Corpus Christologicum: Texts and Translations for the Study of Jewish Messianism and Early Christology

In recent decades, the study of Jewish messianic ideas and how they influenced early Christology has become an incredibly active field within biblical studies. Numerous books and articles have engaged with the ancient sources to trace various themes, including “Messiah” language itself, exalted patriarchs, angel mediators, “wisdom” and “word,” eschatology, and much more. But anyone who attempts to study the Jewish roots of early Christianity faces a challenge: the primary sources are wide-ranging, involve ancient languages, and are often very difficult to track down. Books are littered with citations and a host of other sometimes obscure writings, and it can be difficult to sort them all out.

This book makes a much-needed contribution by bringing together the most important primary texts for the study of Jewish messianism and early Christology—nearly three hundred in total—and presenting the reader with essential information to study them: the critical text itself (with apparatus), a fresh translation, a current bibliography, and thematic tags that allow the reader to trace themes across the corpus. This volume aims to be the starting point for all future work on the primary sources that are relevant to messianology and Christology.

Greg Lanier has here assembled an extraordinarily comprehensive set of primary source materials which the interested reader will be astonished by.

Lanier begins with an introduction and then he brings to readers a very carefully constructed and clearly written overview of the presentation of texts which comprise the volume.  Or to put it another way, he describes how the book works.

To wit, he discusses the selection of sources, the commentary attendant on each text, the translation of the base text and its text critical apparatus, the references to which the text relates, and something he calls ‘thematic tags’.

I realize that all sounds rather odd, so here’s a photo of the overview:

Instantly potential users are given a map to each entry.  This resource is not merely a collection of texts which students of early Christology can mine.  It is a deeply useful and profoundly important guidebook to texts and their contents, contexts, and interpretations.  Each entry is a mini-course in textual history and interpretation.

Once Lanier explains how the book works, he provides indices for epithets, hypostases, figures, metaphors, and attributes.  A table of abbreviations and a key to terms is also offered.

Then, finally, the meat of the volume is provided: the Hebrew Bible and the versions, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, Philo and Josephus, and other Jewish and early Christian texts are assembled.

The volume concludes with a list of references (primary and secondary sources).

Again, rather than simply describing the materials, here’s a sample from the Pseudepigrapha:

The original language text occupies one column.  An English translation occupies the other.  The key words are underlined and textual notes and annotations are given.  And a short commentary gives readers a sense of the wider context.

This is an utterly remarkable resource and it reflects what would for most be a lifetime of work.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of this work and it is also impossible to overstate the value it has for biblical scholarship.

Even if readers are not particularly interested in Jewish Messianism, this work is a treasure-trove of primary source materials.  I find myself agreeing with my old friend Chris Tilling, who opines of the work that it ‘… offers something quite unique’.  Indeed it does!  I similarly must agree with John Collins who notes that Lanier has ‘… assembled a magnificent sourcebook…’

I am very keen to see to it that scholars and students make every effort to lay hold of this gem.  It is certainly my hope that they will.  Because there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if they do, they will also be enchanted, and grateful.

Thank you, Greg, for a volume worth owning in a day when so many volumes are neither worth owning nor even reading.  And thank you too, Hendrickson Publishers, for having the good sense to publish a work that matters.  Your reputation for solid scholarship is strengthened thereby.

The Rewards of Learning Greek and Hebrew

I guess for those of you for whom my simply saying ‘do it’ is insufficient, here are other people saying DO IT!

Why study biblical languages? The Rewards of Learning Greek and Hebrew: Discovering the Richness of the Bible in Its Original Languages is written to convince you that it’s worth it! Professors Catherine L. McDowell and Philip H. Towner have spent years opening the eyes of students to the riches that await those who study Hebrew and Greek, and they invite you to listen in. This book is designed for people who have never studied the biblical languages—everything is in English or English script, and everything is clearly explained.

The Rewards of Learning Greek and Hebrew contains a number of case studies—some from the Hebrew Bible and some from the New Testament—that demonstrate the kind of accuracy and insight that await those who study the biblical languages. Each case study is accompanied by a testimonial from a student whose understanding of the Bible has been enriched by studying Greek or Hebrew.

With encouragements from Christian scholars and pastors sprinkled throughout, The Rewards of Learning Greek and Hebrew gives you a taste of what awaits the student of biblical languages and encourages you to take the plunge.

DO IT!!!!!!!!

See, my reason is much more compact.

NRSV Pew Bible with Apocrypha

Hendrickson sent a copy of this pew bible for review. 

For churches who prefer the beauty and accuracy of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, inexpensive but high-quality editions have been difficult to find. Until now. Hendrickson’s new NRSV Pew Bible combines thoughtfully designed features with a surprisingly affordable price. Boasting better-grade paper, clear and readable type, three pages of updated color maps, and a presentation page, this is a beautifully crafted Bible as well as the most affordable one on the market.

The best judge of any translation is its level of fidelity to the underlying source text.  One can attempt this sort of fidelity by being wooden and rendering word for word but this generally results in a version that is stuttering and unwieldy.  Wooden, as it were.  Which makes for a generally unpleasant reading experience and doesn’t really bring the reader closer to the original, since it at least has the benefit of being sensible and appealing.

Another method of translation is the sense for sense method.  This was the approach of Jerome when he rendered the Hebrew and Greek texts into Latin.  And his version, based on fairly faulty manuscripts, was as good as it could possibly be under the circumstances.

The second best judge of any translation is its ability to break free of the constraints of previous translations.  Some versions turn out to be little more than rephrasings of previous ones.  Think, for example, of the New King James Version and its relation to the 1769 edition which was itself a revision of the 1611 edition.  ‘There’s nothing new here’.  Just the same reading with modernization.

