Good tools are essential to any work, and that is no less true of preaching. To help in choosing from among the resources published recently, here is this year’s survey of Bibles and Bible reference works published during the past year.

Study Bibles
NIV Zondervan Study Bible joins the ranks of the ESV Study Bible and the NLT Study Bible as the significant study Bibles now available. The notes are at least double in length compared to the previous NIV Study Bible. It also contains brief essays on key themes in biblical theology. Edited by D.A. Carson with notes from an array of leading evangelical scholars, this will be a tremendously useful resource.

The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible is not as comprehensive as the prior entry. The introduction contains a brief essay on reading the Bible experientially and a defense of the KJV. Each book has a brief introduction, and there are several page-long excerpts from historic Reformed writings (e.g., Calvin, Ames). Many of the study notes explain the language of the KJV. The strength of this Bible is its concern for family Bible reading, but the notes overall are not as helpful as the ESV or NIV study Bibles.

The ESV Reader’s Gospels (Crossway) is an attractive version for reading as it removes the chapter and verse divisions and prints the text across the full page (instead of double columns) as a regular book. This can help readers think in terms of the flow of the narrative instead of in terms of individual verses. I would prefer the various subheadings to be omitted, as well; but this is a nice resource.

Leland Ryken is the key evangelical voice in awareness of literary issues in biblical interpretation. His helpful A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms in the Bible (Crossway) explains and illustrates the various literary forms found in Scripture. Entries such as hyperbole and parable are listed in alphabetical order.

Ryken’s two books in the new Reading the Bible as Literature Series (Weaver Books), How Bible Stories Work: A Guided Study of Biblical Narrative and Sweeter than Honey, Richer than Gold: A Guided Study of Biblical Poetry, walk the reader through key aspects of understanding the specific genre, identifying important issues, and appreciating genres, as well as interpreting them. They are very accessible and useful.

The first of three volumes of the Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-biblical Antiquity (Hendrickson), edited by Edwin Yamauchi and Marvin Wilson, contains high-quality entries covering a wide range of issues relating to daily life in the biblical world. Each entry surveys the Old Testament, New Testament, the Near Eastern world, the Greco-Roman world, the Jewish world, and the Christian world. Though one might expect such a reference work to be in hardback (and more expensive!), this still is a prime resource.

Dennis Johnson, who has written several important works on Christo-centric biblical interpretation (reading the whole of Scripture in light of Christ), has produced a helpful, non-technical book on the subject, titled Walking with Jesus Through His Word (P&R).

The Big Book of New Testament Questions and Answers by Michael Eschelbach (Concordia) contains questions asked by students in college Bible classes, arranged canonically. Because these are questions frequently asked everywhere, the format makes this a very useful book, though the strength of the answers varies.

Old Testament
I appreciate John Goldingay’s effort in Do We Need the New Testament? Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself (IVP) to demonstrate how much of the Christian message is already in the Old Testament. You can sense his desire to rehabilitate the OT in the minds of many. However, I think there are fundamental flaws in his method. He overstates the case in many places, dismisses Christological reading (which seems to me to be what the apostles were doing), and downplays the Trinity.

Fortress Commentary on the Bible: Old Testament (Fortress) includes the Apocrypha, as well. It is interested in alternative interpretation. Commentary on Genesis 2 carefully avoids using the term marriage, using instead the clumsy circumlocutions, permanent-pair bonding and lifelong pair bonding. This volume is too much given to reading the gamut of concerns of the cultural left into (or against) Scripture.

Gordon Wenham’s Rethinking Genesis 1 – 11: Gateway to the Bible (Wipf & Stock) is a helpful, brief (only 73 pages of text) overview of these key chapters with an eye to their overall message and contribution to biblical theology. This will be a great resource for preaching.

Duane Garrett’s A Commentary on Exodus (Kregel) contains a wonderfully sane, careful introduction discussing the historicity and date of the Exodus. Garrett argues there is very good reason to believe Exodus’ history of the event, but that data (biblical, historical, archaeological) is too scant to make a firm conclusion about the date. Because the text makes no concrete statement on the date or names of pharaohs, we need not assert such things either. He also gives significant space to Egyptian history, something he laments as lacking in most commentaries. Garrett provides a fresh translation, and the commentary is thorough yet concise with substantive discussions of the theological points of each section.

