Interview with G.K. Beale on Revelation (NIGTC Commentary)

Gregory K. (G.K.) Beale is a biblical scholar. He is currently a professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. He is an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Dr. Beale has made a number of contributions to conservative Biblical hermeneutics, particularly in the area of the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament. He served as the president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 2004. In 2013, he was elected by Westminster Theological Seminary to be the first occupant of the J. Gresham Machen Chair of New Testament.

His books include Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (editor with D.A. Carson), We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, and IVP New Testament Commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Revelation?

I wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on “The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of St. John” at Cambridge University in England. I also taught a repeated course on an exegesis of the Greek text of Revelation at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

Pastors, students, and scholars. I put English in parentheses after Greek words so non-Greek readers can follow the Commentary discussion.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Revelation?

Use of the OT in Revelation; relevance of Jewish backgrounds to Revelation.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Revelation 4-5 were especially memorable, since the glory of God and the Lamb on the throne are the main point.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Seeing the unity of all Scripture coming to a peak in Revelation was very edifying. Also, understanding that the visionary parables in Revelation are an escalated heavenly continuation of Christ’s earthly parabolic ministry was encouraging.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Revelation?

The Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation

Smalley’s commentary (IVP); Bauckham’s Climax of Prophecy and his shorter monograph on Revelation with Cambridge University Press.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I just submitted a commentary manuscript on Colossians and Philemon for the Baker Exegetical Commentary series. I am also beginning to work on a commentary on the Pastoral Epistles for the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series (co-authored with Christopher Beetham).

I am about to submit a long article to a journal on Isaiah 65:20, as this relates to millennial debates.

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Interview with Richard Bauckham on Jesus and the Eyewitnesses

Richard J. Bauckham is an English Anglican scholar in theology, historical theology and New Testament studies, specializing in New Testament Christology and the Gospel of John. He is a senior scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.

In 2006, Bauckham published Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, described by many scholars as a paradigm shift in Gospels study. In this book, Bauckham argues that the Synoptic Gospels are based “quite closely” on the testimony of eyewitnesses, while the Gospel of John is written by an eyewitness, against the current scholarly consensus that the Synoptic Gospels are closer to the eyewitnesses and John further removed. The book won Christianity Today’s Book of the Year: Biblical Studies in 2007, the Burkitt Medal in 2008, and the Michael Ramsey Prize in 2009. Bauckham updated and expanded the book to respond to critics in a second edition, published in 2017.

Also, his classic work, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, is considered one of the best introductions to Revelation available.

1. You earned a Phd. in history from the University of Cambridge prior to your publications in New Testament studies and your teaching appointments at the University of Manchester and the University of St. Andrews. How did that season of your academic life inform your research into the Jesus of Testimony?

It was an excellent training in historical method. I like to think that, as a result, I have a better sense of how to assess historical evidence and how to develop historical arguments than some biblical scholars. There is a danger that biblical scholars learn their historical method only from the way other biblical scholars work, with the result that a kind of historical method evolves within biblical studies that doesn’t compare well with the way other historians work in other areas of history. I also have an insatiable historical curiosity, which leads me to pursue questions that may not seem to be of much importance or relevance – but which can then turn up material that actually does prove relevant to key issues in NT study.

2. Why do you think Jesus and the Eyewitnesses found an audience among non-academics, like pastors and even lay Christians, since most works of biblical scholarship tend to stay within the confines of the academy?

It was a surprise to me. One factor was clearly that the subject matter was of genuine interest to many people. At least in the UK I think the fact that it won the Michael Ramsey prize (given for a theological book that can be recommended to a wider than academic audience) helped it on its way. Given that I needed to pursue complex and sometimes technical arguments, I did try to write as clearly and accessibly as possible. Though I needed to discuss Greek, I never quoted Greek without giving a translation. Many scholarly monographs simply do not try to be accessible to non-scholars and, of course, we need scholarly books that pursue the scholarly discussion within the academy. But it is possible to write in a way that, without sacrificing rigour or detail, is more accessible than is often the case. Having said that, to appeal to a broader audience the subject matter obviously needs to be of real interest to such readers.

3. In the newly-released second edition of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses you respond to criticisms the first edition received. You expected the book to be controversial (p. xviii), but did the nature of the criticisms surprise you? Some critics misunderstood your arguments; yet in other cases, they may not have even read them (e.g. p. 546-547). Did you receive any feedback (reviews or otherwise) that lead you to reconsider any of your arguments, other than mere clarification or elaboration? If not, does this confirm that you are correctly interpreting the historical data (e.g. Tal Ilan’s Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity: 330 BCE – 650 CE) in relation to the Gospels?

I was a bit surprised when some reviewers grossly misunderstood arguments that, when I looked back at them, seemed to me to be presented as clearly as anyone could wish. I think what the good criticisms mainly did was to lead me to seek better evidence for some arguments that were relatively weakly supported in the evidence I offered. In these cases I think I have much improved the arguments (now in the 2nd edition). One thing I realised for myself after the book was published was that I should have said more about how the issue of Gospel genre is important for my approach. I think now I would describe what I called the “Petrine inclusio” (in Mark and Luke) in a slightly different way, though without substantially affecting the argument. Another clarification that I should probably have made (I simply took this for granted as obvious) is that of course my arguments do not guarantee the historical accuracy of everything in the Gospels. No historical argument could possibly do that. The best historical sources are not immune from error. Eyewitnesses get things wrong – of course. But usually they are at least the best qualified to provide broadly reliable accounts.