When Jerome translated his edition of the Vulgate it was so different in appreciable ways from the preceding editions (and there were several), there were riots in the street.  By the second measure, then, Jerome’s edition was a smashing success because it so differed from its predecessors that it angered the mobs.

The Revised Standard Version, appearing in the early 50’s, similarly caused uprisings of discontent.  It’s rendition of Isaiah 7:14 led many to find as many copies as they could and burn them in the streets as heretical (merely because the translators followed the actual meaning of the Hebrew word ‘almah’ with ‘maiden’ instead of the very incorrect ‘virgin’ which would have required the Hebrew ‘bethulah’.  Things any first year Hebrew student would know).  In that regard, it too was a departure from its predecessors and for that reason it was a very worthwhile edition.  It, as well, was a faithful rendering of the underlying texts, so that too spoke in its favor.

The New Revised Standard keeps many of the advantages of the RSV and improves them (even if slightly) and is, consequently, a very good edition to use as a pew bible.  The edition under review here also contains the Apocrypha, so that is an added benefit.

The Hendrickson pew bible is printed on nice paper (and not that terrible onion paper too many bibles use), and the font is legible, though not large.  There are a minimum of footnotes and these are variant readings when they are of some importance.  There are no maps, no indices, no frills, no fluff.  This is a bible designed specifically for sitting on a pew and providing worshippers a version they can follow along with when the Scriptures are read.   It is not a study bible.

The binding is firm.  The layout is dual column.  The margins are minimal.  The edition is super.

If your church is looking for a sturdy pew bible, containing a good, reliable, and faithful translation, then this may be exactly what you are looking for.

Or, if you simply want to give a bare bones Bible to a friend or new convert or seeker or young person then this is an affordable and efficient edition.

If, though, you want the best translation of the biblical text, the Revised English Bible remains the king of the English editions.  No translation surpasses it.

Who Created Christianity?: Fresh Approaches to the Relationship between Paul and Jesus

Who Created Christianity? is a collection of essays by top international Christian scholars who desire to reinforce the relationship that Paul had with Jesus and Christianity.

There is a general sense today among Christians in certain circles that Paul’s teachings to the early Christian church are thought to be “rogue,” even clashing at times with Jesus’ words. Yet these essays set out to prove that the tradition that Paul passes on is one received from Jesus, not separate from it.

The essays in this volume come from a diverse and international group of scholars. They offer up-to-date studies of the teachings of Paul and how the specific teachings directly relate to the earlier teachings of Jesus. This volume explores with even greater focus than ever before the tradition from which Paul emerges and the specific teachings that are part of this tradition. This collection of essays proposes a complementary work to the work of David Wenham and his thesis that Paul was indeed not the founder of Christianity or the creator of Christian dogma; instead, he was a faithful disciple and a conveyer of a prior Christian tradition.

The essayists who contributed to this volume bring a collective several centuries of scholarship to bear and the fruits of that experience glisten on every page.  Stanley Porter, Graham Twelftree, Rainer Riesner, Joan Taylor, Alister McGrath, Craig Evans, Sarah Harris, Mike Bird, Steve Walton, Greg Beale, and Holly Beers among other lesser known and nonetheless finely gifted academics have seen to it that critical issues facing New Testament scholarship are brilliantly addressed.

Jesus and Paul are the two most important persons in the history of Christianity.  How significant is well known but WHY is a question seldom enough asked.  This collection asks, and answers.

The volume is comprised of six parts (personally I would have gone for seven) and in those parts the discussion is framed, Gospel origins are looked into, the oral tradition and its connection to Jesus and Paul is examined, the main themes of research concerning Jesus and Paul are discussed, women according to Jesus and Paul are investigated, Paul’s relationship to the Gospels and Jesus in the letters of Paul are also grist for the academic mill.

The best essays, in my view, are those by Twelftree, Riesner, Taylor, Bird, and Walton.  They are incredibly informative and have the merit of not repeating what are well known details.

The honoree of this Festschrift, David Wenham, is both deserving of the honor and honored by the high quality of scholarship on display in this work.  And while there are more than enough books on Paul out and about these days and plenty on the historical Jesus, few bring the two together and none do it as brilliantly as is done here.

In his foreword Wenham concludes

My hope is that this book, for which I am very grateful. will encourage ongoing sane and fruitful study of the Paul and Jesus question.

From his lips to God’s ears, as we say down here.  With the abundance of insane monographs ranging from the lunacy of the Jesus mythicists to the virtual worshipers of Paul, it is refreshing to read a volume that actually takes us forward in quest of answers to serious issues.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this work.  If you only have time to read a few of the contributions, do read the five I note above.  But if you can make time for the whole work, you will not regret it.  Indeed, you will ‘redeem the time’ and it will be a far better use of your limited lifespan than hopping on the game machine to play the fortnite (or whatever time wasting frolic is popular these days).

Tolle, lege!

Jesus and the Manuscripts: What We Can Learn from the Oldest Texts

Jesus and the Manuscripts, by popular author and Bible scholar Craig A. Evans, introduces readers to the diversity and complexity of the ancient literature that records the words and deeds of Jesus. This diverse literature includes the familiar Gospels of the New Testament, the much less familiar literature of the Rabbis and of the Qur’ān, and the extracanonical narratives and brief snippets of material found in fragments and inscriptions.

This book critically analyzes important texts and quotations in their original languages and engages the current scholarly discussion. Evans argues that the Gospel of Thomas is not early or independent of the New Testament Gospels but that it should be dated to the late second century. He also argues that Secret Mark, like the recently published Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, is probably a modern forgery.