William Parkinson’s 19th century sermon series An Exposition of Deuteronomy 33 has been reprinted by Particular Baptist Press. These 17 sermons can be helpful to the preacher, though the style and language obviously are dated. I was challenged by the theological content and depth demonstrated in these sermons. Parkinson displays a knowledge of contemporary academic discussion and Hebrew study, which is humbling—and the church obviously enjoyed them given that it pushed for their publication! Anyone who accomplishes this deserves reading.

The second edition of Trent Butler’s Joshua, (Word Biblical Commentary; Zondervan) is split into two volumes. The first edition garnered praise but also criticism for his use of higher critical methods. In this second edition, he seeks to demonstrate how his approach fits with an affirmation of the inerrancy of the Bible. The commentary is quite technical and more suited to the scholar than the preacher.

James McKeown, Ruth (Two Horizons; Eerdmans) follows the series format, evenly dividing the content between commentary and broader theological reflection. The brief commentary gives particular attention to the flow of the story and elucidates key questions in the story (e.g., Was Elimelech wrong to go to Moab?). The theological reflections are useful and overall solid, showing how the book’s message relates to the rest of Scripture, making this is a fine resource.

Lindsay Wilson’s Job (Two Horizons; Eerdmans) is particularly helpful as it deals with the Book of Job and biblical theology. The commentary is sensible and helpful, and the theology section thoroughly probes key questions that arise from reading the text, especially Christological connections, the place of suffering, and the character of God. The series format is particularly good for this book and the challenging issues it raises.

The NIC volume on the Psalms finally has come out, written by Nancy DeClaisse´-Walford, Rolf Jacobson and Beth Tanner (Eerdmans). I was disappointed to see only one volume on this long book, although the series gave multiple volumes to other books. As a result, the comments on individual psalms are brief and more technical with less attention to theology (though the psalms treated by Jacobson stand out from the others).

The NIC volume on the Psalms finally has come out, written by Nancy DeClaisse´-Walford, Rolf Jacobson and Beth Tanner (Eerdmans). I was disappointed to see only one volume on this long book, although the series gave multiple volumes to other books. As a result, the comments on individual psalms are brief and more technical with less attention to theology (though the psalms treated by Jacobson stand out from the others).

Of more help to the preacher is James Johnston’s contribution to the Preach the Word Series, The Psalms: Rejoice, the Lord is King, Vol 1: Psalms 1 to 41 (Crossway). Johnston expounds each psalm faithfully with sound, pastoral application. Johnston interprets with a proper Christological focus.

Philip Eveson’s Psalms in the Welwyn Series (Evangelical Press) is a good midrange commentary. Without technical discussion, it provides succinct, careful exposition. Stephen Yuille’s Longing for Home: A Journey Through the Psalms of Ascent (Shepherd Press) is a collection of sermons on Psalms 120 – 134 with follow-up questions. Yuille suggests four foci in the study of these psalms: the gospel, the kingdom, the glory of God, and the mystery. This can be useful as homiletical examples.

The best of the new Psalms commentaries this year is Tremper Longman’s in the revised Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (IVP). Longman’s volume replaces the two-volume work of Derek Kidner, which is a personal favorite of mine. I’m not convinced Longman is right to dismiss an overall structure to the Psalter, but he follows the path of Kidner in giving insightful exegetical comments with significant attention to New Testament connections. I will not get rid of Kidner, but I will use Longman alongside him.

There has been increasing discussion of the overall structure of the Psalter in recent years without a real consensus yet. Palmer Robertson’s The Flow of the Psalms: Discovering their Structure and Theology (P&R) joins that discussion, arguing that the five books of the Psalms can be summarized in the following order: Confrontation, Consummation, Devastation, Maturation, Consummation. He argues that this helps us see more clearly the theology of the Psalter. Whether one agrees with each particular, this is a valuable study helping us wrestle with the overall theology of this important biblical book.

150 Questions About the Psalter by Bradley Johnston (Crown & Covenant) is a very helpful little book. In question-and-answer format, Johnston covers the arrangement of the Psalms, how the Psalms have been used historically, interpreting the Psalms, and singing and praying the Psalms. This is a handy resource that will encourage the actual use of the Psalms in daily life.

