New Studies in Biblical Theology
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The New Studies in Biblical Theology series is edited by D. A. Carson and published by Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press in the UK) and InterVarsity Press. Carson introduces each volume with a one- or two-page series preface, and each preface begins with these two paragraphs:
New Studies in Biblical Theology is a series of monographs that address key issues in the discipline of biblical theology. Contributions to the series focus on one or more of three areas: (1) the nature and status of biblical theology, including its relations with other disciplines (e.g. historical theology, exegesis, systematic theology, historical criticism, narrative theology); (2) the articulation and exposition of the structure of thought of a particular biblical writer or corpus; and (3) the delineation of a biblical theme across all or part of the biblical corpora.
Above all, these monographs are creative attempts to help thinking Christians understand their Bibles better. The series aims simultaneously to instruct and to edify, to interact with the current literature, and to point the way ahead. In God’s universe, mind and heart should not be divorced: in this series we will try not to separate what God has joined together. While the notes interact with the best of scholarly literature, the text is uncluttered with untransliterated Greek and Hebrew, and tries to avoid too much technical jargon. The volumes are written within the framework of confessional evangelicalism, but there is always an attempt at thoughtful engagement with the sweep of the relevant literature.
This Excel spreadsheet is a master Scripture index for the New Studies in Biblical Theology series. It combines the Scripture indexes into a single spreadsheet and places an asterisk by each page number where there is a discussion rather than merely a reference or brief comment. The plus and minus signs on the far left expand and collapse the rows for the corresponding books of the Bible.
After Carson's standard opening to each volume of the series, he concludes each series preface with some comments about that particular volume. These comments are included below after each title.
1. David Peterson, Possessed by God: A New Testament Theology of Sanctification and Holiness (1995).
I am delighted that the inaugural volume in the series is by David Peterson, and on an topic of personal interest to any thoughtful Christian. But Dr Peterson's treatment is far from hackneyed or trivial. His aim is to show that much of the New Testament treatment of sanctification stresses what used to be called 'positional sanctification' or the like—-and that much godly living, Christian assurance, stable faith and Christian maturity stem from a firm grasp of what the Bible says in this regard.
2. Raymond C. Ortlund, God's Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery (1996).
This volume, the second in the series, traces out a biblical theme that has been largely overlooked in this century. My colleague Dr Ray Ortlund has combined scholarly and pastoral gifts to examine afresh what it means to confess that Yahweh is the Bridegroom of his covenant people Israel, and that Christ is the Bridegroom of the church. Not only does the development of this theme link large swathes of the canon together, but it simultaneously discloses the profoundly personal nature of God's covenanted love, exposes the odium of spiritual adultery ('whoredom'), and, conversely, enriches our view of marriage.
3. Paul W. Barnett, Jesus and the Logic of History (1997).
This volume interacts thoughtfully and tellingly with the literature of the 'third questers'. Dr Barnett offers important contributions to the manner in which we may responsibly work as both historians and theologians to understand not only the nascent Christian church, but also the historical Jesus whom they confessed. This study yields fresh insight not only into Paul's thought, but also into the relationship between Paul and Jesus. Dr Barnett's work deserves wide dissemination.
4. Daniel J. Estes, Hear, My Son: Teaching and Learning in Proverbs 1-9 (1997).
This volume, the fourth in the series, is an exposition of the prominent themes in Proverbs 1—9, dealing with what the French would call formation. Our English word 'education' doesn't quite catch it, as our word is a bit too restricted to the merely cerebral. Nevertheless, it is the holistic vision of 'instruction', of formation, that occupies the attention of Dr Estses. His work not only illumines some important chapters of the Old Testament, but serves as a salutary reminder for the people of God today to keep certain fundamental priorities clear.
