1 Peter Commentary Q & A with Author Juan Sanchez

 

7 Questions on 1 Peter in the For You Commentary Series

peter commentary book coverJuan Sanchez has served as senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas since 2005. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and holds an MDiv, a ThM, and a PhD in Systematic Theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In addition, Dr. Sanchez serves as a council member of The Gospel Coalition, co-founder and president of Coalición, assistant professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

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

When The Good Book Company approached me about contributing to the “For You” series I thought about what I had preached before. There were several options that came to mind, but I settled on 1 Peter. As I reworked 1 Peter I became more and more convinced of the importance of this letter for the church today. While we are more aware of persecution today because of news reports and The Voice of the Martyrs and other sources, in the West, we don’t experience persecution in the same ways our brothers and sisters do in the East, both Middle- and Far-East.

Peter writes to Christians whose persecution is more like what we are facing in the West today – denial of rights by governing authorities, discrimination from employers, mocking by co-workers, social ostracism. In this context, Peter reminds his readers of the great salvation the Triune God has secured for us, reminding us that even as we face suffering now, we have a living hope and an eternal reward that cannot be taken away.

But at the heart of the letter is an exhortation for the church to display the glory and wisdom of God in a hostile world by being a royal priesthood and holy nation – pointing those who mistreat us to our king and His kingdom. Peter’s first letter is a glorious exhortation to persevere by following Jesus’ footsteps into suffering, death, resurrection, vindication, and glory.

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

I wrote 1 Peter for You with the church in mind, but I believe it benefits pastors who are seeking to shepherd their churches through the difficult waters of contemporary anti-Christians culture. This book is not written to be used by seminary professors in master-level classes, but it is meant to encourage all Christians from all walks of life and all vocations to consider Christ and follow in His steps.

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

What is unique about this commentary and the whole “For You” series by The Good Book Company is that it seeks to wrestle with the text, explaining it clearly and concisely, while providing a devotional tone for personal edification. I did not set to contribute any new insights to the studies of 1 Peter; I merely wanted to encourage the church by presenting the truths of 1 Peter in a fresh, understandable, and applicable manner.

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

1 Peter has some particularly tough passages. For example, 1 Peter 3:18-22 has lent itself to various interpretations. However, this is a particularly joy-filled reminder of our union with Christ and the resulting blessings. I enjoyed working through this section and being reminded that we can ascertain the things we know and work from there.

In particular, 3:18-22 is a path – Jesus suffered once for sins…, being put to death…but made alive in the spirit (resurrection) (3:18) and is now exalted to “the right hand of God,” having received all authority in heaven and on earth (3:22). The whole point is that “it is better to suffer for doing good…than for doing evil” (3:17) because just as Jesus suffered and died for doing good, not evil, and was raised, vindicated, and glorified, so too will we who are united with him by faith.

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

Again, it was the reminder that no matter what we face in this world, we are only following in the footsteps of Jesus, our King and Lord. I face nothing in this world that Jesus has not already faced and conquered. Armed with this way of thinking, I can live in this world as a stranger, pointing unbelievers to Christ and His kingdom by proclaiming the good news and by living out life together as Christ’s ambassadors with a local body of believers.

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

The two that come to mind are Thomas Schreiner’s [NAC] and Karen Jobe’s commentaries on 1 Peter [BECNT]. Schreiner is a humble, careful, thoughtful New Testament scholar. I gained much from his explanation of the biblical text. Karen Jobes was extremely helpful in understanding the historical background of the original audience of 1 Peter.

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

I’ve just completed a book on Revelation 2-3 titled, Seven Dangers Facing Your Church (The Good Book Company, March 2018). I enjoyed writing this book because in many ways it addresses the same themes as 1 Peter. In it, I argue that in the seven messages to the churches in Revelation, Jesus is exposing a particular danger each church faces. These seven dangers are meant to be taken seriously by all churches in all times.

Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/manorjuan
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/manorjuan
Website: http://www.highpointeaustin.org


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Zechariah Commentary Q & A with Author Mark Boda

 

7 Questions on Zechariah in the NICOT Commentary Series

zechariah commentary book coverMark J. Boda (PhD, University of Cambridge) is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at McMaster Divinity College.