Jonathan Akin’s Preaching Christ from Proverbs (Rainer) provides theologically informed, practical help in seeing how Proverbs points us to Christ so we preach Him rather than mere moralism.

Douglas O’Donnell’s Ecclesiastes (Reformed Expository Commentary; P&R) contains faithful sermonic expositions of the book. O’Donnell is aware of scholarly discussions but expounds upon the text for a general audience. He is honest about the difficulties of the book, interprets from a responsible Christological perspective, and makes good application. With his engaging style and effective communication, this will serve preachers well.

Two good, relatively brief commentaries on the Song of Songs have come out this year: Jim Hamilton’s in the Focus on the Bible Series (Christian Focus) and Iain Duguid’s in the Tyndale Old Testament Series (IVP). Both are accessible, theological and concerned with application. Hamilton’s is more sermonic and more application-oriented. Duguid interacts with more of the academic discussion. Both argue that the book describes married love and, thus, also points to the relationship between Christ and the church.

Hamilton argues that the author, Solomon, intentionally is making biblical theological points in the book, connecting married love to God’s relationship with His people. Duguid argues for a natural and spiritual reading of the book. In other words, we should take the book at face value as presenting to us the ideal of married love (not a surprise in wisdom literature). Because marriage is designed to portray the relationship between God and His people (Eph. 5), this portrait of marriage also speaks of Christ and His church. Duguid’s introduction is one of the most helpful things available for understanding and preaching this book. Preachers ought to have both of these.

The Message of Lamentations by Christopher Wright (Bible Speaks Today; IVP) is a powerful, evocative commentary, which brings to life the message and implications of this unsettling, poetic book. Wright expounds the text carefully, interprets the book in light of the whole canon, asks how it points to Christ, and pushes us to consider the place of lament in our lives.

I like the confessional-critical-approach argued for and demonstrated in Anthony Petterson’s Haggai, Zechariah & Malachi (Apollos OTC; IVP). Petterson combines the basic scholarly tools with the confessional conviction that the Bible is the Word of God. The result is a fairly technical commentary, which also shows how the message of these prophets fits with the rest of the canon and speaks to us today. Petterson treats difficult words and concepts and shows how scholars who denigrate the post-exilic prophets miss how their message fits with what came before and what comes after. This will be quite useful for preaching.

New Testament
The new edition of the The Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition (German Bible Society) contains the most recent United Bible Society Greek text. This Reader’s Edition is perhaps the most useful Greek tool in print, with definitions of less common words and forms at the bottom of each page. The largest change in this version is the updated Greek text, primarily in the General Epistles.

Moise´s Silva has produced a thorough revision and update of Colin Brown’s New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, with the new title New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Zondervan; 5 vols.). One frustration with the previous edition was the arrangement of concepts according to English wording. This raised methodological issues and made it difficult to look up specific Greek words in the midst of sermon preparation. This has been remedied in the new edition with entries listed alphabetically by Greek word. A comprehensive listing of all words covered by semantic domain (included at the front of each volume) allows you to see related words and concepts.

It appears the new work was done almost entirely by Silva himself. This no doubt helped the accomplishment of one of the goals of the revision, which was to achieve greater conformity among the entries. In the previous edition, entries were written by different scholars, resulting in different approaches and varying degrees of coverage. Sometimes revised books are only slightly updated, so that one need not buy them if already possessing the earlier edition. Such is not the case here. This is a substantively new work; while building on and acknowledging its indebtedness to the previous work, this edition has superseded it. This deserves to be a standard reference work and will be well worth the investment.

The fourth edition of James Voelz’s Fundamental Greek Grammar (Concordia) corrects some minor errors, but the primary change seems to be the addition of further biblical passages as examples. Rodney Decker’s Reading Koine Greek: An Introduction and Integrated Workbook (Baker) builds on the best aspects of Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek while including more awareness of verbal aspect and the current debate about deponency. It is very user-friendly, so it could be used profitably by anyone wanting to improve their Greek skills. An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek: Analysis of Prepositions, Adverbs, Particles, Relative Pronouns, and Conjunctions (Zondervan) by G.K. Beale, Daniel Brendsel and William Ross is a handy, little (96 pages) volume. It gathers basic information on key types of words, especially demonstrating their range of meaning and the sort of syntactic relationships they denote.