5. Henri Blocher, Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle (1997).
Henri Blocher is a theologian of the very first rank, and still too little known outside the francophone world. Steeped in the Reformed tradition, he is not chained by it, as this volume attests; he is able to think through the interlocking contributions of historical theology, biblical theology and systematic theology, and come to fresh conclusions in the light of Scripture, without overturning all that is valuable from the past. But this book has an importance beyond its contribution to reflection on original sin. Western culture has moved away from thinking that the human dilemma is bound up with sin that calls for repentance; it prefers to think that our dilemma is bound up with epistemology that calls for creative discourse that remakes our world. We no longer answer to the God who is our Maker and Judge; we answer to our restrictive interpretative communities. In such a world, it is important for Christians to think systematically about their faith, for we are invovled in a systemic worldview clash whose parameters become more sharply focused with every passing year. If we cannot agree on what the problem is, we certainly cannot agree on what the solution is—-which in this case jeopardizes the gospel itself. So this is a book to be read and throught through with great care.
6. J. Gary Millar, Now Choose Life: Theology and Ethics in Deuteronomy (1998).
Dr Millar's volume nicely nestles into the second category described above. This study helps make sense of the book of Deuteronomy—-not only of Deuteronomy as a whole, but of many difficult passages within it precisely because Dr. Millar keeps his eye on the flow of thought and the literary and theological shape of the entire book. Here and there he also includes tantalizing hints about the ways in which the theology of Deuteronomy should be integrated into the entire canon.
The sixth volume of the series will benefit not only serious students of Scripture, but preachers who want to work their way through Deuteronomy in the course of their regular ministry.
7. Craig L. Blomberg, Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions (1999).
Dr Blomberg’s volume is an extraordinary achievement. With remarkable compression, this book not only guides the reader through almost all the biblical passages that have a bearing on poverty and wealth, but weaves the exegesis into a biblical theology that is simultaneously faithful to the historic texts and pastorally sensitive to the immense issues facing today’s church. Dr Blomberg cannot simplistically condemn wealth: he has learned from Abraham, Job and Philemon. Nor can he exonerate acquisitiveness: he has learned from Amos, Jesus and James. The result is a book that is, quite frankly, the best one on the subject. It will not make its readers comfortable, but neither will it make them feel manipulated. Read it and pass it on.
8. Murray J. Harris, Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ (1999).
This volume by Professor Murray Harris combines the meticulous scholarship for which he is known, and the careful unpacking of a biblical theme that is widely neglected. Doubtless the West's involvement in slavery in centuries past has contributed to our reluctance to perceive what Professor Harris has made obvious: very often when our English translations speak of 'servant', the Greek writers are thinking of a slave. But serious Christians will not be satisfied with a cloak of euphemisms. They will want to grasp, so far as they are able, what the biblical writers were saying to their first readers. Professor Harris's study probes not only the linguistic matters but the historical, legal and social contexts that defined slavery in the first century—-and he does this in service to his careful and probing delineation of what it means to be a 'slave of Christ'.
Perhaps I may add a personal note. It was with profound regret that his colleagues at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School bade farewell to Murray and his wife Jennifer when they left us to return to New Zealand. We are grateful to God for the sustaining grace that links us together in the gospel across the thouasands of miles—-not least in a valuable work like this one.
9. Mark A. Seifrid, Christ, Our Righteousness: Paul's Theology of Justification (2000).
Dr Mark Seifrid is no novice with respect to justification in the thinking of the apostle Paul. Quite apart from the 1992 publication of his doctoral dissertation, Justification by Faith: The Origin and Development of a Central Pauline Theme (Leiden: Brill), he has continued his work on this theme in constant study that has generated a series of careful essays. He is persuaded, rightly, that while the 'new perspective on Paul' has made some gains and overturned some errors, its diverse forms converge in several ill-judged errors that touch something central in Christian thought: how men and women may be right with God. Dr Seifrid not only expounds the place of justification in Paul's thought, but shows how the apostle fits into his own historical context, and how writings on this theme fit into the Christian canon. For Dr Seifrid understands that the issues turn not only on minute exegesis, but on exegesis that is grounded in central biblical themes and terminology. But he is no slave to mere traditionalism. He does not hesitate to amend more traditional formulations that he judges inadequate. Everywhere in this volume there is a careful listening to texts.
Dr Seifrid would be the first to acknowledge that in some ways this is an introductory essay, a survey of the whole. Detailed exegesis and reflection belong to other volumes. But it is this holistic vision that makes this book so powerful. One may disagree here and there with minor exegetical points, while coming away with a much better grasp of what is at stake. We perceive in the welter of contemporary discussion on justification that there are some fundamental truths, truths bound up with the honour and glory of God, that must not be ignored or minimized. This book has a prophetic quality, and my earnest hope is that Dr Seifrid will not prove to be without honour in his own country.
