Category Archives: Books

The Presentation of Studies in the Pauline Epistles

This past November I had the privilege of revealing the “secret project” I had been working on for four years: Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo. We surprised him with it at the dinner celebrating the 50th Anniversary celebration of NIV, held during the annual ETS conference.  Here is the video of our presentation:

Zondervan has also posted brief interviews with me and my co-editor Jay Smith, highlighting some of the distinctive features of this collection of essays:

You can purchase it on Amazon and other places online.

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Noteworthy Book – Philippians: A Mentor Commentary

CoverAs some of you know, I have been working on a Philippians commentary for the past several years. What a privilege it has been to live inside this rich letter and see my joy in Christ and his gospel deepen as a result. Philippians has much to say to us as believers today, so I have written this commentary to help pastors, missionaries, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and all Christians understand and apply it to their lives.

I am excited to announce that it has finally been released in the United Kingdom (the publisher, Christian Focus, is located in Scotland) and will soon be available here in the United States and internationally. You can order it through Amazon or ChristianBook.com.

Here are the endorsements:

Matt Harmon explains Paul’s letter clause by clause, traces Paul’s argument, reads Paul’s argument in light of the rest of the Bible, and applies the letter to people today. He reminds me of two of his professors when he was working on his PhD at Wheaton: Doug Moo and Greg Beale.

Andy Naselli, Assistant Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis

 

Historically aware, exegetically astute, and theologically sensitive, Matt Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is full of insight and ideas for those who want to understand this beautiful epistle. He is not simply up to date on recent scholarship, but digs deeply and appropriately into evangelical commentaries of the past too, to enliven and enhance his own exposition. His suggestions for preaching and applying Philippians are crisp, clear, and eminently useable. A new go-to resource for pastors and students!

Dr Lee Gatiss, Director of Church Society and Editor of the NIV Proclamation Bible.

 

Our Lord calls his own to love God with all their heart, soul and mind (Mt. 22:37). This blend is seldom seen in commentaries, which tend to favor either the academic or the devotional. Authors write as believing pastors, or as detached scholars – which would seem to sunder what God has explicitly joined. Matt Harmon represents this happy marriage in his commentary on Philippians. Harmon has no less a keen eye for the particulars of the Greek text and academic illumination than he does for the splendorous and transforming truths that text communicates. It is clear that Matt has put the text under a microscope; it is just as clear that he is thrilled with the Savior and Gospel it reveals. This will now be my “go-to” book for teaching or preaching Philippians, joining Martin and Silva and Lightfoot and the others. I can’t commend Matt Harmon’s commentary on Philippians highly enough to pastors and students in all areas of church ministry and life. It is deep-rooted, solid, and broadly accessible. God grant that it receives the visibility and use it merits, to His glory and His church’s edification!

Dan Phillips, Pastor, Copperfield Bible Church

 

Matthew Harmon has given us a fresh and faithful reading of Philippians that will be a powerful help to all who preach and teach the word.

James M. Hamilton, Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

 

Matthew Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is a model of good commentary writing: clear prose, adequate interaction with the array of scholarly perspectives, and helpful application. I commend his work to students, teachers, and preachers who seek better to understand this important letter of Paul.

Douglas J. Moo, Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies, Wheaton College

 

Matthew Harmon is a gifted and trustworthy guide for helping us to understand and apply this Pauline epistle of joy. This commentary strikes me as just the right combination of what most of us need: clear prose, sufficient background and lexical information (without overwhelming the read in technicalities), insightful theological analysis, and practical pastoral application. Pastors and laypeople alike can benefit from this finely crafted work.

Justin Taylor, managing editor, The ESV Study Bible

 

This commentary is a study in clarity and balance. It is simple in expression, yet profound in insight. It is thorough in scope, yet selective enough not to overwhelm. It is informed by recent scholarship, yet avoids fruitless complexities. It draws on knowledge of ancient languages, yet makes its case in plain English. It is classic in its focus on God, Christ, and redemption, yet current in showing how a gospel from long ago is just as true and powerful today. In a word, this is a fine resource for serious students of Philippians in both church and college settings.

Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO

 

Matthew Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is an outstanding work. We find careful exegesis and a clear explanation of the the text. The commentary is theologically rich, in terms of both biblical and systematic theology, and so there is more than a running commentary. Harmon also applies the text to readers in practical ways. Scholars, students, pastors, and teachers will profit significantly from this work.