Of special interest is the question of how long the autographs of New Testament writings remained in circulation. Evans argues that the evidence suggests that most of these autographs remained available for copying and study for more than one hundred years and thus stabilized the text.

Ad Fontes!  That was the Reformers cry and that was the cry taken up by biblical scholars for the centuries afterward.  That is, until recently.  Recently, too many pastors and biblical scholars have turned from primary sources and adopted the absurd notion that reading biblical texts in translation is sufficient for preaching and teaching.

This has resulted in incredible damage being done to both theology and scripture studies and that damage has manifested itself in the wider society such that many who have zero ability or understanding of the Bible have been viewed by people as persons to be trusted and heeded.

And things will only get worse until the biblical languages regain their rightful place as the ONLY sufficient foundation for bible study.

Enter Evans’ book.  Comprised of 12 chapters, the present volume seeks to introduce readers to primary texts related to the Gospels and Acts and their importance for the most basic of all biblical studies tasks: textual criticism.  The chapters are

  1. How Old and How Many? The Oldest Witnesses to Jesus
  2. The Autographic Jesus: How Long Were Antique Books in Use?
  3. Jesus in the Jewish Gospels
  4. Jesus and Doubting Thomas: On the Genesis and Age of a Syrian Gospel (Part 1)
  5. Jesus and Doubting Thomas: On the Genesis and Age of a Syrian Gospel (Part 2)
  6. Cross Purposes: From Matthew to the Gospel of Peter
  7. Jesus and Judas: Making Sense of the Gospel of Judas
  8. The Sexual Jesus: Straight, Gay, or Married?
  9. Panther, Prophet, or Problem Child?
  10. Jesus in Small Texts
  11. Jesus and the Beginnings of the Christian Canon of Scripture
  12. Jesus in Print: Erasmus and the Beginnings of Textual Fundamentalism

There are also a bibliography, and indices of modern authors and ancient sources as well as a list of figures.

In his foreword to the volume, J.K. Elliott makes it abundantly clear that he has little patience for the latest fads of New Testament textual criticism.  He is particularly unimpressed by the ‘most recent fad to greet us’, the Coherence Based Genealogical Method.  And that’s just one of the several delights readers encounter as the book opens.

Many of the chapters have been published in different formats but here are thoroughly revised and rendered into a coherent whole.  The purpose of the work, as described by the author, is threefold: to introduce readers to ancient literature, to survey scholarship on those texts, and to asses the use and misuse of those texts.

The volume is dense and demanding.  It is littered with footnotes and readers without Greek will not be able to fully access what Evans writes.  There are no cheats, no transliterations.  Readers are expected to be able to read Greek (as all who work in textual criticism and New Testament studies should be).

Hebrew also appears, and it too is not transliterated.  Scholars of the material are demanded to be able to read the sources which they use in their work.  The really absurd thing about much modern scholarship is that such a notion has to be stated and simply can no longer be assumed as understood and known and embraced.

Evans has produced an incredibly impressive work and he deserves our appreciation for doing so.

Textual criticism matters.  Sources matter.  Reading sources matters.  When those things no longer matter, then New Testament scholarship dies.  Evans is trying to keep the foundation of New Testament studies alive.

He’s fighting a massive tide of laziness and academic indifference; but he will be victorious.  Along with all those wise enough to see the importance of such disciplines for wider academic pursuits and even for the well being of Church and society.

Who Created Christianity?: Fresh Approaches to the Relationship between Paul and Jesus

An all-star cast of contributors on this perennial topic: Stanley Porter on when Paul met Jesus; Sarah Harris on female followers of Jesus and Paul; Rainer Riesner on four recent views of Paul and the Jesus tradition; Alister McGrath on Jesus and Paul concerning discipleship; D.A. Carson on justification by faith in Jesus and Paul; etc. 464 pages, hardcover.

Inscriptions from the World of the Bible : A Reader and Introduction to Old Northwest Semitic

Inscriptions from the World of the Bible guides readers through the most significant Northwest Semitic inscriptions from the early first millennium BCE. These texts—most of which are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Phoenician, or Moabite—are contemporary with the period of the Israelite and Judean monarchies and provide valuable historical and literary context for the Hebrew Bible.

The book begins with an overview of the Northwest Semitic languages, an explanation of the methods of historical linguistics, and a brief comparative grammar. The explanations are geared toward readers with some prior knowledge of Biblical Hebrew, and special emphasis is placed on historical Hebrew grammar. The text selections are grouped by language, and each section includes a brief overview of the distinctive features of the language as well as a glossary. Texts are presented in a “reader” format with commentary on significant lexical, grammatical, and literary features.

Wisdom in the Hebrew Bible

What is the source of wisdom? What is the biblical understanding of it, and how is it revealed? In this book, T. A. Perry brings his creative impulse and critical mind to some of the most enigmatic passages of the Hebrew Bible.

Perry provides serious students with an insightful and incisive lens through which to interpret, among other biblical passages, the story of Judah and Tamar, the riddle proposed by Samson, and the words of Qohelet (Ecclesiastes) reflecting on the advancing years of life.


The Gospel of Mark, Scripture Journal

Available from Hendrickson and sent for review.  Here is a photo of it in my hand to give a sense of the size.  They are smallish volumes:

A Greek Scripture Journal for the Gospel of Mark is a unique book that offers students, scholars, and pastors a way to deepen their study of the New Testament.

The Nestle-Aland text of the Greek New Testament has long been the standard text-critical edition for serious students and scholars. Now, the German Bible Society has released a special journaling edition of one of the key books of the New Testament: the Gospel of Mark.

The 28th Edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece provides the trusted critical text of NA28 in a clean format, with no apparatus. Each page of Greek is paired with a blank lined page for recording notes and comments. This beautifully minimalist edition will be welcomed by scholars, students, and pastors alike as a valuable resource in their personal study of the Gospel of Mark.