He has authored 12 books, edited 19 volumes of collected essays, and written over 100 articles on various topics related to the Old Testament and Christian Theology. Key areas of interest include Old Testament Theology, prayer and penitence in Old Testament and Christian Theology, Babylonian and Persian Period Hebrew Books and History (Jeremiah, Lamentations, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi), the Book of the Twelve (Minor Prophets) and Judges.

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

Zechariah was the set text for a Prophets course I took with Raymond Dillard nearly 30 years ago. I was preaching in a church at that time and did not have time to prepare new material for my sermons, so took advantage of my study in that course to preach through Zechariah. My doctoral dissertation at Cambridge was on Ezra-Nehemiah (now Praying the Tradition: The Origin and Use of Tradition in Nehemiah 9 [BZAW 277; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1999]), and my conclusion was that the prayer in Neh 9 most likely arose originally in the period represented by Zech 1-8. In my post-doctoral phase I remained focused on the early Persian period, but shifted over to prophetic literature, investigating Haggai and Zechariah. This is now my second commentary on Zechariah, the earlier being my NIVAC on Haggai, Zechariah (Zondervan, 2003). During the writing of both of these commentaries I tested my material extensively in churches as well as the academic guild, writing articles in various volumes and journals and presenting papers at conferences.

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

This commentary provides extensive notes on the translation of Zechariah and its interpretation. Its focus is on the original context of this text, showing how this prophet spoke into the midst of a particular community in the history of redemption. It would benefit pastors, professors, students and those in the church who want to pursue the original meaning of the text as a foundation for application into contemporary contexts. The details that are often glossed over in more expositional commentaries will be found here.

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

I hope the fresh translations have explained and even resolved some of the challenges in the interpretation of Zechariah. I provide extensive explanations of the meaning of the words and phrases within their context in Zechariah. There is a general introduction to Zechariah as a whole, and then smaller introductions to the main sections of the book covering issues specific to those sections (1:1-6, 1:7–6:15, 7:1-8:23, chs. 9–14). At the beginning of each pericope I provide a translation (with notes) and an overview of the structure and theme of the passage before going into detail on each verse. I also focus considerable attention on the intertextual character of Zechariah, as it cites and alludes to other biblical materials. This commentary will help people see how the message of Zechariah spoke into the midst of a community emerging from exile, which is often missed in contemporary preaching as preachers jump from the text to our modern context without reflection on how the prophets spoke to their own world. Modern and postmodern readers today who are interested in Zechariah as an authoritative text will find this message to an exilic/post-exilic audience as helpful in the present post-Christian world in the west.

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

Zechariah 9-14 is clearly memorable because it was such a difficult section of the book with so much disagreement over its meaning and historical context. Paul Redditt’s work on Zechariah really helped me crack the literary code of this section of Zechariah. His work helped me to see the overall flow and integrity of these chapters and the presence of a progression in the message as Zechariah and the movement associated with him increasingly became disenchanted with the restoration that had spawned his prophetic career.

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

The opening prophetic words of Zechariah captured my imagination immediately, probably because of my deep interest in repentance and penitential prayer over the past 25 years. I liked them so much I used them as the title of my recent monograph: “Return to Me”: A Biblical Theology of Repentance (NSBT; Leicester: Apollos, 2015). Before Zechariah ever gets to repentance as change of behavior in Zech 1:4, he calls out to the people: “Return to me,” declaration of Yahweh of hosts, “that I may return to you.” While not ignoring the importance of changed behavior, Zechariah places the priority on relationship between God and people. This same message becomes so foundational for the Christian message, declared by John the Baptist, then Jesus, and finally the early church.

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

I have appreciated the recent commentaries by Al Wolters (Leuven, 2014) and Anthony Petterson (Apollos, 2015), which were not available when I wrote my own commentary. Petterson is superb on classic commentary and Biblical Theology, while Wolters provides great coverage of the reception history of Zechariah throughout Jewish and Church history, and offers creative solutions for some of the challenging texts in Zechariah. Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer has been producing superb academic work on Zechariah, as seen in her two recent volumes: Zechariah and His Visions (2015) and Zechariah’s Vision Report and Its Earliest Interpreters (2016, both with Bloomsbury T. & T. Clark). I found helpful three works that cover larger portions of the Minor Prophets/Book of the Twelve: Michael Floyd (Forms of Old Testament Literature, 2000), Marvin Sweeney (Berit Olam, 2000) and recently James Nogalski (Smith & Helwys, 2011). The classic commentaries are still helpful: Carol and Eric Meyers (Anchor Bible, 1987, 1993) and David Petersen (Old Testament Library, 1984, 1995). If people are interested in most of my essays that I wrote over the past two decades on Zechariah as foundation for my commentary work, they can obtain it free online at https://www.sbl-site.org/publications/books_anemonographs.aspx. And if they are interested in more extensive connections for biblical theology and application they should consult my earlier NIVAC commentary (Zondervan, 2003).

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

There is always plenty to do. Besides my annual work on The Committee on Bible Translation (NIV), I am working on an Isaiah commentary in the Story of God series for which I am an Associate Editor (Zondervan) and co-editing a forthcoming series of commentaries on the prophets with Gordon McConville (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament: Prophetic Books, Baker Academic). Psalms is increasingly a focus for me, returning to the prayer emphasis that captured my imagination back at the beginning of my career: there is plenty there to keep me busy for another lifetime! You can follow my work at https://mcmasterdivinity.ca/faculty/core/mark-j-boda.


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Hebrews, James Commentary Q & A with Editor Ron Rittgers

 

7 Questions about Hebrews and James in the Reformation Commentary Series

hebrews james commentary book coverRonald K. Rittgers (PhD, Harvard University) holds the Erich Markel Chair in German Reformation Studies at Valparaiso University, where he also serves as professor of history and theology.

Dr. Rittgers is the author of The Reformation of Suffering: Pastoral Theology and Lay Piety in Late Medieval and Early Modern Germany and The Reformation of the Keys: Confession, Conscience, and Authority in Sixteenth-Century Germany. He has also served as the president of the American Society of Church History.

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

After the completion of two scholarly monographs with Harvard Press and Oxford Press, respectively, I wanted to work on a “service project” that be of special use to the church. I wanted to draw on my training in Reformation Studies to serve the church.

Here are my monographs:

The Reformation of Suffering: Pastoral Theology and Lay Piety in Late Medieval and Early Modern Germany. Oxford Studies in Historical Theology (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

The Reformation of the Keys: Confession, Conscience, and Authority in Sixteenth-Century Germany (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004).

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

All of the above.

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

It provides for the first time a collection of excerpts from Reformation commentaries on Hebrews and James that draws on sources previously inaccessible to most modern readers.

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

The sections of Hebrews that seem to suggest that salvation can be lost and the portions of James that stress that centrality of works in the Christian life.

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

To see how deeply concerned the Reformers were even in biblical commentaries to console the faithful. Many commentaries wind up being works of consolation.

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

I am not a NT scholar and so should not be making such recommendations.

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

Grief and Consolation in Early Modern Germany: Johannes Christoph Oelhafen’s “Pious Meditations on the Most Sorrowful Bereavement” (1619), (Fortress Press, 2018)

Protestants and Mysticism in Reformation Europe, edited with Vince Evener (Brill, 2018).


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John Commentary Q & A with Author Matt Carter

 

7 Questions on Matthew in the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary Series

john commentary book coverMatt Carter serves as the Pastor of Preaching at the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, which has grown from a core team of 15 to over 7,000 attending each Sunday since the church began in 2002.

Matt has co-authored multiple books including The Real Win, a book on biblical manhood co-authored by NFL quarterback Colt McCoy, and two group studies, Creation Unraveled and Creation Restored, which traced the gospel message through the book of Genesis.

He holds an M.Div. from Southwestern Seminary and a D.Min. in Expositional Preaching from Southeastern Seminary. He and his wife Jennifer have been married for 20 years, and they have three children, John Daniel, Annie, and Samuel.

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

When I planted The Austin Stone Community Church 15 years ago, we began the very first week with John 1:1. We then spent the next 5 years preaching through John, going verse-by-verse.

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

The Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series are aimed for every level of ministry, so they’re useful for pastors and small group leaders, but also accessible to lay Christians for personal study or devotions. We had in our mind the believer that’s looking more for a devotional commentary, but also for the pastor who is looking for help in sermon prep.

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

What’s different about this commentary is that it is written in sermon form, so it’s less academic and more driven devotionally. As stated above, it’s accessible for both personal devotion and sermon prep. Also, this commentary series is Christ-centered in focus, so we take every text and tie it back to the larger story of the gospel.

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

I love how John begins his gospel with addressing the deity of Christ, and not simply starting with some event or aspect of Jesus’ life. John starts with Jesus’ character. That sets the stage for everything else that happens in the gospel, all viewed through the lens of his authority and divinity.

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

When writing a commentary, you’re able to go to depths of a text you normally wouldn’t if you’re just studying it. After writing this commentary, I am convinced more than ever that Jesus is exactly who he says he is.

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

I would recommend D.A. Carson’s commentary on John in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series, and The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on John. Carson’s will give you academic depth, while MacArthur is great for practical application.

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

I just co-authored a novel of historical-fiction called “Steal Away Home,” which released in September. It is a story based on the real-life friendship between the English preacher Charles Spurgeon and former-slave-turned-missionary Thomas Johnson. Otherwise, I’m the pastor of preaching at The Austin Stone Community Church, and in my free time, I coach my son’s high school football team.

You can follow the ministry of Austin Stone at austinstone.org and on Twitter: @TheAustinStone
You can follow me on Twitter: @_Matt_Carter.


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Revelation Commentary Q & A with Author Brian Blount

 

7 Questions on Revelation in the New Testament Library Commentary Series

revelation commentary book coverBrian K. Blount is a Presbyterian minister, New Testament scholar and current President of Union Presbyterian Seminary. He is a noted preacher and scholar on the Book of Revelation. He holds a B.A. from the College of William and Mary, his M. Div from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Emory University.

Dr. Blount is the associate editor of The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible and associate editor of True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary. He also co-authored Struggling with Scripture with Walter Brueggemann and William Placher.

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

I have enjoyed working on apocalyptic materials, particularly focusing on the presentation of how the force and presence of the future Reign of God has dawned in the present historical circumstance. I did most of my research prior to Revelation in the Gospel of Mark, building the argument that in Jesus’ person and ministry the future had broken into the present. This future inbreaking, represented in Jesus’ ministry, is expected in the narrative of the gospel to be re-presented in the lives of the disciples. It is this focus on the power of apocalyptic to shape the present that has fascinated me across the years. I was interested in seeing how the most visibly apocalyptic work in the New Testament handled this coordination of future expectation and present realization.

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

It is my hope that the commentary can be beneficial for all Christians. The primary audience consists of pastors, students, and professors. But I believe that it can also be useful for Christians who are interested in learning more about the Book of Revelation. I have used the research in many church contexts of adult education across the years. The material has been enthusiastically received.

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

I believe that it gives a narrative discussion of John’s intent in the book, so that the book is understood from the thematic intent that I believe John of Patmos had in writing it. This intent carries through the book and shapes the individual texts. I try to explain the individual texts in light of this thesis, therefore. The book is seen more as a whole in this way, as a study into the overall design the book has for pushing its readers to witness in ways that will be transformational in their world.

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

Chapter 12. Though I believe the heart of John’s intent is in chapters 2 and 3 where he outlines his concern and reveals his thesis intent for the work, the poetry of chapter 12, along with the conflict narrated, were the most thrilling parts of the study for me. I believe, too, that a key passage for the thesis of the work, 12:11 is also here. It is helpful to see this key ministry message located in the heart of this wonderfully creative and insightful section that uses poetic imagery to convey a provocative narrative.

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

The language of witness for the Lordship of Christ in the world and the expectation that we are all called to witness even knowing that the cost for such witness can be devastatingly high.

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

I have enjoyed directing students to commentaries by Eugene Boring [Interpretation, John Knox Press] and Mitchell Reddish [SHBC].

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

Because I have been an administrator for years, I have not had as much time to do this level of research lately. My last book was an apocalyptic view of resurrection. I continue to be fascinated by apocalyptic materials.


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Revelation Commentary Q & A with Author G.K. Beale

 

7 Questions on Revelation in the NIGTC Commentary Series

revelation commentary book coverGregory K. (G.K.) Beale is a biblical scholar. He is currently a professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Beale has made a number of contributions to conservative Biblical hermeneutics, particularly in the area of the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament. He served as the president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 2004. In 2013, he was elected by Westminster Theological Seminary to be the first occupant of the J. Gresham Machen Chair of New Testament.

His books include Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (editor with D.A. Carson), We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, and IVP New Testament Commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians.