4. In the second edition, in the substantially new chapter titled, “Who Was the Beloved Disciple? (Continued),” you challenge the notion that John the son of Zebedee wrote the Gospel of John. Some who praised your book in aggregate, found fault with this particular argument. Given that your view of the authorship of the Gospel retains both apostolicity and eye-witness testimony (p. 552-553), what is the real issue in your view? Why does this topic touch a nerve?

four evangelists
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

Well, I suppose it disturbs a traditional way of reading the Gospel which is so familiar to many people that they think the authority of the Gospel depends on it. Since I argued that the Gospel of John was actually written by an eyewitness, a disciple of Jesus (which is rarely maintained by other Johannine scholars), I was surprised by the vehemence with which some “conservative” critics responded. Which eyewitness, which disciple of Jesus is surely comparatively unimportant? I suspect that these scholars are used to an apologetic kind of argument about the authorship of the Gospel and the identity of the Beloved Disciple that avoids facing up to the real difficulties of supposing the BD is John the son of Zebedee and wrote the Gospel. For example, they claim that in Mark only the Twelve are with Jesus at the last supper but ignore the fact that in Mark only the women disciples are present at the cross. I find it much easier to attribute the Gospel to an eyewitness if the eyewitness was not one of the Markan trio (Peter and the sons of Zebedee). I also find it enriching to see that this Gospel offers us a perspective on Jesus from outside the circle of the Twelve.

5. Also in the second edition, in the substantially new chapter titled, “The End of Form Criticism (Confirmed),” you write that “many New Testament scholars seem to suppose that the more sceptical of the sources they are, the more rigorously historical is their method” (p. 613). From the perspective of a historian such as yourself, why is that an unwise approach? How would you briefly summarize a better approach?

Historians are concerned to assess the general reliability of their sources. They are not usually in the business of reducing the reliable sources to a minimum whose reliability they can consider 99% certain. In history we must usually be content with a good probability of reliability. If a source was produced by people who were in a position to know what they are talking about, then it is treated as innocent unless proved guilty. We do not need additional evidence in support of everything it says. To discredit it we need good evidence against it. The problem with being too sceptical is that we discard lots of good evidence. If we are too credulous we credit bad evidence, but if we are too sceptical we discredit good evidence. History is in some ways much like ordinary life. in believing or doubting what we are told, we need to keep our critical faculties alert, but if we treat everything as suspect unless we can prove it we would hardly be able to manage our lives at all.

6. How has your research regarding the Jesus of Testimony increased your own affections for Christ?

I haven’t really thought about this, but I think the effect of my proposal is that the better we know the Gospels the closer they really do bring us to Jesus. We shouldn’t think of the Gospels as texts that get in between us and the real Jesus, but as texts that bring us to Jesus. That doesn’t mean harmonizing their different perspectives artificially, but realizing that the reality of Jesus is such that we need the varying perspectives of the Gospels to get us anywhere near to who he truly was and is.

7. What’s next for you? Are your current research and writing projects about the Jesus of Testimony? How can readers follow your ministry?

The major project I have just completed is a book about Magdala, the home town of Mary Magdalene, which lies a few miles south of Capernaum and has now been quite extensively excavated. These are, I think, the most important recent and current excavations for relevance to Jesus and the Gospels. I have edited the book (other contributors include archaeologists) but have written a lot of it (about 95,000 words) myself. It will be published by Baylor University Press in autumn 2018.

There is a big volume (700 pages) of my collected essays (written over many years and previously published in lots of different journals and books) to be published very soon (hopefully it will be available at SBL). Title: The Christian World around the New Testament. (It is meant to be a companion to my earlier collection The Jewish World around the New Testament.) It is a quite miscellaneous collection, but includes quite a lot about the Gospels.

I hope that fairly soon I will get together a second volume (following Jesus and the God of Israel) of essays on NT Christology.

I shall say no more just now about current and future projects, because too often my expectations are not fulfilled – and then people are disappointed. (Yes, there are going to be two commentaries on John, if I live to write them – but I really have no idea when!)

I have a website (richardbauckham.co.uk) and I always keep the lists of publications there up to date. Lately I have been bad at keeping it up to date in other respects (such as forthcoming speaking engagements) but mean to do better!

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Interview with Dale Ralph Davis on Joshua (Christian Focus Commentary)

Dale Ralph Davis JoshuaDale Ralph Davis is Minister in Residence of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. Prior to that he was pastor of Woodland Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He is well known for his excellent Old Testament commentaries, and his book The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Joshua?

I had taught through the ‘Former Prophets’ several times in seminary classes, so, after I left the seminary the first time for a pastorate, I decided to try to pull together my notes and studies on Joshua and see if I could set it down in a coherent exposition. I’m sure that I had also preached on a number of passages in Joshua and that also fed into my writing.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

I suppose the proper answer is ‘pastors and interested lay people.’ I’ve had responses over the years from both ‘categories’–pastors often indicating that it was helpful for their preaching series in Joshua, and a number of lay people who may say that they’ve used it as a ‘pony’ as they have been reading through Joshua in their devotional reading. For pastors, I think that sometimes if they come on a commentary that ‘grabs’ them, they will be far more likely to preach through that biblical book.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Joshua?

