbook, Four Portraits, One Jesus. Continuing in ​Mark​’​s Gospel​, ​I’m writing a critical introduction for a new series​.​ ​I’m also working a hermeneutics text and a number of other smaller projects​.


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Matthew Commentary Q & A with Author Jeannine K. Brown

 

7 Questions on Matthew in the Teach the Text Commentary Series

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Jeannine K. Brown has focused much of her research and writing on the Gospels and on hermeneutics. In addition to a book on biblical hermeneutics, she has published two commentaries on Matthew’s Gospel and is currently co-writing a third. Brown has also co-written on interdisciplinary topics, such as Christian formation and interdisciplinary integration.

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

I’ve been interested in Matthew for years, dating back to my doctoral work. My dissertation (The Disciples in Narrative Perspective; SBL Academia Biblica) was on the portrayal of the disciples in Matthew, and I’ve written a shorter commentary on Matthew (The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, 2012) that whetted my appetite for commentary work.

I love following Matthew’s storyline—the way he weaves blocks of Jesus’ teaching with what Jesus does in Galilee and then in Jerusalem. For example, we hear in chapters 5-9 the interconnection between Jesus’ actions of healing—actions defined by mercy and justice—and Jesus’ teaching and preaching about the arrival of God’s reign in the Sermon on the Mount. These sections of discourse and narrative work together to communicate who Jesus is and what restoration looks like.

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

The Teach the Text commentary series is intended for pastors, students, and lay people. It doesn’t assume knowledge of technical vocabulary about biblical interpretation and so is well suited for laypersons. Yet it includes exegetical insights and also has sections devoted to “Teaching the Text” and “Illustrating the Text.” So, it would be very helpful for pastors and other church leaders, as well as for students who are in training to lead churches and other ministries.

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

I believe something relative unique about my commentary approach is that I provide a consistently narratival focus in it. By this I mean I highlight at various turns the literary intentionality and artistry of Matthew. My goal is to illuminate Matthew’s theology through my attention to the narrative contours of the Gospel, since it contains a rich narrative theology. And I focused the “Teaching the Text” sections primarily on Matthew’s narrative-theological vision of Jesus and the kingdom.

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

Over the years, I have become more and more intrigued with Matthew 18—what’s called the Community Discourse. This chapter consists of Jesus’ teachings for living life together in the Christian community and addresses both the ideals and realities of communal life. Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 18 maintain a balance among various values, including, protecting the vulnerable (“little ones”), taking seriously stumbling blocks within the community, and commending a deep and lavish forgiveness for those who have been forgiven so generously by God.

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

I’m impressed with Matthew’s “least of these” theology, which begins with his focus in chapters 10 and 18 on “little ones, who, though low in status, are to be valued within the believing community. This language moves to the superlative in Matthew 25, where Jesus illustrates his deep solidarity with “the least of these.” When we reach out in solidarity with the least, we will meet Jesus there. That kind of Jesus—one who crosses social and economic boundaries—is a Jesus I want to follow and emulate even more closely.

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

Hands down, Dick France’s Matthew commentary (NICNT). I have found it to be thorough, measured, and insightful. It was a great companion to me as I wrote my commentary. I also appreciate Mark Allan Powell’s work—for example, his article on the beatitudes in Catholic Biblical Quarterly. And I’m always helped by Amy-Jill Levine’s insights into Matthew’s Gospel. For instance, her work on understanding better first-century Jewish purity practices has been invaluable for my perspective on Matthew’s Gospel.

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

I’ve just finished and submitted the Matthew commentary in Two Horizons series (Eerdmans), a collaborative project with Kyle Roberts, theologian. We wrote two of the three sections of the book together, so it has the feel of an integrative biblical-theological project. I am also in the last stages of a book with Steven Sandage, psychologist, on the integration of psychology and theology (Routledge). My future projects include a revision of Scripture as Communication (Baker), a book on a narrative approach to the Gospels (Baker), and the Philippians commentary in the revised Tyndale series (InterVarsity).

Anyone interested in following my work and teaching can find me at www.jeanninekbrown.com.


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Hebrews Commentary Q & A with Author David L. Allen

 

7 Questions on Hebrews in the New American Commentary Series

hebrews commentary allenDavid L. Allen serves as the Dean of the School of Preaching, Distinguished Professor of Preaching, Director of the Center for Expository Preaching, and holds the George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He was previously Dean of the School of Theology from 2004-2012. He served as senior pastor of two churches from 1982-1998.

