New Books of Note

March 3, 2015 — 1 Comment


I’ve interacted briefly with several of Baker Books’ Teach The Text commentary series (Romans, Job, Luke). A couple of additional volumes have been added to the series since then and I’ve been able to get a hold of the one on 1 Corinthians by Preben Vang (NT prof at PBA). We are currently going through 1 Corinthians at our church and this volume has been marginally useful in preparing for that. I’m not currently leading a small group but am providing resources to the small group leaders to better understand the text and field questions that may come up in group discussion. This particular volume does not seem well-suited for that task, but given the title of the series, that’s probably to be expected.

As it stands, this volume is best suited for readers who want a overview of the text more in-depth than the ESV Study Bible notes, and with hints and directions for actually teaching the text in either a sermon or Sunday School form. Toward that end, the book is a success and would serve readers well who don’t have a lot of other resources at hand. In general, that is kind of where this series fits. It is a good homiletical commentary that helps flesh out the big picture of the text more than anything. I don’t consider it a primary resource for digging into 1 Corinthians, but it has come in useful here and there in preparing the material for our small group leaders.

Preben Vang, 1 Corinthians (Teach The Text Commentary Series)Grand Rapids: Baker Books, April 2014. 272 pp. Hardcover, $29.99.

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Thanks to Baker Books for the review copy!


Another commentary series that I am much more enthusiastic about is Zondervan’s Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. The most recent volume published is by Mark Strauss on the Gospel of Mark. At the Zondervan Academic blog, you can read several helpful posts on it:

As with the other volumes (James, Ephesians, Matthew, Galatians, Colossians/Philemon, Thessalonians, Luke, Acts, 1-3 John), this one excels in given the kind of detailed exegetical overview you’d be trained to do in higher level language classes at seminary (or at least at Dallas). I wish I’d had access to this when our church went through Mark several years ago. Even more so, I’d like to have had this available to consult in my second preaching class which had us preaching from Mark and Genesis

I think the particular strength of this book is Strauss’ understanding of the structure of the book (see above post) and how he applies that throughout the commentary proper. Mark’s Gospel presents a tightly structured story and readers and preachers would do well to understand how to follow the flow. Strauss’s work will provide the kind of exegetical and structural guidance to do just that.

Mark Strauss, Mark (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)Grand Rapids: Zondervan, October 2014. 784 pp. Hardcover, $42.99.

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Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!


There was a lot of buzz about Karen Swallow Prior’s Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist back in the fall and it is still continuing. After reading it for myself, it is a combination of a great writer authoring an engaging narrative about an little known yet pivotal figure in 18th century England. Prior wrote her dissertation on Hannah More and now several years later has produced a popular level biography.

Hannah More was a pivotal figure in social reform in 18th century England. That statement probably doesn’t seem as revolutionary in 21st century America, but at the time it would have been fairly radical for a single woman to accomplish some of what More did. She began as a writer and then eventually an educator and abolitionist connected with William Wilberforce. She was also influential in improving literacy, so much so that it would not be too much of an exaggeration to say she “helped teach her nation to read” (162, also the title of chapter 10). More stands as an example of how to participate in cultural reform that springs from deep Christian convictions and because of that, she is example for good cultural engagement today.

In many ways, this is a book outside of my usual stream of reading. I don’t read many biographies, but I definitely should change that. I’m also not particularly up on my 18-19th century English history and social context. Prior’s book is not only a window into More’s life and development, but this historical and social context as well. As such, I found it an interesting read, but wasn’t as blown away or intrigued as I think many other readers have been. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why and still haven’t really settled on an answer. The book was definitely not boring, I just think because of the amount of hype attached to it, my expectations were too heightened. If I had just stumbled upon it on my own, I might have been more positive in my assessment.

Karen Swallow Prior, Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, AbolitionistNashville: Thomas Nelson, October 2014. 320 pp. Hardcover, $24.99.

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Thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy!


One of my favorite theologians is Kevin Vanhoozer. Several years back I was able to read and review The Drama of Doctrine. Now, this past fall Vanhoozer released a sequel of sorts to that work. Though aimed at the more popular level, this book still has some substantial theological depth. Readers familiar with Vanhoozer should expect nothing less. Rather than simply boiling down The Drama of Doctrine to brass tacks, Vanhoozer has expanded and furthered ideas from that book in a fresh composition. If you’re familiar with The Drama of Doctrine, you’ll recognize similarities, but this isn’t simply an abridged version of that book.

Instead, Vanhoozer takes up the theatrical metaphor for understanding doctrine and digs deeper into how that affects our understanding of spiritual formation. The first part of the book relates theology and the theater. The second and more meaty part unpacks “how doctrine makes disciples and how disciples do doctrine.” Vanhoozer moves from an overview of contemporary culture to an overview of the drama of redemption. From there he discusses what it means to “put on Christ” within the larger metaphor and then how that impacts our understanding of the local church and ultimately our eschatological hope.

While there is much more to say, this is basically a preview review since I agreed to post a full review at The Biblical Counseling Coalition. It should be available later in the spring. In the meantime, I’d encourage you to simply pick up the book for yourself. If you find the ideas intriguing, you’ll find it well worth your time to explore Vanhoozer’s larger body of work, including the book that preceded this one.

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing The Drama of Doctrine. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, September, 2014. 298 pp. Paperback, $30.00.

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Thanks to Westminster John Knox Press for the review copy!


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

One response to New Books of Note

  1. Hi,
    The zecnt of Mark by strauss is good commentary, I think it one of the best ones of that series, thoughtful applications and good historical detail. I also just bought Edwards on Luke in the pillar series and its quite good also maybe not as good as his Mark commentary. I would say Edwards Mark commentary is one of the best commentary’s around on Mark especially for preaching.

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