I don’t know if my commentary makes a contribution exactly to studies of Joshua, but I think it is distinctive to a certain degree. It is an expositional commentary, it does not deal in detailed exegesis. As an expositional commentary it will stoop to application, and yet it’s not strictly a ‘devotional’ commentary in the smaltzy sense of that word. It tries to set forth a theo-centric approach to every passage, so that the focus is on what Yahweh is up to, on what God is doing not so much on our needs. The triune God is so much more interesting than we are, and yet, oddly enough, once we see him in the text, we at the same time find our needs met as well.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

I don’t know that any passage stands out in this regard. I find it very satisfying to see 24:29-33 as the climax of the book and not a bunch of floor sweepings to be collected at the end. The 3 burials in this last passage all take place in the land that was promised (the theme of chapter 1), in promise dirt, and therefore point to Yahweh’s faithfulness to his ‘old’ promise. So these burial notices at the end are not a few sundry and extraneous details but are hammering home Yahweh’s relentless faithfulness.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Ruins of ancient Jericho
Ruins of ancient Jericho

I think I was ‘personally edified’ in working with every passage. That, I think, must be the case. As John Bright once said, there are no non-theological texts in the Bible. Every text is meant to put the triune Yahweh on display in some way. When one sees him, one is bound to tremble or worship or be comforted and settled–whatever is appropriate. There are no cold facts about God, only warm truth, and every passage, however dry it may seem, delights in him in some way.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Joshua?

There are several that come to mind. Of commentaries, I think pride of place for me would go to Adolph L. Harstad’s in the Concordia Commentary series.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I am currently working, beyond the OT, in the Gospel of Luke and also continuing to work in the first ‘book’ of the Psalms. No need to follow my work or ministry–I don’t blog or do any cyber-stuff.

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Interview with Douglas Sean O’Donnell on Matthew (Preach the Word Commentary)

odonnell matthew

Douglas Sean O’Donnell (Phd. candidate at the University of Aberdeen) has nearly 20 years of pastoral ministry, which includes helping plant three churches with College Church, a historic Reformed interdenominational church in Wheaton, IL. Pastor O’Donnell has written nine books, including two children’s books, a Bible study on the Psalms, and commentaries on the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and John’s Epistles. With R. Kent Hughes, he co-wrote and edited The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Matthew?

Whenever I’m asked, “What is your favorite book in the Bible?” I usually say, “the Gospel of Matthew” (the book of Job is a close second). I love Matthew because it is dear to my heart. Part of my conversion story involves reading through the First Gospel and being struck by the story of the young rich ruler (or simply, to Matthew, the “young man”). I knew that if I, as a nineteen-year-old man, wanted to follow Jesus that the Lord of heaven and earth demanded everything. I also love the Gospel because it is a Gospel that highlights Jesus’s teaching ministry, the life-changing ministry of his authoritative word. Some of the unique features of the Gospel are inspiring to me—e.g., the Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commission, and even the woes to the scribes and the Pharisees.

With all that in mind, when R. Kent Hughes called me to contribute to the Preaching the Word commentary series, I wanted to write on Matthew. However, I was young at the time and thought it would be presumptuous if I returned the call and asked for a large book and a Gospel. So, I thought I’d say “yes” to being a contributor and ask for a short epistle, maybe 1 John. Jude? However, before I could reply, Kent left a message while I was at church, saying, “And I’d like you to do Matthew, if you’re up for it.” What remarkable providence! I was indeed up for it.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

Pastors and laypeople are the target. I have had a few friends tell me that they spend their morning devotions first reading a passage in Matthew, then reading my commentary, and finally praying that God would apply those truths—read and “preached”—to their lives. I highly recommend that practice, whether it is my commentary or others like it.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Matthew?

Like all the volumes in the Preaching the Word series, my commentary on Matthew is homiletical. While this is not completely “unique” (there is the Reformed Expository Commentary series, ancient commentaries, etc.), it fills a small niche today. So, while I exegete the text, and interact with scholarly options (see my extensive endnotes), the main contribution comes for the preacher. The commentary will help the pastor see how someone else divided the text into a sermon outline, and then explained, illustrated, and applied God’s Word. I would also hope my exegetical imagination (God has gifted me with creativity grounded in orthodoxy) and wit (I have my Irish father’s clever and dry humor) adds some freshness and originality.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Zechariah and Elizabeth
Zechariah and Elizabeth

As I mentioned above, Matthew 19:16-30 was a text that God used to save me and bring me under the Lordship of Jesus. Another text that has been life-changing is Matthew 15:21-28, the story of the Canaanite woman. That narrative has been my area of study for my PhD. Sometimes doctoral students get bored with their topic (so much research on one small area of the Bible). For me, these eight verses have breathed life into me. Her story is now my story. I have lived with this woman (the inspired text that is!) many years, and I love Jesus more because of her. She has taught me the nature of faith. Her coming with her need. Her posture. Her persistance. Her prayer. Her utter dependence. What “great faith!”

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

As a pastor and scholar, my goal is to demonstrate and declare, in Peter’s language, the “excellencies” of Christ (1 Peter 2:9). With every section of Matthew’s Gospel, I encountered the incarnate and resurrected Jesus. I was taken aback. Reformed. Renewed. Edified. Encouraged. Stunned. Changed. Face down in adoration.

I was also edified by my congregation’s response to the sermons that were the basis of the commentary. Pastors don’t often (sadly) get notes of encouragement. When nearing the end of my sermon series on Matthew, I received this incredibly kind and edifying note during Pastor’s Appreciation Month:

My heart really overflows with appreciation when I think of you. . . . In your consistent pointing to Jesus and marveling at Him in each sermon, my apathetic thought that “my best years with the Lord were behind me” has been drowned by ever increasing love for my Lord! When I think back to the hunger in my soul during college to hear more about Jesus in church, and then I think about how I have been fed on three years of Christ-exalting preaching under your pulpit—I AM THANKFUL!

