The 2008 Preaching Survey of Bibles and Bible References
By Ray Van Neste
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The two most significant new study Bibles released this year are the ESV Study Bible (Crossway) and the NLT Study Bible (Tyndale). Both of these are impressive with in depth study notes which explain the text and other helpful materials such as charts and maps. I wrote some of the notes for the ESV Study Bible so I am not a disinterested third party. I am impressed though by the work of the other contributors as I have seen them. In addition to providing background and explanation, the study notes aim to comment on key points of doctrine and how certain verses speak to the claims of other religions. The NLT Study Bible also has in depth notes and well done introductions. The "master timeline" at the front of the Bible is a helpful tool. Both study Bibles have contributions from some of the most respected evangelical scholars. These will be very helpful study tools and are the most significant study Bibles published this year.
Some of the most popular study Bibles of previous years have also been updated. The NIV Study Bible (Zondervan) has been released in a "2008 Update" edition with updated of notes, new maps and charts, and a major new Topical Index. The Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale) has also been released in an updated edition with additional notes and charts. The NKJV Study Bible: Second Edition (Nelson), has been released with a CD-Rom from Libronix with the NKJV text. I have also read about the New Oxford Annotated Study Bible (3rd Augmented Edition; NRSV: Oxford) though I have not seen it. The Discipleship Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version Including Apocrypha (WJK) has also been released. This study Bible admirably seeks to combine content notes and application notes, but the strongly critical position of the notes makes them less useful in my opinion.
The most interesting niche study Bible this year is The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today's World (Nelson). It is the first full-length Orthodox study Bible in English including a new translation of the Old Testament from the Septuagint (since that is the version of the OT used by the Orthodox) and study notes written by leading theologians of the Orthodox Church. I found the OT section the most stimulating since you have here a translation of the Septuagint (Greek) text instead of the Hebrew Masoretic text as found in our standard Bibles. The differences are intriguing and the notes commonly point out such differences. The notes often provide quotes from early church fathers. I think this will be a useful tool for pastors because the notes are theologically focused, thus aiming at the overall meaning of the text, and the historical quotes are helpful. While there are things I disagree with, I found this study Bible stimulating.
The Chronological Study Bible (Nelson; NKJV) arranges the entirety of the Scriptures into chronological order interweaving various books and placing Psalms in historical settings. Of course this requires judgment calls (and even guesses) in certain places, but this is an interesting approach.
The Encounters with God Daily Bible, ed. by Thomas Blackaby (Nelson; NKJV) features notes by Henry and Thomas Blackaby. Impact: The Student Leadership Bible, ed. Jay Strack (Nelson; NKJV) does not have notes on the text itself but provides one page and half page comments at various places relating to students and leadership issues. Neitehr of these are as useful for study tools as the comprehensive study Bibles listed earlier. Less useful is The Maxwell Leadership Bible, revised and updated (Nelson). Theme Bible’s like this have the tendency to get us off center as to the main message of the Bible itself. The Bible reveals to us God, His character, ways, demands and provision. Leadership is certainly discussed in the Bible but it is not the main theme. Further we would do well to think seriously about whether or not we have a real biblical understanding of what leadership is.
The Voice: New Testament (Nelson: NKJV) is to be released in October though some individual books have already been released separately. It is an entirely new translation produced by the collaboration of historians, poets, songwriters and theologians. It aims at providing a fresh reading of the scriptures particularly for those who are unchurched. The translation portions I have seen a very free, as intended. There is a place for this, but it becomes more commentary and less straight translation.
Hendrickson has produced facsimiles of three historical bibles which are great resources in reminding people of how we came to have English Bibles and what a gift this possession is. First, The New Testament, 1526 Edition (Hendrickson) is a facsimile of a 1526 printing of William Tyndale’s translation, the original of which is held in The British Library. As a facsimile it has the 16th century spelling a shape of letters which makes reading the text quite difficult. It is nice to see the beauty of this document, but it would also be good to have an edition in modern print so readers could read more easily and see how much this translation influenced the KJV and subsequent English Bibles. Also included is a good introduction by David Daniell, Chairman of the Tyndale Society. Second, Hendrickson has published a facsimile of The Geneva Bible, 1560 Edition. It is to our detriment that people typically do not know of the Geneva Bible which was the Bible of the English Reformation, the Pilgrims, Shakespeare and others. It was produced in Geneva by English speaking pastors who had fled Queen Mary’s rule. This is a facsimile but is more readable than the Tyndale volume. One of the key features of the Geneva Bible is the study notes printed in the margins. These provide insight into biblical interpretation at this time. Third is a facsimile of the 1611 King James Version. A 19th century history of English Bibles is included at the beginning. Then the facsimile includes the dedication to King James, the translators’ address to readers, and a bible reading plan. These facsimiles are not study Bibles, but are of real value for historical awareness and comparison with modern versions.