Constantine Campbell’s Advances in the Study of Greek Grammar (Zondervan) is a real gift to anyone who uses Greek and wants to do so responsibly. So much has happened in the field of Greek studies (e.g., verbal aspect, despondency, discourse analysis) that it is difficult to keep up. Campbell distills the useful discussions in readable chapters so diligent preachers can be sure they are not misusing Greek in their sermons.

The Fortress Commentary on the Bible: New Testament (Fortress) has a decidedly critical, liberal bent, seeking to accommodate liberation, alternative interpretation. As a result, it has less to do with the direct claims of Scripture and more with making sure we understand how the text is heard by (or offends) various people. The commentary on the Pastoral Epistles seems most concerned with protecting readers from the actual statements of these letters.

With Johannine Theology (IVP), Paul Rainbow provides us with a resource for which I have long sought but never found a comprehensive assessment of the theology of John’s Gospel, his letters and Revelation in one volume (Köstenberger’s previously published A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters is largely a brief commentary and does not treat Revelation). Of course, some will dispute the authorship of each of these writings, but Rainbow argues for their common authorship and theological coherence. Rainbow provides a synthetic theology using the organizing principle of relationships between persons—divine and human—in the writings.

Richard Hays’ Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness (Baylor) is a true feast for mind and soul. Refreshingly contrary to so much in contemporary Bible scholarship, Hays sees a unity in the scriptural message. He demonstrates how the gospel writers drew from their deep awareness of the Old Testament as they now reread it in light of the amazing reality of the resurrection of Jesus. This book will be deeply enriching for any preacher, helping us read the Old Testament as the apostles did and deepening our reading of both testaments.

Michael Bird’s The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus (Eerdmans) is a faithful, thorough examination of the issues surrounding the process of gospel-writing and preservation. In contrast to much current gospel scholarship, Bird argues for the authenticity of the gospel witness and a unity between Jesus and Paul. His discussion of the meaning of gospel in the first century is very helpful.

Marvin Pate’s 40 Questions About the Historical Jesus (Kregel) is a thorough, conservative treatment of key issues surrounding the historicity of Jesus including the virgin birth, OT prophecy of Jesus, and the various quests for the historical Jesus. The brief but thorough explanations make this a handy reference tool.

In A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion (IVP) Gary Burge uses historical fiction as an engaging way to enter the culture and setting of the gospels. This is an enjoyable read, which can help stimulate the imagination of the preacher (though, oddly, it covers more than a week of time). This seems to follow Ben Witherington’s A Week in the Life of Corinth (2102), and we can hope for more such as these.

Ian Boxall’s Discovering Matthew: Content, Interpretation, Reception (Eerdmans) is an admirable summary of the key interpretive issues in Matthew and how they have been handled in history. Though written from a fairly critical perspective (contradictions between the gospels are assumed), Boxall gives serious attention to pre-critical, Patristic understanding of the gospel. This will be a useful supplement to commentaries and a helpful tool to introduce a preaching series. Jeannine Brown’s Matthew (Teach the Text; Baker) is brief in keeping with the series’ intentions. The comments are often tentative and sometimes thin, but key points of theology and meaning are identified. Brown is clear on the virgin birth and good on Christology. Similar to other volumes in this series, it is helpful on principal themes and main ideas but not exegetical details.

In Peter: False Disciple and Apostate According to Saint Matthew (Eerdmans) Robert Gundry argues that Matthew’s Gospel portrays Peter as a false disciple, apostate, “destined for eternal damnation.” The publisher’s description of the thesis as “highly original” is an understatement. Gundry expounds every text in Matthew related to Peter, though I remain unconvinced.

Mark Strauss’ Mark (Zondervan Exegetical) is now one of the key commentaries on this gospel, with its detailed exegesis, great awareness of current literature and debates, and theological attentiveness. The closing chapter on Mark’s theology is good and counters the claims that Mark has a low Christology. Grant Osborne’s Mark (Teach the Text; Baker) is more detailed than many other volumes in this series. Osborne provides historical background and theological reflection on the text. His succinct discussions of the ending of Mark and of the historicity of the resurrection are very helpful.

Mikeal Parsons’s Luke (Paideia; Baker) is particularly attentive to narrative flow and cultural background (especially Greco-Roman it seems). I find him more skeptical than necessary and thin in the sections devoted to theological issues. I am unpersuaded, for example, by his argument that Luke’s introduction is critical of the Gospel of Mark. Much more helpful is James Edwards’ The Gospel According to Luke (Pillar; Eerdmans). Edwards is thorough, well-reasoned, with good exegetical discussion written in a compelling style. Interestingly, he questions the widely assumed idea that Luke was a Gentile. The rich historical detail within a manageable length makes this a great resource for preachers.

The Story Luke Tells: Luke’s Unique Witness to the Gospel (Eerdmans) by Justo Gonza´lez is a collection of brief forays into Luke’s theology drawn from his gospel and Acts. One need not agree with Gonza´lez everywhere to find the book helpfully provocative.

Ruth Edwards’ Discovering John: Content, Interpretation, Reception (Eerdmans) is a revision and update of a previous work with two new excurses and more attention to reception history throughout. This work is explicitly from a historical-critical approach unlike Boxall on Matthew who is more eclectic. Edwards specifically notes the gospel is intended not to be simply an artifact but a message to change lives. She is skeptical of its historicity but positive on its theological and literary skill. Francis Martin’s The Gospel of John (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture; Baker) gives a brief discussion of each text without space to engage deeply. In keeping with the series, connection with official Catholic teaching is noted throughout. In John 17 there is discussion of Jesus’ prayer that His followers be consecrated (sanctified) and connections with the priesthood, but the phrase “Your Word is truth” is not discussed. Richard Phillips John (two volumes; Reformed Expository Commentary; P&R) is theologically solid, though I’m not as taken with these sermons as with Doriani on 1 Peter. Perhaps it is inevitable despite two volumes, but so much was left uncovered. Exploring the New Exodus in John: A Biblical Theological Investigation of John Chapters 5—10 by Paul Coxon (Wipf & Stock) is a revised dissertation with helpful investigation of the OT background in John. Though he may find more than warranted in places, the prodding to see the OT background of NT texts is helpful.

David Maxwell and Joel Elowsky have given us volume 2 of Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John (Ancient Christian Texts; IVP). Cyril expounds upon the text particularly with an eye to Christology. You do not find here the wild allegory often associated with Alexandria (typically contrasted with Antioch). One reason the expositions of Cyril and other Church Fathers are so interesting is that they approach Scripture confidently as the Word of God for the people of God. So much that emerges from contemporary scholarship seems to forget or ignore what these writings claim to be and do. For this reason, among others, this will be beneficial to preachers. We need not always agree with our ancient brother, but listen to him preach the Word of God and remember this is what we are to do.

The third volume of Craig Keener’s Acts commentary (Baker, covering chapters 15 – 23) continues his amazingly thorough work, which is now more than 3,000 pages in length, with still a fourth volume to follow! This volume includes a CD-ROM with a working bibliography and index to the first three volumes. This is an amazing commentary, a gold mine of information. For example, Keener has an illuminating chart examining the relationship of Acts to the Pastoral Epistles (he affirms the traditional interpretation of two Roman imprisonments for Paul). Nothing else matches this commentary, particularly for understanding the book’s ancient backgrounds. Keener carefully weighs all the evidence on practically every issue. With its bulk and technical detail, it may not to be the first stop for weekly preaching, but as a reference it is indispensable.

Acts by Guy Prentiss Waters (EP Study Commentary; Evangelical Press) is a briefer commentary (still more than 600 pages), which serves the preacher well. Without all the detail of Keener, Waters provides responsible exegesis of the entire book with an eye to proclamation and application.

Gordon Fee’s The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Eerdmans) has continued to be one of the best commentaries due in part to its clarity, its attention to the flow of argument, and Fee’s focus on being helpful to the church. (I once had the privilege of talking with Fee about this commentary during dinner. He said the thought that kept going through his mind as he wrote was, “The church needs this.”) So, I welcome a new edition, even as I differ with Fee on several points of his exegesis. In addition to updating references with new scholarship, the primary changes seem to be using the latest NIV and removing references to chapter and verse language (a particular concern of Fee’s). The primary weakness of the first edition—practically deleting 14:34-35—remains in this edition.

