Each year, Preaching offers a brief guide to some of the most important publications of the past year in Bibles and Bible reference, including commentaries. The version of this article that appears at Preaching.com is more than twice as long, including a number of additional volumes for your consideration.
The CEB Study Bible (Common English Bible, general editor, Joel Green) is thorough with in-depth notes throughout and several closing essays on Scripture and interpretation, written from a critical perspective.
While not a study Bible, the ESV Reader's Bible (Crossway) is a wonderful resource for Bible reading. The text is single column as in a regular book, and there are no verse numbers or editorial headings. Chapter numbers appear discreetly in the margin and the top of the page indicating the chapter and verse range on that page. This format is helpful for undistracted reading. Crossway also has published a nice hardcover text of the Psalms, which is useful for devotions and funerals, etc.
Two major Bible atlases now are available in abbreviated formats. Carl Rasmussen's Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible is an abbreviation of his earlier Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, and Paul Lawrence's previous IVP Atlas of Bible History has been edited and abbreviated by Richard Johnson as the IVP Concise Atlas of Bible History. Both of these concise editions are more portable. Both have nice, full color maps, photos and illustrations. The IVP atlas also deals with the nature of the Bible and the nature of history.
Peter Walker's The Story of the Holy Land: A Visual History (Kregel) does not claim to be an atlas, but tells the history of the land (up to modern day) in a popular style with beautiful photographs, often across two pages.
Tremper Longman has edited The Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Baker), which gives helpful entries on various topics nicely illustrated. More thorough is the new Lutheran Bible Companion (Concordia) in two volumes, a cornucopia of resources, including the nature of Scripture, how to study the Bible, and particular information on each book. The Illustrated Bible Survey by Hindson and Towns (B&H) is a brief survey of the whole Bible from a conservative perspective. It is designed to be an undergraduate textbook.
The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times by John Beck (Baker), will be more useful for laypeople. Pastors will be better served by consulting standard commentaries or more in-depth background resources such as the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary or Craig Keener's IVP Bible Background Commentary.
There has been significant discussion of the nature of Scripture in the past year. Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Zondervan) edited by J. Merrick and Stephen Garrett includes essays from Al Mohler, Peter Enns, Michael Bird, Kevin Vanhoozer and John Franke providing a good spectrum of interaction on this important topic. Michael Graves' The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture: What the Early Church Can Teach Us (Eerdmans) seeks to refute the idea of a traditional understanding of inspiration by showing there were a variety of views among the church fathers. However, it seems his point is overstated as there was agreement concerning the trustworthiness of Scripture. Graves is very tentative and concludes the plurality of interpretations in the church today is a blessing. John Walton and Brent Sandy in The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority (IVP) argue for scriptural authority and reliability in a nuanced way and suggest the term inerrancy may no longer be useful. In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture (B&H), edited by Terry Wilder and Steven Cowan, is a thorough defense of a robust and properly nuanced doctrine of inerrancy.
The Future of Biblical Interpretation: Responsible Plurality in Biblical Hermeneutics (IVP), a collection of essays edited by Stan Porter and Matthew Malcom, provides an introduction to the current state of the discussion in hermeneutics.
The Bible and Spirituality: Exploratory Essays in Reading Scripture Spiritually (Cascade), edited by Andrew Lincoln, Gordon McConville and Lloyd Pieterson, is a very interesting collection of essays focused on reading specific portions of the Scripture with an eye to how Scripture works for spiritual formation.
Michael Shepherd's The Textual World of the Bible, (Studies in Biblical Literature; Peter Lang) is a brief effort to sketch the way the whole Bible fits together. I like his bold assertion that the Bible gives us the real world, not just another account of the world, but it could use some editing to make it clearer.
Old Testament General
The Old Testament and Ethics: A Book-by-Book Survey, edited by Joel B. Green and Jacqueline Lapsley and its companion, The New Testament and Ethics, edited by Joel B. Green (Baker), are collections of essays from the Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics (which I have reviewed elsewhere). They are useful surveys, but both open with the same flawed essay on hermeneutics.
R.W.L. Moberly's Old Testament Theology: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture (Baker) though more technical, assists us (as does his other work) in seeing the OT's connection to the NT and teasing out theological implications and applications.
Commonly in OT studies today, scholars work from the assumption that OT authors borrowed from or assumed the same worldview as their contemporaries in the Ancient Near Eastern world. John Currid's Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament (Crossway) is a helpful response to these ideas, arguing that Scripture presents a particular biblical worldview. Currid argues at various places that Israel's scriptural accounts interact with stories and ideas of other religions but do so as critique and contrast, demonstrating the uniqueness and superiority of Yahweh.
Boyd Seevers' Warfare in the Old Testament: The Organization, Weapons and Tactics of Ancient Near Eastern Armies (Kregel) addresses this topic in ways I have not seen before. Each chapter contains a fictional story that interweaves the data in a reasonable retelling of a historical event. Full-color pictures and drawings of weaponry add visual interest.
Richard Bauckham, James Davila and Alexander Panayotov edited Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Vol. 1 (Eerdmans), a new edition, with fresh translations, of books claimed to be written by OT characters but were not accepted into the canon. More items are included than in the earlier volumes by James Charlesworth. This can be helpful for understanding the context of the NT world and relevant Jewish discussions of the time.