The other historical reprint is The Dort Study Bible (Inheritance Publications, hb., multivolume). This is a reprint of the study Bible produced by the leading Dutch theologians in the 17th century at the request of the Synod of Dort. It is thus of historical and theological value. Spurgeon had a copy of this study bible and Samuel Rutherford was among the English speaking leaders who originally requested an English translation.
The Word of Promise New Testament Audio Bible (Nelson; NKJV) won the ECPA’s "Christian Book of the Year" award. I mentioned this audio Bible briefly last year but then I had heard only a sampler CD. Now I have been able to listen to more of the project and I like it. They even provide an outline for listening to the entire NT in 40 days. This could be a great tool for helping people to get more of the Bible.
Clinton Arnold’s How We Got the Bible (Zondervan; hb., 94 pp.) is an excellent tool for showing people how we got our Bibles of today, dealing with original texts, languages, copying, and translating over the years. It is wonderfully illustrated and engaging.
All the People of the Bible: An A-Z Guide to the Saints, Scoundrels, and Other Characters in Scripture (Eerdmans; pb., 578 pp), by Richard Losch is a very helpful resource. It includes characters from the Apocrypha and information on the characters is gleaned from Scripture as well as any other historical sources. This makes it a good resource for background study and is especially helpful when encountering lesser known characters. I will be using this one regularly.
James R. Adams, From Literal to Literary: The Essential Reference Book for Biblical Metaphors (The Pilgrim Press; pb., 387 pp.), is correct that we need to be more aware of metaphor and other literary conventions. However, the book tends to go too far disputing any historical reality. Some of the articles are quite good, but others subvert basic orthodoxy. The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies, ed. Rogerson and Lieu is now available in paperback (896 pp.). This is a standard reference work with articles by leading scholars in their areas of expertise. This can be a first stop in probing further issues in the realm of biblical studies.
Jerome Murphy-O’Connor’s The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700, 5th edition (Oxford; pb., 551 pp.) is intended to assist visitors to the Holy Land find and view visible remains. It also can be helpful in familiarizing oneself with the area in your study. The first section goes through Jerusalem section by section and the second part gives a brief description of key places in an alphabetical listing.
Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, ed. Donald K. McKim (IVP, hb., 1106 pp.) is a revised and greatly expanded version of Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters. The first 100 pages contain a history of biblical interpretation and the last approximately 900 pages contain an alphabetical listing of entries on major biblical interpreters in history. This is a valuable resource for preachers helping you to know the background and orientation of the authors on your shelf.
The New International Bible Commentary has been updated under the title Zondervan Bible Commentary: One-Volume Illustrated Edition (hb., 1685 pp). This will probably be a useful tool for the church library or for bible study leaders, but pastors will have all the information contained here in better commentaries they already possess.
Reformation Heritage Books has published an English translation of J. Douma and J. P. Tazelaar’s Teacher’s Bible Commentary with one volume for the Old Testament (pb., 345 pp.) and one for the New Testament (pb., 456 pp). It is interesting that the New Testament volume is longer than the Old Testament volume, but the aim is to cover the scope of biblical history. The books are intended for teachers of youth and children though they can be useful more broadly in surveying both testaments.
Zondervan has just released its Reader’s Hebrew Bible, a counterpart to the successful Reader’s Greek New Testament. It is nicely done with footnoted glosses of all Hebrew words occurring 100 times or less, stem-specific glosses for verb forms and other features. For anyone working on their Hebrew (beginning or refreshing) this will be a very useful tool.
Hendrickson, steadily advancing their range of original language texts, has republished an edition of the Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament. This is very interesting for the scholar, but probably only a curiosity for others.