Frederick Long’s II Corinthians: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor), in keeping with its series, comments on the grammatical details of the Greek text. Long is very up to date on discussions of Greek grammar and discourse, but there is little space for discussion of overall meaning or theology. Pride of place among these new 2 Corinthian commentaries goes to Mark Seifrid (Pillar; Eerdmans) and George Guthrie (Baker Exegetical). Both commentaries argue for the unity of the letter (an encouraging trend). Seifrid is particularly aware of secondary literature and reads the text as an integrative whole, explicating the theology of Paul, which he has been working on for some time. Guthrie’s commentary is based on the Greek text, is more accessible, and provides more reflection on application.

Joseph Hellerman’s Philippians (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament; B&H) comments on the Greek text with attention to grammar and syntax. It is nicely written and flows well, which is an accomplishment in such a detailed work. Hellerman considers exegetical options and provides a good interpretation with homiletical suggestions. Matthew Harmon’s Philippians (Mentor; Christian Focus) is a less technical commentary that covers the text well, with Greek discussion in the footnotes.

In his Colossians (Brazos Theological Commentary; Baker) Christopher Seitz defends Pauline authorship and provides good, sensible discussion of each passage of Scripture with theological reflection. The introduction is worthy of close reading as Seitz lays out an argument for reading Scripture as a whole and, in particular, reading Colossians as part of the Pauline corpus, which is a part of Scripture rather than as an isolated text.

Jeffrey Weima’s 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Baker Exegetical) takes its place as one of the leading commentaries on these letters. Following decades of studying these letters, Weima gives us a very thorough examination (investigating practically every issue) with mature theological reflection, as well.

Tom Schreiner’s Commentary on Hebrews is the first volume in the new Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation Series (B&H). The biblical book and the author are great places to start for a commentary seeking to elucidate biblical theology. Schreiner’s introduction lists key ways in which Hebrews contributes to biblical theology. The commentary section is brief but rich, making it very useful for preaching.

David McWilliams' Hebrews (Lectio Continua; Tolle Lege) contains good expository sermons, with theological depth and application. Though this volume, as does the series, comes from a Reformed theological perspective, McWilliams takes the warning passages seriously and handles them well.

Daniel Doriani’s 1 Peter (Reformed Expository Commentary; P&R) is particularly well-written and engaging as good sermons ought to be. Doriani covers the exegetical and theological issues in the letter, provides good, apt illustrations, and makes thoughtful application.

Bruce Schuchard’s 1 – 3 John (Concordia Commentary) is a substantive commentary taking its place alongside Yarbrough’s as the best and most comprehensive recent commentaries on these letters. Schuchard covers all the exegetical issues in detail, arguing that the letters were all written by the apostle John, not merely addressing some local issue but as Scripture. I really resonate with his arguments for apostolic authority in contrast to those who stand above Scripture in their comments.

Greg Beale has pared down his impressive 1999 Revelation commentary in the NIGTC Series with Revelation: A Shorter Commentary (Eerdmans). Much of the technical discussion is removed, and reference is made to the English text. The significant attention to Old Testament allusions and background remain. If you do not have the larger work (or have gotten lost in it), this shorter work is a must-have. Beale also provides a one-sentence summary for each section, designed to serve as the homiletical main idea of the text. This shorter commentary is still longer than the others surveyed this year.

Scott Duvall’s Revelation (Teach the Text; Baker) is a fine brief discussion of the text with a focus on main themes and illustrations. Peter Williamson’s Revelation (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture; Baker) is a careful commentary from a conservative Catholic perspective. I thought he handled the text well, but I did not agree with his application sections about prayers for the dead and intermediate states. He understands the visions as recurring and not chronological and seems to have an amillennial perspective.

Mark Wilson’s Victory Through the Lamb: A Guide to Revelation in Plain Language (Weaver) is a solid but brief overview of the letter. While it does not give an exegesis of every text, I think he has the correct overall view of the book and provides a good orientation to reading it in light of its Old Testament antecedents as encouragement to believers in the midst of suffering. His excerpts of ancient accounts of martyrdom at the opening of each chapter help to frame this well.

