July 16, 2016
Greetings, y’all. This blog has been on a hiatus for the past three months. I hope to resume regular blogging at some point. In the meantime, I want to continue with one of this site’s features: “Recent books of interest.” Herein, we take a look at recently released and soon-to-be released books in theology. Click here for the previous installment.
The titles are organized according to church affiliation and theological tradition, which is an imperfect means of identification for many. Please notify me of any errors, as well as any recommendations.
It is safe to say that the new edition of Schleiermacher’s Christian Faith will be the most anticipated release of the year. According to the publisher, “Employing shorter sentences and more careful tracking of vocabulary, the editors have crafted a translation that is significantly easier to read and follow.”
Riches, Aaron, Ecce Homo: On the Divine Unity of Christ (Eerdmans)
Rausch, Thomas, S.J., Systematic Theology: A Roman Catholic Approach (Michael Glazier)
Bauerschmidt, Frederick Christian, Catholic Theology: An Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell)
Furnal, Joshua, Catholic Theology after Kierkegaard (Oxford University Press)
Porro, Pasquale, Thomas Aquinas: A Historical and Philosophical Profile (Catholic University of America Press)
Davies, Brian, Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles: A Guide and Commentary (Oxford University Press)
Slattery, William J., Heroism and Genius: How Catholic Priests Built Western Civilization (Ignatius Press)
Foster, Reginaldus Thomas , Ossa Latinitatis Sola (Catholic University of America Press)
McCosker, Philip and Denys Turner, eds., The Cambridge Companion to the Summa Theologiae (Cambridge University Press)
Lamb, Matthew L., ed., Theology Needs Philosophy: Acting Against Reason is Contrary to the Nature of God (Catholic University Press of America)
Pinckaers, Servais, O.P., The Spirituality of Martyrdom: to the Limits of Love (Catholic University of America Press)
Reno, R. R., Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society (Regnery) – editor of First Things
Lehner, Ulrich L., On the Road to Vatican II: German Catholic Enlightenment and Reform of the Church (Fortress Press)
Williams, Rowan, On Augustine (Bloomsbury Continuum)
Radner, Ephraim, Time and the Word: Figural Reading of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans)
Radner, Ephraim, A Time to Keep: Theology, Mortality, and the Shape of a Human Life (Baylor University Press)
Scruton, Roger and Mark Dooley, Conversations with Roger Scruton (Bloomsbury Continuum)
Scruton, Roger, The Ring of Truth: The Wisdom of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung (Allen Lane)
Schleiermacher, Friedrich, Christian Faith (Terrence N. Tice and Catherine L. Kelsey, eds., WJK Press)
Long, D. Stephen, The Perfectly Simple Triune God: Aquinas and His Legacy (Fortress Press)
Hinlicky, Paul R., Divine Simplicity: Christ the Crisis of Metaphysics (Baker Academic)
Insole, Christopher J., The Intolerable God: Kant’s Theological Journey (Eerdmans)
Dillard, Peter S., Non-Metaphysical Theology After Heidegger (Palgrave Macmillan)
Kreglinger, Gisela H., The Spirituality of Wine (Eerdmans)
Vanhoozer, Kevin J., Pictures at a Theological Exhibition: Scenes of the Church’s Worship, Witness and Wisdom (IVP Academic)
Noll, Mark and Thomas Albert Howard, Protestantism after 500 Years (Oxford University Press)
Moyse, Ashley John, ed., et al., Correlating Sobornost: Conversations between Karl Barth and the Russian Orthodox Tradition (Fortress Press)
Vance, J. D., Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (Harper)
Kienzle, Rich, The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones (Dey Street Books)
March 28, 2016
I have recently been enjoying the works of Shakespeare in a series from Yale University Press: “The Annotated Shakespeare.”
I have two volumes as of now: Hamlet and King Lear. I’ve actually had them for a year or two, but I finally managed to start reading them. I recently watched Justin Kurzel’s film adaptation of Macbeth on Amazon Prime, so that got me in a mood for Shakespeare.
