New Books of Note

The following reviews are by Nate Claiborne



When it comes to teaching or preaching a book of the Bible, there are plenty of resource and commentaries one could choose from. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity check out several volumes from Baker BooksTeach The Text series. If you’re not familiar, each of the volumes in the series offers the following units for each section of Scripture commented upon:

  • Big Idea
  • Key Themes
  • Understanding the Text (traditional outline, context, background, exegetical and theological insights)
  • Teaching the Text (connection of big idea and themes aimed toward teaching context)
  • Illustrating the Text (pointers to potential illustrations of the particular text)

This specific volume by the late R. T. France is both the first volume published on a Gospel and France’s last commentary. France is a particularly noted expositor when it comes to the Gospels (he is known for his Matthew and Mark commentaries) so it is fortunate that he was able to contribute to this series. While this volume won’t replace more established volumes on Luke, it is helpful to consult because of the format of the series.

Along those lines, my most significant complaint is that the illustrating the text suggestions seemed repetitive. That is to say, several resources or persons kept coming up as illustration ideas over and over. Some of this might be due to the fact that certain themes and applications continually come up within the Luke. That being said, it is still a generally useful feature if you’re planning to preach or teach the text.

Another issue to keep in mind is that as a trade off for having sections like “Illustrating the Text,” the actual verse by verse comments can be sparser than one would expect given the size of the book. It is probably best to think of the commentaries in this series along the lines of those in the Tyndale series, but with added sections aimed at making the text easier to teach. If you approach this volume from that perspective, and use it in tandem with other more extensive commentaries, it should prove useful in your particular teaching ministry.

R. T. France, Luke (Teach The Text Commentary Series)Grand Rapids: Baker Books, October 2013. 416 pp. Hardcover, $39.99.

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Thanks to Baker Books for the review copy!


While you are probably already aware of Tim Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, there is a perhaps lesser known book on prayer that you should notice. Released about a month before Keller’s, Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel’s Beloved Dust: Drawing Close to God By Discovering the Truth About Yourself is a different sort of book on the topic. While it is equally personal as Keller’s, Goggin and Strobel’s book is focused more on unpacking our creaturely dependence on God, as well as our status as beloved sons and daughters in our relationship to our heavenly Father. Together, these serve as the basis for prayer. If you are not dependent on God, there is no need to pray. Yet, if you recognize your dependence but not your status as beloved, you might not want to pray. Therefore, the twin emphases of the book are that we are humble creatures who are broken and in need of rescue and we are met in our brokenness by Jesus who then enables us to be in loving relationship with God.

Unpacking these emphases takes readers on a journey back to the original intentions of God in creating us (chapter 1). From there we explore our creatureliness from the vantage point of being time bound (chapter 2), as well as our general finitude and frailty (chapter 3). This can be compounded by our brokenness and our desire to hide within it (chapter 4), but the good needs of the gospel is that Christ has taken on our dust and dustiness and this changes everything (chapter 5). Chapter 6-9 make the turn toward re-thinking prayer in this light and focusing on our relationship as beloved dust in the sight of our Creator.

In reading this book, you won’t find quick tips on a better prayer life. Instead, you are taken on a journey to reorient your basic understanding of your relationship with God and your experience of his presence. It is an attempt to rebuild from the ground up how you conceive of who you are, who God is, and how your are related in Christ. As such, it seems like an excellent book for someone frustrated with their spiritual growth or lack thereof. Likewise, if you’re feeling distant and alienated from God but don’t know where to start, this book will hopefully offer insight. While not a quick solution, it is a necessary corrective for establishing an understanding of our relationship with God in a biblical theological perspective. It is a book I will revisit in the months ahead and hope to pass along to others as well.

Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel, Beloved Dust: Drawing Close to God By Discovering the Truth About YourselfNashville: Thomas Nelson, October 2014. 240 pp. Paperback,$16.99.

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Thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy!