Four Views on the Historical Adam (Zondervan), edited by Matthew Barrett and Ardel Caneday, is a valuable contribution to the current debate on this topic. The essays issue from the various perspectives (including no historical Adam, historical Adam as an archtype, historical Adam in an old earth view and historical Adam in a young earth view). Ziony Zevit's What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden? (Yale) is very skeptical, arguing that the story isn't about sin after all. Zevit is more interested in feminist readings and reader-response.
Michael Coogan's The Ten Commandments: A Short History of an Ancient Text (Yale) will only discourage the preaching of the Ten Commandments. According to Coogan, the Decalogue has little abiding relevance or authority (this work would benefit from engagement with the work of Moberly and Currid mentioned above).
Old Testament Commentaries
Moshe Greenberg's Understanding Exodus: A Holistic Commentary on Exodus 1-11, 2nd edition, edited by Jeffrey Tigay (Wipf & Stock) contains updates and clarifications from the 1969 edition. Greenberg was a preeminent Jewish scholar working from the perspective of modern critical scholarship. This will be a useful source for technical detail. More readily useful to preachers is Anthony Selvaggio's From Bondage to Liberty: The Gospel According to Moses (P&R), a collection of sermons on Exodus. The sermons address large sections of text with thematic overviews and show how Exodus points to Christ. Reverberations of the Exodus in Scripture, edited by R. Michael Fox, is an interesting collection of essays from an evangelical perspective on ways the Exodus event is used in later OT writings.
Jay Skylar's Leviticus (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary; IVP) is a very beneficial, brief commentary on this challenging book, representing the tradition of the series. Sklar knows the scholarly literature, but he distills the insights in an intelligible way. The introduction is very helpful for thinking about applying Leviticus today.
Jack Lundbom's Deuteronomy: A Commentary (Eerdmans) is a significant technical commentary with particular attention also given to the theology of the book. Deanna Thompson's Deuteronomy (Belief; WJK) aims for a theological reading but is quite brief and thus less useful for preaching.
Patricia Dutcher-Walls's Reading the Historical Books: A Student's Guide to Engaging Biblical Text (Baker) is engagingly written and aware of the scholarly literature but is more technical and not exegetical. The book is not a survey of the historical books of the Bible but an investigation of history writing in the ancient world with an eye to what this might tell us about historical writings in the Bible. She seems less than certain about historical veracity in the biblical accounts. The book will be more useful in a classroom than the preacher's study.
David Jackman, a model expositor, does a wonderful job in Joshua: People of God's Purpose (Preaching the Word; Crossway). Written a bit more directly to the preacher than other volumes in this series, Jackman points out potential difficulties, ways in which a text might be misunderstood, and expounds and applies with theological depth and good sense—very good.
Robert B. Chisholm Jr.'s A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Kregel Exegetical Library) is concerned for literary structure, engages some technical discussion but is primarily aimed at exposition with an eye toward preaching.
Lissa Wray Beal's 1 & 2 Kings (Apollos Old Testament Commentary; IVP) provides an original translation, textual notes, commentary and explanation with an eye to how the text connects with the New Testament. A lot of helpful ground is covered, but even with 600 pages it is a brief exposition on a lengthy text. Louis Jonker's 1 & 2 Chronicles (Understanding the Bible; Baker) has nice, brief comments on the text but not much in the way of theology or larger meaning.
Daniel Estes' Job (Teach the Text; Baker) has brief helpful comments but more will be needed for the preacher. My favorite part is the "Illustrating the Text" section which points to art and literature which either engage Job or illustrate the point of the text in view. This is particularly helpful with Job because so much literature and art has been inspired by it. Much more helpful for the preacher is Christopher Ash's Job: The Wisdom of the Cross (Preaching the Word Series; Crossway). The introduction alone will give much help to the preacher. Ash handles the text carefully and applies it with theological clarity and pastoral wisdom. Ash sees that this book pushes us forward to the work of Christ. I highly recommend it. Mark Larrimore's The Book of Job: A Biography (Princeton) is a fascinating work tracing the different ways this challenging book of the Bible has been interpreted and used. Though written from a more skeptical, higher critical, perspective (e.g., Larrimore doesn't believe the adversary in the book is the Satan of later Scripture), it is helpful to see how people at different times and places have approached this book. It can be helpful for the preacher to see the wrestling of others before he begins his own struggle with the text.
This year has seen a veritable explosion of books on the Psalms. Chief among them is N.T. Wright's The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential (Harper One). This is a real gem. In brief compass, with his engaging writing style, Wright makes the case for how important the Psalms are for Christian spirituality, particularly pointing to how the Psalms portray for us the worldview of God's kingdom—a must-read.
The second volume of Allen Ross' A Commentary on the Psalms (Kregel Exegetical Library), covering Psalms 42—89 has appeared. Similar to vol. 1, which I commended, this commentary gives close attention to the text without getting lost in minutiae. Ross is concerned with meaning and gives helpful directions on preaching the text. I am finding this very helpful. The Psalms as Christian Lament: A Historical Commentary (Eerdmans) by Bruce Waltke, James Houston and Erika Moore is very helpful, as well. One way we evidence our lack of immersion in the Psalms is our lack of familiarity with lament, our lack of practice in doing it well and in being comfortable with others lamenting. This book is a wonderful step in that direction. The authors selected 10 psalms, provided exegetical study of them and paired that with an investigation of how key voices in the history of the church have dealt with each psalm. This is a beautiful example of reading the Bible along with the church through the ages.