Ken Berding has produced Sing and Learn New Testament Greek (Zondervan; CD & booklet) which provides simplified paradigms to be sung to 11 tunes from common children’s songs and folk songs. The usefulness of this sort of tool depends on one’s learning style. I think this will be useful to a number of people.
Eugene Merrill’s Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel has come out in a second edition (Baker; pb., 554 pp.). The first edition has been widely appreciated and this second edition is updated with more material on how historical work is to be done.
Genesis, by James McKeown (Two Horizons, Eerdmans; pb., 398 pp.), in keeping with its series devotes half of the book to exegesis and the other half to discussing theological themes including how Genesis contributes to biblical theology. McKeown believes the original readers lived during or shortly after the exile. The theological aim of this series is not accomplished as well here as in the Psalms volume (see below).
James Bruckner’s Exodus (NIBC; Hendrickson; pb., 348 pp.) is a faithful, theological commentary that will be helpful to the preacher. He has a good discussion of the importance of the theology of the book (rather than the prehistory of the text) in the introduction.
Leviticus by Ephraim Radner (BTCB; Brazos; hb., 320 pp.) was not as helpful in its theological reading (the aim of the series). The introductory material is helpful as is the significant use of ancient Christian and Jewish sources, but overall it will not be as useful.
The strength Susan Niditch’s Judges (Old Testament Library, WJK; hb., 290 pp.) is the attention to the power of story. There is a reason why God has given us so much of the Bible in the form of stories and our preaching will be enhanced by more attention to the value of stories. However, the bulk of this commentary is quite technical and critical which detracts from its usefulness.
Two new volumes in The Gospel According to the Old Testament series (P&R) have appeared in this last year: Mark Boda, After God’s Own Heart: The Gospel According to David (pb., 186 pp.) and Dean R. Ulrich, From Famine to Fullness: The Gospel According to Ruth (pb., 180 pp.). These volumes, like the rest of the series, are great resources for doing biblical theology. Each one considers how their portion of Old Testament text points to the fullness of Christ. Boda’s volume takes a more thematic approach dealing with certain aspects of David’s life (e.g., covenant, temple, sin). Ulrich, since he has a specific book, basically walks through the book itself. Both will be very useful for preaching as biblical theology is a great aid in preaching.
John Woodhouse, 1 Samuel: Looking for a Leader, (Preaching the Word Series; Crossway; hb., 665 pp) provides good sermons through this narrative text where preachers often struggle. Woodhouse has an eye to how the OT points us to Christ.
1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, edited by Marco Conti (IVP; hb., 384 pp.) is a new volume in the ACCS series. I appreciate the value of the Patristics, but the format used here (brief excerpts from different authors) means that it is difficult to get much value in sermon preparation. After using other sources, if there is extra time this can be consulted to see if there is something to glean.
Ezra & Nehemiah, by Matthew Levering (BTCB; Baker; hb., 236 pp.), in keeping with the series focuses on how these books fit within the overall story of the Bible. He clearly states that he will not focus on literary and historical issues since those are dealt with in other commentaries. This is a good addition to other commentaries helping preachers take the step from close examination of the text to seeing how each portion of this story fits in the whole flow of redemption. It is not the final statement on theology in these books but points the way to thinking more theologically in these books.
Debra Reid’s Esther (TOTC; IVP; pb., 168 pp.), a new replacement volume, is a good, brief commentary with particular attention to the literary aspects of the story.
The Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings, ed. Longman and Enns (IVP; hb., 967 pp.) is another good entry in the IVP Dictionary series. 148 articles cover Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Ruth and Esther. As in previous volumes of this series there is a survey article on each book. However, in this volume there is also a separate article on the ANE background and one on the history of interpretation of each book. There are also a number of article on various aspects of Hebrew poetry. This will be a standard reference work and a great help in studying these books.
Geoffrey Grogan’s Psalms (Two Horizons; Eerdmans; pb., 490 pp.)is a very helpful resource for reading, teaching and preaching the Psalms. The first part of the commentary works somewhat briefly through each psalm, and then better than half of the book summarizes key theological themes and concerns of the Psalms and their relevance for the church today. Grogan has written previously on the theology of the Psalms and does an excellent job here.