That note, still today, helps me strive to faithfully proclaim and exalt—through voice or pen—our Lord Jesus Christ.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Matthew?

There are a number of excellent resources out there. We live in the land of plenty! For expert scholarly exegesis of the text I recommend the commentaries by [W.D.] Davies and [Dale] Allison Jr. and John Nolland. [Jefferey A.] Gibbs is solid. [Ulrich] Luz can be helpful. For clear exegesis of the text, along with excellent theological reflections and applications, I recommend Grant Osborne’s work. For a helpful overview of Matthean theological emphasizes, I recommend Charles Quarles, A Theology of Matthew: Jesus Revealed as Deliverer, King, and Incarnate Creator. For a short overview on Matthew, listen to my interview with Nancy Guthrie (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/help-me-teach-the-bible-douglas-odonnell-on-matthew).

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I am working on four commentaries: on the Song of Songs, the Gospel of Mark, and two on the book of Job—one scholarly, the other homiletical.

To check out writing projects, see my Amazon author page.

To listen to sermons, go to Westminster Presbyterian Church (wpchurch.com). I will be preaching the Gospel of Mark, starting in November 2017. The Gospels are the life of the church!

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Interview with C. Hassell Bullock on Psalms (Teach the Text Commentary)

C. Hassell Bullock PsalmsC. Hassell Bullock (Ph.D., Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion) is professor of Old Testament studies at Wheaton College and former president of the Evangelical Theological Society. Dr. Bullock has served as both a professor and as a pastor in 10 different churches. He is the author of An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books, Encountering the Book of Psalms, and An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books. Dr. Bullock resides in Wheaton, Illinois.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this two-volume commentary on Psalms?

I have taught the Psalms for many years at Wheaton College (IL), and led my students in singing them from the various Christian traditions. Many of these students have come to recognize and use the Psalms as a resource of faith and guidance for life. Additionally, during my thirty-six years on the Wheaton faculty, for thirty of those years I have served the church in pastoral and educational capacities, most of which involved preaching on a regular basis. In my last position I preached a sermon series on the Psalms as I was writing the commentary.

2. Who is the intended audience for the Teach the Text series? Would your Psalms commentaries benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The intended audience is pastors and teachers in the church, but I have also written the commentary in such a way that it will be useful for the college and seminary classroom. I have also revised my introduction to the Psalms, Encountering the Book of Psalms (Baker, rev. ed., 2018), and brought it into a coordinate relationship with the commentary, dealing with some issues in the introduction that seem less appropriate for the commentary.

The format of the commentary consists of ten rubrics: Big idea, Understanding the Text, The Text in Context, Key Themes, Outline/Structure, Historical and Cultural Background, Interpretive Insights, Theological Insights, Teaching the Text, and Illustrating the Text. Pastors and teachers of the church will find helpful insights into the theology of each psalm, guidance for preparing a sermon on each psalm, and useful illustrations to reinforce the sermon or lesson. Professors of Bible will also find the canonical approach to contain many insights about how the book was compiled and the various thematic strands that weave their way through the many collections of psalms and the Psalter as a whole. Lay persons may also find the commentary a helpful way to study and rehearse the psalms on a continuing basis by reading the commentary as a devotional guide.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Psalms?

This commentary follows the canonical method and helps the reader to see the background against which each of the five books of the Psalter was collected and how the various themes of the book as a whole correlate. While there are multiple themes in the Psalms, some portions of the Psalter are dominated by specific themes and emphases that stretch through entire collections.

4. What section or passage of these commentaries was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Psalms from the Algonquian Bible
Psalms from the Algonquian Bible

Book 5 of the Psalter (Psalms 107-150) is composed of numerous layers of material, most of which reflects Israel’s return from the Babylonian exile and the rebuilding of the temple and restoration of worship. It is the most stylized of the five books, and deals with the historical and theological issues of Israel’s reconstitution as a people in the postexilic era. While Books 1 (Pss. 1-41) and 2 (Pss. 42-72) are composed largely of David psalms, his voice falls away significantly in Books 3 (Pss. 73-89) and 4 (Pss. 90-106), with only one David psalm in Book 3 and two in Book 4, but comes back strong again in Book 5, and that for a theological reason.

5. What personally edified you in writing these commentaries, increasing your affections for Christ?

I have been personally edified by discovering and rediscovering the loving and faithful character of God portrayed in the Psalms, and the unfaithful nature of humanity, and to learn that Paul’s lesson is so acutely taught in the Psalms, that where sin abounds, grace more abundantly abounds.

A second point of edification, among others too numerous to name, is that in biblical theology and the worship of the church, creation and redemption should stand alongside each other, and are the validating truths that the God of Scripture is worthy of our worship. The Creator God and the Redeemer God are the same God, and redemption, acclaimed and appropriated by the psalmists, can only be recognized in its full dimensions and power when the Redeemer is also the Creator. Indeed, only the Creator can redeem.

6. Besides your commentaries, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Psalms?

1. John Calvin, A Commentary on the Psalms (5 vols.)

2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible

3. Amos Hakham, Psalms, A Commentary, 3 vols. (Jerusalem Commentary series)

4. Konrad Schaefer, Psalms (Berit Olam series)

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I am working on a theology of the Psalms. Also I just finished reading the galleys for the revision of my Encountering the Book of Psalms, that will appear in May 2018 (Baker Academic).