Of course there’s no need to review the 28th edition of Nestle-Aland.  And the Gospel of Mark is well beyond being reviewed by any person.  What is worthy of review, and mention, regarding this present volume is its potential.

Is this a useful edition of the Gospel of Mark?  Indeed!  As a matter of fact, it is IDEAL for courses on Mark which examine the Greek text.  It seems to me that this edition would be the perfect course textbook.  Students, as they work through the Gospel, would easily be able to note particularities of interest to themselves and Professors lecturing on the Gospel could assign this edition as the course ‘notebook’.

Individuals working through the Greek text of Mark would also find it quite useful.  It’s better suited to note-taking than a ‘wide margin’ edition and it’s compact enough to be easily portable.

I hope that Hendrickson, and the German Bible Society, produce editions of each of the New Testament books (or small groups of texts like James, 1-2 Peter, and Jude).  Such a series of booklets would be a Professor’s dream and a Student’s joy.

Until that’s done, readers of the Greek New Testament should get hold of what is available and take full advantage of all the possibilities such an edition presents for both learners and teachers.

BasisBibel: The New Testament and the Psalms

Since the publication of the New Testament edition, the BasisBibel has been hailed in the English-speaking world by students and professors of German alike. Each sentence contains no more than sixteen words and no more than one subordinating clause. With its concise sentences, contemporary German, and straightforward explanations of key biblical words and concepts in the margins, it is the perfect German Bible translation for the student of German. It can also be read in a variety of formats, including tablets, computers, and smartphones, and additional background information on the content is available online.

Now that the Hebrew Psalms have been newly translated for the BasisBibel, we are pleased to offer a new edition with the New Testament and the Psalms together. This new translation is notable in that the character of the Hebrew poetry remains recognizable in the German version. The text lines reflect the typical parallel structure of Hebrew poetry and are therefore ideal for both personal and class reading. The consistently rhythmic language and the extensive retention of the unique metaphorical expression of the original text make the reading of this fascinating book of the Bible in German a delight.

When a new edition of the Bible appears the only sensible procedure is to evaluate it in terms of its predecessors.  If there’s nothing in it which moves readers forward in their understanding of the meaning of Scripture, either through its clarity or its depth of insight into the source languages, then it can simply be disregarded.  This is certainly the case, for example, with the NIV.  That version neither deepens readers’ understanding of the meaning of the text nor does it bring them closer to the meaning of the Grundtext.  It has no advantage over any of its predecessors.  It is a useless translation for those reasons alone.

Accordingly, any evaluation of the new edition in German published by the German Bible Society has to be evaluated in terms of whether or not it brings readers closer to the ‘original’ texts, i.e., the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek documents that make up the Bible.  To come to a decision in that regard we simply need to compare the BasisBibel to the premier German translation, the 2008 Zurich Bible.  With that in mind, below, I’ll offer a segment of text from the Zurich Bible and compare it to the BasisBibel.

Our first snippet is from Psalm 23-

The Zurich Bible-

Ein Psalm Davids. Der HERR ist mein Hirt, mir mangelt nichts, er weidet mich auf grünen Auen. Zur Ruhe am Wasser führt er mich, neues Leben gibt er mir. Er leitet mich auf Pfaden der Gerechtigkeit um seines Namens willen.  Wandere ich auch im finstern Tal, fürchte ich kein Unheil, denn du bist bei mir, dein Stecken und dein Stab, sie trösten mich. Du deckst mir den Tisch im Angesicht meiner Feinde. Du salbst mein Haupt mit Öl, übervoll ist mein Becher.  Güte und Gnade werden mir folgen alle meine Tage, und ich werde zurückkehren ins Haus des HERRN mein Leben lang.   (Ps. 23:1-6)

That rendition is both beautiful, articulate, and accurate.  What then of the BasisBibel?

EIN PSALM, MIT DAVID VERBUNDEN. Der HERR ist mein Hirte. Mir fehlt es an nichts. Die Weiden sind saftig grün. Hier lässt er mich ruhig lagern. Er leitet mich zu kühlen Wasserstellen. Dort erfrischt er meine Seele. Er führt mich gerecht durchs Leben. Dafür steht er mit seinem Namen ein. Und muss ich durch ein finsteres Tal, fürchte ich keine Gefahr. Denn du bist an meiner Seite! Dein Stock und dein Stab schützen und trösten mich. Du deckst für mich einen Tisch vor den Augen meiner Feinde. Du salbst mein Haar mit duftendem Öl und füllst mir den Becher bis zum Rand. Nichts als Liebe und Güte begleiten mich alle Tage meines Lebens. Mein Platz ist im Haus des HERRN. Dorthin werde ich zurückkehren – mein ganzes Leben lang!

The first thing that strikes the reader is the much shorter sentences which the BasisBibel utilizes. The style is thus more staccato and consequently less smooth. Yet that isn’t necessarily a drawback, as the reader is forced to think each line through before moving to the next. This structure was an intentional decision of the editorial board, as shorter sentences are easier to ‘digest’.

The translators of the BasisBibel have taken a few more liberties with the underlying Hebrew text here than the Zurich Bible does. Note, for instance, this phrase from the Zurich Bible-

Du salbst mein Haupt mit Öl

This is a literal rendering of the Hebrew text. The BasisBibel, however, opts for

Du salbst mein Haar mit duftendem Öl

Though not literally accurate, it is technically correct given that unless the anointed is bald, it is indeed the hair that’s soaked with oil.

