The phrase “Preach the Word” contains both an admonition and a focus. We are called to preach, but that calling has a specific focus: the Word. Authentic Christian preaching is biblically focused and shaped. Pastors have many speaking opportunities — from a devotional for the senior adults to an after-dinner address for the Rotarians — but preaching occurs only when the biblical text is front and center.
As a result, preachers are always on the lookout for resources that will enable them to be better students of the Bible. Some of those resources are increasingly in the form of computer software; thus our annual “software for preachers” feature which appears in Preaching’s September-October issue. And many other books are useful to inform and inspire our preaching; many of those will be on display in our annual books survey which appears in the January-February issue.
This annual feature offers a brief survey of recent publications that take the form of new Bible translations or editions, and new commentaries and/or study aids.
Bibles
One of the major new Bible projects of 1997 is the MacArthur Study Bible, edited by pastor John MacArthur and published by Word. It will probably be available in your Christian bookstore by the time this issue arrives in your mail, but it is not yet published at the time this survey is being prepared. Given MacArthur’s commitments to expository preaching, one would hope and expect that this volume will be a valuable addition to the preacher’s study.
Thomas Nelson Publishers (which also owns Word Books) has released the new Nelson Study Bible, which provides conservative evangelical scholarship in a quality study Bible. Using the New King James Version (the editor’s claim that NKJV is “the best English translation for study purposes” is not likely to encounter universal agreement), the volume contains the standard elements of most study Bibles (charts, maps, concordance, exegetical notes) plus a series of topical articles and 350 Word Focus word studies keyed to Strong’s Concordance.
Some outstanding scholars have contributed to the volume, including Walter Kaiser and Bruce Metzger, though the majority of contributors are not widely known. The list of 44 contributors is packed with faculty from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary (6), Dallas Seminary (6) and other conservative seminaries and churches.
Commentaries
1997 has been a banner year for commentaries, with some outstanding volumes published, both as individ-ual releases and as part of multi-volume collections.
John Stott is one of handful of Christian statesmen known and respected throughout the world. His books are always insightful, and his latest commentary is no exception. Guard the Truth: The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus is published by InterVarsity Press. [ISBN 0-8308-1992-4, 232 pages] Stott’s exposition of 1 Timothy is subtitled “The life of the local church,” and his treatment of Titus is subtitled “Doctrine and duty.” From these the reader can rightly infer that Stott’s comments will offer exceedingly practical and relevant approaches to these Pastoral Letters. Stott observes that “the apostle’s overriding preoccupation throughout all three Pastoral Letters is with the truth, that it may be faithfully guarded and handed on.” In our own postmodern culture, which holds the very concept of “truth” to be antiquated, the message of these Pastoral Letters is fertile ground for preaching, and Stott’s volume is a vital resource in addressing the critical issues which emerge from 1 Timothy and Titus. This volume (along with Stott’s other commentaries) deserves a place on every preacher’s shelf.
One of today’s most insightful homileticians is Thomas G. Long, formerly of Princeton Seminary. I am always pleased to see a gifted preacher take pen in hand and write a commentary, and other preachers will share that pleasure when they read Long’s commentary on Hebrews, part of the Interpretation series by Westminster John Knox Press. [ISBN 0-8042-3133-8, 153 pages, $21.00] Long emphasizes the homiletical nature of the book of Hebrews, and his work is filled with illustrations and applications that will be valuable to preachers as they present the text.
I don’t remember the last time I preached from Leviticus. (OK, I admit it — I’ve never preached a sermon from a text in Leviticus!) But when I do, I’ll want to have Erhard S. Gerstenberger’s Leviticus at hand as I prepare. [ISBN 0-664-22064-9, 450 pages] Translated by Douglas W. Stott and published by Westminster John Knox Press, the volume is a most helpful treatment of the many legal and ceremonial issues contained in Leviticus, which the author notes is ultimately about living faithfully for God. Gerstenberger is Professor of Old Testament at Philipps-Universitat in Marburg, Germany. He also has probably forgotten more about Old Testament dietary and clothing regulations than I will ever know.
One of the finest commentary series available is The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT), published by Wm. B. Eerdmans. The latest volume in NICOT is The Book of Ezekiel [ISBN 0-8028-2535-4, xxii + 887 pages, $48.00] by Daniel I. Block, who is Professor of Old Testament Intepretation at Southern Baptist Seminary. This commentary, which covers chapters 1-24, is the first of two volumes planned. An accomplished biblical scholar described Block’s volume to me as “a masterpiece of Old Testament scholarship.” Block provides a rich treatment of this often mysterious prophetic book, and demonstrates its relevance to the church today.