I am on Facebook and can receive messages there. Also LinkedIn.

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Interview with Joel Green on Luke (NICNT Commentary)

Joel Green Luke commentary

Joel B. Green, Ph.D. (University of Aberdeen, Scotland) is a New Testament scholar, theologian, author, Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Green is a prolific author who has written on a diverse range of topics related to both New Testament scholarship and theology. His books include Dictionary of Jesus and the GospelsJesus of Nazareth: Lord and Christ: Essays on the Historical Jesus and New Testament ChristologyWhat about the Soul?, Neuroscience and Christianity Anthropology. He is an ordained elder of the United Methodist Church.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Luke?

I had written on the death of Jesus in the Gospels, and a book called How to Read the Gospels and Acts. The invitation from F.F. Bruce to write this commentary, though, was in some ways a life-changer, since it focused my attention early in my career on the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. I found myself more and more interested in what it means to “inhabit a narrative,” and to learn how narratives help us to think about what God is doing in the world and how we respond faithfully to him.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

Commentaries in the NICNT are especially for pastors and students, and then for scholars. In fact, most of the correspondence I receive about my commentary on Luke comes from preachers, adult education teachers, and theological students.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Luke?

When it was first published, my commentary on Luke stood out for its relative lack of attention on what was going on “behind the text” – its general lack of concern with determining “what actually happened,” with the sources Luke might have used, that sort of thing. Instead, it focused on what Luke has given us in his Gospel, on Luke’s theological representation of historical events.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how best to represent Luke’s own theological concerns, his spirituality, his understanding of salvation and discipleship. And I worked a lot on how best to invite my readers into their own encounters with Luke’s Gospel.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622
“Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

It’s hard to pick out a single section as particularly memorable, since the whole process of research and writing was meaningful and fruitful.

Actually, what was most fascinating to me was preparing to write. While working on Luke, I often spoke on the Gospel at family camps or pastors’ retreats or conferences or adult education classes. I listened carefully for the sorts of questions that people raised about this or that part of Luke. These helped to guide me in my thinking about Luke, and in my work on Luke.

As time has gone on, the section of Luke that I’ve returned to over and over has been Mary’s Song, Luke 1:46-55. I’ve come to think of this song as Luke’s understanding of God (his faithfulness and saving purpose) and of human response to God in a nutshell.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

I remember the first time I taught the Gospel of Luke in a seminary classroom, and read on the course evaluations this comment from a student: “What was serendipitous about this course? Luke! Who would’ve known?” I often felt the same way as I worked on the commentary. In fact, when I first started writing, I was on sabbatical in Durham, England, working away, often alone, in a study carrell in one of the basements of the library. Unhindered by protocols that usually govern library work (!), I found myself praying, even singing, as I experienced Luke leading me by the hand through Jesus’s Spirit-saturated ministry.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Luke?

Most importantly, I encourage people to read Luke’s Gospel, and his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles! Additionally, they will find a wonderful resource in the Dictionary of Jesus & the Gospels. In the revised edition (2013), I wrote the essay on the Gospel of Luke, so people can find additional bibliography there.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I have several related projects in the works, including the NICNT on the Acts of the Apostles, and two volumes in the “discovering” series: Discovering Luke and Discovering Acts.

People can follow me on Twitter (@JoelBGreen), Academia.edu (fuller.academia.edu/JoelBGreen), or Facebook (facebook.com/joel.b.green). I try to keep an updated website at JoelBGreen.com.

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Interview with Kevin Youngblood on Jonah (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary)

Kevin Youngblood (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Bible and Religion at Harding University.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Jonah?

I first became interested in Jonah when I translated it as a student in college for my first Hebrew readings course. The book came to life for me when I was able to see all of the rhetorical and literary devices often only discernible in the original language. My doctoral studies in OT interpretation (Septuagint) and text linguistics with Professor Peter J. Gentry equipped me with many more tools for even greater insight into the genius of this literary master piece. When Daniel Block, Editor in Chief for the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the OT, invited me to contribute a volume to the series and serve on the editorial board, Jonah was one of the books we all decided should be part of the series debut. I volunteered to submit a sample of how to handle Hebrew narrative for the series, made Jonah my test case, and ultimately wound up writing the entire volume.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The goal of the commentary is to make the latest insights of biblical scholarship, especially in the areas of text linguistics and discourse analysis, accessible to pastors, Bible class teachers, and interested Bible students. The editorial board and authors make a special effort to either avoid technical language or, where it cannot be avoided, explain it very simply and succinctly, and to maintain an emphasis on the book’s primary message to both the original audience and the contemporary one. We really want the insights we enjoy as handlers of the Hebrew text to become available to the church as a whole. Therefore our primary target audience includes pastors, church leaders, seminary students, and Bible class teachers. Scholars have also been receptive to the early volumes in the series due to the attention to cutting edge research and insights as well as the methodological distinctiveness of our linguistic/literary approach.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Jonah?

The consistent application of discourse analysis to the entirety of the Book of Jonah is the first unique feature of the commentary. In addition, I tried to draw insights from some lesser known but nonetheless insightful resources such as T. A. Perry’s delightful treatment in “The Honeymoon Is Over: Jonah’s Argument with God” and a little known, seldom referenced article by Isaac Kikiwada and Arthur Quinn on the relationship between Jonah and Genesis 1-11. Bringing these resources to light by letting them inform my own treatment brings much needed and deserved attention to these generally overlooked works. I also think that concluding each exegetical unit with a discussion of the unit’s canonical and practical significance helps to locate Jonah both in the Christian Bible and in the Christian life – two emphases seldom found in traditional biblical commentaries.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Jonah by Jami al-Tavarikh
Jonah by Jami al-Tavarikh

I especially enjoyed and struggled with Jonah 4:5-11. This concluding section of the book has always puzzled me. It’s hard to know exactly what Elohim’s point is with the object lesson involving the plant, the worm, the sun, and the wind, but writing this commentary really forced me to think about the significance of this final exchange between Elohim and Jonah in light of the entire book. I found that once I understood the author’s penchant for genre manipulation and his decision to parody the well known commission narrative genre, the meaning of this final unit of the book opened up to me. The experience resulted in a deepening of my own understanding and of my own ability to relate appropriately to the God whose mercy knows no bounds, especially those that separate me from my most dreaded enemies.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

I was continually amazed by YHWH’s patience, and even playfulness, with Jonah. YHWH brilliantly balances Jonah’s severity, depression, and anger with a gentle playfulness that encourages both Jonah and the reader to take ourselves less seriously and God more seriously. Seeing YHWH in this light renewed my appreciation for many of the occasions when Jesus revealed this side of God in his own ministry, especially in his dealings with certain priests and certain Pharisees whose concern for their own and their people’s survival sometimes blinded them to the larger mission of God.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Jonah?

Jonathon Magonet’s “Studies in the Book of Jonah”

T. A. Perry’s The Honeymoon Is Over: Jonah’s Argument with God

And for technical issues I recommend Jack Sasson’s Jonah in the Anchor Bible Commentary

7. What’s next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I am currently working on the Lamentations volume in this same ZECOT (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the OT) series as well as on a separate commentary on the Septuagint version of Lamentations for the NETS (New English Translation of the Septuagint) Commentary series to be published by Scholars Press.

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Interview with Richard Belcher on Job (Christian Focus Commentary)

Richard Belcher, Jr. (Phd. Westminster Theological Seminary) is the John D. and Frances M. Gwin Professor of Old Testament and the Academic Dean at both RTS Charlotte and RTS Atlanta. He is an ordained minister in the PCA and pastored an urban nondenominational church in Rochester, NY for ten years before pursuing the Phd.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Job?

My PhD work was done in the area of Wisdom Literature. My dissertation examined the breakdown of the deed-consequence relationship in Ecclesiastes. This relationship is prominent in wisdom literature. Proverbs teaches a nuanced view of the deed-consequence relationship. It does not guarantee that blessings will go to the wise, but there is a clear connection between the two. If a person does not understand how a proverb works, it is easy to draw inappropriate conclusions about the deed-consequence relationship. Job and his friends wrestle with this problem because the friends draw the conclusion that Job must be suffering because of sin he has committed. The reader knows from chapters 1-2 that Job is not suffering because of sin. The book pushes the reader to wrestle with the question of innocent suffering and God’s sovereignty.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

This commentary seeks to explain the many speeches in the book of Job and shows how they relate to the overall message of the book. It is easy to get lost in the argument as it goes back and forth. The commentary would be great benefit to pastors as they try to understand the book of Job to preach from it. Students would benefit from it if they study the book of Job. It is not a technical commentary and so lay Christians should be able to understand it. There are Study Questions after each chapter that makes it useful for a Bible study. It could also be used for devotions as someone reads through the book of Job.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Job?

There is something unique in this commentary that very few commentaries have. A personal story of suffering is told as one reads the commentary. Nik and Lindsay Franks had a son named Pierce born April 12, 2011 at 23 weeks. He was born almost seventeen weeks premature and was not supposed to live. Nik and Lindsay wrote each day concerning their struggles and reported on Pierce’s condition. After each chapter of the commentary their story unfolds until the day Pierce is released from the hospital. This personal example of suffering puts a human touch on the discussion of suffering that unfolds in the commentary

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

The speeches of Job show that a person who is suffering is not always consistent in how they respond. Job is deep in despair at times and sees no hope. These times of despair come when he is talking with his friends and they are accusing him of sin as a reason for his suffering. Job also wrestles with his relationship with God and his negative perception of how God is treating him. As the drama unfolds, it is fascinating to see how Job’s hope grows stronger even in his despair. He begins to see that God is his only hope even as he struggles with God. He looks for an arbiter, a witness in heaven, and then a kinsman-redeemer. Job ends his speeches with a strong statement of his innocence (chap. 31).

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Job by Gerard Seghers
Job by Gerard Seghers

After each section of the commentary there are reflections on what this means for God’s people today. Many of these reflections focus on how Christ relates to Job’s suffering. The friends believe that someone suffering as much as Job must have committed a grievous sin. There is a parallel with the Jewish leaders who questioned how Jesus could be the Son of God and be hanging on the cross. It was edifying and encouraging to see the many ways that Job’s suffering related to Christ and how this is a blessing to God’s people who are suffering. There is also a concluding chapter on theological issues covered in the book of Job.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Job?

The commentaries that helped me the most were [John] Hartley [NICOT], [Tremper] Longman [BCOT], and [Norman C.] Habel [OTL]. A book on Job with an interesting angle is Robert Fyall, Now My Eyes Have Seen You: Images of Creation and Evil in the Book of Job. Two books that deal with suffering in general are D. A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil and John Currid, Why Do I Suffer? Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I am finishing up a book on the theology of wisdom literature that will focus on Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. A list of my publications can be found at the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) website, the Charlotte campus. RTS also has a free mobile app that has seminary lectures on it. Many of the OT lectures are ones I have given.

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Interview with John Harvey on Romans (EGGNT Commentary)

John Harvey RomansJohn D. Harvey (Th.D., Wycliffe College) is the Dean of the Seminary and School of Ministry at Columbia International University. He joined the faculty of CIU’s Seminary and School of Ministry in 1992 and taught New Testament and Greek until 2011. He has served as dean from 2011 until the present. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. He has had opportunities to teach in Germany, the Netherlands, Moldova, Zambia, and South Africa. His books include Interpreting the Pauline Letters and Anointed with the Spirit and Power. He is an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary?

My doctoral work focused on Paul’s letters. I have taught Romans (both Greek and English Bible) previously as well as New Testament Theology, which included a major section on Paul’s thought. I recently completed work on Interpreting the Pauline Letters in Kregel’s series, Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

As the General Introduction to the EGGNT series notes, the volume can serve a variety of readers, including students, pastors, and professors. It will be most helpful for readers who have at least some understanding of Greek grammar and syntax.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Romans?

This volume is not a commentary in the strict sense of the word; it is an exegetical guide as the series title indicates. As such, it seeks to provide a comprehensive, in-depth guide to the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of Romans. It also provides scholarly bibliography on important topics related to each paragraph of the letter as well as suggestions on how to move from text to sermon.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

I found that working on the letter’s closing (15:14-16:27) was particularly enjoyable, including thinking through the significance of the extended greetings in chapter 16.—perhaps because I had not taken the time previously to work through it in detail.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Apostle Paul
Apostle Paul, 14 Century icon

Working through the text in detail and at length was an enriching experience, especially seeing the way in which Paul “unpacks” the richness of the gospel that is “God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes” (1:16).

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Romans?

As the Introduction notes, Longenecker’s commentary explores the history of scholarship at some length; Schreiner’s commentary does a good job of discussing the overall argument of the letter; Moo’s commentary is helpful on exegetical details; Jewett’s commentary is helpful on the structure of each passage and on scholarly bibliography as a whole.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I hope to have an expository commentary on Romans submitted to the publisher by the end of 2017. It builds on the exegetical work of the EGGNT volume with a focus on communicating the message of the text. I would then like to take a similar approach either to Matthew’s Gospel or to Paul’s prison letters.

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Interview with Lydia McGrew on the New Testament Gospels and Acts

Mcgrew hiddenLydia McGrew is a widely published analytic philosopher, home schooling mother, blogger, and the wife of philosopher and apologist Timothy McGrew. She received her PhD in English from Vanderbilt University in 1995 and has published many articles in theory of knowledge and probability. Her work has appeared in such journals as Philosophical Studies, Acta Analytica, the Journal of Philosophical Research, and Erkenntnis. She and Timothy McGrew co-wrote the article on the resurrection of Jesus for the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, and she wrote the article on historical inquiry for the Routledge Companion to Theism. She specializes in both formal theory of knowledge and its application to topics such as the evaluation of testimony and the evaluation of miracles. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband and children.

1. What inspired you to write the book Hidden in Plain View? What does the title mean?

My husband, Tim, really inspired me to write this book. He had encountered the argument from undesigned coincidences in the older writers he was reading and found it very exciting, and he began incorporating it into the talks he gave at churches. In 2014 I began reading about it, and by the spring of 2015 I was just as convinced as he was that it needed to be brought to a 21st-century audience in a new book. We agreed that whoever got the time first would write the book, and that happened to be me.

The title refers to the fact that these coincidences are right there in the text of the Bible. They don’t require specialized knowledge to see them. Yet at the same time they are easy to miss if you aren’t looking for them. So they really are hidden in plain view. Once you have seen them, you can’t “unsee” them, yet you might easily overlook them if your attention were not drawn to them.

2. Please give an example of an “undesigned” coincidence. How do such coincidences show that the Bible is reliable?

An example that a lot of people find intuitively forceful starts with the place in Matthew 14:1-2 where Herod is speculating about who Jesus might be. Herod says that this must be John the Baptist risen from the dead. Matthew (and only Matthew) records that Herod said this “to his servants.” If one stops to think about it, it’s a little surprising that Matthew would know what Herod was saying to his servants. In fact, this is precisely the kind of situation where a skeptic or a liberal critic would probably say the whole thing was made up, a fictional detail, because how could Matthew know what Herod was saying to his servants? But if you go to Luke 8:2-3, you find a list of women who were contributing to Jesus’ ministry. Among these is Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager. This explains how the Christian community, including Matthew, could know what Herod said to his servants: One of Herod’s chief servants was married to a woman who believed in Jesus and was supportive of his ministry. There are many more such coincidences in the Bible.

These coincidences show that the Bible is reliable because the best explanation for them is that the authors really had a close connection to the events. The authors are describing different aspects of a reality that fit together in this coincidental way, without any effort on the part of the authors. They just describe what they happen to know, and the details fit together. Neither Matthew nor Luke seems to have been thinking of the other passage when they wrote these two passages. They are completely different contexts. Luke wasn’t trying to provide an explanation for the passage in Matthew. He just happened to know that Joanna, the wife of Chuza, was one of Jesus’ followers. This casually explains the passage in Matthew. This is what witness testimony is often like. Different witnesses mention different bits and pieces of the truth, and these fit together without any special attempt on the part of the witnesses to make that happen, because truth itself is consistent and contains all sorts of causal relationships like this.