In Did the Reformers Misread Paul? (Paternoster) Aaron O’Kelley offers a compelling critique of the New Perspective on Paul. O’Kelley shows how New Perspective advocates have misread the Reformers by missing the historical context of their debate with Rome. This is an important contribution to the discussion of justification. Simon Gathercole’s Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul (Baker) is a timely, strong defense of penal substitution in Paul. Gathercole addresses recent challenges to the doctrine and then treats key texts in Romans and 1 Corinthians, arguing that substitution is primary in Paul’s proclamation. Wesley Hill’s Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations and the Pauline Letters (Eerdmans) demonstrates, with significant exegetical detail, that the idea of God as Trinity is not an alien concept forced on Paul’s letters but a truth which arises naturally from them. When so many scholars are dismissing key theological concepts as extra-biblical, this is an important and timely work.

I find Scott Hafemann’s writings on Paul particularly helpful (even when I disagree at points), so I was pleased to see several of his previously published essays collected in a new volume titled Paul’s Message and Ministry in Covenant Perspective (Wipf & Stock). These essays on Paul’s gospel, the place of suffering in ministry, perseverance and others are nourishing for anyone, particularly one who seeks to serve in such gospel ministry.

In The Church According to Paul: Rediscovering the Community Conformed to Christ (Baker) James Thompson challenges many common conceptions of the church via an examination of Paul’s chief letters. Though I differ with Thompson on several points (e.g., justification), the attention to shaping the church more intentionally in light of Scripture is sorely needed and welcome.

The Theology of Work Bible Commentary: Romans Through Revelation (Hendrickson) from the Theology of Work Project is a different sort of book. It seeks to examine what each biblical book has to say about work in order to develop a robust theology of work. This is a laudable goal, and it will be useful for pastors to be reminded of the doctrine of vocation, that all work can and should be done to the glory of God. The actual commentary is uneven and with its focus will not be a primary source for sermon preparation, but it can help the preacher keep an eye on the workplace setting of listeners. (The section on the pastorals misses it by thinking pastorals are primarily interested in church structure).

Hope for the Nations: Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Apostolos) by Tom Holland might be skipped. It is from a lesser known publisher and the typeface looks odd. However, it is a useful, more popular level commentary which gives significant attention to the OT background of Paul’s thought and argument. Discovering Romans (Zondervan) contains the sermons of S. Lewis Johnson on Romans transcribed and edited by Mike Abendroth. These sermons are more exegetical and less illustrative than most of the similar publications today.

Duane Litfin has revised and expanded his earlier work on Paul’s preaching under the new title Paul’s Theology of Preaching: The Apostle’s Challenge to the Art of Persuasion in Ancient Corinth (IVP). Working primarily from an examination of the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians, Litfin shows how Paul countered the celebrity-driven, entertainment-oriented approach to proclamation of his day. This new edition gives more space to the practical implications for preaching today, which are timely and challenging for any preacher.

Second Corinthians has received the most focus of new commentaries in the past year. First, two strong commentaries have been revised and updated: Colin Kruse’s in the Tyndale Series (IVP) and Ralph Martin’s in the Word Biblical Commentary Series (Zondervan), completed prior to his death. Kruse adjusts his commentary to the new series format, allowing for more theological reflection. He continues to argue that chapters 10–13 were a separate letter. Martin’s new edition has some significant new material on the composition of the letter, rhetorical studies and the social setting, contained mostly in new excurses. The commentary still sees chapters 10–13 as a distinct letter written after chapters 1–9. As before, Martin has great detail and is more technical.

In A Theology of James, Peter, and Jude (Zondervan) Peter Davids provides a brief walk through each letter concentrating on the flow of thought, and explores theological themes in each letter. The result is more of a theology of the individual letters than a theology of them as a whole. Davids is concerned about the dominance of Paul in the church, but he sounds overly antagonistic toward Paul. More useful and very accessible is The Message of the General Epistles in the History of Redemption (P&R) by Brandon Crowe. This engagingly written theological introduction to James through Jude is informed by the approach of G.K. Beale.

5 Books You Shouldn’t Miss
New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Zondervan) by Moises Silva
Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness (Baylor) by Richard B. Hays
Mark (Zondervan) by Mark Strauss
2 Corinthians (Baker) by George Guthrie
Lamentations (IVP) by Christopher Wright

Ray Van Neste is professor of biblical studies and director of the R.C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.

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