I have not read Macbeth since high school, so I cannot make any informed comparisons between the movie and the play, which I barely remember. I liked the movie. The acting is superb, and the production team crafted some mesmerizing aesthetics, as the critics agree. The screenplay was lacking in some respects. It seemed to me that the ambition and overall pathos of Macbeth was not developed nearly enough, whether before [spoiler alert!] his murder of King Duncan or afterwards in his subsequent devolution into lunacy.
The biggest complaint from viewers is the difficulty of hearing and following the dialogue, which is taken directly from Shakespeare and is entirely without any modernization — in addition to thick accents and frequently whispered voices. However, the problem is easily solved by turning on the closed captions. Seriously, the captions make the movie an enjoyable instead of a frustrating venture. Trust me.
Yale’s Annotated Shakespeare
As for the Yale series, let me commend it to you, because I think it is important. It is important because Shakespeare is one of our great cultural treasures, and yet most English-speakers today do not have the capacity to read Shakespeare. The problem is not in understanding and interpreting Shakespeare, though that is not without challenge. The problem is simply that we do not speak his English. The problem is in terms of vocabulary and grammar.
The enormous value of Yale’s annotated series is the abundance of footnotes on each page, “translating” and, in some cases, explaining the more archaic English — both individual words and expressions. From Hamlet, here is an example:
In act 1, scene 3, Laertes is warning his sister, Ophelia, about Hamlet’s romantic advances. He says:
For Hamlet and the trifling of his favor,
Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood,
A violet in the youth of primy nature,
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The perfume and suppliance of a minute. No more.
Most readers can get the gist, but the footnotes are helpful. “For” means “as for” — “trifling of his favor” means “dallying of his attention” — “Hold it a fashion and toy in blood” means “a pretense and fooling about of disposition/mood (modern usage: ‘of young hormones’)” — “a violet in the youth of primy nature” means “a flowering of a young man in his prime” — “Forward” means “precocious, ahead of its time” — “suppliance” means “diversion, pastime.”
As you read it with the footnotes, the meaning is clear, and the reader is not frustrated at not knowing what a particular word or expression means. As a result, Shakespeare is made far more accessible to the general reading public. The footnotes can be a bit excessive and, for many, unnecessary at times. But that’s a small complaint, and it will vary from person to person.
The annotation and introduction is by Burton Raffel (1928-2015), Endowed Chair in Arts and Humanities and professor of English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In order to produce the series, he teamed-up with the legendary literary critic, Harold Bloom (Yale University), who writes an essay for each volume. There are 14 entries in the series, which you can get from Yale or from Amazon.
March 8, 2016
Here are some book that I have recently read. I have written a mini-review for each.
Richard P. McBrien, The Church: The Evolution of Catholicism (HarperCollins Publishers)
Richard McBrien (1936-2015) was a longtime professor of theology at Notre Dame and best known for his lengthy, textbook-like tome, Catholicism. McBrien is representative of the “spirit of Vatican II” crowd in Catholic academia, causing some tension with those who preferred to stress continuity between V2 and the magisterial tradition of previous centuries — an emphasis found in the writings and actions of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. In short, McBrien was a “liberal” in the relative sense of these post-V2 debates.
This book is well-written and engaging. As McBrien writes in the preface, it was written for theology students and seminarians, as a sort of guidebook to Catholic ecclesiology. It does, however, presuppose a fair amount from the reader, even though it is not a difficult book to read. If you have zero knowledge or interest in Catholic ecclesiological debates of the past two centuries, then you will probably snooze after the first few pages.
My major criticism is that McBrien is wholly invested in modern ecclesiology and the discussions surrounding Vatican II. The large majority of citations are from this council and from his favorite contemporary ecclesiologists, such as Yves Congar. Why is this a criticism? Because it is very limited. McBrien doesn’t come close to communicating the breadth and depth of the Catholic doctrine of the church. There is very (very!) little resourcement of theologians, councils, popes, mystics, etc., prior to the 19th century. In this regard, McBrien is not nearly as satisfying as Henri de Lubac, Jean Daniélou, Joseph Ratzinger, and Hans Urs von Balthasar.