John 3:16 is always a ‘test case’ for any translation I examine. Here, the Zurich Bible has

Denn so hat Gott die Welt geliebt, dass er den einzigen Sohn gab, damit jeder, der an ihn glaubt, nicht verloren gehe, sondern ewiges Leben habe.

Meanwhile, the BasisBibel has

Denn so sehr hat Gott diese Welt geliebt: Er hat seinen einzigen Sohn hergegeben, damit keiner verloren geht, der an ihn glaubt. Sondern damit er das ewige Leben erhält.

Again the BasisBible opts for a ‘fuller’ more ‘interpretive’ reading than the technically more accurate Zurich Bible.

Our final test case is the crux interpretum, 1 John 2;2. Here the Zurich Bible goes with

Er ist die Sühne für unsere Sünden, aber nicht nur für unsere, sondern auch für die der ganzen Welt.

And the BasisBibel-

Er hat für unsere Schuld sein Leben gegeben und hat uns so mit Gott versöhnt. Und das gilt nicht nur für unsere Schuld, sondern auch für die der ganzen Welt.

ZB’s Sühne becomes so mit Gott versöhnt.

It’s really a fascinating rhetorical move. And a path that is more interpretive, again, than the Zurich Bible will take.

In sum, qua translation, the BasisBibel is more interpretive than the Zurich Bible, but its interpretive moves are not inaccurate or misleading.  On that count, then, it does take readers forward in their comprehension of the biblical text.

Other aspects of the edition are the fact that it adopts a one column layout, making it more like a ‘normal’ book.  Each page has sidebar notes where various terms are explained.   More precisely put- words in reddish color in the main text are explained in these little notes and they are much fuller than footnotes and contain much more detail than the usual bible footnotes do.  It has a nice ribbon bookmark as well.

There are a few maps at the back of the volume and an editorial ‘Afterword’ wherein the editors explain the project’s aims.

I like this version very much.  It is readable, the font is easy on the eyes (like Rachel, not like Leah), and the binding is sturdy and colorful.  If you are relatively new to German it is probably the ideal version to practice reading in since the sentences are short and the vocabulary isn’t ‘heavy’.

The entire Bible will be published in January of 2021, Old and New Testaments together, and I am very, very keen to see it.  Until then, I’ll enjoy this edition.  If you read it, you will too.

Studying the New Testament through Inscriptions: An Introduction

Studying the New Testament through Inscriptions is an intuitive introduction to inscriptions from the Greco-Roman world. Inscriptions can help contextualize certain events associated with the New Testament in a way that many widely circulated literary texts do not. This book both introduces inscriptions and demonstrates sound methodological use of them in the study of the New Testament. Through five case studies, it highlights the largely unrecognized ability of inscriptions to shed light on early Christian history, practice, and the leadership structure of early Christian churches, as well as to solve certain New Testament exegetical impasses.

The book is comprised of six chapters and a series of bibliographic appendices-

  1. Engraved for All Time: An Introduction to Inscriptions
  2. Jesus, the Royal Lord: Inscriptions and Local Customs
  3. “Devour” or “Go Ahead with” the Lord’s Banquet? Inscriptions and Philology
  4. Imperial Loyalty Oaths, Caesar’s Decrees, and Early Christianity in Thessalonica: Contextualizing Inscriptions
  5. Benefactresses, Deaconesses, and Overseers in the Philippian Church: Inscriptions and Their Insights into the Religious Lives of Women in the Roman World
  6. Calculating Numbers with Wisdom: Inscriptions and Exegetical Impasses

By way of opening-

This book is an attempt to introduce mainly Greek but also Latin and Semitic inscriptions from the Hellenistic and Roman periods to graduate students, seminarians, and pastors for the purpose of using these sources to interpret the documents of the NT and to reconstruct the history of early Christianity.

Readers of the present volume will probably be driven to compare its contents and structure to the earlier work of Deissmann’s ‘Light from the Ancient East’.  The present author recognizes that fact and engages in a bit of project justification, writing

Deissmann provides little background information about inscriptions, directing the reader to a German introduction to inscriptions published in 1906. And, entries on inscriptions in Bible and NT dictionaries and encyclopedias, by their nature, are cursory and undetailed.  Therefore, this book’s first goal is to introduce inscriptions by making them accessible to the seminarian, graduate student, and pastor. In the process, I tackle what inscriptions are, why they were set up, how they were made, how they are classified, who could read them, how they are dated, and how to use collections of inscriptions (or corpora), which can seem complicated for the novice.

And then he concludes that he has striven to-

… treat inscriptions as archaeological artifacts so that they can illuminate the text of the NT and the history of early Christianity.

Further on, while discussing the usefulness of inscriptional material for interpreting difficult New Testament passages-

When we compare the data above with our earliest evidence from the NT, Paul’s letters, there are striking similarities between the use of lord in inscriptions from the southern Levant and in Paul’s letters.

To begin chapter three, the most interesting of the chapters in my estimation, our author observes-

One of the most important contributions that inscriptions (and papyri) made to the study of the NT in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was helping to establish the relationship between NT Greek and the common or Koine Greek of the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

He then launches into a very well done treatment of προλαμβανω in 1 Cor 11:21: Scholarly Proposals.  In this portion of the work the author justifies both its existence and its importance as a furtherance of Deissmann’s earlier, larger, more influential work.  As he himself remarks at the end of the chapter, and he is correct in so doing,

… this chapter has demonstrated the ability of inscriptions to adjudicate philological discussions.

The book as a whole shows how very valuable the ancient inscriptions are for the interpretation of the New Testament.  Along with extensive primary source inclusion, there are lovely photographs of important inscriptions which the author has himself taken.  The appendices provide further resources, both print and online.  And there are indices of modern authors, subjects, and ancient sources so that readers can locate particular materials with ease.