3. What can we learn about the authors of the books from these coincidences?

The distribution and frequency of these coincidences point to the conclusion that the authors were close to the facts, knew what they were talking about, and reported accurately. For particular authors we can say even more. For example, the author of the Gospel of John appears to have been an eyewitness of the events he records and to be a very scrupulous recorder. He reports a lot that is not in the synoptic gospels, and he is confirmed repeatedly. The author of Luke and Acts definitely was a companion of the Apostle Paul and was a meticulous “detail person.” In general the undesigned coincidences support the claim that these authors either were witnesses themselves or were in contact with witnesses, which indirectly supports the traditional ascriptions of authorship of the books. I think we can also learn that the authors of these books don’t seem to be changing things for reasons unconnected with facts, such as literary reasons or a desire to make a theological point. New Testament scholars far too often attribute changes in reportage, disconnected from truth, to the authors of the Gospels. They’ll say, for example, that John changed the day of the crucifixion or that the authors of the gospels knowingly manufacture dialogue that never took place or deliberately displace a teaching of Jesus to a context other than the one in which it occurred. The undesigned coincidences really push back against that view of these authors and give us reason to think that they were truthful in a perfectly normal sense of the word, that they didn’t play literary games like that.

4. What contribution does your book make to the discussion of the Synoptic Problem?

The Four Evangelists
Matthew. Mark, Luke, and John as depicted in the Book of Kells

My book argues that the synoptic problem really doesn’t matter much to conclusions about the reliability of the Gospels. The synoptic problem is taken to a big deal because of invidious assumptions against direct knowledge in the allegedly dependent portions of the synoptic gospels. So if someone says that he accepts Markan priority and the two-source hypothesis, he will often build in the assumption that Matthew had no independent access to the truth of the events in the parts of Matthew that are similar to Mark and that, where Matthew differs from Mark in some account, Matthew is just redacting or changing Mark without any truth-connected justification. But if, as my book argues, all of the Gospel authors had significant, independent knowledge of the truth, then it becomes more of a mildly interesting puzzle for scholars to decide which one came first and exactly where the literary dependence between them lies. “Markan priority” shouldn’t import all of this baggage from redaction criticism. In several places I show independent, reliable knowledge on the part of Matthew or Luke even in passages that appear very similar to Mark. So their independent information does not show up merely in the totally separate “special M” or “special L” material, though of course it does show up there. I have tables coded to indicate where a coincidence shows the reliability of, say, Matthew or Luke through confirmation of unique information. I also show that coincidences go in all different directions, with different Gospels acting as explanatory in different coincidences. So no redaction-critical theory based on some particular theory about the synoptic problem is going to explain these.

5. How has writing this book increased your affections for Christ?

Bonhoeffer famously said, “When God calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Even for those of us living in comfortable circumstances, the call is there. We’re called to die daily. And all Christians experience times of discouragement, doubt, and bitterness. It’s at those times that we have to hang on to the knowledge that Christianity is true. This evidence has helped me to be even more confident of that truth.

Another thing that these coincidences have done for me is to help me picture what really happened more vividly, which makes Christ and his apostles come alive. As I researched the undesigned coincidences about the Last Supper, for example, I got a more vivid sense of why he washed the disciples’ feet. As I researched the coincidences concerning Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance by the Sea of Galilee, I got a clearer sense of what the Apostle John was like as the author of the fourth Gospel and what that meeting was like.

6. How has this book changed people’s perspectives on the New Testament?

As of now, the book has been out officially only since March 1, so it hasn’t had a whole lot of time yet to make an impact. But I think it is changing some people’s minds about the boldness with which we should argue. I just saw an apologist recently saying that he has decided to make use of all of the Pauline epistles in his arguments rather than just the ones acknowledged to be genuine by everyone, including liberal New Testament scholars. I can’t prove that this is due to my influence, but I have been in contact with him, and this is the kind of thing that I’m urging. Similarly, I recently read a draft of a review of my book written by a philosopher interested in apologetics, and he was convinced that we need to take what I call in my conclusion the “forward position.” This means not deferring to the consensus of New Testament scholars across the ideological spectrum but rather just going where the evidence leads, which is actually in what would be called a more “conservative” direction. I’m also glad to report that Gary Habermas has publicly clarified since my book has come out and since he wrote an endorsement for it that Christian apologists should endorse the reliability of the Gospels generally, not just a more minimal set of facts. So I think I’m having an influence in that area, and that’s quite important.

7. What’s next for you? How can people follow your ministry?

I intend to ramp up my speaking on the subject of the book. I’m available by Skype to speak to church groups or apologetics groups that aren’t nearby, and I would like to do more speaking locally and within the distance of an easy day trip from where I live in southwest Michigan. I intend to keep on doing my work in technical philosophy, even in areas that might not seem related to Christianity or the philosophy of religion; it’s important to “keep my hand in,” as the British say. I fully expect that my ministry through private correspondence will continue to increase. There has been an uptick in that since the book came out. I’m constantly getting e-mails from strangers with questions. People like to make contact with an author, and I have access to resources that can help them. My web page portal to my blogs and to places where people can buy Hidden in Plain View is lydiamcgrew.com. I also encourage readers to contact me with questions or if they would like to schedule a Skype or local talk. My e-mail address is lydiamcgrew@gmail.com.

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