Book Reviews

review of Mark A. Howell’s commentary

Well, it’s been over a year (I think) since I agreed to perform a review of a commentary in a new(ish) series. The commentary is from Mark A. Howell* entitled, Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and the series is called: Christ-Centered Exposition (NT), from B&H Publishing. The really, really long review is available here (…it’s 35 pages). The reason for the length? The honest answer is: the commentary is saturated with problems–e.g., typographical, logical, exegetical, theological, etc–and it took some time to work through them. (In fact, I had to make a decision to stop writing the review). And by “work through them” I mean, point them out and explain why they are problematic. If you want the short version about the commentary: it’s not one that I would recommend. If you want to know why I say that, you’ll have to read the review.

* Right before posting this, I discovered an error in the review: Howell is no longer the Pastor at First Baptist (Daytona, FL); in July of this year, he became the Pastor at Hunters Glen Baptist (Plano, TX). However, I have decided to keep the details as I have them in the review, primarily because they reflect things as they were at the time of writing it.

review of the really, very, holy, Dr Tilling

My review of Chris Tilling’s monograph,, Paul’s Divine Christology is now published (in SCJ).  If you click the SCJ link, you can gain (free) access to all of the book reviews in the current edition.  There’s more than 60-pages worth, so you’ll certainly get your fill.  Happy reading.

more smelly fish

Early last year, I did a piece on Jack Kinsella and suspected plagiarism. The gist of the first half of that post was that I occasionally have a sense for when something is not right in someone’s writing. When that sense overwhelms me, I will follow up on and check things out to see if they’re kosher. In the case of Kinsella, my suspicions were proven correct (see the second half of that post).

Earlier this week, I did a post on the recently published, Middle of the Earth by Allen Austin, where I (admittedly) critiqued the premises and assumptions in a rather blunt fashion. This afternoon, Mr Austin offered his feedback to my post (see the comments in the aforementioned link). I can appreciate his objection to my critique, one formulated without having read the book; thus, I offered my time to read through his arguments if Xulon Press would graciously send me a review copy. Since I had my doubts that such graciousness would be extended to me, I decided to have a look-see on GoogleBooks. Thankfully, GB had a preview of it.

I made my way through the Preface, and I honestly found myself confused at what Mr Austin was advocating and where he planned to go with it. Since one of his main contentions is that what he argues in the book is founded on biblical truths (revealed to him via God’s leading [p. viii]), it was no surprise to find a discussion about the nature of the Bible. However, it was here that something didn’t seem right. The writing style changed, and the level of argumentation was markedly different from what preceded it. I smelled fish. After a quick search, here is what I found.

First, read Mr Austin’s comments on page xiv of his Middle of the Earth (found here, you’ll have to scroll down a bit)–beginning with the phrase: ‘Much of the Old Testament . . .’ Go ahead, I’ll wait for you. Now that you’re done with that, go here and scroll down to the fourth paragraph. Once there, begin reading from the third sentence –the one that starts with: ‘Much of the Old Testament . . .’ Look familiar? It should. Either Mr Austin moonlights as ‘Steven Solomon’ (i.e. it’s Austin’s pseudonym) or Austin lifted his material from Solomon without permission. Not a wise move.

new read and two big thank yous

If you are not aware, Kenneth Schenck has recently published the first volume (of two) in his treatment of Paul’s life and teaching.  This first book is aptly called, Paul: Messenger of Grace.  Volume two of Schenck’s treatment is intriguingly called, Paul: Soldier of Peace, and it is set to be released sometime in the near future.  However, Schenck has been given permission by his publisher to blog drafts of both works; so if you would like to get a ‘sneak preview’, head over to his site and have a read. 

Once I learned that Schneck produced this treatment on Paul, I became rather excited; not just because it’s another book on Paul, but also because it’s a book on Paul done by Kenneth Schenck–a scholar and writer I admire.  I then e-mailed Schenck to see if it was too late for me to request a review copy of his new book, and I was given the gracious response: ‘let me see what I can do.’  (That was on 30-Oct).  Three days ago, a review copy from the kind people at Wesleyan Publishing House arrived at the house!  My deepest thanks go out to both Schenck and WPH.

(I’ve been making my way through the book during my lunch-time breaks, and hope to be finished with it sometime soon.  Once I’m done, I’ll write up a review and post it here).