Tom Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

 

 

 

 

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Noteworthy Book – Hidden but now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery by G.K. Beale & Benjamin L. Gladd

The relationship between the Old and New Testaments is notoriously complex, and there are a variety of different ways of approaching the issue. I believe that one of the most fruitful is studying how the New Testament authors quote from, allude to, or echo Old Testament texts. Yet even when one does this, the way that NT authors interact with OT texts can often seem strange. At times they seem to assert that certain events fulfill what was promised in the OT, yet when one reads the OT text(s) in question it can sometimes be hard to see it.

Enter the new book by G.K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd: Hidden but now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery.

They use the concept of “mystery” as their entry point for exploring the relationship between the OT and NT. They define mystery as:

the revelation of God’s partially hidden wisdom, particularly as it concerns events occurring in the “latter days.”

Their starting point is how the term is used in Daniel, since that sets the foundation for how it is used in the NT. From there Beale and Gladd look at specific occurrences of the term mystery in Early Judaism, Matthew, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, and Revelation. They also include chapters on the concept of mystery in the NT where the specific word does not occur, as well as the difference between mystery within Christianity and the pagan mystery religions.

Also of note is an appendix by Beale entitled, “The Cognitive Peripheral Vision of Biblical Authors.” It tackles the thorny issue of cases where the NT authors appear to draw meaning from an OT text that goes beyond the conscious intention of the OT human author.

As a Ph.D student at Wheaton College, I had the privilege of learning from Dr. Beale, as well as become good friends with Ben (who was studying under Beale). I can think of no two men better qualified to trace the theme of mystery and tease out the implications for our understanding of the Old and New Testaments.

You can find an early review of the book here. It promises to be a significant contribution to our understanding of biblical theology and how the Old and New Testaments relate to each other.

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Noteworthy Book: What is Biblical Theology? by James Hamilton

Given that this blog is “a forum for all things pertaining to biblical theology” it is only fitting that this week’s Noteworthy Book is What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns by James Hamilton. He is an associate professor of Biblical Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and in my estimation one of the sharpest young biblical theologians in the evangelical world today. And in the interest of full disclosure, Jim is a friend.

In this short book, Hamilton defines biblical theology as:

the interpretive perspective reflected in the way the biblical authors have presented their understanding or earlier Scripture, redemptive history, and the events they are describing, recounting, celebrating, or addressing in narratives, poems, proverbs, letters, and apocalypses. (p. 16)

Thus, when studying the Bible

our aim is to trace out the contours of the network of assumptions reflected in the writings of the biblical authors. If we can see what the biblical authors assumed about story, symbol, and church, we will glimpse the world as they saw it. To catch a glimpse of the world as they saw it is to see the real world. (p. 19)

These three (story, symbol, church) form the basic structure of the rest of the book. Each of these sections contains several short chapters covering key subjects such as the plot of the Bible, imagery, typology, patterns, and the church’s setting in the story.

The greatest strengths of this book are its size and readability. Hamilton writes for those who are new to the area of biblical theology, making this an ideal book to give anyone in the church who wants to read and understand the Bible. Students in Bible colleges and seminaries will also find this book useful as an entry point into the field of biblical theology, though they will need other texts to orient them to the range of approaches to biblical theology as an academic discipline.

Those who want to see Jim’s attempt at writing a whole-Bible biblical theology are encouraged to see his excellent book God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. He maintains an excellent blog, and you can listen to his sermons here.

 

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Noteworthy Book – Four Views on the Apostle Paul

Many readers are already familiar with previous volumes in Zondervan’s Counterpoints series. The idea is to invite several respected scholars who hold different positions on a challenging topic to present their views and interact with each other’s essays. The latest entry in this series is Four Views on the Apostle Paul, edited by Michael F. Bird.

For my full review in the latest issue of Themelios, click here.

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Sabbatical Update

As you may know, I was on sabbatical during the Spring Semester of the last academic year. Since I have now finished that sabbatical (and the summer as well) and resumed by teaching responsibilities at Grace College and Theological Seminary. So here is a brief summary of what, by the grace of God, I spent my time working on:

  1. I finished the draft of my Philippians commentary. I have been working for almost four years (off and on) on this commentary in the Mentor Commentary Series by Christian Focus. It is now in the hands of the publisher, so Lord willing it will come out in 2014.
  2. I began working on a commentary on Galatians. Having written my dissertation on Galatians, I am excited to now be working on a commentary on Galatians. It will be part of a new series published by Broadman & Holman entitled Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation. Look for more details on this series down the road; the lineup of contributors is stacked! At this point I am still in the early stages of writing, but it is not due for another few years.
  3. I began co-writing a book on inaugurated eschatology in the life of the church. My friend Ben Gladd and I are under contract with Baker to write a book that explains how inaugurated eschatology applies to the different aspects of life in the church such as preaching, missions, prayer, worship, etc. The goal is to finish the manuscript early in 2014 with a likely publication date sometime in 2015.
  4. I wrote an essay entitled “Allegory, Typology, or Something Else: Revisiting Galatians 4:21-5:1.” Although I am not at liberty to discuss where this will be published, this essay is my attempt to explain how Paul is using Scripture in this challenging passage. I will be presenting a version of this essay in November at the annual conference of the Evangelical Theological Society in Baltimore.
  5. I wrote the introductory notes for Philippians in the forthcoming NIV Proclamation Bible. I will give more details when this is published later this month, but in the meantime you can find more information here.

I’m grateful to God for the opportunity to step away from the classroom to focus on these writing projects. May God use them to display the beauty of Christ and advance his kingdom in this world.

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Noteworthy Book – Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell

While there are a number of books on preaching, there is none quite like Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell. In this brief yet extremely helpful book, Millar and Campbell blend theological foundations with practical advice that will improve anyone’s preaching.

After noting the importance of prayer (ch. 1), the authors plead for preaching that changes the heart through expository preaching (ch. 2). Preachers must strive to avoid boring people (ch. 3) and focus on developing/articulating the big idea of the passage (ch. 4). In the longest chapter of the book, Millar and Campbell provide a theological and hermeneutical model for preaching Christ from the Old Testament (ch. 5). Suggestions for delivery (ch. 6) and seeking useful feedback (ch. 7)  prepare the way for the final chapter on building a sermon (ch. 8). Two appendices round out the contents: one on sample sermon critique between the authors and another on suggested resources.

I highly recommend this book. Despite being brief, it covers the broad range of issues necessary to think through to excel in preaching. The authors not only provide theological foundations but practical advice that will benefit all preachers regardless of age or experience. While I do not agree with every detail (e.g., I do not think the ideal sermon is necessarily 23-30 minutes long, and I am not a fan of using powerpoint), this book is worth your attention if God has called you to preach.

 

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Noteworthy Book: Understanding Biblical Theology by Klink & Lockett

As the name of this website indicates, I have a significant interest in biblical theology. In particular, I am interested in the academic discipline of biblical theology and the various ways that it is understood and practiced. Despite its prominence, biblical theology is understood and practiced in a variety of different ways, some of which are contradictory or at least in tension with each other.

Into this fog of confusion step Edward W. Klink III and Darian R. Lockett with their recent book Understanding Biblical Theology: A Comparison of Theory and Practice. In the introductory chapter they identify five “problems” that must be addressed in biblical theology:

  1. Old Testament connection to the New Testament: suggested ways include propheyc and fulfillment, christological readings, thematic connections, salvation history, and canonical context.
  2. Historical diversity versus theological diversity: does on see more continuity or discontinuity and how does that shape our understanding of the Bible?
  3. Scope and sources of biblical theology: is biblical theology limited to the original author and audience or include the contemporary audience? Does the canon serve as a boundary or should information from other sources be consulted and included (and if so to what degree)?
  4. Subject matter of biblical theology: about what or whom does the Bible speak? are there any limits? If so, what?
  5. Biblical theology as a churchly or academic discipline: if biblical theology merely descriptive or is it in any way prescriptive?

Based on their assessment of work done in the area of biblical theology, Klink and Lockett suggest a spectrum balanced on one end by history and on the other end theology. Along this spectrum they identify five difference “types” of biblical theology:

  1. Biblical theology as historical description: BT is a completely descriptive project and uses biblical history as its sole mediating concept. Thus the focus is on the biblical authors with no interest in meaning or significance for today [Example: James Barr]
  2. Biblical theology as history of redemption: While similar to the previous category, the difference is that the controlling category is redemptive history. The Bible reveals a progressive chronological unfolding of redemption. Use is made of major themes and overarching structural ideas developed along this redemptive historical timeline. The goal of such an approach is to benefit the church. This approach is strongly exegetically rooted with an eye to the whole testimony of Scripture. [Example: D.A. Carson]
  3. Biblical theology as worldview story: The primary category for this approach is narrative as both a literary and philosophical perspective. The emphasis falls on the overall storyline of Scripture with an attempt to balance literary, historical, and theological concerns. [Example: N.T. Wright]
  4. Biblical theology as canonical approach: Canon is viewed as both a historical and theological category. The emphasis is on the historical meaning of the text combined with the contemporary meaning of Scripture. [Example: Brevard Childs]
  5. Biblical theology as theological construction: This approach is rooted in the theological confession of the church and is often connected with the so-called “theological intepretation of Scripture” movement. It often attempts to position itself outside of the compartmentalized academic disciplines of biblical studies, systematic theology, etc. [Example: Francis Watson]