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

I wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on “The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of St. John” at Cambridge University in England. I also taught a repeated course on an exegesis of the Greek text of Revelation at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

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

Pastors, students, and scholars. I put English in parentheses after Greek words so non-Greek readers can follow the Commentary discussion.

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

Use of the OT in Revelation; relevance of Jewish backgrounds to Revelation.

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

Revelation 4-5 were especially memorable, since the glory of God and the Lamb on the throne are the main point.

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

Seeing the unity of all Scripture coming to a peak in Revelation was very edifying. Also, understanding that the visionary parables in Revelation are an escalated heavenly continuation of Christ’s earthly parabolic ministry was encouraging.

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

Smalley’s commentary (IVP); Bauckham’s Climax of Prophecy and his shorter monograph on Revelation with Cambridge University Press.

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

I just submitted a commentary manuscript on Colossians and Philemon for the Baker Exegetical Commentary series. I am also beginning to work on a commentary on the Pastoral Epistles for the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series (co-authored with Christopher Beetham).

I am about to submit a long article to a journal on Isaiah 65:20, as this relates to millennial debates.


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Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Q & A

 

Learn more about the “Jesus of Testimony” in the Four Gospels

Bauckham Jesus EyewitnessesRichard J. Bauckham is an English Anglican scholar in theology, historical theology and New Testament studies, specializing in New Testament Christology and the Gospel of John. He is a senior scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.

In 2006, Dr. Bauckham published Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, described by many scholars as a paradigm shift in Gospels study. In this book, Bauckham argues that the Synoptic Gospels are based “quite closely” on the testimony of eyewitnesses, while the Gospel of John is written by an eyewitness, against the current scholarly consensus that the Synoptic Gospels are closer to the eyewitnesses and John further removed. The book won Christianity Today’s Book of the Year: Biblical Studies in 2007, the Burkitt Medal in 2008, and the Michael Ramsey Prize in 2009. Bauckham updated and expanded the book to respond to critics in a second edition, published in 2017.

Also, his classic work, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, is considered one of the best introductions to Revelation available.

1. You earned a Phd. in history from the University of Cambridge prior to your publications in New Testament studies and your teaching appointments at the University of Manchester and the University of St. Andrews. How did that season of your academic life inform your research into the Jesus of Testimony?

It was an excellent training in historical method. I like to think that, as a result, I have a better sense of how to assess historical evidence and how to develop historical arguments than some biblical scholars. There is a danger that biblical scholars learn their historical method only from the way other biblical scholars work, with the result that a kind of historical method evolves within biblical studies that doesn’t compare well with the way other historians work in other areas of history. I also have an insatiable historical curiosity, which leads me to pursue questions that may not seem to be of much importance or relevance – but which can then turn up material that actually does prove relevant to key issues in NT study.

2. Why do you think Jesus and the Eyewitnesses found an audience among non-academics, like pastors and even lay Christians, since most works of biblical scholarship tend to stay within the confines of the academy?

It was a surprise to me. One factor was clearly that the subject matter was of genuine interest to many people. At least in the UK I think the fact that it won the Michael Ramsey prize (given for a theological book that can be recommended to a wider than academic audience) helped it on its way. Given that I needed to pursue complex and sometimes technical arguments, I did try to write as clearly and accessibly as possible. Though I needed to discuss Greek, I never quoted Greek without giving a translation. Many scholarly monographs simply do not try to be accessible to non-scholars and, of course, we need scholarly books that pursue the scholarly discussion within the academy. But it is possible to write in a way that, without sacrificing rigour or detail, is more accessible than is often the case. Having said that, to appeal to a broader audience the subject matter obviously needs to be of real interest to such readers.

3. In the newly-released second edition of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses you respond to criticisms the first edition received. You expected the book to be controversial (p. xviii), but did the nature of the criticisms surprise you? Some critics misunderstood your arguments; yet in other cases, they may not have even read them (e.g. p. 546-547). Did you receive any feedback (reviews or otherwise) that lead you to reconsider any of your arguments, other than mere clarification or elaboration? If not, does this confirm that you are correctly interpreting the historical data (e.g. Tal Ilan’s Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity: 330 BCE – 650 CE) in relation to the Gospels?