The book may just have 246 pages in total, whilst Deissmann’s work weighs in at over 450 pages; this book’s size does not diminish its value and usefulness.  Students of the Greek New Testament will learn much from its erudition and information.

That’s why I heartily recommend it.  But don’t forget Deissmann.  There is much to learn from his work as well.  Indeed, sometimes the old and the new work best when they work together.  Excluding the old because it’s old or esteeming the new just because of its novelty is neither wise nor scholarly.

Well Worth $70

Well worth it indeed.

[The] Set includes The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, The Englishman’s Hebrew Concordance, The Englishman’s Greek Concordance, and Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon.

Just overlook the ‘if you don’t know Hebrew and Greek’ and the ‘Strong’s Concordance’ bits.  The Devil must have crept into the marketing department.

Hendrickson’s ‘Book By Book’ Guides

Hendrickson has recently published A Book by Book Guide to Septuagint Vocabulary and A Book by Book Guide to New Testament Greek Vocabulary.

These two works are described by the publisher thusly:

A Book-by-Book Guide to New Testament Greek Vocabulary is intended to help students, pastors, and professors who wish to read a particular book of the Bible in its original language to master the vocabulary that occurs most frequently in the book in question. In contrast to typical Hebrew and Greek vocabulary guides, which present vocabulary words based on their frequency in the Hebrew Bible or New Testament as a whole, this book presents vocabulary words based on their frequency in individual New Testament books, thus allowing readers to understand and engage with the text of a particular book easily and quickly.

The book also includes an appendix listing difficult principal parts for selected verbs that occur in the vocabulary lists and providing other advanced notes for additional words in the lists.


This book-by-book vocabulary guide provides an unparalleled resource for anyone interested in more effective reading and study of the Old Testament in Greek, commonly called the Septuagint. Aside from two full-scale specialist lexicons for the Septuagint, no other printed resource exists that provides concise and strategic guidance to the language of this important ancient corpus. With word lists organized by frequency of appearance in a given book or section of the Septuagint, this guide allows users to focus their study efforts and thus more efficiently improve their breadth of knowledge of Koine vocabulary. Furthermore, the vocabulary incorporated into the lists in this guide integrates lower-frequency New Testament vocabulary in a manner that enables the user to easily include or exclude such words from their study. Other key features of this vocabulary guide include carefully crafted lists that allow users to refresh higher-frequency New Testament vocabulary, to strategically study higher-frequency vocabulary that appears across the Septuagint corpus, and to familiarize themselves with the most common proper nouns in the Septuagint. Moreover, each chapter in this guide has been statistically tailored to provide the word lists necessary to familiarize the user with 90 percent of the full range of vocabulary in each book or section of the Septuagint.

The publisher has sent review copies of both, with no expectations of or requirements for the outcome of my review.

The volumes are what we used to describe as ‘word frequency lists’ but unlike the word frequency lists of olden times, when I was a lowly grad student, which were organized by frequency regardless of the books of the Bible in which they occurred, these lists follow the canonical order of the LXX and New Testament respectively.

In the LXX volume we begin with words that occur 88,461- 4,907 times in the entire LXX.  Then we whittle the lists down until we finish up with list 20, which lists words occurring 12 or fewer times.  Then our authors (Lanier and Ross) give us a collection of lists containing what they describe as ‘high frequency Septuagint vocabulary.  Next, lists of common Septuagint proper nouns.  And then, and only then, do we come to the lists of words which are found in the various books collected in the LXX.

This kind of resource is ideal for those wishing to expand their vocabulary (of Greek words that are found in the LXX).  The drawback, of course, is that one or two word ‘definitions’ are only helpful in a general way.  Further, there’s lots of repetition.  That is, if σακκος occurs in sufficient numbers in Ruth it is also listed in the vocabulary lists of other books as well.  Repetition isn’t a bad thing.  Indeed, it’s quite helpful to see a word presented in several lists over the course of the volume.  But it does add to the overall length of the work.  And that space, in my view, could have been occupied, for instance, by the words that occur in Job but one or two times.  Those are the words that generally cause problems for readers, rather than the words that occur 88,000 times.  Indeed, if a reader of the LXX isn’t familiar with words in Greek that are found tens of thousands of times, it’s highly unlikely that they are very familiar with the Greek language at all and probably aren’t trying to read the LXX in Greek anyway.

The New Testament guide is laid out in the same fashion, beginning with high frequency vocabulary – 19,865 times to 40 times.  Then our author leads us through each book of the New Testament in canonical order.  This time, however, we are introduced to words that occur 17 times and going all the way down to 3 times (for Matthew).  Other books begin at other frequencies and end at others as well.  Acts, for example, begins with words at 23 occurrences and finishes up with words found 3 times. 2 Timothy, on the other hand, begins at 4 occurrences and finishes up with words making only 1 appearance.  The New Testament volume also ends with a glossary.

Words are provided one or two word glosses here as well.  Which, again, though helpful, is also partially misleading (since words – as we all are aware- can have quite a range of meanings according to the context and the use to which they are put in that context).   To be sure, this is not a criticism, it is merely an observation and users of these two very helpful works need to remember (or perhaps be taught) that one word or two word definitions must always be investigated with a particular context in mind.

Greek, in short, is resistant to oversimplification.  As is, by the way, Hebrew.  And readers of the biblical text are beholden to keep that very simple yet very important fact in mind.

The great advantage of these two works is that they build basic vocabulary.  Basic.  Vocabulary.  And that is critical for readers of the biblical languages and students of the biblical text.  Their authors are to be thanked for them.

