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Theyear 2003 will go down as the era when teenage girls had their choice of reading materials: Seventeen, YM, Teen Vogue, or the New Testament.
Revolve (Thomas Nelson) is a New Testament in the garb of a girl’s teen magazine, complete with fashion tips (“When you feel attractive, it puts you in a good mood, so use that mood to be kind to those around you.”), relationship insights (“Is your latest crush really popular? . . . What would you do if he asked you out? Would you freak out? I can’t believe it!”), and a continuing Q&A section called “Blab.”
Until they produce a parallel edition for hip, young preachers (“Did the deacons really say that? Oh, man!”), we’ll just have to settle for our biblical text in one of the thousands of other version, editions, and packaging approaches now available.
The reality is that today’s preacher is inundated with choices in the area of Bibles and Bible reference resources. That’s why each year, Preaching tries to help in recognizing some of the more helpful tools that have become available in the past year.
In his book The Word of God in English (Crossway), Wheaton professor Leland Ryken opines, “English Bible translation has lost its way in the past half century. We are farther from having a reliable and stable text than ever before. The only Bible reader who is not perplexed is the one who sticks with just one version and does not inquire any more broadly into what is going on. English Bible readers deserve a translation that they can trust and admire because it represents standards of excellence and dignity.”
Ryken – who was part of the team that developed the new English Standard Version (ESV) – argues against the “dynamic equivalent” approach that many contemporary translations adopt as their model. One of the main reasons for his criticism is that such translations “can short-circuit the interpretive process . . . by making preemptive interpretive decisions, with the result that readers never have a chance to make the interpretive decision themselves; by reducing multiple meanings of a biblical statement to a single meaning and offering that meaning as a sole meaning; be resolving ambiguous statements in a single direction instead of allowing the ambiguity of the original text to stand; by interpreting images and figures of speech instead of allowing them to stand in their original, uninterpreted form.”
Such issues become an important consideration for those called to interpret and proclaim God’s Word for God’s people. We stand before congregations that carry with them a dozen or more different translations of scripture – if they even brought a Bible to church – and out of that chaos we must find a way to help people to understand God’s Word and its meaning for their lives. That was a difficult task even when everyone carried a King James Version under their arms!
Recent years have seen the release of a number of translations and paraphrases, including the ESV and The Message. Each has its value, while at the same time placing a new burden on pastors and preachers to sift through the available options to select an optimum text for preaching and teaching.
In contrast to the “dynamic equivalence” translation model (used by the New International Version and others) – which tends to favor translating phrases or ideas, thus lending itself to more interpretation – there is the “formal equivalence model,” which puts an emphasis on translating the exact words of scripture; the New American Standard Bible (NASB), known for its accuracy to the original language of the biblical texts, would stand in this camp.
Advocates of the newest major translation on the scene – the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) – argue that it uses an “optimal equivalence” approach which seeks to use the best elements of each of the other two approaches to translation. Developed under the sponsorship of Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention – it is already beginning to appear in Southern Baptist curriculum this fall – the HCSB is targeted at conservative evangelical readers with its emphasis on the original language and its refusal to adopt the more gender-neutral language of translations such as the TNIV.
The HCSB New Testament is already available in several formats. The full biblical text is scheduled for release in early 2004. You can read the text in an on-line format by going to http://bible.lifeway.com/crossmain.asp.
Publishers continue to offer existing translations in a variety of formats aimed at different audiences – from the pop-culture approach of Revolve to the many types of study Bibles available. Hitting the stores in 2003 was The Devotional Bible (Thomas Nelson), for which Max Lucado served as general editor. Using the New Century Version as its text, The Devotional Bible offers a variety of features that may interest readers, including “Life Lessons” from Lucado and others, study questions for group of individual use, and a topical index.
If you think there are too many Bible translations crowding the shelves of Christian bookstores, just wait until you get to the commentary section! Of course, for many preachers it may be hard to comprehend too many commentaries.
One excellent resource designed to help you make your way through the commentary maze is Commentary & Reference Survey (Kregel) by John Glynn. First published in 1994, the most recent edition came out this year, and it is a treasury of information on commentaries and biblical studies materials. Glynn goes through each book of the Bible and suggests the best in technical commentaries, exposition commentaries, and special studies on that text. He also provides some newer features, including ideas on Bible study software, and a valuable listing of sources for purchasing used theological books. (I’ve been a used-book buyer for years, and Glynn suggested some sources I had yet to run across.) If you want to get the most bang for your book-buying buck, you’ll fine this book to be a helpful tool.
One of the most significant contributions of the past year (it actually came out in late 2002) is Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Baker) by Harold W. Hoehner. I. Howard Marshall calls it “probably the most detailed modern English commentary on the Greek text of Ephesians.” Hoehner, who is Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, has provided a remarkable and comprehensive treatment of Ephesians which should be in the hands of every preacher approaching this text.
Another significant commentary released late last year is Grant Osborne’s Revelation (Baker), part of the outstanding Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Osborne, who is Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has written a massive (869 pages) yet manageable treatment of the New Testament’s concluding book. While clearly conversant with current scholarship, the commentary is written with the pastor or teacher in mind, and will be of real value to anyone planning to preach in Revelation.
The newest release in the BECNT series from Baker – due out in November – is David Garland’s major work on 1 Corinthians. Garland teaches New Testament at Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary, and his work reflects both careful scholarship and a concern for those who preach and teach the text. This commentary is likely to become one of the standard works to which preachers turn in studying Paul’s fisrt epistle to the Corinthian church.