NICOT’s older sibling is the New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT), a series in production since the 1940’s which is now developing replacement volumes (and revisions) for some of the older texts. Two volumes have recently been released in the NICNT series: The Epistle to the Romans by Douglas Moo [ISBN 0-8028-2317-3, xxvi + 1,012 pages, $50.00] and The Second Epistle to the Corinthians by Paul Barnett [0-8028-2300-9, xxx + 662 pages, $45.00]. Moo is Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Barnett is a former faculty member at Macquarie University and now Bishop of North Sydney in Australia. Both volumes are based on the English text, though some knowledge of Greek will be helpful to the reader who wishes to take advantage of the extensive footnotes provided. Each volume will provide a powerful scholarly resource to ministers who wish to better understand these biblical texts for teaching and preaching.
Another outstanding series currently in production is the Word Biblical Commentary. A recent release in that set is Revelation by David Aune, Professor of Theology at Loyola University. [ISBN 0-8499-0251-7, ccxi + 374 pages] This commentary covers only the first five chapters of the biblical book, though Aune does offer an expanded outline of the full text; more than half of this volume consists of introductory material on the study of Revelation. Aune gives particular focus to the extensive secular and biblical literary sources on which John drew in his work.
A series of a less scholarly bent — and thus more accessible to many preachers and teachers without a strong background in biblical languages — is the IVP New Testament Commentary. (Any series which has Stuart Briscoe and Haddon Robinson as Consulting Editors is designed with preachers in mind!) The latest release is Matthew by Craig S. Keener. [ISBN 0-8308-1801-4, 444 pages] Keener is Visiting Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern Baptist Seminary. His commentary is filled with contemporary references and application of the text. This is a volume which will be helpful to preachers as they proclaim the first gospel.
The Westminster Bible Companion is an interesting series designed to “assist laity in their study of the Bible as a guide to Christian faith and practice.” Though designed for laity, the series by Westminster John Knox Press will be of particular interest to ministers who wish to take advantage of mainline biblical scholarship written for a more popular audience. Recent volumes (all softcover) released in this series include: Obadiah through Malachi by William P. Brown, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Union Theological Seminary (VA) [ISBN 0-664-25520-5, 209 pages, $17.00]; Hebrews and James by Frances Taylor Gench, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Lutheran Theological Seminary [0-664-25527-2, 128 pages, $13,00]; and Revelation by Catherine Gunsalus Gonzalez, Professor of Church History at Columbia Theological Seminary, and Justo L. Gonzalez, president of the Asociacion para la Educacion Teologica Hispana. [0-664-25587-6, 149 pages, $16.00]
Another series written for a popular audience — but which represents first-quality biblical scholarship from an evangelical perspective — is The Bible Speaks Today by InterVarsity Press. Two volumes have recently been released in this series: The Message of Proverbs by David Atkinson, canon chancellor of Southwark Cathedral, London, and former fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford [ISBN 0-8308-1239-3, 173 pages]; and The Message of Isaiah by Barry G. Webb, head of the Old Testament faculty at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. [0-8308-1240-7, 252 pages]. Both are volumes that preachers will find useful in their study for preaching from these Old Testament books.
Yet another quality series is the New International Biblical Commentary, published by Hendrickson Publishers and based on the NIV text. Two of the most recent volumes are Deuteronomy by Christopher Wright, Principal of All Nations Christian College in Ware, UK [ISBN 0-85364-725-9, 350 pages]; and Minor Prophets I by Elizabeth Achtemeier, Adjunct Professor of Bible and Homiletics at Union Seminary (VA), and a Contributing Editor to Preaching [0-85364-809-3, 390 pages]. Achtemeier’s volume covers the books of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah. These volumes offer readers access to outstanding scholarship without the necessity of familiarity with Hebrew.
The Gospel of Matthew by Donald Senior is a newly-released volume in the Interpreting Biblical Texts series from Abingdon Press. [ISBN 0-687-00848-4, 205 pages] Senior is Professor of New Testament Studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Nearly half the book offers an introduction to the major issues that have dominated studies of Matthew’s gospel in recent biblical scholarship. The second half of the book serves as a “tour guide” (Senior’s term) to the narrative of the gospel, rather than a detailed commentary.
One of the more interesting volumes published in the past year is actually a revision of a classic work, the Historical Commentary on Galatians by William M. Ramsay, written by the famed scholar and first published in 1899. This new work has been edited by Mark Wilson, Adjunct Professor of New Testament at Regent University. [ISBN 0-8254-3638-9, 366 pages, $13.99] Wilson has reordered the text a bit to satisfy modern readers, has updated the names of modern locales which have changed since the 1890’s, and provided other modest changes for the convenience of today’s readers. The first half of the new release is a commentary on the Galatians text, while the latter half is a thorough examination of the religious and social structures of central Asia Minor during the time of the apostle Paul. The book will be fascinating reading for students of New Testament history as well as those who will be preaching or teaching from the book of Galatians.
Another reprint worthy of attention is Ralph Earle’s Word Meanings in the New Testament, released by Hendrickson Publishers. [ISBN 1-56563-298-2, 486 pages] This single volume seeks to illumine the meanings of significant New Testament terms. Earle’s volume requires no knowledge of Greek, and offers pracical insights which will be helpful and interesting to the preacher and teacher.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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