10. Barry G. Webb,Five Festal Garments: Christian Reflections on the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther (2000).
This volume by Dr Barry Webb makes the Five Scrolls (the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther), the five 'Festal Garments', come alive. There is an easy grace in Dr Webb's style that masks great learning. At home with literary criticism, historical questions, the challenges of different genres, and contemporary disputes about the Scrolls, he interacts with just enough of such discussions to make hish exposition rich and nuanced but not so much as to bog the reader down in endless detail. Moreover, for each scroll Dr Webb reflects on its contribution to the Old Testament, its place in Jewish liturgy, and its importance to the Christian canon. Here is biblical theology that is not reduced to atomistic reading on the one hand or to uncontrolled typology on the other. This volume will not only help thinking Christians understand their Bibles better, and therefore the God of the Bible, but (I cheerfully predict) it will form the substance of not a few sermons delivered by preachers who for the first time dare expound the Five Scrolls.
11. Andreas J. Köstenberger and Peter T. O'Brien, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission (2001).
It is a special delight to see this volume put in its appearance in the series. Dr Köstenberger is one of my former students, and his revised dissertation, published by Eerdmans, attests his longstanding, competent interest in mission as well as in close exegesis. Dr O'Brien, both friend and colleague, is well known not only for his major commentaries, but also for his own publications in the area of mission—-the fruit both of scholarly interest and of his own experiences in India and elswhere.
Together they have written a biblical theology of mission that listens carefully to the biblical texts, and follows the Bible's 'story-line' without flattening the diverse emphases of the various biblical books. Here is scholarship that matters: careful and even-handed, yet of transforming significance for all Christians serious about the mission of the church of Jesus Christ.
12. Robert Fyall, Now My Eyes Have Seen You: Images of Creation and Evil in the Book of Job (2002).
For many readers, Job has been a closed book, or, at most, a book with which they have only a superficial acquaintance. They know it is about suffering, and not just any suffering but unjust suffering. They may even recall that such suffering is Job’s lot, that God has permitted Satan to have a relatively free hand with the unfortunate man, and that Job begins by taking it very well, but over the course of several cycles of debates between Job and his ‘miserable comforters’ he becomes more and more convinced of his own righteousness and of the unfairness of what he is experiencing. Eventually, in several highly symbol-laden chapters, God scolds Job but does not give him a direct answer to his most burning questions. Then the book closes with a happy ending. This, more or less, is what casual readers know of the book of Job.
What are we to make of this? In fact, we do not begin to gain a real grasp of the message of the book of Job and of its contribution to the canon, apart from a more detailed grasp of its imagery and drama. Here Dr Fyall is a sure-footed guide: not only does he lecture in Old Testament, but he preaches regularly in a church that draws several hundred university students–—something that does not usually happen unless the preacher has something to say from the Bible, and
says it well. In this book many more can listen in with pleasure and profit.
13. David W. Pao, Thanksgiving: An Investigation of a Pauline Theme (2002).
In a day with more than its share of whining, self-pity, lawsuits and dissatisfaction, this volume by my colleague Dr David Pao has a prophetic element to it. Numerous studies have treated Paul’s ‘thanksgiving’ sections—-exploring parallels in first-century literature, noting their ties to broader themes in the corpus of Paul’s writings, and teasing out their rhetorical devices. But very few treatments of this theme in Paul comprehensively reflect on the theology of thanksgiving, and how such theology is deeply embedded in Paul’s thought and in the gospel itself. Dr Pao supplies the lack, and does so in a way that is both informed and edifying. His study is not only the stuff of biblical theology and grist for many sermons, but will prove to be the occasion for self-examination, repentance and a new resolve to be thankful.