The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus: Texts and Commentary

This may be of interest to folk:

The significance of Jesus’ death is apparent from the space that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John devote to the Passion narrative, from the emphasis of many speeches in the book of Acts, and from the missionary preaching and the theology of the apostle Paul. Exegetical discussions of Jesus’ trial and death have employed biblical (Old Testament) and extrabiblical texts in order to understand the events during the Passover of AD 30 that led to Jesus’ execution by crucifixion. The purpose of this book is to publish the primary texts that have been cited in the scholarly literature as relevant for understanding Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. The texts in the first part deal with Jesus’ trial and interrogation before the Sanhedrin, and the texts in the second part concern Jesus’ trial before Pilate. The texts in part three represent crucifixion as a method of execution in antiquity. For each document, the authors provide the original text (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, or Latin), a translation, and commentary. The commentary describes the literary context and the purpose of each document in context before details are clarified, along with observations on the contribution of these texts to understanding Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.

The materials here assembled provide interested persons the opportunity to examine primary sources regarding the trial and execution of Jesus.  Though indirectly.

What I mean by that is that what we have here isn’t material about Jesus’s own trial or execution.  Instead we have material about trials and crucifixion in general written during and slightly later than the first century CE.

So, for instance, in part 1, J. Schnabel discusses Jewish trials before the Sanhedrin.  He offers extra-biblical texts relating to such things as Annas and Caiaphas, the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin, capital cases in Jewish law, the interrogation of witnesses, charges of blasphemy, seduction, and sorcery, the abuse of prisoners, and transfer of court cases.

Part 2, again by Schnabel, turns to Roman trials before Pilate, and discusses, by means, again, of extra-biblical texts, Pilate himself, the jurisdiction of Roman prelates, and various Roman legal niceties.

Part 3 is written by D. Chapman and focuses on the act of Crucifixion (in all its gory details).  It also addresses what Chapman styles as ‘Bodily Suspension in the Ancient Near East’.  Greco-Roman sources on the topic are then laid out as are Hellenistic sources and Jewish sources.  Chapman then provides something of a who’s who of crucifixion victims in Roman literature.  This is followed by the various ways in which various societies reacted to the act of crucifixion and he closes out his very long third part with a listing of taunts and curses and jests which were hurled at the victims of crucifixion.  It’s worth reading.  Some of the taunts may be useful to readers of the volume at some point.  Especially if they are seeking a fresh rejoinder to hurl at some hapless ill prepared conference presenter.

There are, as one should expect, a fair number of illustrations and the work also includes a bibliography, an index of ancient sources, modern authors, and subjects.

The volume is a sourcebook of materials about trials and crucifixions in the ancient Mediterranean world.  It is not, strictly speaking, a volume about the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.  The title is, accordingly, a bit inaccurate.  It should have been titled ‘Trials and Crucifixions in the World of Jesus’, because that’s what it is about.

Inaccurate title notwithstanding, this is a fascinating sourcebook with mountains of important primary source materials.  In their original languages as well as in translation and with helpful commentary.  The authors have done a lifetime of work and they are to be congratulated for it.

This resource belongs on every New Testament scholar’s shelf.

A Proverb a Day in Biblical Hebrew

This book is a companion volume (of sorts) to the great series of books Hendrickson has published aimed at helping people keep up with their Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic.

Many of the sayings in the biblical book of Proverbs are difficult to read in Hebrew, even for those who know this language well. A Proverb a Day in Biblical Hebrew is designed to help readers of all levels of Hebrew competence meditate on and understand the concise and sometimes enigmatic sayings found in the book of Proverbs.

Each verse is presented on one page, which is marked with a day number (from 1 to 365) and a date (January 1 to December 31) so the book can be used as a daily reader or devotional. On each day’s page, the verse for the day is divided into two halves, based on the fact that each of the proverbs in the book constitutes a poetic couplet consisting of two parts. After each poetic line, all the words it contains are laid out and glosses are provided. All verbs (including participles) are fully parsed. Finally, at the bottom of the page, an English translation of the verse from two pages earlier is provided. This allows readers who are struggling with the meaning of a given day’s proverb, or those who wish to see one possible way it can be rendered, to flip the page and see a translation for it at the bottom of the next two-page spread. In this way, readers can choose to avail themselves of an “answer key” for any of the proverbs when they wish to, but they can also ignore this information (since it is located on the next two-page spread, there is no risk of accidentally seeing it while trying to puzzle through a proverb’s meaning).

A copy of the present book arrived on June 19th and I have made use of it each day since.  This wonderful volume presents readers with a simple two phrased Proverb each day along with glosses and Hebrew conjugations of various verbal forms.  It also includes an English translation of each Proverb, with a catch.  The translation can only be found on the bottom of the page two days later.  So, for instance, the translation of Proverbs 19:8 (Day 1) isn’t offered until Day 3, where it is found at the very bottom of the page.  And so on throughout the book.

The handy little volume also includes an alphabetical index of all the Hebrew words found in the book, along with the pages on which they are found.  Also found at the end of the book is an index of word frequency.  That is, words that occur on 52 days are listed.  Words that occur on 49 days, 48 days, 40 days, 38 days, etc. are all listed, all the way down to words found on just one day.  And finally, there is an index of passages from the Book of Proverbs.

The print on each individual day is large, and thus enjoyable.  And the opening pages of the volume are devoted to an explanation of the contents of the volume including a discussion of the selection of verses, the glosses, a brief overview of grammatical constructions, the parsings (or what we old timers call the conjugations), the Hebrew text used, text critical issues, and the English translations. Kline also spends a few pages explaining gendered and gender neutral language in the translations.

In a period of time when fewer and fewer Pastors and academics know Hebrew (or if they do know it they spend very little time retaining it or making use of it), this volume and the exceptionally well done volumes Hendrickson has published titled ‘The 2 Minutes a Day Biblical Language‘ series by the same author are a true boon.