John Leith, Creeds of the Churches (3rd edition, WJK Press)
John Leith (1919-2002) was a longtime professor of theology at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond. This 700+ page volume is very helpful. You can see the table of contents at Amazon. I am not aware of a comparable single volume that includes this much material, expertly selected by Leith and including brief introductions. It can serve as an excellent companion to Bettenson’s Documents of the Christian Church, now in its fourth edition. Leith’s volume is focused on doctrine, including creeds, confessions, conciliar decrees, papal decrees, and the like. In addition to the wealth of Protestant documents, there is also a generous selection of “modern” Roman Catholic documents (Trent, Vatican I, Marian dogmas, Vatican II) and less common documents such as The Confession of Dositheus from the Eastern Orthodox in the late 17th century.
Dwight Longenecker and David Gustafson, Mary: A Catholic-Evangelical Debate (Brazos Press / Baker Publishing Group)
It is hard to evaluate this book. I am sure that there is an audience for this, but I found the shortcomings too significant for me. The book is formatted as a dialog between a Catholic and Protestant, who were in fact once classmates in college. Longenecker is a convert to Catholicism and now a priest in South Carolina. Forewords are provided by Richard John Neuhaus and J. I. Packer. I greatly appreciate the civil tone throughout, and there is a genuine search for truth and clarity. But the dialog format, while perhaps increasing the accessibility of the volume for a larger audience, severely limits the scholarship necessary for arguing the points in dispute. However, for the Protestant who is new to Mariology (i.e., 99% of Protestants), I can see how this volume could be very helpful as an introduction and incentive toward further study.
Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
Louis Berkhof (1873-1957) was a prominent Dutch-American theologian and church leader in the first half of the 20th century. He is best known for his Systematic Theology, which is still widely recommended among Calvinists in America. Full disclosure: I did not read the whole volume, and I am sure that I never will. But I believe that I read enough to evaluate its merits.
There are indeed merits to this volume. It is eminently clear, concise, and sober. If you are seeking a one-stop shop for scholastic Reformed orthodoxy, then this is probably as good as you will find. My criticisms have much to do with my own prejudices. Insofar as the volume attempts to go beyond a mere restatement of received orthodoxy and venture into actual demonstrations and defenses of said orthodoxy, the shortcomings are massive. And when it comes to modern theology, including Barth in his early period, then Berkhof has little to offer and the little can be misleading. Admittedly, Berkhof was writing when the whole “dialectical” movement was nascent and not altogether coherent, eventually fracturing.
St. John of the Cross, John of the Cross: Selected Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality; Paulist Press)
I had read John of the Cross years ago — his renowned Dark Night of the Soul. But this was my first time reading The Ascent of Mount Carmel, which is featured alongside other important works in this volume from Kieran Kavanaugh, a disciple of John in the Discalced Carmelite religious order. I greatly benefited from Dark Night when I first read it. It is hard-hitting to say the least, but The Ascent is even more hard-hitting. At least, that was my impression. John of the Cross comes dangerously close to a Manichean obsession with creation’s propensity for evil by way of creaturely attachment. This is not uncommon among the most serious of mystics (not, by the way, your garden-variety Episcopal eco-feminist’s pseudo-mysticism). However, John has an aesthetic sense that is wonderfully expressed in the poetry upon which these writings are but commentaries. On the whole, John is as enigmatic as Simone Weil, with the same tension between the Cross and the Glory.
Maren Morris, “My Church”
I love this song! This is Maren’s debut single, and it has been moving quickly up the Country Airplay chart.
February 11, 2016
Here is the latest installment of recent and upcoming books of interest. I have decided to use categories: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Barth Studies, and Other.
Matthew Levering, Proofs of God: Classical Arguments from Tertullian to Barth (Baker Academic)
Johann Adam Möhler, Unity in the Church, or, The Principles of Catholicism (Catholic University of America Press). This is a translation of a very important book from the Tübingen theologian.