John Fesko's Songs of a Suffering King: The Grand Christ Hymn of Psalms 1—8 (Reformation Heritage Books) contains a devotional exposition of the first eight psalms, demonstrating how they point to Christ along with a metrical setting of each Psalm for singing. Fesko follows Bonhoeffer's approach that fundamentally Christ is the Speaker in the Psalms. Two new books expound the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120—134) with a sermon for each psalm. Josh Moody, in Journey to Joy: The Psalms of Ascent (Crossway), rightly notes the Psalms teach us how to feel, and he sees these Psalms as leading us from sorrow to joy. Randy Steele's Are You Ready for Worship?: Preparation from the Psalms of Ascent (Deo Volente) expounds these psalms arguing that they are designed to prepare us for worship. An appendix also gives one metrical version of each psalm treated.
Patrick Miller's The Lord of the Psalms (WJK) is a very accessible treatment of the portrait of God in the Psalms. Miller is a prominent OT scholar, aware of the scholarly literature, but he wears that learning lightly; this book has a devotional, worshipful air, which is entirely right for the topic. Bernd Janowski's Arguing with God: A Theological Anthropology of the Psalms (WJK) is more technical, but helpful. Even with the critical work, he sees the Psalms as a "book of pure spirituality," which is intended not for mere dissection in study but for singing, recitation and living. The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul (Moody) edited by Andrew Schmutzer and David Howard Jr. is a collection of papers previously presented at academic conferences and is more an introduction and review of what is going on in Psalms studies, though it has an eye for use in preaching in places. Daniel Nehrbass, Praying Curses: The Therapeutic & Preaching Value of the Imprecatory Psalms (Pickwick) helpfully summarizes the various ways Christians have approached this challenging portion of Scripture, psalms which call down judgment. He affirms these passages as Scripture with abiding relevance and value for the church today. I believe he is right in saying one reason we often have problems with these texts is our lives of relative ease in the developed world. Suffering people get these psalms much more readily. Nehrbass' aim is to help pastors and others see how much we need these psalms and how we can use them in life and worship.
Edward Curtis' Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs (Teach the Text; Baker) is brief but helpful with some useful suggestions for illustrating drawn from literature and poetry. Curtis understands Song of Solomon to be a straightforward celebration of married love. Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes (P&R) by Zack Eswine is well-written and engaging, with a pastoral and theological approach to this challenging book. Eswine suggests the book has an apologetic and evangelistic point as it addresses squarely the troubles of life.
Dan Block's two-volume commentary on Ezekiel remains a standard resource, and now this work is supplemented by two new volumes of essays on Ezekiel, By the River Chebar: Historical, Literary and Theological Studies in the Book of Ezekiel (Wipf & Stock) and Beyond the River Chebar: Studies in Kingship and Eschatalogy in the Book of Ezekiel (Wipf & Stock). These volumes contain previously published essays on Ezekiel, plus three conference papers previously unpublished. It is helpful having all these essays in gathered into two volumes. Some of the essays are more technical, but essays such as "Preaching Ezekiel" and "The God Ezekiel Wants us to Meet" will be useful for preachers.
This may be the year to preach on Daniel with solid works from two great preachers. Dale Ralph Davis is one of my favorite OT expositors. Davis' The Message of Daniel (BST; IVP), absolutely sparkles with insight, wisdom, wit and theologically sound application. It will be immensely helpful to preachers. Bryan Chapell's The Gospel According to Daniel: A Christ-Centered Approach (Baker) is also a helpful example of Christ-centered preaching of the OT (following the approach outlined in his Christ-Centered Preaching). He has one sermon for each chapter of Daniel, expounding the text with rich illustration and application. This will be very helpful.
John Goldingay's Isaiah 56—66 (ICC; T&T Clark) is very thorough though critical and quite technical, making it less useful for preaching, especially considering the price. More accessible is his The Theology of the Book of Isaiah: Diversity and Unity (IVP), which provides a brief overview of the book section by section and then summarizes key theological concepts found in the book. However, I think he is too skeptical about how the NT authors used OT texts.
Eusebius of Caesarea's Commentary on Isaiah (Ancient Christian Texts; IVP) is the earliest surviving Christian commentary on Isaiah and has been translated for the first time into English (or any modern language!). It probably is not as serviceable for weekly sermon preparation, but it is fascinating to see how the early church was interpreting Scripture. Eusebius reads Isaiah Christologically with a focus on historical realities and symbolic meanings.
Christopher Wright's The Message of Jeremiah (IVP) is a wonderful exemplar of the aims of the Bible Speaks Today Series. He carefully engages the text without getting bogged down and illuminates its meaning and application. This will be very helpful for preachers. Wright's volume is a replacement for the older work by Derek Kidner, so IVP also has reprinted Kidner's slim volume as Jeremiah in the new Kidner Classic Commentaries. Kidner is briefer than Wright, but Kidner was a master of wit and words, packing much substance in a small space.