As noted by authors G. K. Beale and Mitchell Kim in the preface, “the substance and basic thesis of the book is distilled from G. K. Beale, The Temple and The Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God” (7). That basic thesis was developed into a 7 week sermon series by Kim, who was a Ph.D student of Beale’s at Wheaton. That material was then translated back into written format and expanded slightly (this book has 11 chapters instead of 7). As a result, “Some material has been lifted verbatim from the original book; most has been reworked to communicate more concisely and clearly” (8). Thematically, this book is tracing the development of Eden through Scripture. Starting with Eden as a temple (chapter 1), on to the call to expand Eden (chapter 2), Eden potentially lost (chapter 3), and Eden remixed (chapter 4, the tabernacle/temple) and restored (chapter 5, promises in the prophets). Then it moves to the New Testament where we see Eden rebuilt (chapter 6, on Jesus), expanding (chapter 7, through the church), it’s ministry (chapter 8, our priestly role), and it’s eventually complete expansion (chapter 9, the New Heavens and New Earth). The final chapters explain why this theme has been obscured, as well as offer some practical reflections.

After I noted all this from the preface and table of contents, my first thought was, “Do I even need to read this book?” Having read the bigger book on which it is based, it didn’t seem like it was totally necessary. But, because it is Beale, I ended up giving it a quick read/skim through. Another reader who really has the time and energy could probably give you a better idea how specifically this book relates to the bigger one. My take away was that this is a much more accessible version of the main ideas in Beale’s bigger book and so more likely to get a wider reading. I could recommend this book to a variety of people and they could read and profit from it. Only a really dedicated reader is going to wrestle through the The Temple and The Church’s Mission (but they’ll be glad they did).

Because I had already read Beale’s larger volume, this one wasn’t as mind-blowing as it could have been. However, I’m glad it is published because I think readers unfamiliar with Beale now have a better entry point to his biblical theological ways. Interested readers should pick this up, and if they want more, move on to the larger volume or some of Beale’s other biblical theological works (like this one).

G. K. Beale & Mitchell Kim, God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to The Ends of The EarthDowners Grove, IL: IVP Books, October 2014. 215 pp. Paperback, $17.00.

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Thanks to IVP Books for the review copy!


Much to my surprise, a copy of Studies in The Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo showed up on my door step a few weeks back. I don’t think I actually requested it, but it is the type of book I certainly might have. If you are familiar with the landscape of Pauline studies, you are certainly familiar with Douglas Moo. Whether it’s his Romans commentary, his Colossians and Philemon volume, or most recently, his work on Galatians, Moo is a Pauline scholar par excellence. I’ve also profited from his work on James, as well as his New Testament Introduction co-authored with D. A. Carson.

Here, two former students, Matthew Harmon and Jay Smith (who taught several of my friends at Dallas), have edited a collection of essays in his honor. The essays are split into three categories. First, there are those dealing with exegetical questions in Paul (featuring contributions by D. A. Carson, Moo’s son Jonathan, and others). Second, there are those dealing with Paul’s use of Scripture (featuring contributions by Craig Blomberg and Grant Osborne). Lastly, and most interesting to me, are the essays on contemporary Pauline scholarship. Here we have essays from G. K. Beale (“The Eschatology of Paul”), Tom Schreiner (“Understanding Truth According to Paul”), and N. T. Wright (“A New Perspective on Kasemann? Apocalyptic, Covenant, and the Righteousness of God”). Also worth noting are the essays by James Dunn (“What’s Right About the Old Perspective on Paul”) and Stephen Westerholm (“What’s Right About the New Perspective on Paul”).

After reading through several of these and perusing the book as a whole, I don’t think I would buy it if I had to pay full price. It is a great resource if you’re really into Pauline studies. But for me, only the final part of the book was of real interest and the essays there, while interesting, wouldn’t be enough to warrant spending the full price on the book. On the other hand, now that it’s in my possession, I’ll definitely hold onto it. I doubt I’ll ever read it cover to cover, but as I continue to wrestle with Paul, I’m sure I’ll come back to it from time to time.

Matthew S. Harmon and Jay E. Smith, ed., Studies in The Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. MooGrand Rapids: Zondervan, December 2014. 320 pp. Hardcover, $49.99.

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Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 13:40 -- john_hendryx

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