The authors make it clear that these are not mutually exclusive categories, and that many practice different forms of biblical theology. But these categories are devised to give some semblance of order to the often confusing expression biblical theology. There are two chapters devoted to each type of biblical theology. The first provides a detailed explanation and description, while the second provides identifies a practitioner of that approach and surveys their work. The concluding chapter provides a summary, including a very helpful chart that encapsulates how each type of biblical theology understands the five “problems” identified in the introduction.

Klink and Lockett are to be commended for their fine work. This is not to say their categories are perfect (they themselves admit they are not), nor will all embrace these distinctions. But they have significantly furthered the conversation, and those of us who teach biblical theology are indebted for this helpful introduction to the discipline and the various ways it is approached.

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Noteworthy Book: Canon Revisited by Michael J. Kruger

One of the most common attacks on the Christian faith is the attempt to undermine the New Testament canon. Critics make a number of claims to challenge the NT canon, such as: (1) the canon was decided only in the 4th century as a power play; (2) how can we know we have the right books in the canon; (3) there was widespread disagreement over which books were canonical; (4) what about all those “lost” books; (5) the authors of the various books had no idea they were writing Scripture. These and other claims are thought to cast serious doubt on the New Testament canon.

In response to these and other critical claims, Michael J. Kruger has entered the fray with his excellent book Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament. In responding to critical arguments against the NT canon, Kruger argues for what he calls a “self-authenticating model of the canon.” This self-authenticating model argues that the canonical books have three attributes: (1) divine qualities; (2) corporate reception; and (3) apostolic origins. The Holy Spirit uses these three attributes to authenticate the books of the NT canon.

In my estimation this is now the go-to book on the New Testament canon. Kruger’s self-authenticating model is the most holistic approach to dealing with the question of the canon. While it is an academic book with plenty of footnotes, on the whole I find it quite readable. Pastors, teachers, and even Bible study leaders can read this book and benefit greatly.

There is much more to Kruger’s book than can be briefly summarized here. Some of the material in nutshell form can be found on Kruger’s blog, which I highly recommend.

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Noteworthy Book: The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips

For various reasons, some books that should get more attention do not. One such title is The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview & Holding on Tight by Dan Phillips. While there have been a number of “gospel-centered” books published in the past 7-10 years, I can confidently say there is no other book quite like this. Let me explain why.

First, let’s start with the author. For those who do not know who Dan Phillips is, he proudly describes himself as “a Calvi dispie bapto gelical.” In other words, a Calvinist, dispensationalist, baptist, evangelical. He is best known as one of the writers for the Pyromaniacs blog, which has a deservedly large following for its “call it like it is” approach to biblical truth and evangelicalism. In addition he writes for his own blog named Biblical Christianity. All of this is in addition to his “real job” as the Pastor of Copperfield Bible Church in Houston Texas. In other words, Dan has lots of time on his hands 🙂

Dan has a writing style that is all his own. Its hard to describe, which is part of the reason you should go read his blogs. He has a way of communicating truth with insight and humor. But the humor is not of the cheap laugh variety; its the kind that engages the intellect while  “leaving a mark” because it hits so close to home (usually in a convicting way!).

This book is written from a desire to enable people to experience the fullness and power of the gospel in their lives. He argues that many of us have not grasped:

  • who we really are
  • what kind of world we are really living in
  • how the world really operates and where it is really going
  • who God really is
  • what his eternal plan really was
  • why we really needed him and his plan so desperately
  • what his terms–the Gospel–really were
  • what difference the Gospel will really make on our everyday lives

If you want biblically faithful, gospel-rooted, pastorally wise answers to these questions (or know someone who does), this book is an excellent choice. I had the privilege of reading the  manuscript before it was published, and I had a hard time putting it down.

Go out and buy a copy. Read it for yourself. Grab a friend (Christian or non-Christian) and read it with him. Use it in a small group study or for your Sunday School class. You won’t regret it.

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon