Category Archives: Books

The Riddle of Life

bavinckEerdmans has just published a volume first appearing in Dutch back in 1940 (and they’ve sent a review copy) that I can only describe with one word: beautiful.  The blurb runs thusly:

In the spirit of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, this book by eminent Calvinist thinker J. H. Bavinck offers a compact and compelling treatise on Christian belief.

Addressing big questions that haunt every thinking human being — Why are we here? Where do we come from? What is our destiny? How should we live? — Bavinck’s Riddle of Life also explores such essential topics as sin and salvation, Jesus the Redeemer, faith and idolatry, God’s great plan for creation, and the ultimate purpose behind our lives.

This lucid new translation by Bert Hielema of a classic text will make Bavinck’s profound reflections on faith and the meaning of human life accessible to a new generation of seekers.

The little book is exceptionally well written and authentically breaths the spirit of the best of Reformed theology.  Indeed, it reminds me a good deal of Emil Brunner’s superb ‘Our Faith‘ (a book that ought to be required reading in theological circles, schools, and seminaries and which can be read and downloaded here).

In his little treatise (it’s just north of 100 pages- so an afternoon will see the interested through it), Bavinck provides thinking Christians (and every Christian should be a thinking Christian) with plenty to ponder.  The questions he asks and answers are so central and so significant that hardly anyone can make it through life without asking them.

Eerdmans has done us all a favor by bringing this little volume out.  When, for instance, in chapter nine Bavinck discusses the idolatry of money it’s as though he were writing today and not in the late 1930’s.

Money is the magic wand that unlocks the doors to elegant hotels, picturesque palaces, and glorious gardens.  … Then we see how money is like a god, completely absorbing them.  … Money is not merely something you possess: it also changes your makeup, changes who you are  (p. 42-43).

Bavinck would surely say exactly the same today.

But money isn’t the only idol Bavinck discusses: he also looks at other popular gods- honor and the pursuit of pleasure.  This naturally leads into a discussion of the topic of sin.

Bavinck, then, doesn’t merely offer interesting and quotable answers to the most basic of life’s questions.  Like Brunner, he provides a basic introduction to Christian theology for a day in which too few think deeply enough about the meaning of their faith and even fewer actualize the implications of that faith.

I cannot recommend this book too highly.  It is the best theological treatment you’ll read this Summer.  This book is not only relevant, it is revelatory.

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Posted by on 26/07/2016 in Book Review, Books


Khirbet Qumrân et Aïn Feshkha: Fouilles du P. Roland de Vaux.

9783525540541Jean-Baptiste Humbert OP (Hg.), Khirbet Qumrân et Aïn Feshkha: Fouilles du P. Roland de Vaux.  The front matter and TOC (and a very cool photo of de Vaux) are all available here.  V&R have once again shown exceptional kindness and sent along a copy for review.  More anon.


Special Offer: “Christ Our Captain: An Introduction to Huldrych Zwingli”, and “Through The Year With Zwingli and Bullinger”

I’m offering the PDFs of the intro to Zwingli AND the Devotional for $15.  Get them both and learn about Zwingli and become more spiritual at the same time!  Follow the Paypal link and the PDFs will be sent straightaway.

And if you do, you’ll also have the opportunity to get the Commentary for $100 (that’s half off).

So for $115 you get two books about Zwingli and a Commentary on the Bible.  Match that anywhere!  Here’s the Paypal link for the Zwingli books + the Commentary.


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Posted by on 26/07/2016 in Books, Modern Culture


9685_00_detailDie Septuaginta ist als jüdische Bibelübersetzung ab dem 3. Jahrhundert v.Chr. entstanden und wurde zur zentralen Grundlage des Judentums in der griechisch-sprachigen Welt. Textgeschichtlich ist sie für das Alte Testament die wichtigste Quelle neben dem hebräisch-masoretischen Text und den nur sehr unvollständig erhaltenen biblischen Texten aus Qumran. Zudem gibt sie Einblick in die Theologie und das Schriftverständnis des antiken Judentums. Neutestamentliche Autoren zitieren das Alte Testament häufig in Gestalt der Septuaginta; in den orthodoxen Kirchen gilt sie bis heute als offizieller Text des Alten Testaments

Die Septuaginta-Forschung bildet einen eigenständigen Bereich, der im Schnittfeld steht mit antiker Judaistik und den historisch-exegetisch orientierten Wissenschaften innerhalb der Theologie. Der vorliegende Band ist erwachsen aus der 5. Internationalen Tagung des Projektes Septuaginta Deutsch im Juli 2014 in Wuppertal.

More here.  Mohr have sent a review copy about which you’ll hear more later.



The Historical Writings: Introducing Israel’s Historical Literature

PrintFortress Press have sent along an electronic (Kindle) edition of their new book, The Historical Writings: Introducing Israel’s Historical Literature, for review.

History has an inescapable centrality in the Hebrew Bible, and biblical narratives are for many readers the best recognized and most memorable parts of the Bible. The history of ancient Israel and the nature of Hebrew historiography remain hotly contested topics today. This new introduction explores key questions and methods shaping contemporary scholarly debate. Students will explore the Deuteronomistic History and other historical writings and evaluate the different roles history-writing plays throughout the Hebrew Bible.

An introduction presents issues in the historical and literary interpretation of these writings. Subsequent chapters on the books Joshua through Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles each discuss literary concerns, historical issues, and theological themes relevant to each book, then offer succinct and informative commentary on the book. Pedagogical features include maps, timelines, photographs, primary sources from the ancient Near East, reading lists, and a glossary.

After giving readers a brief primer on historical method and the textual history of the work of the Deuteronomist, L&L launch into a series of discussions on the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.  Each chapter offers an introduction, a look at literary concerns, historical issues, major themes, and commentary.

There are maps and charts aplenty and something that’s in fashion these days called ‘sidebars’.  Think of these as topic-ettes too large to be treated in a footnote and too important to be ignored but tangential to the main thrust of the work.  And useful they are.  A visit to the book’s webpage allows interested persons to see all of the contents in detail- so I commend it to you:

Table of Contents
Figures, Sidebars, and Tables
Chapter 1: Introduction
Excerpt from Chapter 2: Joshua

Before launching into my view of the volume allow me to point out one problem I have with it- and it has nothing to do with the contents of the volume or the work of its authors. Instead, it has to do with the cover art.

The cover of the book, as seen above, shows the Tel Dan stele in what can only be described as a rather bizarre configuration.  Compare that configuration to the far more accurate work below:


“House of David” inscription Tel Dan 9th century BCE Basalt H. 35 cm W. 32 cm Th. 26 cm IAA 1993-3162, 1996-125

It may seem a small detail of course, but a lack of careful editorial oversight in terms of a volume’s production can lead to subconcious questions concerning the content itself. We often say ‘you can’t tell a book by its cover’ and in many respects that’s true. But what you can tell from the cover of an academic volume is whether or not someone has been paying attention. And in academia paying attention isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

Alright, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, it’s time to turn to important matters.  First, concerning their view of history, our authors write


Having said that, they continue their explanation, with which I agree nearly completely in spite of the fact that I would have replaced the word ‘historiography’ with ‘theology’.  Or at least expanded it to the venerable phrase of von Rad- ‘theological historiography’ because that in fact is what the Old Testament ‘historical’ books are.

Moving forward, had I the opportunity to make inquiries into our authors’ underlying motivations, I would ask L&L why they had a portrait of Martin Noth but not Gerhard von Rad… and why they cite Noth and Provan (and even Brent Strawn and John Walton get nods!) and many others but refer not once to von Rad.  I suspect I know the answer to that question and it lies in our dear author’s clear inclination to follow the Noth-ian line of historical reconstruction (and that’s perfectly fine.  If I want something more von Rad-ian then I should write it and not criticize someone else on the basis of my personal preferences.  But reviews are all about personal preferences, aren’t they).