Along with numerous other articles and chapters in multi-author volumes, he is the author of The Extent of the Atonement: A Historical and Critical Review (B&H, 2016); Hebrews in the New American Commentary Series (Broadman & Holman, 2010); Lukan Authorship of Hebrews (B&H, 2010); 1-3 John: Fellowship in God’s Family in the “Preaching the Word” Series (Crossway, 2013); and Preaching Tools: an Annotated Survey of Commentaries and Preaching Resources for Every Book of the Bible (2014, revised 2016).

Dr. Allen is also the co-editor and contributor of Anyone Can be Saved: A Defense of “Traditional” Southern Baptist Soteriology (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2016); Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism (Nashville: B&H, 2010), Text-Driven Preaching (Nashville: B&H, 2010), The Return of Christ: a Premillennial Perspective (B&H, 2011), and Preach the Word: Essays on Biblical Preaching in Honor of Jerry Vines (2014).

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

I became interested in Hebrews in college when I wrote a paper on the authorship of the book. Throughout seminary and PhD studies, I worked on the authorship issue and ultimately wrote my PhD dissertation on the subject, arguing the case that Luke was the independent author of Hebrews. A revised version of my dissertation was published the same year as the NAC volume on Hebrews entitled Lukan Authorship of Hebrews (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010). I preached through Hebrews twice in the two churches I pastored from 1982-1998. I taught it many times in Bible Conferences as well.

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

The intended audience is first and foremost pastors; especially those committed to expository preaching. However, the NAC is both an exegetical and theological series. Though I make use of the Greek text throughout, I transliterate in the body and only use Greek font in the footnotes. Professors, students, and laypeople would benefit from this commentary.

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

The uniqueness lies in four areas.

First, in the background introductory section, I summarize the case for Lukan authorship of Hebrews. Though this theory is as old as the second century in church history, I present linguistic evidence heretofore unnoticed that suggests Luke may have been the author.

Second, extensive treatment of the structure and theology of the prologue, Hebrews 1:1-4, covers 65 pages. This text is one of the four great Christological passages in the New Testament. It is programmatic for the entire letter.

Third, I have provided the most extensive treatment of Hebrews 6:1-8 found in any commentary of which I am aware: more than 50 pages.

Fourth, I have written this commentary from a discourse perspective, showing the overall semantic structure of the letter and how each paragraph is structured semantically as well. This is an important contribution that aids the expository preacher in preaching through the letter paragraph by paragraph. As William Lane said about the author of Hebrews: “Here is first-century exegesis in the service of preaching.”

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

Hebrews 6:1-8. This text is the single most problematic interpretative issue in the letter, and many scholars would say it is one of the top five most difficult passages in the entire NT. In addition to careful linguistic analysis of the text, I cover each of the five major interpretations (and of all the five warning passages in Hebrews), providing evidence for and against. To my knowledge, my treatment is the most extensive argument in favor of the Loss of Rewards view of the passage. I argue that the issue is not apostasy but spiritual maturity.

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

Life’s problems can only be met and solved by clear thinking about Christ’s High Priesthood and finished work of atonement, which is the doctrinal heart of the letter. My spiritual progress in my Christian life is grounded in my understanding of the person and work of Christ. Christ is my anchor of hope and guarantees the certainty of my eternal destiny amidst life’s currents of circumstances that crisscross one another in endless complications. Jesus Christ: the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8.

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

1. William Lane, Hebrews 1-8. Hebrews 9-13. Word Biblical Commentary.

2. Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews. New International Greek Text Commentary.

3. F. F. Bruce, Hebrews. Revised Edition. New International Commentary on the New Testament.

4. Gareth Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews. New International on the New Testament. (Takes the place of Bruce’s original commentary in this series.)

5. Linda Lloyd Neeley, “A Discourse Analysis of Hebrews,” Occasional Papers in Translation and Textlinguistics 3-4, (1987): 1-146.

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

I am currently working on two projects.

First, I am writing the manuscript for the atonement volume (The Atonement of Christ) in the multi-volume Baptist Thesaurus Series, edited by Paige Patterson and Jason Duesing. I hope to submit the manuscript early fall of 2017.

Second, I am working on a commentary on Job (Exalting Jesus in Job) in the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary Series published by B&H Academic. I hope to submit the manuscript by Dec. 31, 2017.

I can be followed on my website: www.drdavidlallen.com, Facebook (David Lewis Allen) and on Twitter (@DrDavidLAllen).


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