So far so good

I have finally started reading Peter Enns‘ book, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (2005).*  I have been meaning to read this book for some time now, but I have simply not had the time to give it the attention it deserves.  That time has changed (obviously).  Admittedly, I am only a preface and one chapter into the book, which means I will not be able to speak fully at this point.  However, I can say that what I see so far is reasonable and quite good. 

The first chapter lays the groundwork for the approach Enns seeks to take as he explores the manifold nature of the Bible, especially the Old Testament.  Specifically, Enns wants to examine the (striking) similarities between what is found in the Bible/OT and what appears in similar genres and texts from the ancient Near East (ANE).  Two seemingly contradictory things stand out for me in this regard: 1) Enns is not denying the unique quality of the Bible/OT by doing this comparison; 2) Enns wants to understand how to deal with the similar form and content between the Bible/OT and texts from the ANE in a way that maintains the uniqueness of the former.  Or to oversimplify: Enns want to understand how the Bible/OT is like other texts from the ANE but at the same time unlike those texts.  When I was working on my MA thesis in Seminary, I found myself wrestling with the same sorts of questions/issues and wanting to come out of the stuggle in a similar way.  While I am not entirely sure how well I came out in that process, I do know that I have a greater sensitivity and respect for this type of discussion.  (I now wish I had Enns’ book during that writing stage). 

One final thought on the opening of this book deals with something just below the surface–something easily overlooked if one is not paying close enough attention.  I have read a few articles by Enns and they carry with them a deep sense of clarity and what I would call a ‘humble boldness’.  In other words, Enns is ‘to-the-point’ and incredibly insightful but not in a way that reeks of academic smugness.   In his book (at least the preface and first chapter), there is a slight sense of vagueness and what could be termed, ‘humble reserve’.  I get the the impression that Enns knows his argument is controversial and even difficult to address in an honest fashion.  However, that he expresses himself with this humble reserve tells me that he is not dealing with this material lightly nor is he wanting to be seen as a ranging liberal bull in a quaint little conservative china-shoppe.  At the very least, Enns should be commended for that; and I do.

* As many will know, this book was the shot heard ’round the world in that it ultimately (and sadly) led to Enns losing his position at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Review, Article, Proposal, etc

I am in the midst of tackling multiple tasks all at once in a fairly short amount of time.  In many ways it has proven to be a wonderful mental exercise, while in other ways it has been rather exhausting.  (Lack of sleep might factor into the exhaustion bit).

Yung Suk KimOne of the projects is another book review for the Stone Campbell Journal (SCJ).  This time, the review focuses on Yung-Suk Kim‘s dissertation turned book, Christ’s Body at Corinth: The Politics of a Metaphor (2008).  It comes from a series of books with which I am admittedly unfamiliar: Paul in Critical Contexts; however, if Kim’s work represents the tenor of the series, it does appear to be rather interesting and worthy of consideration.  My goal is to have the review submitted to SCJ this Thursday.  Something that I failed to ask with the Gorman review was whether or not I would be allowed to provide a digital copy of the review on this blog.  This time, I will specifically ask to do so–for both Gorman and Kim.  If I am permitted to do so, I will provide an update with a link for the PDFs.

Another project is a dictionary article that I recently submitted.  The article focuses on the topic of Stoicism and its influence within the Graeco-Roman world.  The dictionary for which it was written is rather unique.  It is part of the HyperText Bible Project, which seeks to provide scholarly resources in a user-friendly web-based format.  That being the case, my article had to follow a format with which I have had minimal experience.  However, as I made my way through the article, the format and style began to make perfect sense.  Presently, the article is slotted to be reviewed by an unknown (to me) scholar who will either approve it or ask for revisions (or scrap the whole thing).  Obviously, I’m hoping for approval.

Thirdly, I have submitted the latest revision of my PhD proposal, which seems to be the one that will take.  It has been a long and arduous journey to get to this point, but I would not trade a single moment.  The hope is that the only corrections needed are typographical (if any).  I meet with the supervisors this Thursday (25-Jun) to discuss its preliminary acceptance and/or need for slight editing.  Once that meeting comes and goes, I will be able to post more details regarding the project.

Finally, I have been on the search for additional funding for this PhD program, which has proven to be rather difficult (and disheartening at times).  When Jenn and I moved to Cheltenham, we admittedly moved with a number of hopeful assumptions.  There is one really good possibility on the horizon, so I am presently writing up a “request for funding” proposal and hope to submit it by Wednesday at the latest.  Please keep us in mind and in your prayers as we pursue this opportunity and continue to search for further possibilities as well.