Roderick Strange, ed., John Henry Newman: A Portrait in Letters (Oxford University Press)
Thomas Petri, O.P., Aquinas and the Theology of the Body: The Thomistic Foundations of John Paul II’s Anthropology (Catholic University of America Press)
Roland Teske, S.J., To Know God and the Soul: Essays on the Thought of St. Augustine (Catholic University of America Press)
Gilles Emery, O.P., and Matthew Levering, eds., Aristotle in Aquinas’s Theology (Oxford University Press)
Gary Selin, Priestly Celibacy: Theological Foundations (Catholic University of America Press)
Douglas M. Beaumont, ed., Evangelical Exodus: Evangelical Seminarians and Their Paths to Rome (Ignatius Press)
Uwe Michael Lang, Signs of the Holy One: Liturgy, Ritual, and Expression of the Sacred (Ignatius Press)
Serge-Thomas Bonino, O.P., Angels and Demons: A Catholic Introduction (Catholic University of America Press)
Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain, eds., Christian Dogmatics: Reformed Theology for the Church Catholic (Baker Academic)
Keith L. Johnson, Theology as Discipleship (IVP Academic)
Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Daniel J. Treier, Theology and the Mirror of Scripture: A Mere Evangelical Account (IVP Academic)
Matthew Nelson Hill, Evolution and Holiness: Sociobiology, Altruism and the Quest for Wesleyan Perfection (IVP Academic)
Michelle Lee-Barnewall, Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate (Baker Academic)
Janice McRandal, ed., Sarah Coakley and the Future of Systematic Theology (Fortress Press)
John Webster, Confessing God: Essays in Christian Dogmatics II (T&T Clark). This volume was originally published in 2005, now made more widely available and affordable.
Thomas H. McCall, An Invitation to Analytic Christian Theology (IVP Academic)
Samuel V. Adams, The Reality of God and Historical Method: Apocalyptic Theology in Conversation with N. T. Wright (IVP Academic)
Shao Kai Tseng, Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology: Origins and Development, 1920-1953 (IVP Academic)
Sven Ensminger, Karl Barth’s Theology as a Resource for a Christian Theology of Religions (T&T Clark)
Jennifer M. Rosner, Healing the Schism: Barth, Rosenzweig, and the New Jewish-Christian Encounter (Fortress Press)
Shannon Nicole Smythe, Forensic Apocalyptic Theology: Karl Barth and the Doctrine of Justification (Fortress Press)
Kenneth Oakes, ed., Christian Wisdom Meets Modernity (T&T Clark). From the publisher’s description of the series and this volume:
The ‘Illuminating Modernity’ series examines the great but lesser known thinkers in the ‘Romantic Thomist’ tradition such as Erich Przywara and Fernand Ulrich and shows how outstanding 20th century theologians like Ratzinger and von Balthasar have depended on classical Thomist thought, and how they radically reinterpreted this thought.
The chapters in this volume are dedicated to the encounter between the presuppositions and claims of modern intellectual culture and the Christian confession that the crucified and resurrected Jesus is the power and wisdom of God and is the lord of history and of his church.
The scholars contributing to this discussion do not assume that Christianity and modernity are two discrete entities which can be readily defined, nor do they presume that Christian wisdom and modernity meet each other only in conflict or by coincidence. They engage with a variety of great figures – Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Rahner, Przywara, Guardini, Karl Barth, and Karol Wojtyla – to illustrate the connection between modernism and Christian wisdom. The volume concludes with a programmatic statement for the renewal of Christian philosophy that has been able to retain the cosmo-theological vision as outlined by Mezei in the final chapter.
Andrew B. McGowan, Ancient Christian Worship: Early Church Practices in Social, Historical, and Theological Perspective (Baker Academic).
Ralph C. Woods, ed., Tolkien among the Moderns (University of Notre Dame Press)
Kirk R. MacGregor, Luis de Molina: The Life and Theology of the Founder of Middle Knowledge (Zondervan). The author is an evangelical Protestant.
Wipf & Stock has republished three volumes from Simone Weil, under a series title of “Simone Weil: Selected Works.”
Francis Watson, The Fourfold Gospel: A Theological Reading of the New Testament Portraits of Jesus (Baker Academic)
Iain Provan, V. Philips Long, and Tremper Longman III, eds., A Biblical History of Israel (Second Edition, WJK Press)
Vince Gill, Down To My Last Bad Habit
Loretta Lynn, Full Circle
Nick Dittmeier, Midwest Heart / Southern Blues
Dianna Corcoran, In America
Breelan Angel, Diamond in a Rhinestone World
Image: “Reading You”
November 12, 2015
This is my current reading, by the end of the month…or year…more or less:
I will also be listening to Chris Stapleton, of course:
I drink because I’m lonesome / And I’m lonesome because I drink
Come tomorrow, I can walk in any store / It ain’t a problem, they’ll always sell me more / But your forgiveness / Well, that’s something I can’t buy / There ain’t a thing that I can do / That’s the difference between whiskey and you
Music for the soul.
October 5, 2015
“Divine Fate has decreed that during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it would be the task of German theologians to write dogmatics and for Anglo-Saxons to translate them.”
That is the opening line from Francis Schüssler Fiorenza’s review of Helmut Thielicke’s The Evangelical Faith (vol. 3) and Otto Weber’s Foundations of Dogmatics (vol. 1). You can read it in the journal, Horizons, from the spring issue of 1985. It is a humorous line — because overstated but not far from the truth. This is not to say that during these two centuries the Anglophone world was bereft of quality work in systematic theology. The Scots in particular were active in the discipline and even doing the yeoman’s work in translating the Germans.
But now, in the twenty-first century, there seems to be a considerable revitalization of dogmatics in the Anglosphere. This is certainly true among American evangelicals, and it is a welcome redirection of attention away from an unhealthy obsession with epistemology and apologetics. (Is not Carl Henry’s God, Revelation and Authority basically a theology in the service of apologetics?) The latest example of this renewed interest in “constructive theology” or “revealed theology” is the new series from Zondervan Academic, aptly entitled, “New Studies in Dogmatics.” The title is meant to recall the now-classic “Studies in Dogmatics” series from G. C. Berkouwer.
According to the initial press release, it is a projected 15-volume series under the advisory supervision of John Webster, Kevin Vanhoozer, Katherine Sonderegger, and Henri Blocher. The editors are Michael Allen and Scott Swain, both at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. You can read their introduction to the series, including the list of volumes, at the Common Places blog. Unlike Berkouwer’s project, each volume in the new series will be written by a different theologian.
The first volume, The Holy Spirit, is by Christopher R. J. Holmes and is to be released tomorrow (Oct. 6).
September 22, 2015
Here are noteworthy recent releases — and upcoming releases — for the theologically-inclined. It has been a while since my previous entry for “recent books of interest,” which has now become a semi-regular feature here. As usual, they are in no particular order.
Woodrow Wilson is reported to have said, “I would never read a book if it were possible for me to talk half an hour with the man who wrote it.” I’ll have to consider that.
Anne M. Carpenter, Theo-Poetics: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Risk of Art and Being (University of Notre Dame Press) — due Oct. 15
Louis Bouyer, The Memoirs of Louis Bouyer: From Youth and Conversion to Vatican II, the Liturgical Reform, and After (Angelico Press) — also, read Francesca Murphy’s effusive praise for this book
Mary Frances McKenna, Innovation within Tradition: Joseph Ratzinger and Reading the Women of Scripture (Fortress Press)
Andrew Purves, Exploring Christology and Atonement: Conversations with John McLeod Campbell, H. R. Mackintosh and T. F. Torrance (IVP Academic)
Stephen N. Williams, The Election of Grace: A Riddle without a Resolution? (Eerdmans)
Robert Sherman, Covenant, Community, and the Spirit: A Trinitarian Theology of Church (Baker Academic) — due Oct. 20
Ingolf U. Dalferth, Crucified and Resurrected: Restructuring the Grammar of Christology (Baker Academic) — due Nov. 3
Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works — Reader’s Edition Set (Fortress Press) – due Nov. 1
Jacques Ellul, Islam and Judeo-Christianity: A Critique of Their Commonality (Cascade Books)
Jennifer Newsome Martin, Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Critical Appropriation of Russian Religious Thought (University of Notre Dame Press)
Servais Pinckaers, Passions & Virtue (Catholic University of America Press)
Robert Cardinal Sarah, God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith (Ignatius Press)
John M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans)
Chris Tilling, Paul’s Divine Christology (Eerdmans)
Steven Jensen, Knowing the Natural Law: From Precepts and Inclinations to Deriving Oughts (Catholic University of America Press)
Thomas Joseph White, OP, The Incarnate Lord: A Thomistic Study in Christology (Catholic University of America Press)
Daria Spezzano, The Glory of God’s Grace: Deification According to St. Thomas Aquinas (Sapientia Press / Catholic University of America Press)
Stanley Hauerwas, The Work of Theology (Eerdmans)
Simone Weil, Late Philosophical Writings (University of Notre Dame Press)
Maria Clara Bingemer, Simone Weil: Mystic of Passion and Compassion (Cascade Books)
Lydia Schumacher, Rationality As Virtue: Towards a Theological Philosophy (Ashgate) — due Sep 28
Adam Johnson, Atonement: A Guide for the Perplexed (T&T Clark)
Archie J. Spencer, The Analogy of Faith: The Quest for God’s Speakability (IVP Academic) — due Oct. 18
Michael Allen and Jonathan Linebaugh, eds., Reformation Readings of Paul: Explorations in History and Exegesis (IVP Academic) — due Nov. 2
Janet Smith and Fr. Paul Check, Living the Truth in Love: Pastoral Approaches to Same Sex Attraction (Ignatius Press)
Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left (Bloomsbury) — due Dec. 8
Étienne Gilson,Theology and the Cartesian Doctrine of Freedom (St. Augustine’s Press) — due Nov. 10
Kyle Greenwood, Scripture and Cosmology: Reading the Bible Between the Ancient World and Modern Science (IVP Academic) — due Oct. 3
Leah Libresco, Arriving at Amen (Ave Maria Press)
Lindi Ortega, Faded Gloryville
Whitney Rose, Heartbreaker of the Year
Kip Moore, Wild Ones
Alan Jackson, Angels and Alcohol
George Jones, Complete Starday & Mercury Singles, 1954-62 — due Oct. 16
Turnpike Troubadours, The Turnpike Troubadours
April 8, 2015
I am particularly excited about several of these volumes. Here is another round of recently released, or soon to be released, books:
Faith, Freedom and the Spirit: The Economic Trinity in Barth, Torrance and Contemporary Theology (IVP Academic), Paul Molnar. This should be a good complement to Hunsinger’s recent book, Reading Barth with Charity (Baker Academic).
Systematic Theology: The Doctrine of God, Volume 1 (Fortress Press), Katherine Sonderegger
One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life (Crossway), Bruce A. Ware and John Starke
There Is No Rose: The Mariology of the Catholic Church (Fortress Press), Aidan Nichols
Mary’s Bodily Assumption (University of Notre Dame Press), Matthew Levering
Knowledge and Christian Belief (Eerdmans), Alvin Plantinga
Their Rock Is Not Like Our Rock: A Theology of Religions (Zondervan), Daniel Strange
The Incarnation of God: The Mystery of the Gospel as the Foundation of Evangelical Theology (Crossway), John Clark and Marcus Peter Johnson
Law and Gospel in Emil Brunner’s Earlier Dialectical Theology (T&T Clark), David Gilland. Now in affordable paperback.
A Public God: Natural Theology Reconsidered (Fortress Press), Neil Ormerod
What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? (Crossway), Kevin DeYoung
A Question of Consensus: The Doctrine of Assurance After the Westminster Confession (Fortress Press), Jonathan Master
This Strange and Sacred Scripture: Wrestling with the Old Testament and Its Oddities (Baker Academic), Matthew Richard Schlimm
Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ (Brazos), J. Todd Billings
Tennessee Love Song, Sarah Gayle Meech
The Underdog, Aaron Watson
Down to Believing, Allison Moorer
Small Town Dreams, Will Hoge
Best song on the radio right now:
“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools,” Tim McGraw, from Sundown Heaven Town
February 16, 2015
Reformation 21 (Ref21) is the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. I have enjoyed several of their book reviews recently, worthy of passing along to y’all.
Reviewed by David Gilland (PhD, University of Aberdeen; Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Germany)
Reviewed by Matthew Boyleston (PhD, University of Houston; Assistant Professor of English and Writing, Houston Baptist University)
Reviewed by Kyle Strobel (PhD, University of Aberdeen; Assistant Professor of Spiritual Theology at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University)
Reviewed by Jordan Hillebert (PhD cand., University of St. Andrews)
Reviewed by Paul Helm (Teaching Fellow at Regent College; Professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion at King’s College London, 1993-2000)
Reviewed by Mark Gignilliat (PhD, University of St. Andrews; Associate Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University)
February 13, 2015
On a personal note, blogging will continue to be slow for the next several weeks. I am currently in the middle of an internship, in addition to my library job at Union Presbyterian Seminary and classwork at said seminary. I work six days a week. I am rather exhausted. Woe is me!
Roman Catholic biblical scholarship is doing a lot of things right. Ever since Pius XII’s Divino Afflante Spiritu in 1943, Catholic scholars have pursued the rigorous enterprise of critical scholarship with vigor. And, yet, they have done so with sensitivity to theological concerns within a dogmatic framework. Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzmyer are two of the most prominent names in this regard, as demonstrated in their volumes for the Anchor Bible and elsewhere. Brown will be too liberal for many of you, but he is a remarkable scholar, with a theologically adept mind.
The NAB was commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and you can hear it at every mass in the United States. The other favorite translation among American Catholics is the Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition), published by Ignatius Press. I love the RSV, but I have come to appreciate the NAB more and more. It may lack a certain elegance, but I appreciate its “punchiness.” See Psalm 10, for example. But the significant advantage for the student is the study material. The book introductions are consistently good, and the study notes are genuinely helpful. The overall perspective is “moderate critical,” much like the Protestant New Interpreter’s Study Bible. See the New Jerusalem Bible below for a similar study Bible from Roman Catholic scholars.
It has many naysayers, but I am a fan of the NIV, especially the 2011 revision (see a related post here). This study Bible is the evangelical standard. As such, it is minimally concerned with appropriating historical critical research, except in an adverse position. When it comes to the Pentateuch, for example, Moses is the author, albeit with some recognition of later redaction. When it comes to Isaiah, the similarities among the parts overrule the differences (e.g, “Holy One of Israel” throughout the book), yielding a single author. And, to give another example, the book of Daniel is not a species of late AD apocalyptic, intertestamental literature. In each case, appeal is made to the New Testament’s use of the OT and how traditional authorship is ascribed.
For many people, this would be enough to dismiss the NIV Study Bible. But that is a shame. The NIV Study Bible is beneficial to one and all. As you would expect from an evangelical study Bible, the NIV-SB does a marvelous job of systematizing the disparate material in the biblical canon. Agree or disagree, it is helpful, especially for the pastor. Compared to some other study Bibles, it lacks depth in the notes, and it is certainly “biased” toward evangelical theology, of course. The 2011 NIV-SB also includes a wealth of charts (in color!) that will serve every student well.
The NISB is a distillation of The New Interpreter’s Bible, one of the most important commentary series on the market and the successor to the widely utilized The Interpreter’s Bible. There is also the accompaniment, The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, which is also an academic standard. And all of this derived from the “biblical theology” movement of the mid-twentieth century, with Interpretation as the flagship and leading journal for mainline Protestants facilitating both critical and theological analysis of the Bible. Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond continues to house Interpretation. And there is also a commentary series, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. This is a favorite among preachers, and it includes the likes of Brueggemann on Genesis and Thomas Long on Hebrews.
So, the “Interpretation” enterprise is vast, and it is much beloved among mainline Protestants. It represents the best of “moderate critical” scholarship. This means that the theology of the NISB is largely congenial to “neo-orthodoxy” of the 20th century, but it also features aspects of liberation and feminist theology, also rather congenial to mainline Protestantism of today. Personally, I have a mixed reaction to the NISB. It is certainly worth owning and worth frequently consulting, but I think that the NAB (above) and NJB (below) are superior on the whole.
As with all of the mainline Protestant study Bibles, the translation is the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). I am not overly fond of the NRSV for mostly stylistic reasons, but it represents some of the best of biblical scholarship in the late 20th century (including the indomitable Bruce Metzger at Princeton) and is the academic standard.