The biblical languages are so utterly important that they genuinely need to be fully promoted and their learning fully supported.  This book helps do that.  If a person lacks the minute or so needed to read a proverb in Hebrew each day and to refresh their Hebrew thereby, they are far, far too occupied with trivialities and they need to examine their time management priorities.

All of us owe Hendrickson a great debt of gratitude for seemingly single handedly (in the biblical studies publishing field) striving to keep learning of the biblical languages alive.

To be sure, one can be familiar with the biblical text in many of the very fine translations available to English speaking people.  The REB for instance is superb.  But reading it is not the same as reading Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  Reading the Bible in translation is like kissing your spouse through a sheet.  It may be somewhat satisfying, but it is clearly not everything that it could be.

Kiss your spouse on the skin of her (or his) lips.  Once you do that, you’ll scarcely have any interest in kissing them through a sheet ever again.

A Handbook on the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith

Hendrickson sent a review copy of this new work some weeks back.  The publisher suggests that

This handbook serves as an introduction to the Jewish roots of the Christian Faith. It includes Old Testament background, Second Temple Judaism, the life of Jesus, the New Testament, the early Jewish followers of Jesus, the historical interaction between Judaism and Christianity, and the contemporary period.

It is no longer a novelty to say that Jesus was a Jew. In fact, the term “Jewish roots” has become something of a buzzword in books, articles, and especially on the internet. But what does the Jewishness of Jesus actually mean, and why is it important?

This collection of articles aims to address those questions and serve as a comprehensive yet concise primer on the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. A Handbook on the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith consists of thirteen chapters, most of which are divided into four or five articles. It is in the “handbook” format, meaning that each article is brief but informative. The thirteen chapters are grouped into four major sections: (1) The Soil, (2) The Roots, (3) The Trunk, and (4) The Branches.

Unfortunately I am unable to be very enthusiastic about this work.  It is uneven in presentation and in places reeks of special pleading and eisegesis.  A variety of contributors at various levels of academic skill essentially guarantees such an outcome.  For example, seasoned scholars like Craig Evans and Scot McKnight intermingle with beginners like Eitan Bar and Andreas Stutz and the results are less than laudatory.  The intermingling of the divine beings and the daughters of men in Genesis 6, in fact, turned out better.

Allow me to illustrate: Craig Evans’ segment on the Old Testament in the New is brief yet well written and accurate.  It could have been a bit fuller, but given the aim of the volume and the purpose of the section, it does its job well and fairly.  Readers unfamiliar with the Use of the Old Testament in the New will be informed of the basics and will hopefully be spurred on to further research by the bibliography which concludes this (and every) section.

On the other end of the spectrum, Eitan Bar’s examination of the Sabbath is dry and uninspiring and for reasons not clear the me includes an equal amount of discussion of the sabbath in Israel today as it does for the sabbath in the Tanakh and Jesus and the Sabbath.  Why?  What possible relevance is the observance of the Sabbath in the modern secular state of Israel to the observance of the Sabbath as one of the ‘roots’ of the Christian faith?  Furthermore, whilst Evans’ bibliography is scholarly and appropriate, Eitan’s includes a work published by ‘Ariel Ministries’ in San Antonio, Texas.  If you aren’t familiar with this organization,

Ariel Ministries, created to evangelize and disciple our Jewish brethren, has been born from necessity to meet an urgent need. Ariel means “Lion of God,” representing the Messiah Yeshua as the Lion of Judah. It is also an alternate name for Jerusalem (Isaiah 29:1) — the city of peace now waiting for the Prince of Peace to return. It was in Jerusalem, in 1966, that a burning seed of desire was planted in the heart of Arnold Fruchtenbaum. On December 1, 1977, in San Antonio, Texas, Ariel Ministries was born and the seed began to bloom.  (

And that brings me to my chief complaint about the present work.  It is, in sum and substance, little more than a Messianic Christian primer.  It is not so much a handbook of the Jewish roots of the Christian faith as it is an apologia for Messianic Christians.

Mind you, I have no issues with that particular group or with their goals.  Those things are their business.  But a book purporting to be one thing which turns out to be another is something else.

If you are genuinely interested in the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith, might I suggest that you pick up a copy of Strack-Billerbeck’s 6 volume Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch.  That has everything you need to know plus multiple addenda explaining everything you need to know that you didn’t know you needed to know.  Or, get a copy of Emil Schürer’s A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ (5 volumes).  Both are dated.  And even in that condition, miles better than the present work.

I wish I could offer a more positive assessment.  As I said, there are high points.  Alas, they are dragged down by the albatross of ideology hanging around their benighted necks.

This May Interest Some: The Hendrickson Review Program

hendrickson-review-program-4Do you like reading and reviewing new books hot off the press? Do you have an engaging blog with faithful followers? If so, we’d love to connect. The Hendrickson Review Program is a great way to receive advanced notice of new books and Bibles that are available for review. We publish books for pastors, students, and scholars in the fields of Biblical studies and Bible reference, as well as Bibles and thoughtful Christian trade.

Go here for all the info and to sign up.

You Reap What You Sow, Chris Tilling…

Many of you will know how Chris Tilling cruelly abandoned our lifelong friendship to hitch his wagon to Doug Campbell (roomie thief) for SBL 2016 in San Antonio.

Well, to prove the old adage ‘you reap what you sow’, it turns out that Tilling was massively dissed by Campbell (roomie thief) during a Wipf and Stock interview- saying, as you’ll see, that Tilling ‘is a joke’!

Cruel!  And Unusual!  PUNISHMENT!  #Glory. #TakeThatYouWretch.