I was a bit surprised when some reviewers grossly misunderstood arguments that, when I looked back at them, seemed to me to be presented as clearly as anyone could wish. I think what the good criticisms mainly did was to lead me to seek better evidence for some arguments that were relatively weakly supported in the evidence I offered. In these cases I think I have much improved the arguments (now in the 2nd edition). One thing I realised for myself after the book was published was that I should have said more about how the issue of Gospel genre is important for my approach. I think now I would describe what I called the “Petrine inclusio” (in Mark and Luke) in a slightly different way, though without substantially affecting the argument. Another clarification that I should probably have made (I simply took this for granted as obvious) is that of course my arguments do not guarantee the historical accuracy of everything in the Gospels. No historical argument could possibly do that. The best historical sources are not immune from error. Eyewitnesses get things wrong – of course. But usually they are at least the best qualified to provide broadly reliable accounts.

4. In the second edition, in the substantially new chapter titled, “Who Was the Beloved Disciple? (Continued),” you challenge the notion that John the son of Zebedee wrote the Gospel of John. Some who praised your book in aggregate, found fault with this particular argument. Given that your view of the authorship of the Gospel retains both apostolicity and eye-witness testimony (p. 552-553), what is the real issue in your view? Why does this topic touch a nerve?

Well, I suppose it disturbs a traditional way of reading the Gospel which is so familiar to many people that they think the authority of the Gospel depends on it. Since I argued that the Gospel of John was actually written by an eyewitness, a disciple of Jesus (which is rarely maintained by other Johannine scholars), I was surprised by the vehemence with which some “conservative” critics responded. Which eyewitness, which disciple of Jesus is surely comparatively unimportant? I suspect that these scholars are used to an apologetic kind of argument about the authorship of the Gospel and the identity of the Beloved Disciple that avoids facing up to the real difficulties of supposing the BD is John the son of Zebedee and wrote the Gospel. For example, they claim that in Mark only the Twelve are with Jesus at the last supper but ignore the fact that in Mark only the women disciples are present at the cross. I find it much easier to attribute the Gospel to an eyewitness if the eyewitness was not one of the Markan trio (Peter and the sons of Zebedee). I also find it enriching to see that this Gospel offers us a perspective on Jesus from outside the circle of the Twelve.

5. Also in the second edition, in the substantially new chapter titled, “The End of Form Criticism (Confirmed),” you write that “many New Testament scholars seem to suppose that the more sceptical of the sources they are, the more rigorously historical is their method” (p. 613). From the perspective of a historian such as yourself, why is that an unwise approach? How would you briefly summarize a better approach?

Historians are concerned to assess the general reliability of their sources. They are not usually in the business of reducing the reliable sources to a minimum whose reliability they can consider 99% certain. In history we must usually be content with a good probability of reliability. If a source was produced by people who were in a position to know what they are talking about, then it is treated as innocent unless proved guilty. We do not need additional evidence in support of everything it says. To discredit it we need good evidence against it. The problem with being too sceptical is that we discard lots of good evidence. If we are too credulous we credit bad evidence, but if we are too sceptical we discredit good evidence. History is in some ways much like ordinary life. in believing or doubting what we are told, we need to keep our critical faculties alert, but if we treat everything as suspect unless we can prove it we would hardly be able to manage our lives at all.

6. How has your research regarding the Jesus of Testimony increased your own affections for Christ?

I haven’t really thought about this, but I think the effect of my proposal is that the better we know the Gospels the closer they really do bring us to Jesus. We shouldn’t think of the Gospels as texts that get in between us and the real Jesus, but as texts that bring us to Jesus. That doesn’t mean harmonizing their different perspectives artificially, but realizing that the reality of Jesus is such that we need the varying perspectives of the Gospels to get us anywhere near to who he truly was and is.

7. What’s next for you? Are your current research and writing projects about the Jesus of Testimony? How can readers follow your ministry?

The major project I have just completed is a book about Magdala, the home town of Mary Magdalene, which lies a few miles south of Capernaum and has now been quite extensively excavated. These are, I think, the most important recent and current excavations for relevance to Jesus and the Gospels. I have edited the book (other contributors include archaeologists) but have written a lot of it (about 95,000 words) myself. It will be published by Baylor University Press in autumn 2018.

There is a big volume (700 pages) of my collected essays (written over many years and previously published in lots of different journals and books) to be published very soon (hopefully it will be available at SBL). Title: The Christian World around the New Testament. (It is meant to be a companion to my earlier collection The Jewish World around the New Testament.) It is a quite miscellaneous collection, but includes quite a lot about the Gospels.