Volume 6 of the revised Expositor’s Bible Commentary covers Proverbs to Isaiah, which is really an odd grouping. The commentary on Proverbs, written by Alan Ross, contains a topical index of the book which is very helpful for teaching and preaching. Space is limited for the commentary but it is well done. "Ecclesiastes", written by Jerry Shepherd, has a helpful section exploring connections to the rest of the canon. I am unconvinced though by his argument that the bulk (middle) of the book is to be understood as wrong ideas corrected by the introduction and conclusion. The commentary on Song of Solomon is very brief. The Isaiah commentary, by G. Grogan, affirms the unity of the book.
Gordon McConville’s Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Prophets (IVP; hb., 272 pp.) is a useful resource. In addition to the standard overview topics McConville includes on each prophet a section on the rhetorical aspects of the book and the book’s place in the canon as a whole (connections to the rest of the OT and to the NT).
T. Longman’s Jeremiah, Lamentations (NIBC; Hendrickson; pb., 412 pp.), in keeping with the series, is a brief commentary. Longman does not have the space to deal with intricate issues but gives a helpful explanation of the text. He focuses on the message of the final form of the text and doubts that Jeremiah was the author of Lamentations.
Jacob Westerlink’s Obadiah and Micah (RHB; pb., 134 pp.) is a brief exposition with accompanying study questions. Though it is brief this is a helpful, theological and practical exposition of these two oft neglected prophets.
Sinclair Ferguson’s Man Overboard: The Story of Jonah (Banner of Truth; pb., 98 pp), had been out of print for two decades but is now available again. These sermons provide help in thinking through applying the text, being particularly strong in illustrating from hymns and church history.
Latest installment from the NAC series, Zechariah, by George Klein (B&H; hb., 475 pp.) is a good, solid commentary with sane exposition, conversant with the issues, and an eye to meaning and application.
J. Julius Scott, Jr., New Testament Theology: A New Study of the Thematic Structure of the New Testament (CFP; hb., 368 pp.). This is a good, accessible survey of the teaching of the New Testament. The chapters move from "Who is Jesus?" to how one is saved, to sanctification, the church, ministry and the return of Christ. This format I think will make it more useful in sermon preparation than some other similar books. Howard Marshall’s A Concise New Testament Theology (IVP; hb., 310 pp) is an abridgement of his well received New Testament Theology. Pastors should go ahead and get the larger volume, but this abridgement will be useful for students and lay people. The key NT theology this year though is Thomas Schreiner’s New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Baker; hb., 990 pp.). Schreiner provides a thematic overview of the NT rather than the book-by-book approach of several other recent NT theologies. Both approaches have their strengths so it is good now to have Schreiner’s from this direction. Schreiner in keeping with his earlier theology of Paul argues that the glory of God in Christ is the central theme and he unpacks this in the saving work of Christ. Schreiner explicitly writes for pastors and students making this big volume accessible and very useful for the preacher.
The Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by Beale and Carson (Baker; hb., 1239 pp.) is a very significant volume in helping expositors not only interpret instances where the NT writers quote the OT but how the two testaments of the Bible hold together, i.e. how we understand the unified message of the Bible.
Klyne Snodgrass’s Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus (Eerdmans; hb., 846 pp.) delivers on the claim of its subtitle making it a great one stop resource for teaching and preaching the parables.
David Turner’s Matthew (BECNT; Baker; hb., 828 pp.) is a good, thorough, evangelical commentary focusing on how this gospel works rather than on perceived changes from Mark. He does a good job with Matthew’s use of the OT.
Two recent more technical studies on Matthew include Jonathan Pennington’s Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew (Brill; hb., 399 pp.) and Built Upon the Rock: Studies in the Gospel of Matthew, ed. D. Gurtner & J. Nolland (Eerdmans; pb., 331 pp). Pennington’s book is technical and expensive but has a valuable discussion on how we interpret Matthew’s phrase ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and other uses of the word ‘heaven’ in this gospel. Built Upon the Rock is primarily academic in orientation but has some helpful material for preaching. Jim Hamilton’s essay on Matthew’s use of OT, for example, is helpful in understanding how OT prophecy is being fulfilled.