Daniel Block's Obadiah: The Kingship Belongs to YHWH (Zondervan) is the inaugural volume in the new Hearing the Message of Scripture Series, which treats the Hebrew text (providing a fresh translation) with particular attention to rhetorical strategy of the book and the flow of argument. Block's volume is a helpful, more technical treatment. The second volume in this series is Kevin Youngblood's Jonah: The Scandalous Love of God. This commentary contains more theological reflection than Block's and the way in which attention to rhetoric informs the commentary was clearer to me. This will be a useful commentary for the preacher in detailed study.
New Testament General
It is great to see a new edition of D.A. Carson's immensely helpful New Testament Commentary Survey, 7th edition (Baker). Carson gives helpful overviews and clear opinions on practically every NT commentary available in English. This is a must-have for anyone who buys commentaries.
Craig Keener's The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nd edition (IVP) is an invaluable one-volume resource newly updated with added maps and charts. Also, the text has been lengthened by about 15 percent. The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social and Historical Contexts (Baker) edited by Joel Green and Lee McDonald is a helpful collection of essays by recognized scholars dealing with historical, cultural, religious, literary and geographical contexts of the New Testament world.
Stanley Porter's How We Got the New Testament: Text, Transmission, Translation (Baker) gives a well-informed overview of how we came to have the New Testament today. More helpful is Michael Kruger's The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate (IVP). Kruger counters the large group of scholars who argue the creation of a NT canon was an idea foreign to early Christianity and in many ways at odds with the first century of Christianity. Instead, Kruger demonstrates in a readable fashion that the gathering of authoritative texts naturally flowed out of the earliest Christianity.
Craig Evans' From Jesus to the Church: The First Christian Generation (WJK) is a helpful study of how and why the followers of Jesus ended up being distinct from Judaism. With careful research Evans shows the continuity between Jesus, James and Paul and how the community of Jesus emerged as the expression of the kingdom of God. Evans refutes those who argue the emergence of the crch marked a departure from Jesus, perhaps spurred by Paul.
The New Testament Church: The Challenge of Developing Ecclesiologies, edited by John Harrison and James Dvorak (Pickwick) begins with the assumption that the NT does not present a unified ecclesiology but that a variety of church structures are found in the NT authors. Alan Streett's Subversive Meals: An Analysis of the Lord's Supper Under Roman Domination During the First Century (Wipf & Stock) argues the provocative thesis that the celebration of the Lord's Supper in the first century was a subversive act as the participants used a common Greco-Roman format but declared their loyalty to Christ's kingdom. This is apparently a published dissertation, and it reads as such.
A Reader's Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers (Kregel) edited by Daniel Wallace, Brittany Burnette and Terri Moore is a wonderful resource for those working on their Greek. Reading in the Apostolic Fathers is helpful for improving your Greek and for seeing how the next generation after the NT handled various themes and texts. This Reader's Lexicon makes engaging these texts much more manageable.
Gospels and Jesus
The second edition of the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (IVP) is now available, this time edited by Joel Green, Jeannine Brown and Nicholas Perrin. Some second editions are only slightly updated, but that is not the case here. According to the preface about 90 percent of the material is new. This remains a standard go-to reference for scholarship on the gspels.
Lee Martin McDonald's The Story of Jesus in History and Faith: An Introduction (Baker) is an up-to-date summary of the debated issues of the historicity of Jesus' life and ministry—helpful when dealing with alleged discrepancies and challenges from skeptics. The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived (Crossway) by Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor is a helpful overview of this week drawing from all four gospels.
How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus' Divine Nature (Zondervan), edited by Michael Bird is a rejoinder to Bart Ehrman's How Jesus Became God. With essays from leading scholars this book exposes and refutes Ehrman's arguments, which have become quite popular. This is a helpful book for pastors to have ready particularly as students engage skeptical professors or when encountering outsiders who may have heard Ehrman in popular media. Bird's essays also are loaded with witty rejoinders, which make the reading enjoyable.
In Born of a Virgin? Reconceiving Jesus in the Bible, Tradition and Theology (Eerdmans) Andrew Lincoln argues the Bible does not teach clearly that Jesus was born of a virgin and that this is not theologically troublesome. I disagree and find his handling of evidence and theology unsatisfactory. Steve Moyise's Was the Birth of Jesus According to Scripture? (Wipf & Stock) contains useful information but is too timid in its conclusions.
N.T. Wright's two-volume Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Fortress) is an impressive, massive work (more than 1,600 pages!). As such it is valuable but may be more than most people will be able to tackle. I disagree with Wright on justification, but he has many valuable things to say in regard to background, worldview and theology. Also, a collection of Wright's key essays have been published in Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978-2013 (Fortress).
Marvin Pate's Apostle of the Last Days (Kregel) argues that Paul's theology is unified around the idea of the overlap of the ages—this age and the age to come. Pate surveys various efforts to find a center to Paul's theology and makes his argument using each of Paul's letters (all 13). Because he is setting forth a specific case, this is more useful than the typical overview volumes. He demonstrates good awareness of scholarly discussions in various areas.