As we pointed out in last year’s survey, one of the finest and most unique resources available for biblical study is the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (InterVarsity Press), for which Thomas Oden serves as General Editor. The ACCS will eventually be a 28-volume patristic commentary which draws on seven centuries of early Christian writers, from Clement of Rome in the late first century AD to the mid-eighth century. It offers a remarkable opportunity to study scripture through the eyes of the early church fathers.
This year’s releases in the ACCS series include Genesis 12-50, edited by Mark Sheridan, and Luke, edited by Arthur A. Just, Jr. Expository preachers will benefit from the insights of early Christian writers (such as Origen and Justin Martyr) as they approached these same biblical texts.
Another popular series for preachers is the Interpretation commentary, published by Westminster John Knox Press. Three additions to this series have been released in recent months: Joshua by Jerome D. Creach (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary), Judges by J. Clinton McCann (Eden Theological Seminary), and Leviticus by Samuel E. Balentine (Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond). Written primarily for an audience of mainline ministers and teachers, the Interpretation volumes include many solid insights which will be of value to preachers and teachers.
Thanks go out to Thomas Nelson Publishers for the recent re-release of one of my favorite commentary sets for preachers. Originally published as The Communicator’s Commentary, the entire New Testament series has now been reissued in softcover as The Preacher’s Commentary. These volumes are written by preachers for preachers, and include authors such as Lloyd Ogilvie (who was also General Editor for the series), Stuart Briscoe, Maxie Dunnam, Earl Palmer and many more. Over the years I’ve turned to these volumes again and again for preaching ideas, so it is a delight to see them made available for a new generation of preachers. (The entire set retails for about $200, but is available through Amazon for about $145.) Now I’m looking forward to seeing the Old Testament volumes!
Another great resource for preachers is John Phillips’ “Exploring” series, published by Kregel Publications. (You’ve seen excerpts from these in Preaching over the past year.) Three new volumes in the series were released this year: Exploring the Love Song of Solomon, Exploring the Epistles of John, and Exploring the Future. The last title is unlike the others in the series in that it explores biblical texts from several portions of scripture (rather than a single book) on the subject of biblical prophecy. Phillips consistently provides helpful expository insights.
The Holman Old Testament Commentary (Broadman & Holman) continues to offer excellent tools for pastors. These volumes are designed specifically for the preacher-teacher, and provide practical interpretations and summaries of the text, along with useful outlines, illustrations and resources which will be of real value to the preacher. Two of the most recent volumes to be released as Isaiah by Trent Butler and Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers by Glen S. Martin. Preachers will find both volumes to be helpful additions to their libraries.
The New Testament Library (Westminster John Knox Press) is a new series which will reflects the insights of primarily mainline scholarship. The volumes will include fresh translations based on the best available manuscripts. Two of the most recent releases are written by Catholic scholars: II Corinthians by Frank J. Matera and I & II Timothy and Titus by Raymond F. Collins. Both Matera and Collins teach at the Catholic University of America.
Australian Paul Barnett is the author of Romans: The Revelation of God’s Righteousness (Christian Focus). Barnett is retired Bishop of North Sydney and former New Testament professor. He offers an excellent exposition of the Romans letter which is, as Kent Hughes observes, “critically conversant with the present debate over the new perspective, (yet) is clear and accessible to preachers and Bible teachers.”
The Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John (Fortress Press) offers an interesting resource for use when preaching from the fourth gospel. The book by Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh offers background on the social habits and circumstances of first-century Palestine – issues such as childhood, farming, divorce, family life, and so on – and how that background aids in the understanding of the gospel text. For example, in the discussion of John 3 we read that a person’s birth established his social status in the ancient world. Thus, a discussion of a new birth “from above” implied a remarkable advance in the “honor status” of one’s family. Malina is Professor of Theology at Creighton University, while Rohrbaugh is professor of Religious Studies at Lewis and Clark College.
The Illustrated Survey of the Bible (Bethany House) is a beautifully-illustrated introduction to scripture. Book by book, it discusses the significance of that portion of scripture, provides an outline of the text, and suggests key themes and applications. The book is a visual treat, packed with color photography from the contemporary Middle East, plus maps, drawings and more. This interesting volume was developed by Derek Tidball and his colleagues at the London Bible College.
In The Westminster Theological Wordbook of the Bible (Westminster John Knox), a team of biblical scholars – led by editor Donald Gowan – explain key theological words found in scripture, from Abba to Zion. A helpful reference work, this is the kind of book a preacher can spend hours thumbing through and gaining interesting insights.
Preachers and teachers will also enjoy the Handbook of the Prophets (Baker) by Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., who teaches Old Testament at Dallas Seminary. Chisholm takes the major and minor prophets and talks about their themes, concerns, and value for today. Readers will find some excellent exposition in this fine volume, and preachers will get countless ideas for sermon series.
Although it won’t be at the top of the wish list for most preachers, those interested in more significant research will be attracted to The Pentateuch: An Annotated Bibliography (Baker). This is part of the IBR Bibliographies Series, which includes eight previous volumes.
Of somewhat more interest to the average preacher will be Understanding the Book of Hebrews: The Story Behind the Sermon (Westminster John Knox) by Kenneth Schenck. The author – who teaches at Indiana Wesleyan University – treats the epistle as a sermon shared in the context of the “story world” of Hebrew thought. It is an interesting discussion of an intriguing book.
Finally, The Kregel Pictorial Guide to the Tabernacle (Kregel) by Tim Dowley is a lovely, brief introduction to the Tabernacle, which is the subject of about fifty chapters of the Bible. Photographs and illustrations, charts and maps make this slim (32 pages) volume an interesting introduction to the center of Israel’s worship until the building of Solomon’s Temple.