I hope that fairly soon I will get together a second volume (following Jesus and the God of Israel) of essays on NT Christology.

I shall say no more just now about current and future projects, because too often my expectations are not fulfilled – and then people are disappointed. (Yes, there are going to be two commentaries on John, if I live to write them – but I really have no idea when!)

I have a website (richardbauckham.co.uk) and I always keep the lists of publications there up to date. Lately I have been bad at keeping it up to date in other respects (such as forthcoming speaking engagements) but mean to do better!


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Joshua Commentary Q & A with Author Dale Ralph Davis

 

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

joshua commentary book coverDale Ralph Davis is Minister in Residence of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. Prior to that he was pastor of Woodland Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He is well known for his excellent Old Testament commentaries, and his book The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts.

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

I had taught through the ‘Former Prophets’ several times in seminary classes, so, after I left the seminary the first time for a pastorate, I decided to try to pull together my notes and studies on Joshua and see if I could set it down in a coherent exposition. I’m sure that I had also preached on a number of passages in Joshua and that also fed into my writing.

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

I suppose the proper answer is ‘pastors and interested lay people.’ I’ve had responses over the years from both ‘categories’–pastors often indicating that it was helpful for their preaching series in Joshua, and a number of lay people who may say that they’ve used it as a ‘pony’ as they have been reading through Joshua in their devotional reading. For pastors, I think that sometimes if they come on a commentary that ‘grabs’ them, they will be far more likely to preach through that biblical book.

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

I don’t know if my commentary makes a contribution exactly to studies of Joshua, but I think it is distinctive to a certain degree. It is an expositional commentary, it does not deal in detailed exegesis. As an expositional commentary it will stoop to application, and yet it’s not strictly a ‘devotional’ commentary in the smaltzy sense of that word. It tries to set forth a theo-centric approach to every passage, so that the focus is on what Yahweh is up to, on what God is doing not so much on our needs. The triune God is so much more interesting than we are, and yet, oddly enough, once we see him in the text, we at the same time find our needs met as well.

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

I don’t know that any passage stands out in this regard. I find it very satisfying to see 24:29-33 as the climax of the book and not a bunch of floor sweepings to be collected at the end. The 3 burials in this last passage all take place in the land that was promised (the theme of chapter 1), in promise dirt, and therefore point to Yahweh’s faithfulness to his ‘old’ promise. So these burial notices at the end are not a few sundry and extraneous details but are hammering home Yahweh’s relentless faithfulness.

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

I think I was ‘personally edified’ in working with every passage. That, I think, must be the case. As John Bright once said, there are no non-theological texts in the Bible. Every text is meant to put the triune Yahweh on display in some way. When one sees him, one is bound to tremble or worship or be comforted and settled–whatever is appropriate. There are no cold facts about God, only warm truth, and every passage, however dry it may seem, delights in him in some way.

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

There are several that come to mind. Of commentaries, I think pride of place for me would go to Adolph L. Harstad’s in the Concordia Commentary series.

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, beyond the OT, in the Gospel of Luke and also continuing to work in the first ‘book’ of the Psalms. No need to follow my work or ministry–I don’t blog or do any cyber-stuff.


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Matthew Commentary Q & A with Author Douglas Sean O’Donnell

 

7 Questions on Matthew in the Teach the Text Commentary Series

matthew commentary book cover

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (Phd. candidate at the University of Aberdeen) has nearly 20 years of pastoral ministry, which includes helping plant three churches with College Church, a historic Reformed interdenominational church in Wheaton, IL.

Pastor O’Donnell has written nine books, including two children’s books, a Bible study on the Psalms, and commentaries on the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and John’s Epistles. With R. Kent Hughes, he co-wrote and edited The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry.

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

Whenever I’m asked, “What is your favorite book in the Bible?” I usually say, “the Gospel of Matthew” (the book of Job is a close second). I love Matthew because it is dear to my heart. Part of my conversion story involves reading through the First Gospel and being struck by the story of the young rich ruler (or simply, to Matthew, the “young man”). I knew that if I, as a nineteen-year-old man, wanted to follow Jesus that the Lord of heaven and earth demanded everything. I also love the Gospel because it is a Gospel that highlights Jesus’s teaching ministry, the life-changing ministry of his authoritative word. Some of the unique features of the Gospel are inspiring to me—e.g., the Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commission, and even the woes to the scribes and the Pharisees.