These questions aside, the work at hand is a very fine achievement and could easily find a place in any college or university introduction to the historical literature of the Hebrew Bible.  Note, for instance, their treatment of the composition history of Chronicles:


Judicious, sensible, concise, clear, communicative.  Those are the characteristics of the work at hand.

Normally when people read book reviews what they are looking for is a summary of the volume’s contents (and those were mentioned above) and the reviewer’s opinion of the book (which you also have above).  Along with perhaps a bit of interaction (though normally such interaction tends to devolve into a ‘if I were writing this book this is how I would do it and this is the way they should have done it too’ one-upsmanship-ism).  Reviews should review, not rewrite.

Were I in your position, having never read this book, and wondering if I should, my answer would be – unreservedly – yes, you should.  You should read this book.  You should tell your colleagues to read it.  You should encourage your friends to read it.  You should assign it to your undergrads.  You should have your institutional library order a couple of copies.  You should insist that one be on reserve for your courses at the front desk.

If you do read it, you will appreciate the work put into it and L&L for taking the time to produce it.  The cover art may mystify you or even miff you, but once you crack the volume open you will forget soon enough the glaring horribleness of the front of the book.

Tolle, lege.

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Posted by on 21/07/2016 in Book Review, Books, Modern Culture


Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht Have Acquired The Theological Division of Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft

VRDie Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft hat ihr wissenschaftlich-theologisches Programm an den Göttinger Verlag Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht verkauft. Einem entsprechenden Angebot hatten die Aufsichtsräte beider Häuser bereits zugestimmt. Wirksam wird die Übernahme, die jetzt von den Geschäftsführungen beider Verlage in Neukirchen-Vluyn vertraglich besiegelt wurde, zum 1. September dieses Jahres.

Im Rahmen eines Kooperationsvertrages zwischen der Neukirchener Verlagsgesellschaft und Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht ist zudem festgelegt worden, dass die zuständigen Mitarbeiter aus Lektorat und Herstellung das wissenschaftliche Programm von Neukirchen-Vluyn aus vorerst weiter betreuen werden. Entlassungen wird es im Zusammenhang mit der Übernahme nicht geben. Alle in Planung befindlichen  Buchprojekte werden an den neuen Eigentümer übergeben. Die Marke »Neukirchener Theologie« wird für die nächsten fünf Jahre von Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht weiter genutzt. Die Sparte »Neukirchener Aussaat« , in der christliche Belletristik erscheint, sowie der traditionsreiche Neukirchener Kalenderverlag sind von der Übernahme nicht betroffen.

This is big.  Read the rest here.

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Posted by on 19/07/2016 in Books, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht


What Did Martin Luther think of Martin Luther?

9783406698118_large“Ich habe die Welt satt, sie hat mich wiederum satt … sie meint, wenn sie mich los wäre, so wäre es gut … Es ist doch, wie ich oft gesagt hab: ich bin der reife Dreck, so ist die Welt das weite Arschloch; darum sind wir zu Recht zu trennen.“ Bücher über Luther füllen ganze Bibliotheken, aber was sagt Luther selbst über sich? Seine Tischreden, Briefe und Traktate stecken voller spontaner Selbstaussagen. Günter Scholz hat sie erstmals systematisch ausgewertet, um Luther sein Leben selbst erzählen zu lassen. Der Reformator teilt uns mit, wie er erzogen wurde, warum er ins Kloster ging und wann er den Kampf gegen das Papsttum aufnahm. Er spricht ganz ungeschminkt über Frauen und Liebe, Musik und Essen, Türken und Juden und lässt uns teilhaben an seiner Angst vor dem Teufel und an seinen Leidenschaften. Gerade in seinen Äußerungen über sich selbst und die Welt erweist sich Luther als Meister der deutschen Sprache, der seine Meinung knapp, anschaulich, gerne drastisch und immer unvergesslich auf den Punkt bringt.

Publication details here.

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Posted by on 16/07/2016 in Books, Luther


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