Bock’s much anticipated Acts (Baker; hb., 848 pp.) is now the standard comprehensive evangelical commentary on this book. This is one to definitely purchase and to use as the first step in careful exegesis passage by passage. It is more technical but also points to application. Acts for Everyone: Part One and Part Two by N. T. Wright (WJK; pb., 212 & 268) continue the format of the previous volumes in this series with Wright’s clear and engaging writing combining exposition and illustration. Though no substitute for a more thorough commentary these are helpful for understanding the overall story and especially for communicating them well. John Calvin’s Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles: Chapters 1-7 (Banner of Truth; hb., 657 pp.) is now available for the first time in English. The translation is clear and much more readable than the older translations we often have of Calvin’s other works. These sermons are good examples of exposition vigorously applied, and thus will be helpful in sermon preparation.
Paul’s World, ed. Stan Porter (Brill; hb., 284 pp.), though more technical, contains helpful essays on background issues and exegesis, but the price will make it prohibitive for most.
The revised Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 5 covering Romans to Galatians has appeared. Don Hagner updated E. Harrison’s Romans commentary, Verbrugge replaces Mare on 1 Corinthians and R. K. Rapa replaces James Montgomery Boice on Galatians. These are by nature more brief than other commentaries. Harris’ commentary on 2 Corinthians was one of the stronger contributions in the earlier edition so it is good to see it updated here. It provides a compact coverage of what can now be found in Harris’s NIGTC volume on 2 Corinthians.
Twelve Challenges Churches Face, by Mark Dever (Crossway; pb., 193 pp.), is a collection of twelve sermons from 1 Corinthians. Good sermons which are built on sound exegesis and deep theological thinking are so beneficial for sermon preparation, and these are of that sort.
Ben Witherington’s The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles (Eerdmans; pb., 382 pp) is particularly concerned in this commentary to show that Paul is using a certain form of rhetoric common to Asia Minor. The focus is thus on rhetoric, and I found it less useful in expounding the theology and meaning of the text.
Charles Talbert’s Ephesians and Colossians (Baker, pb., 296 pp.) is the inaugural volume in the Paideia Commentaries on the NT series, and I really like it. The commentary examines each paragraph according to three categories: introductory matters, tracing the train of thought, and theological issues. This format is very helpful, and I found that it answered more of the questions I am looking for than many other formats. Talbert provides a good overview of interpretations making sane observations. This will be helpful for preachers.
Thomas Aquinas’ Commentaries on St. Paul’s Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (Saint Augustine Press; pb., 222 pp) has been made available in a new English translation. The commentaries are lecture notes which are briefer than typical commentaries. This will not be a key source for sermon preparation but is an interesting work to compare current ideas with the comments of the leading theologian of the 13th century. James W. Aageson’s Paul, the Pastoral Epistles, and the Early Church (Hendrickson; pb., 235 pp.) is a more technical work but is well done.
Douglas Wilson’s Hebrews Through New Eyes (Athanasius Press; pb., 200 pp.) is a very thoughtful, theological exposition with literary awareness. In his introductory chapters Wilson works carefully through the author’s use of the Old Testament. This is a stimulating work that will be useful to preachers. Alan Mitchell’s Hebrews in the Sacra Pagina series (MG; hb., 357 pp.) provides a careful, thoughtful interaction with the text. I think Hebrews is one place where differences in Catholic and Protestant theology are quite strong, however.
Christopher Morgan and Dale Ellenburg’s James: Wisdom for the Community (CFP; pb., 267 pp.)is a good, popular-level commentary, focusing rightly on how the book is addressed primarily to the community, not just individuals.
Ben Witherington’s Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Vol. 2: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1-2 Peter (IVP; hb., 416 pp) continues his approach which has become known with its strengths and weaknesses. I am not convinced of some of the rhetorical analysis but good observations are made.
In The First Letter of Peter (Baylor; pb., 317 pp.) Reinhard Feldmeier’s commentary appears for the first time in English. He comments on the Greek text, and is also concerned with theology and application. His introduction may be particularly helpful as he discusses the theological setting of the letter.
David Helm’s 1&2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Sufferings (Crossway; hb., 414 pp.) are series of sermons through each of these books. The exposition of each book also begins with a brief nicely done overview of the point of the letter. The exposition is well done, readable, exegetically and theologically rooted and well applied.
Mark Wilson’s Charts on the Book of Revelation (Kregel, pb., 134 pp.) contains helpful charts, not of dispensations but of interpretive approaches, OT quotations, etc. This is a helpful tool.