With all that in mind, when R. Kent Hughes called me to contribute to the Preaching the Word commentary series, I wanted to write on Matthew. However, I was young at the time and thought it would be presumptuous if I returned the call and asked for a large book and a Gospel. So, I thought I’d say “yes” to being a contributor and ask for a short epistle, maybe 1 John. Jude? However, before I could reply, Kent left a message while I was at church, saying, “And I’d like you to do Matthew, if you’re up for it.” What remarkable providence! I was indeed up for it.

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

Pastors and laypeople are the target. I have had a few friends tell me that they spend their morning devotions first reading a passage in Matthew, then reading my commentary, and finally praying that God would apply those truths—read and “preached”—to their lives. I highly recommend that practice, whether it is my commentary or others like it.

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

Like all the volumes in the Preaching the Word series, my commentary on Matthew is homiletical. While this is not completely “unique” (there is the Reformed Expository Commentary series, ancient commentaries, etc.), it fills a small niche today. So, while I exegete the text, and interact with scholarly options (see my extensive endnotes), the main contribution comes for the preacher. The commentary will help the pastor see how someone else divided the text into a sermon outline, and then explained, illustrated, and applied God’s Word. I would also hope my exegetical imagination (God has gifted me with creativity grounded in orthodoxy) and wit (I have my Irish father’s clever and dry humor) adds some freshness and originality.

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

As I mentioned above, Matthew 19:16-30 was a text that God used to save me and bring me under the Lordship of Jesus. Another text that has been life-changing is Matthew 15:21-28, the story of the Canaanite woman. That narrative has been my area of study for my PhD. Sometimes doctoral students get bored with their topic (so much research on one small area of the Bible). For me, these eight verses have breathed life into me. Her story is now my story. I have lived with this woman (the inspired text that is!) many years, and I love Jesus more because of her. She has taught me the nature of faith. Her coming with her need. Her posture. Her persistance. Her prayer. Her utter dependence. What “great faith!”

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

As a pastor and scholar, my goal is to demonstrate and declare, in Peter’s language, the “excellencies” of Christ (1 Peter 2:9). With every section of Matthew’s Gospel, I encountered the incarnate and resurrected Jesus. I was taken aback. Reformed. Renewed. Edified. Encouraged. Stunned. Changed. Face down in adoration.

I was also edified by my congregation’s response to the sermons that were the basis of the commentary. Pastors don’t often (sadly) get notes of encouragement. When nearing the end of my sermon series on Matthew, I received this incredibly kind and edifying note during Pastor’s Appreciation Month:

My heart really overflows with appreciation when I think of you. . . . In your consistent pointing to Jesus and marveling at Him in each sermon, my apathetic thought that “my best years with the Lord were behind me” has been drowned by ever increasing love for my Lord! When I think back to the hunger in my soul during college to hear more about Jesus in church, and then I think about how I have been fed on three years of Christ-exalting preaching under your pulpit—I AM THANKFUL!

That note, still today, helps me strive to faithfully proclaim and exalt—through voice or pen—our Lord Jesus Christ.

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

There are a number of excellent resources out there. We live in the land of plenty! For expert scholarly exegesis of the text I recommend the commentaries by [W.D.] Davies and [Dale] Allison Jr. and John Nolland. [Jefferey A.] Gibbs is solid. [Ulrich] Luz can be helpful. For clear exegesis of the text, along with excellent theological reflections and applications, I recommend Grant Osborne’s work. For a helpful overview of Matthean theological emphasizes, I recommend Charles Quarles, A Theology of Matthew: Jesus Revealed as Deliverer, King, and Incarnate Creator. For a short overview on Matthew, listen to my interview with Nancy Guthrie (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/help-me-teach-the-bible-douglas-odonnell-on-matthew).

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 four commentaries: on the Song of Songs, the Gospel of Mark, and two on the book of Job—one scholarly, the other homiletical.

To check out writing projects, see my Amazon author page.

To listen to sermons, go to Westminster Presbyterian Church (wpchurch.com). I will be preaching the Gospel of Mark, starting in November 2017. The Gospels are the life of the church!


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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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