Several new books examine the New Perspective on Paul, championed by Wright. Perhaps chief among them for our purposes is Stephen Westerholm's Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking a Pauline Theme (Eerdmans). Westerholm is a particularly good writer, and this slim book is a succinct, clear defense of the traditional understanding of justification in Paul. You don't have to be an expert to understand him, and his explanations can be very helpful for anyone getting ready to preach in Paul. Preston Sprinkle's Paul and Judaism Revisited: A Study of Divine and Human Agency in Salvation (IVP) is a valuable contribution as it demonstrates, contra the New Perspective, several ways Paul's soteriology differed from other voices in the Judaism of his day. In The Righteousness of One: An Evaluation of Early Patristic Soteriology in Light of the New Perspective on Paul (Wipf & Stock) Jordan Cooper argues that New Perspective advocates have misread Luther on Paul and that Luther's reading of Paul squares well with patristic writers. Brian Rosner's Paul and the Law (New Studies in Biblical Theology; IVP) is a fruitful contribution to the burgeoning realm of studies on Paul and the Law. Rosner suggests Paul handles the law in three distinct, yet complementary ways. This will be a helpful volume for understanding this complex issue.
Charles Quarles is a faithful guide to Paul's ministry in Illustrated Life of Paul (B&H). With full-color photos, maps and other illustrations, Quarles provides a helpful synopsis of Paul's life, integrating Paul's letters and the Book of Acts. Graham Twelftree's Paul and the Miraculous: A Historical Reconstruction (Baker) is carefully researched but begins by positing sharp disjunctions between parts of Scripture, which I find unnecessary. It will not be crucial for the preacher.
All Things to All Cultures: Paul Among Jews, Greeks and Romans (Eerdmans), edited by Mark Harding and Alanna Nobbs, is a survey of Pauline studies, including essays from diverse perspectives on each of Paul's letters or groups of letters by scholars in Australia. Daniel Marguerat's Paul in Acts and Paul in His Letters (Mohr Siebeck) is a collection of careful, exegetical essays on Paul. The essays contain helpful material though the price will make the volume less accessible.
Several revised dissertations on Paul have been published. Kevin McFadden's Judgment According to Works in Romans: The Meaning and Function of Divine Judgment in Paul's Most Important Letter (Fortress) works through the key texts on Romans dealing with judgment and works. He defends a traditional view that works serve as evidence of faith at the final judgment. The book's pervasive exegesis will aid the preacher of Romans. Robert Ewusie Moses' Practices of Power: Revisiting the Principalities and Powers in the Pauline Letters (Fortress) seeks to provide a new way of understanding the spirit world as it is portrayed in Paul. He closes with applying his work to the African setting, which (unlike Western settings) is not predisposed to disbelief in spiritual beings. Gerry Schoberg's Perspectives of Jesus in the Writings of Paul: A Historical Examination of Shared Core Commitments with a View to Determining the Extent of Paul's Dependence on Jesus (Princeton Theological Monograph Series; Pickwick) argues for more connection between Paul and Jesus than many critical scholars tend to see.
New Testament Commentaries
The Gospels and Acts is the first volume in The Holman Apologetics Commentary on the Bible (B&H), which seeks to address challenges to the truthfulness of Scripture in each biblical book. This is a helpful reference for such issues, though not intended as a full running commentary. The commentators in this volume are Michael Wilkins, Craig Evans, Darrell Bock and Andreas Kostenberger.
Douglas Sean O'Donnell's Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth (Preaching the Word; Crossway) contains helpful, exegetical sermons, well-illustrated and applied. David Platt's Exalting Jesus in Matthew (Christ-Centered Exposition; B&H) is a blend between sermon and commentary. It is practical and theological, and because it is not as long as standard commentaries, it deals with larger sections. I highly recommend Charles Quarles' A Theology of Matthew: Jesus Revealed as Deliverer, King and Incarnate Creator (P&R) as a very readable, theologically rich resource for seeing the big picture of this gospel, which helps in thinking about how to preach and apply it.
Scot McKnight's Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan) is the inaugural volume in The Story of God Series, which aims to be a new sort of application commentary. McKnight engages with ethicists and others in teasing out the challenging implications of Jesus' words.
Mark 1:1—8:26 (Concordia Commentary) by James Voelz is another fine volume in this valuable commentary series. Voelz particularly pays close attention to Mark's Greek style, including special uses of verb tenses and word order, as well as overall literary plan. This alone makes this commentary stand out as particularly useful, and his introduction will be of much help explaining, in basic terms, how such grammatical and literary work aids the expositor.
Francois Bovon's Luke 2 (Hermeneia; Fortress), covering Luke 9:51—19:27, is quite technical but clearly seeks to understand what the text means for the Christian. Bovon also devotes a significant section on each text to the history of pre-Enlightenment interpretation, because (he says) people in those eras "knew how to practice a religious reading of the text that was in harmony with the original intention of the Gospel writers." R.T. France is always worth reading, but the constraints of the series mean that his Luke (Teach the Text; Baker) cannot compete with other commentaries available.
Jey Kanagaraj's John (New Covenant Commentary; Wipf & Stock) is a competent shorter commentary on John, readable, attentive to literary features and fulfillment of OT. Craig Farmer has edited the John 1—12 volume of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture (IVP), which is a helpful supplement to standard commentaries. The introduction surveys key themes in Reformation expositions of John. A second edition of Andreas Kostenberger's helpful Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary and Theological Perspective (Baker) has been published with the main changes being updating of bibliography. Francis Moloney's Love in the Gospel of John: An Exegetical, Theological and Literary Study (Baker) is a helpful, readable study by a leading Catholic scholar. Appropriately, he does not limit himself to occurrences of words for love, but focuses on deeds of love, especially the cross and resurrection.
Craig Keener's Acts: An Exegetical Commentary, vol. 2 [3:1-14:28] (Baker) is a massive gold-mine of information. Along with vol. 1 (released last year) and vol. 3 (due out this fall) this is the go-to commentary on Acts. Keener amazingly combines attention to great detail with verve and clarity in writing. William Kurz' Acts (Catholic Commentary on the Sacred Scripture; Baker) is strong on theological application. Kurz emphasizes the need for evangelism, the exclusivity of Christ in a postmodern world, and the need to stand for biblical convictions even in face of suffering. Acts (Reformation Commentary on Scripture; IVP) by Esther Chung-Kim and Todd Hains is a helpful supplement to standard commentaries, providing examples of how the text was handled during the Reformation.
Romans 1—8 (Concordia Commentary) by Michael Middendorf is a substantive commentary providing a fresh translation, interaction with the Greek text and theological exposition with the task of preaching clearly in mind. This is one to get. The Letter to the Romans, edited by Ian Levy, Philip Krey and Thomas Ryan, is the second volume in The Bible in Medieval Tradition Series (Eerdmans). For each chapter of Romans, it provides the full commentary on that chapter from a medieval interpreter (as well as Abelard's introduction). The more extensive excerpt, rather than snippets, is helpful. Romans by J.G. Vos (Crown & Covenant) is a compilation of previously published studies on Romans, available for the first time in one volume. It is pastoral and theological.
Mark Taylor's 1 Corinthians (New American Commentary; B&H) is a solid middle-range commentary, which will be helpful. The introduction is very brief (about 15 pages), so you will need to look elsewhere for substantial discussion of introductory matters. Preben Vang's 1 Corinthians (Teach the Text; Baker) is among the best in the series, though in keeping with the series, the space for exegesis is limited. It will be helpful for preachers, but it should not supplant the standard commentaries. Kim Riddlebarger's First Corinthians (Lectio Continua Expository; Tolle Lege) contains expositional sermons from an explicit Reformed perspective. The sermons are a bit more lecture-like than those in other sermonic books in this article. Riddlebarger is readable, theological and concerned for general application.
Two new major commentaries on the Greek text of Galatians have come out from prominent Pauline scholars. Douglas Moo's Galatians (Baker Exegetical Commentary) provides very helpful exegesis of the Greek text, aware of scholarly debates. Andrew Das' Galatians (Concordia Commentary) is also quite substantive, drawing from the large body of work he has previously done on the epistle. Both commentaries reject the New Perspective. A more expositional commentary is Todd Wilson's Galatians: Gospel-Rooted Living (Preaching the Word Series; Crossway). Wilson also has published a number of scholarly works on Galatians, and here he profitably applies that background to sermons that are substantive and rich in application.
Lynn Cohick's Philippians (Story of God; Zondervan) is a solid, brief commentary with an easy-to-follow format that seeks to place the letter in the flow of the grand narrative of Scripture. Dennis Hamm's Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture; Baker) is a good, brief exposition from a conservative Catholic perspective. Graham Tomlin's Philippians, Colossians (Reformation Commentary on Scripture; IVP) is particularly good in this series. The introduction itself is well worth reading as he describes how Reformation authors aimed not merely at academic exactitude but at moving the affections with biblical truth. Constantine Campbell's Colossians and Philemon (Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament) will be useful to those reading the Greek NT as he provides comments on the nuances of the Greek text that are informed by the latest scholarship. Theology and application are not the focus of this series. In Portrait of an Apostle: A Case for Paul's Authorship of Colossians and Ephesians (Pickwick) Gregory MaGee knocks down one of the common objections to Pauline authorship of Colossians and Ephesians.
In general, I have found Bruce Malina's social-science work to be idiosyncratic and unpersuasive, and his Social-Science Commentary on the Deutero-Pauline Letters (Fortress), co-authored with John Pilch, did not alter that opinion.
Aída Besançon Spencer's 1 Timothy (New Covenant Commentary; Wipf & Stock) argues for Pauline authorship and provides helpful commentary with an eye to application, though I find her treatment of 1 Timothy 2 strained. Her 2 Timothy and Titus (New Covenant Commentary; Wipf & Stock) is also helpful, weaving in significant insight from cultural background in a readable style. Korinna Zamfir's Men and Women in the Household of God (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht) is a very thorough, though technical monograph investigating the roles and ministries in the pastoral epistles. She assumes non-Pauline authorship, differing streams of Christianity in the NT, and that the PE represent an effort to move the church toward a more conservative cultural perspective.
Herbert Bateman IV's Interpreting the General Letters: An Exegetical Handbook (Kregel) provides some helpful overview though it is particularly aimed at students. Pastors should have most of this information through commentaries and books on interpretation. If you need help establishing a solid process for doing careful exegesis this, book could be helpful.
Dale Allison's James (ICC; T&T Clark) contains a wealth of historical-critical information and (surprisingly) a valuable history of interpretation interacting with Patristic and Reformation-era interpreters. Allison is more critical, positing, for example, a late date for the letter (100-120 AD). For regular use the depth of detail and high price will make this less useful for preachers. A.K.M. Adam's James (Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament) will be helpful to those reading the Greek text. It is necessarily more technical but his comments on word order, for example, are useful for preaching.
Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John & Jude as Scripture: The Shaping and Shape of a Canonical Collection (Eerdmans) by David Nienhuis and Robert Wall provocatively argues that these letters have been arranged in the canon intentionally to produce a coherent message. Nienhuis and Wall contend we should be concerned with the text as we have it rather than discussions of the text's origins. This would be a stimulating read before beginning a series through one of these letters. Reading 1—2 Peter and Jude (SBL), edited by Eric Mason and Troy Martin, is a collection of essays by established scholars in this literature. It provides helpful analysis of various aspects of these letters from a more critical perspective. Despite the similar title this volume does not have the same sort of canonical interest as the Nienhuis and Wall volume.
Greg Forbes' 1 Peter (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament; B&H) is useful for those wanting to sharpen their language skills. While focusing on grammar and syntax, Forbes also touches on theology and broader meaning with suggested homiletical outlines as well. John Paul Heil's 1 Peter, 2 Peter and Jude: Worship Matters (Wipf & Stock) is an exposition of the Greek text with special attention to chiastic structures and the theme of worship. Curiously, there is no introduction to the book as a whole. Due to its idiosyncratic nature, this book cannot be a top choice but could be consulted along with standard commentaries. The Christian's Great Enemy: A Practical Exposition of 1 Peter 5:8-11 by John Brown (Banner of Truth) is an extract from Brown's comprehensive Expository Discourses on 1 Peter (1848) with a helpful introduction by Sinclair Ferguson. Brown's careful, theological exposition with pastoral application will be helpful for any preparing to preach on this text.
Karen Jobes' 1, 2 and 3 John (Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Zondervan) is a careful exegetical work, aware of the literature, and up to date. I did not find the theology/application sections as compelling. David Allen's 1—3 John: Fellowship in God's Family (Preaching the Word; Crossway) provides expositions with a good bit of illustrative material. Birger Olsson's A Commentary on the Letters of John: An Intra-Jewish Approach (Pickwick) is a translation of a commentary that first appeared in Swedish. It is more technical and concerned with linguistic issues and background.
Bruce Chilton's Visions of the Apocalypse: Receptions of John's Revelation in Western Imagination (Baylor) is a helpful survey of how key themes in Revelation have been understood from the patristic era until today. Gerald Stevens' Revelation: The Past and Future of John's Apocalypse (Pickwick) provides a careful survey of the literary context of Revelation and its history of interpretation (particularly in modern America) and expounds what the books means for us today. Stevens aims to provide a sound footing to avoid common misuses of the book and for hearing the important message of the book today.
Four new systematic theologies were published this year. The multi-author Southern Baptist work, A Theology for the Church (B&H), edited by Danny Akin came out in a revised edition. In addition to some updating elsewhere, this edition contains two new chapters: a chapter on theological method from a missional perspective by Bruce Ashford and Keith Whitfield, and a chapter on creation, providence, and Sabbath by Chad Brand, which engages some of the recent issues of science and faith. Tony Lane's Exploring Christian Doctrine (IVP) is significantly briefer survey of theology that often does not argue a specific position. John Frame's Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (P&R) is the massive culmination of his theological work. Frame does not deal as much with historical theology, but seeks to summarize the biblical teaching on each topic. This is a significant, very helpful volume from a Reformed perspective. Michael Bird's Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction (Zondervan) seeks to explicitly organize theology around the gospel, though it is not always clear how this works.
David Wells' God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World (Crossway) is the positive answer to his critique of western culture in four previous books. Wells expounds the character of God summed up in his term holy-love, presenting this God as our great need and the answer to the superficiality of much of contemporary Christianity.
Graham Cole's The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation (New Studies in Biblical Theology; IVP) is a very helpful treatment of biblical theology. The introduction alone is very helpful in demonstrating how the Bible should be read as a whole. Cole also gives much attention to OT antecedents of incarnation in interesting ways. Robert Letham in The Message of the Person of Christ (BST; IVP) works through key texts on his topic from Genesis through Revelation. Letham expounds more specific texts than Cole while Cole gives more space to larger hermeneutical and theological topics. The books complement one another.
Christology, Ancient and Modern: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics (Zondervan), edited by Oliver Crisp and Fred Sanders, contains the papers from the first annual Los Angeles Theology Conference. These are significant essays from a broad range of contributors.
James Hamilton's What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism and Patterns (Crossway) is a great introduction to the topic of biblical theology, seeing how the Bible fits together as one grand story. The book is concise and readable. Hamilton does a good job of showing how this is not a mere academic pursuit but is concerned that we see our lives as part of the biblical storyline. For those already following biblical theology, From Creation to New Creation: Biblical Theology and Exegesis (Hendrickson), edited by Daniel Gurtner and Benjamin Gladd, is a collection of useful essays in honor of Greg Beale, one of the key voices in this discussion.
