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The New Perspective on Paul: We’re Down with NPP

NewPerspectivesPaulComing up next week, Dr. Constantine Campbell will be leading this month’s Table Talk on the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). Now, if you study theology at Trinity or have come anywhere near Dr. Carson, you’re probably already pretty familiar with this school of thought. However, for those of you who may like an introduction (or a refresher), I’ll do my best in this blog post to get you up to speed with the major concepts. Now, let me state right off the bat, this is going to be an extremely quick and dirty analysis. As anyone who’s studied the issue can attest, it’s a gnarly one to try and wrap your head around — for two main reasons. First, it proposes a fundamentally different understanding of Christian faith and practice than the one most Protestants have espoused for half a millennium. Second, not even its three main proponents (E.P. Sanders, J.D.G. Dunn, and N.T. Wright — what is it with theologians and abbreviated first names?) totally agree with each other on how these ideas play out. But I get ahead of myself.

In order to understand this “New Perspective” on Paul’s theology, we first have to know what “Old Perspective” is being critiqued. And so, in good Protestant fashion, we turn to Martin Luther. In the early 16th century, “Uncle Marty” (as I like to call him) was battling the Spirit-crushing legalism of the late medieval Roman Catholic church — so that’s what he saw when he encountered Paul’s description of the Jewish “law” in the opening chapters of Romans. And for the most part, ensuing generations of Protestants have followed in his footsteps: pre-Jesus Judaism was largely understood to have been a legally-oriented system, in which salvation was based on an individual’s ability to follow the terms of the agreement God made with Abraham and his descendants.

Starting in the last quarter of the 20th century, however, the ocean liner (granted, some may consider it the Titanic) of Protestant scholarship on Paul began to change course. In 1977, E.P. Sanders published Paul and Palestinian Judaism, in which he argued that the Judaism that Paul knew was actually a religion founded on grace. In the book, he coined the term covenantal nomism to describe how Jewish law worked: according to Sanders, it’s “the view that one’s place in God’s plan is established on the basis of the covenant and that the covenant requires as the proper response of man his obedience to its commandments, while providing means of atonement for transgression…. Obedience maintains one’s position in the covenant, but it does not earn God’s grace as such…. Righteousness in Judaism is a term which implies the maintenance of status among the group of the elect” (p. 75ff). In other words, according to covenantal nomism, people’s acceptance into God’s covenant is entirely God’s call — but staying within the covenant is theirs. Keeping the law is about covenant faithfulness, not legalism; it’s about responding to the grace and glory of God and demonstrating God’s grace and glory to the world. However, according to James D.G. Dunn, another of the leading NPP scholars (and, incidentally, the one who came up with the term “New Perspective on Paul”), what Jews had done between the times of Father Abraham and Apostle Paul was to take these “covenantal boundary markers” and turn them into “nationalistic boundary markers” that differentiated and excluded non-Jews (i.e., Gentiles) from sharing in God’s promises. Thus, Sanders asserts that what Paul was really arguing against when he railed at the “works of the law” in writings like Romans were those Jewish cultural/religious practices (like circumcision or food prohibitions) that served to keep the rest of the world at arm’s length, and not the Jewish legal system itself.

Enter N.T. Wright onto the scene. Of the three big names in NPP, he’s the widest read (especially among evangelicals), and has taken Sanders’ and Dunn’s work in new — and different — directions. Key to Wright’s take on the NPP is a revised understanding of the concept of justification. Rather than putting it at the center of Paul’s thought, as most Protestants have done, Wright views justification a result of covenant relationship with God. In other words, for Wright (and, Wright would argue, for Paul) justification isn’t what gets believers into salvation — it’s simply a marker of membership in the covenant community, within which salvation is found.

Probably one of Wright’s best-known arguments about justification centers on a phrase that has had theologians scratching their respective heads for nigh on 2,000 years: the righteousness of God. Now, if you’ve ever studied grammar, or if you’re a word nut like me, you’ll know that this is an example of the genitive case — a piling of one noun on top of another that can have a variety of meanings. (For example: “a can of Coke” means something different than “a friend of mine,” and they’re both different from “the group of students.”) The problem is, Paul didn’t give the Roman church a handy footnote to tell them which meaning he intended when he used this particular word construction — so today we’re more or less left guessing. From Luther until the NPPers got started, the predominant view has been that this “righteousness” referred to a characteristic of God that becomes ours (theologians use the word imputed) when we become believers. However, Wright argues that God’s “righteousness” and our “righteousness” are two different things, and can be understood best in a courtroom context. Wright asserts that God’s righteousness is measured by His proper judgments, our righteousness comes from the fact that we’re declared not guilty — and the only way those two can be reconciled is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

OK. At this point, you now know just enough about NPP to be dangerous. I’ve barely scratched the surface, and I haven’t even gone near the various critiques of the movement. (I’ll try to cobble together another post later on this week addressing those issues, if I have enough time.) But if you’re fired up, or confused, or curious –or just a fan of Dr. Campbell –I encourage you to bring your lunch and join us next Monday at noon for what promises to be a rousing discussion!

*(Bonus points if you got the joke in the title. Yes, I’m a geek, and I’m proud of it.)


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Book Displays: February 2015

Paul and the New Perspective

Thinking through Paul : A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology – Todd D. Still and Bruce W. Longenecker

The Apostle Paul is a prominent figure in the New Testament. The story of his missionary journeys takes up about half of the book of Acts, and his epistles make up about half of the books of the New Testament. The prominence of Paul’s epistles in the New Testament inevitably means that no student of the New Testament can avoid Paul for long. Unfortunately, Paul is not always easy to navigate through. Many of his epistles are long and contain deep and complex theology that is not always so clear to the reader, especially one reading them nearly 2000 years after he wrote them. There is often Thinking through Paulmuch confusion for students about what Paul was trying to say, and often, upon only a cursory study of Paul, the student does not have a thorough understanding of Paul and his theology.

Mastering the breadth and depth of Paul and his theology can be a daunting proposition for anyone studying the Pauline epistles. That is why Todd Still and Bruce Longenecker have undertaken the task of writing Thinking through Paul : A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology. Still and Longenecker contend that “if … we approach the study of Paul with the goal of acquiring only a superficial familiarity with the basic features of his life and writings, the process is unlikely to be exciting, challenging, or life-changing” (10).

The book is divided into three parts. The first part reviews the life and ministry of Paul, the second part gleans a better understanding of Paul by evaluating each of his 13 epistles, and the last part evaluates Paul’s theology from different aspects. These three parts make it easier for the student to better understand how Paul “ticked,” helping not only to better know who Paul was as a person, but also to better understand the basis for Paul’s theology. This book is is an invaluable resource for students of the New Testament, not just as a classroom textbook, but also as a text for self-study. Still and Longenecker explain that “you will have the textbook that we would have wanted available to us in earlier days — that is, a practical and user-friendly guide to Paul’s life, letters, and theological discourse” (12). If you are looking for a clear, readable book about the life, epistles, and theology of Paul, this book is perfect.

Other Titles:

Paul’s Witness to Formative Early Christian Instruction
Christ Absent and Present : A Study in Pauline Christology
Grace and Agency in Paul and Second Temple Judaism : Interpreting the Transformation of the Heart
Paul and the Vocation of Israel : How Paul’s Jewish Identity Informs his Apostolic Ministry, with Special Reference to Romans
Paul in Acts and Paul in his Letters
Ancient Perspectives on Paul
Philippi : How Christianity Began in Europe : The Epistle to the Philippians and the Excavations at Philippi
Outlaw Justice : The Messianic Politics of Paul
Paul and the Miraculous : A Historical Reconstruction
The Death of Jesus : Some Reflections on Jesus-Traditions and Paul
Paul and Judaism Revisited : A Study of Divine and Human Agency in Salvation

Presidents’ Day

The True Mary Todd Lincoln : A Biography – Betty Boles Ellison

Every year on Presidents’ Day, we are reminded of the great men that have led our country over the years. But what about the great women who stood beside them every step of the way? There is possibly none more well-known — at least in Illinois — than Mary Todd LinTrue Mary Todd Lincolncoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln. Most probably remember her for her abrasive personality and her stint in an insane asylum near the end of her life. But is there more to Mary Todd Lincoln than is often credited to her?

Betty Boles Ellison thinks there is. She has set out to give Mary Todd Lincoln a fair appraisal, evaluating Mary not just on her unpleasant qualities, but on her praiseworthy qualities as well. Ellison sets out to challenge the common misconceptions about Mary’s “extravagant” spending, her supposedly excessive purchases to refurbish the Executive Mansion, and her mental health and well-being. Ellison has exonerated Mary from many of the unfair and derisive accusations that have been leveled against her. This book paints a clearer and more accurate picture of Mary as the “sassy, politically savvy, sophisticated, sarcastic, intelligent, temperamental, sensitive, attractive” woman that she was (5). With its superb research and excellent argumentation, The True Mary Todd Lincoln is an invaluable contribution to the history of the Lincoln family. It is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the history of America’s Presidents and the incredible wives who stood by them and supported them.

Other Titles:

The Gamble : Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election
Change They Can’t Believe In : The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America
Morning in America : How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980’s
Presidents and the Dissolution of the Union : Leadership Style from Polk to Lincoln
Conservative Internationalism : Armed Diplomacy under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan
John Tyler, the Accidental President
Creatures of Politics : Media, Message, and the American Presidency
Who Are the Criminals? : The Politics of Crime Policy from the Age of Roosevelt to the Age of Reagan
Barack Obama’s Post-American Foreign Policy : The Limits of Engagement
Not Even Past : Barack Obama and the Burden of Race
Watergate : A Brief History with Documents
The Politics of Presidential Appointments : Political Control and Bureaucratic Performance
Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State : Why Americans Vote the Way They Do

Liberation and Black Theologies

Liberation Theologies in the United States : An Introduction – edited by Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas and Anthony B. Pinn

Any student of the Bible and theology has at least heard of liberation theology, but for many of them there is confusion about exactly what liberation theology is and how it affects Christianity. One of the things that makes liberation theology so difficult to completely grasp is that there are many theologies that fit under the rubric of liberation theology. What began as a response to the poverty, mistreatment, and marginalization throughout Latin America has grown to include those around the world who find themselves in a similar albeit unique situation of their own. The book often refers to these theologies as “contextual” theologiesLiberation Theologies in the US because of the unique social context from which these theologies arose.

Many of these contextual theologies have either taken root in or migrated to the united States. Liberation Theologies in the United States : An Introduction provides a thorough description of the various forms of liberation theology found within the United States – some of them well-known, others more obscure. For instances, black, gay and lesbian, and feminist theologies are somewhat familiar, yet Asian-American, native feminist, and Latina theologies are not as well known. It is important for the students to strive to understand and to interact with these theologies, especially those who intend to pastor a church. A pastor should be prepared to answer questions and engage in discussion about these theological ideas, explaining liberation theology and how it relates to traditional theology. If you are a bit unsure of what liberation theology is all about and you are interested in educating yourself, this is good place to start.

Other Titles:

The Divided Mind of the Black Church : Theology, Piety, and Public Witness
Esotericism in African American Religious Experience : There is a Mystery…
Indigenous Black Theology : Toward an African-Centered Theology of the African American Religious Experience
The Forgotten Prophet : Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition
The Commercial Church : Black Churches and the New Religious Marketplace in America
African American Religious Experiences : A Case Study of Twentieth-Century Trends and Practices
Representations of Homosexuality : Black Liberation Theology and Cultural Criticism
Experiencing the Truth : Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church
The Poor in Liberation Theology : Pathway to God or Ideological Construct?
The Reemergence of Liberation Theologies : Models for the Twenty-First Century
Urban God Talk : Constructing a Hip-Hop Spirituality
The Black Church and Hip-Hop Culture : Toward Bridging the Generational Divide
Heart and Head : Black Theology : Past, Present, and Future


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Book Displays: January 2015

Homosexuality and Gay Marriage

Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible and Same-sex Attraction by Sam Allberry

In recent years, the issues of homosexuality, same-sex attraction, and gay marriage have come to the fore. Many churches and even denominationsIs God anti-gay have been torn apart over their stances on these issues. The controversy surrounding homosexuality has raised many questions for Christians about what the Bible says about homosexuality. There is a huge body of work dedicated to this issue, so it can be difficult to get straight answers about homosexuality and the Bible in a clear and concise way. Sam Allberry’s little book, Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible and Same-sex Attraction, tackles these questions plainly and succinctly. Allberry addresses some of the biggest questions that Christians ask themselves, including whether the Old Testament prohibition of homosexuality is still applicable today and whether Jesus had anything to say about homosexuality. Allberry also briefly addresses how we as Christians should respond to homosexuality not only in our church, but also within society and culture. The size and content of the book is perfect for anyone who is looking for a manageable read that will help them become more familiar with what the Bible says about homosexuality and how Christians can remain true to Scripture while still reflecting the love and compassion of Christ.

Other Titles:

EFCA Conference 2015

The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority by John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy 

The doctrine of inerrancy has recently become a hot topic among evangelicals. While evangelicalism affirms inerrancy of the Bible, there has been a push against traditional views of inerrancy not only from outside of evangelicalism, but also fromLost World of Scripture within. In order to address this situation and discuss the importance of affirming the inerrancy and authority of scripture, the theme “The Doctrine of the Scriptures” has been chosen for the 2015 EFCA Theology Conference, hosted by TIU later this month. The conference has set out to address the importance of providing churchgoers with a firm foundation of biblical inerrancy. Following the lead of the EFCA conference, one of our monthly displays provides a selection of books on biblical inerrancy and other topics that the conference will feature, such as Calvinism, Arminianism, Luther, evangelical theology and Christian doctrine. We also have e-books available on these issues. Among them is The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority by John H. Walton and D. Brent Sandy. Walton and Sandy explore the history of the oral and written transmission of the biblical text and what implications it might have for inerrancy, inspiration and the authority of scripture. The first two parts of the book review the history of written and oral communication of information in the Old and New Testaments, respectively. The third part of the book discusses the various literary genres that were typical of the biblical world, and the final part concludes with a discussion on the reliability and authority of the Scriptures. A 2014 Readers’ Choice Awards Honorable Mention, this book is certainly worth a read if you are interested in learning more about the Bible’s transmission, reliability and authority.

Other Titles:

MLK and Civil Rights

Misremembering Dr. King: Revisiting the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by Jennifer J. Yanco 

When one thinks of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is difficult not to think of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, in which he speaks out against racial discrimination in the United States, is well-known. King gave his life for the Civil RightsMisremembering Dr. King movement, and his life and death have had an enormous impact in the United States. But what about the other contributions that Martin Luther King made? Why doesn’t anyone ever remember King’s “giant triplets” – militarism, materialism and racism? Jennifer Yanco attempts to rectify this disproportion in her book Misremembering Dr. King: Revisiting the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Yanco argues that King’s other interests have been overshadowed by his role in the Civil Rights Movement. She contends that over time successive generations have left out, or “misremembered,” crucial elements of King’s legacy. Few are aware of King’s concern for the effects of a culture caught up in greed and materialism or his firm stance against militarism and nonviolence in the heat of the Vietnam War. Yanco does not deny the importance of King’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, but she is mainly concerned with emphasizing King’s contributions in other areas in order to reveal more fully who Martin Luther King Jr. was and what he stood for. This book is a great read for those who are interested in learning more about King’s ideals and values and why they are so important to remember alongside his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement.

Other Titles:


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Book Displays: December 2014

Christmas and the Incarnation

Christmas : A Candid History by Bruce David Forbes

Christmas A Candid HistoryThe Christmas season is upon us and with it the familiar yuletide sights, sounds and traditions. Christmas cards, candy canes, the decorating of Christmas trees, the hanging of stockings and mistletoe, Santa Claus, and classic Christmas stories and music – all signs to us that Christmas is steadily approaching and with it the hustle and bustle of shoppers. But where do all of these Christmas traditions come from, and why is there an ever-present preoccupation with shopping and gift-giving during the Christmas season? More importantly, what do all of these things have to do with the birth of Jesus? In his book, Christmas : A Candid History, Bruce Forbes delves into the history of Christmas, investigating its origins and how it has become the holiday that we celebrate today. Forbes brings new insight to Christmas, addressing important issues like the secularization of Christmas and Christmas for those who are nonreligious. This book is a good read for both those who has become frustrated with Christmas, feeling that it has become a consumer holiday rather than a time for joy and reflection on the birth of Jesus, and for those who just want to know a little more about the history of Christmas and its traditions.

Other Titles:

Bioethics

Bioethics and the Christian Life by David VanDrunen 

Bioethics and the Christian LifeWith ever-increasing technological advances allowing us to do things that were impossible in the past, we find ourselves faced with more tough ethical questions than ever before. Questions about the ethics of abortion, artificial reproduction, assisted suicide and stem cell research (among others) have gained widespread attention in the media. Some questions, like cloning or stem cell research, do not directly affect us in our day-to-day lives. But what about other issues like contraception, fertility drugs or forgoing medical treatment for serious illnesses? How should a Christian respond to these various ethical questions? In his book, Bioethics and the Christian Life, David VanDrunen aims to help Christians wade through the murky decisions we face about ethical issues that impact our lives. The first part of the book addresses the foundations of bioethics and how it is integrated into the Christian worldview, evaluating Christian virtues and how they affect our decisions about certain ethical issues. The second part of the book addresses issues pertaining to the beginning of life (e.g. abortion, contraception, fertility drugs), and the second part of the book deals with issues pertaining to the end of life (e.g. suicide, euthanasia, forgoing medical treatment). This book is a great read for anyone looking for guidance about deciding how a Christian ought to respond to the various ethical questions we are faced with today.

Other Titles:

Pastoral Ministry

Pastors in the Classics : Timeless Lessons on Life and Ministry from World Literature edited by Leland Ryken (et al.)

Pastors in the ClassicsThroughout history, pastors and preachers have appeared as prominent parts of various works of literature. Pastors in the Classics sets out to examine twelve timeless works of literature in which pastors figure prominently, drawing attention to specific aspects of pastoral ministry and gleaning profound insights into the pastor’s experience. The book evaluates the good and bad ways in which pastors are often portrayed in literature in order to better understand pastoral ministry and its various facets. This book can help pastors to better understand themselves and their calling outside of typical books dealing with pastoral ministry. It also offers unique insights for pastors and enthusiasts of classic literature alike. If you are looking for a fresh, insightful look into pastoral life and ministry, this is the book for you.

Other Titles:


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November Table Talk: Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?

eden

“Garden of Eden” by Jacob Savery the Elder (paint on copper panel, 1601)

On Tuesday, Drs. Averbeck and Hoffmeier will be leading this month’s Table Talk on “The Historical Adam.” Now, if you’ve traveled in theological circles for a while, you’re probably familiar with the issues going on here (and if so, please forgive me for the VERY quick and dirty analysis I’m about to do). If not, you might be wondering why we’d take an entire month to focus on this topic — so, then, let me give you a little background on the issue so you don’t feel like you’re walking right into the middle of a conversation.

Through much of church history, the predominant view among Christians has been that humanity stemmed from one literal man named Adam and one literal woman named Eve, whose story is told in the opening chapters of Genesis. However, scientific advances of the 20th century — especially in the final quarter or so — have called that belief into question for some Christians. Francis S. Collins, a self-identifying evangelical Christian and the director of the National Institutes of Health, is perhaps foremost among this group. In his 2006 book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, he makes a couple key assertions that come into contradiction with traditional understandings of the Genesis account. First, he argues that modern humans emerged from their primate ancestors approximately 100,000 years ago; and second, he claims that the necessary genetic material for the human race to be what it is today had to have come from an original population of at least 10,000 (not just the two that Genesis records).

Obviously, trying to line up science and faith isn’t an easy task. This case is no exception — and Richard Ostling, in his Christianity Today article “The Search for the Historical Adam,” describes four main streams of thought that try to make sense of this apparent mismatch:

  • Young Earth Creationism. In this view, the earth (and the whole cosmos, for that matter) was created as a fully-functioning package deal about 6,000 years ago. Young earth creationists argue that evolution couldn’t have happened, because there simply hasn’t been enough time.
  • Old Earth Creationism. Like the young earthers, old earthers discount evolution. They too believe in a fully-formed, fully-functioning creation — but they affirm science’s view of the earth taking a whole lot more than 6,000 laps around the sun. Some folks in this camp also allow for intra-species evolution — in other words, they posit that animals and humans can adapt to their changing environments, but a fish stays a fish and a monkey stays a monkey.
  • Intelligent Design. Proponents of this view discount evolution as well, believing that the heavens and earth were created according to a specific plan. However, they don’t necessarily define the “planner” as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  • Theistic Evolution. This is the view held by Collins and his associates. In a nutshell, they affirm that God created (and is continuing to create) the cosmos, but did (and does) so by using evolutionary processes like natural selection and genetic mutations over millions of years.

Now, why am I telling you all of this to get you ready for a talk on Adam and Eve? Well, if you think about it, the way we conceive of where we come from can have a pretty big impact on the way we understand who (and what) we are as human beings. Here are just a few of the philosophical and theological questions that come up as a result of the interaction of Christian faith with genetic and evolutionary theory:

  • If we hold to the idea that humans are the product of evolutionary processes, how does that affect our understanding of being God’s image-bearers?
  • If we claim that we as humans hold a special place in and over the rest of creation, how should we wrap our heads around the scientific finding that we “share common ancestry” with many primate species?
  • If we hold to a literal view of the “Historical Adam,” how do we reconcile the idea that the Bible itself hints at a larger initial population than just Adam and Eve? (For example, who did Cain marry?)
  • How might our conception of original sin change if the initial human population was 10,000 instead of 2?
  • How might our understanding of (and faith in) Christ as the “Second Adam” (Rom. 5; 1 Cor 14) be affected if there didn’t happen to be a first one?
  • How might these questions also affect our conceptions of family, birth, death, work, and any of the other identity-forming experiences we have as humans?