This is an astonishingly good study Bible. The book introductions are alone worth the price of the volume and should be published independently as an introductory survey of the Bible. Like the NAB, the NJB is a Roman Catholic translation of the Bible, featuring academic introductions and study notes. (Note: the “Reader’s Edition” lacks the study material.) But most importantly, these academic features are also combined with theological commitments, much like the NAB. For example, the study note for Romans 9:5 (“…Christ who is above all, God, blessed forever. Amen.”) is a splendid account of the divinity of Christ within the doctrine of the Trinity. I do not know of any other study Bible that combines such theological depth with academic-critical rigor.
While the NJB is a Roman Catholic Bible, it could easily be called an ecumenical Bible. Most of the mainline Protestants would be comfortable with it, and I would encourage evangelical Protestants to utilize it as well. There are only a few instances where peculiarly Roman Catholic “bias” could be detected. For example, the study note for Matthew 1:25 allows for the ever-virginity of Mary: “The text is not concerned with the period that followed and, taken by itself, does not assert Mary’s perpetual virginity. This is assumed by the remainder of the Gospel and by the tradition of the Church.” The NAB says basically the same. But this is not significant. I think the Epiphanian view is plausible — why else was Mary entrusted to the beloved disciple and not to Jesus’ “brothers”? (John 19:26-27). So, I am not concerned with this particular “bias.” More importantly, the controversial matters on justification in Romans and Galatians are notably unbiased and fair to everyone concerned, if you sufficiently understand the complexities involved.
The NOAB is the long-standing standard in academic study Bibles, widely utilized in both mainline Protestant seminaries and secular universities. This was the Bible we were assigned at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The original edition (with the RSV translation) is still in print, and it is considered a classic, thanks in large part to the influence and labor of Bruce Metzger. Metzger also supervised both the NRSV translation (1989) and the revision of the NOAB. But later additions of the NOAB have gone beyond Metzger, who was a moderate-critical, neo-orthodox Presbyterian scholar. The editors of the third and fourth editions of the NOAB, Michael D. Coogan and Marc Z. Brettler, have incorporated a decidedly secular and non-theological perspective throughout the NOAB. This is my opinion, after using both the third and fourth editions extensively. Nonetheless, the NOAB remains a valuable resource for understanding the mainline academic/liberal perspective on the Bible.
However, The HarperCollins Study Bible (NRSV) appears to be a better resource for grappling with the theological implications of critical research, from the perspective of liberal mainline Protestantism. But, I am not as familiar with the HCSB, so I have to reserve judgment.
Other Study Bibles
There are several other study Bibles worth mentioning. The NLT Study Bible is very good, and in certain respects it is even superior to the NIV Study Bible. More than the latter, it gives greater recognition to the mainstream, as in providing the “lower chronology” of Moses and the Exodus (13th century BC) set beside the higher chronology. Yet, it lacks many of the features that make the NIV-SB special, and it is an inferior translation.
Also on the evangelical side, we should recognize The Reformation Study Bible, edited by R. C. Sproul. Next month, the RSB is scheduled to release its latest edition. This is the traditional Calvinist study Bible, par excellence. It first appear in the mid-1990’s as The New Geneva Study Bible, in the NKJV translation only. It then expanded to the ESV translation, which is the sole translation of the new edition. There is also an NIV edition, The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, edited by Richard L. Pratt and based upon the Sproul edition of the RSB. The NIV edition features more expansive study notes. And most importantly, the NIV edition includes the Reformed confessions (Three Forms of Unity and Westminster Standards) at the end and footnoted throughout the text.
The ESV Study Bible is easily the most talked about study Bible to emerge in the last decade. This is thanks in large part to the wide publicity of Crossway and enthusiastic support from leaders within the “New Calvinism,” such as John Piper. The theology is basically the same as The Reformation Study Bible, but I find the RSB to be more theologically in-depth and elegant. Yet, the ESV-SB features more material and more study aids, much like the latest NIV-SB.
On the mainline Protestant side, there is The Discipleship Study Bible, which appears to be very similar to the NISB (above). It comes from the same “Interpretation” group of scholars, with pastor-scholars like Thomas Long, and is published by Westminster John Knox.
Alright, I think that is enough for now! We have a wealth of study Bibles in the English-speaking world: evangelical Protestant, mainline Protestant, and Roman Catholic. And each of the above have something worthwhile to offer us all.