The latest volume in the Theology in Community Series, Fallen: A Theology of Sin (Crossway), edited by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson, lives up to the high quality of the previous volumes in the series. Leading biblical scholars and theologians trace the doctrine of sin through the scriptures and history, provide a systematic treatment and reflect pastorally on application today. This is a very valuable book in a day when people too often do not want to confront the reality of sin.
From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological and Pastoral Perspective (Crossway), edited by David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, is in J.I. Packer's words a "massive product of exact and well-informed scholarship." Essays from well-established scholars treat this doctrine from various angles in a comprehensive way. This is likely now the standard work affirming this doctrine.
In Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment (Zondervan), edited by Alan Stanley, the views range from works meriting salvation to works only determining rewards. I find most convincing Schreiner's argument that works serve as evidence of faith.
Christopher Green's The Message of the Church (BST; IVP) is a series of expositions on key NT texts concerning the church. The Community of Jesus: A Theology of the Church (B&H) edited by Ken Easley and Chris Morgan is a thorough analysis of the biblical teaching on the church as well as its history, purpose and mission.
Joseph Hellerman's Embracing Shared Ministry: Power and Status in the Early Church and Why It Matters (Kregel) draws from his prior significant NT scholarship by applying it to our church settings today. From Paul, he argues for a plurality of pastors who, while truly exercising authority, foster (without being heavy handed) a setting where the church functions as a family.
Why We Belong: Evangelical Unity and Denominational Diversity (Crossway) edited by Anthony Chute, Christopher Morgan, and Robert Peterson with its healthy, positive portrayal of denominational belonging and evangelical collaboration points the way forward for people of robust conviction and desire for cooperation.
The Unrelenting God: Essays on God's Action in Scripture in Honor of Beverly Roberts Gaventa (Eerdmans), edited by David Downs and Matthew Skinner, is a wide-ranging and diverse collection of essays. There are several helpful exegetical and theological essays, including Richard Hays' strong critique of the CEB translation.
Brian K. Blount's Invasion of the Dead: Preaching Resurrection (WJK) is a very engaging, stirring call to preach the literal, bodily resurrection of Christ as God's weapon for defeating evil and renewing the world. The book contains three essays developing the topic and three sermons illustrating the idea in action.
Michael Haykin and Steve Weaver have edited and republished An Orthodox Catechism by Hercules Collins, a leading pastor among seventeenth century English Particular Baptists. The catechism is a Baptist reworking of the Heidelberg Catechism and the editors have included a substantive introduction and biographical sketch of Collins.
Bruce Waltke's The Dance Between God and Humanity: Reading the Bible with the People of God (Eerdmans) is a collection of previously published essays with some real gems. You may be able to obtain these essays online or through a library.
Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual and Political Context (Zondervan) by two esteemed church historians, John Woodbridge and Frank James III, will be a great resource. Zondervan has also published a second edition of Everett Ferguson's Church History, Volume One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation, but there does not appear to be anything new in this edition.
Timothy George's very helpful Theology of the Reformers (B&H) is now available in a revised edition with updated bibliographies and a new chapter on William Tyndale. This book is engagingly written and gets to the heart of the pastoral and theological issues driving the Reformers.
Michael Parsons has edited Aspects of Reforming: Theology and Practice in Sixteenth Century Europe (Paternoster), which contains particularly helpful essays on various aspects of the thought and work primarily of Luther and Calvin.
Berndt Hamm's The Early Luther: Stages in a Reformation Reorientation (Eerdmans) is a translation of an important, originally German, book which places Luther in his medieval context and rejects the idea of a sudden breakthrough for Luther. Rather, Hamm demonstrates the gradual development of Luther's theology.
Michael Horton provides a compelling overview of Calvin's personal piety and practical theology in Calvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever (Crossway). Horton rightly notes that Calvin was primarily as pastor concerned for people to know and love God.
In To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin's Missional Vision and Legacy (Crossway) Michael Haykin and Jeffrey Robinson expound and illustrate the missionary impulse in Calvin's writings and work and in those who followed him.
Stephen R.C. Nichols' Jonathan Edward's Bible: The Relationship of the Old and New Testaments (Pickwick) is a significant work, which seeks to highlight the importance of Edwards' biblical exegesis compared to his work in other areas. Specifically, Nichols examines Edwards' work on the overall unity of Scripture.
In Politics and Piety: Baptist Social Reform in America, 1770-1860 (Pickwick), Aaron Menikoff debunks the idea that antebellum Baptists were concerned only with personal piety, unconcerned with the social ills of the surrounding world. From the minutes of local churches and associations, newspapers and other primary sources, Menikoff demonstrates the social reforming spirit of the Baptist churches of this era.
[Note: I am indebted to Brian Denker and Mike Garrett for helping me track down many books. Mike's sharp editorial eye also significantly improved the article. I am also deeply grateful to Bryan Brooks for hosting me for a week at his house, where I was able to complete the writing of this article.]
Top 5 Picks
N.T. Wright, The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential (Harper One).
Bruce Waltke, James Houston, and Erika Moore, The Psalms as Christian Lament: A Historical Commentary (Eerdmans)
Dale Ralph Davis, The Message of Daniel (BST; IVP)
Craig Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary, vol. 2 [3:1-14:28] (Baker)
Christopher Ash, Job: The Wisdom of the Cross (Preaching the Word Series; Crossway)