Hopefully, by this point, your head is swimming — you’re starting to see that this seemingly simple issue has remarkably far-reaching effects. And you know what the worst part is? I’m not going to answer a single one of the questions I just posed. I’m just going to leave them hanging, in order to entice you to the library at noon on Tuesday (11/11/14) so that you can talk about them with people who are also thinking about these ideas. See you then!


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Key Bible and Theological Reference Tools: Commentaries

This post is part of a series entitled Key Bible and Theological Reference ToolsThis series seeks to provide one with an introduction to some key Biblical and theological reference tools. In this series one will find basic explanations, significant examples, and other information about these reference tools.


Basic Description of Commentaries

A Biblical Commentary is a book that provides an interpretive explanation of a Biblical book or books. Commentaries provide a detailed explanation of specific Biblical passages, an explanation of a Biblical book’s larger structure or argument, and typically engage with introductory matters such as authorship, audience, date of writing, purpose of writing, composition, etc.

Key Commentaries Series

  • Anchor Yale Bible (AYB).
  • Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms (BCOTWP).
  • Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (BECNT).
  • Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC) and Revised Expositor’s Bible Commentary (REBC).
  • Hermeneia (HERM).
  • International Critical Commentary (ICC).
  • IVP New Testament Commentary (IVPNTC).
  • JPS Torah Commentary Series (JPSTBC).
  • New American Commentary (NAC).
  • New Century Bible Commentary (NCB).
  • New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT).
  • New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICNT).
  • New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC).
  • NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC).
  • Old Testament Library (OTL).
  • Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC).
  • Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (TNTC).
  • Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC).
  • Word Biblical Commentary (WBC).
  • Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary (WEC).
  • Zondervan Exegetical Commentary (ZEC).
  • Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (ZIBBC).

Tips for Selecting Commentaries

  • Note the type – Many types of commentaries exist, e.g., expositional, devotional, technical, etc. Therefore, one does well to know what kind of commentary for which he or she is looking. This involves knowing basic information about the various commentary series (below).
  • Note the series – Knowing the series of which a commentary is a part can tell you a lot about what the commentary will be like, e.g., theological persausion, quality, emphases, format, etc.
  • Note the author – When presented with an array of commentaries, knowing something about the available authors provides one with a good place to start.
  • Note the date – By offering some historical perspective, older commentaries possess a unique value. On the other hand, contemporary commentaries often make a practice of engaging with previously proposed interpretations. Thus, the newer commentaries carry a unique value as well.

Resources for Selecting Commentaries

  • Best Commentaries – A site dedicated to providing reviews and rankings for a variety of Biblical resources including commentaries. Offers basic information about each commentary, e.g., author, date, series, and type (technical, pastoral, devotional, Jewish, special).
  • Other seminaries’ recommended commentary lists.
  • Ask professors.

Commentary Sample

Romans by Douglas Moo in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996), pg. 748-749. * Click on photo for larger image.


 

* This post’s information can be found within Rolfing Library’s research guides. See the guide to commentaries here.

 

 


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Key Bible and Theological Reference Tools: Interlinears

This post is part of a series entitled Key Bible and Theological Reference ToolsThis series seeks to provide one with an introduction to some key Biblical and theological reference tools. In this series one will find basic explanations, significant examples, and other information about these reference tools.


Basic Description of Interlinear

English interlinear Bibles present the Biblical text in its original language along with a more literal English translation immediately below each word. Some English interlinears are formatted reversely, i.e., they present an English translation with the corresponding original language immediately underneath.

Helpful Interlinears

Bible Hub’s online interlinear - This interlinear will prove especially helpful for those who do not know the Biblical languages because it provides “Strong’s numbers” above each word. Clicking on a “Strong’s number” provides one with helpful concordance and lexical information about that specific word (e.g., see רֵאשִׁית 7225).

Use of Interlinears

Interlinears are helpful tools for those who do not know the Biblical languages (or whose skills are rusty) but would like to involve the original languages in their studies.

For those who know the Biblical languages, interlinears are helpful when one would like to involve and interact with the Biblical languages in his or her study, but not to the extent of a raw exegesis of the original languages “from scratch.”

Interlinear Samples

The NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament, Vol. 1, edited by John R. Kohlenberger (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979), 50-51.

The NRSV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English with Interlinear Translation, edited by Alfred Marshall (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 266-267. * Click on photo for larger image.


* This post’s information can be found within Rolfing Library’s research guides. See the guide to Interlinears here.

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