14. J. Daniel Hays, From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race (2003).
This volume combines fine technical scholarship on complex matters of history and race with a prophetic call to Christians to abjure racism. On the one hand, it traces out much of what the Bible says about the diversity of races and cultures, against the background of Ancient Near Eastern social history (its treatment of the ‘curse of Ham’ is particularly penetrating and convincing); on the other, it exposes some of the glib, unbiblical, and frankly immoral stances that not only characterize a fair bit of Western scholarship, but continue to surface in our attitudes and relationships. Dr J. Daniel Hays is able simultaneously to make us long for the new heaven and the new earth, when men and women from every tongue and tribe and people and nation will gather around the One who sits on the throne and around the Lamb, and to cause us to blush with shame when we recognize afresh that the church of Jesus Christ is to be already an outpost of that consummated kingdom in this fallen world. This book deserves the widest circulation and the most thoughtful reading, for it corrects erroneous scholarship while calling Christians to reform sinful attitudes. If the book is sometimes intense, it is because the problems it addresses are not trivial.
15. Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Biblical Theology of the Hebrew Bible (2003).
The Christian teacher or preacher who has attempted to give an overview of the Old Testament, whether in a local church or in a college or seminary setting, knows how difficult it is to organize the material in a way that is fair to each part, faithful to the historical setting and literary genre of each part, and yet a component of the Christian canon. Here Dr Stephen Dempster is a fresh and surefooted guide. He would be the first to acknowledge, of course, that one could organize the documents of the Hebrew canon a little differently. Nevertheless, his reading of the storyline of the Old Testament is fresh, provocative and helpful—-and doubtless will prove to be the stuff of many sermons and lectures. His closing chapter points to some of the links that bind the Old and the New Testaments together, an obviously urgent goal for the Christian preacher and teacher. For we hold that we should ultimately be striving for what the Germans call eine gesamtbiblische Theologie, a genuinely biblical theology, a ‘whole-Bible theology’ (as opposed to a merely Old
Testament or New Testament theology). In a time and setting in western culture when there are far more bitty and picky thinkers around than well-informed ‘big-picture’ theologians, Dr Dempster’s volume is an important corrective.
16. Peter Adam,Hearing God's Words: Exploring Biblical Spirituality (2004).
In recent decades the notion of ‘spirituality’ has become astonishingly plastic. People judge themselves to be ‘spiritual’ if they have some aesthetic sense, or if they are not philosophical materialists, or if they have adopted a pantheistic view of reality, or if they feel helped or reinvigorated by the ‘vibrations’ of crystals. Even within a broadly Christian heritage, many writers appeal to ‘spiritual disciplines’ that are utterly divorced from the gospel and detached from the teaching of Scripture. Against the backdrop of these cultural developments, Dr Peter Adam encourages clear thinking: he traces the notion of spirituality through some of the turning points of Scripture, and finally grounds it in the gospel of Jesus Christ and its full-blown application to our lives. By appealing both to the Bible and to influential voices in the history of the church (notably John Calvin), Dr Adam manages to combine biblical theology and historical theology in an admirable synthesis. His academic training, years of pastoral ministry, and now principalship of a theological college, ensure that this book simultaneously informs the mind, warms the heart, and strengthens the will. And from the vantage of three decades of personal friendship, I gratefully attest that what Dr Adam writes, he also lives.
17. G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church's Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (2004).
Of the three approaches to biblical theology listed above, this volume follows the third. Dr Greg Beale traces out the theme of the tabernacle/temple across the Bible’s story-line, illuminating text after text as he goes. But more, he shows that the significance and symbolism of the temple draw on cultural assumptions, with the result that his theology is well grounded not only in exegesis but also in history. And beyond that, he ventures some suggestions about the meaning of the temple in both the Old and the New Testaments that break new ground, enabling thoughtful readers to perceive connections in the text of Scripture that doubtless escaped them in the past. The importance of this book therefore lies not only in the competent handling of its chosen theme, but also in three other things: its evocative unpacking of the theme of the temple in its relations to broader structures of thought, including the kingdom of God; its modelling of the way biblical theology is to be done; and its capacity to cause readers to perceive fresh and wonderful things in the Scriptures, and bow in worship and gratitude.
18. Peter G. Bolt, The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Mark's Gospel (2004).
At a time when many theologians are tempted to depreciate the role of the cross in the canonical Gospels, or at very least to interpret it in highly restricted ways, the sheer barbarity of the cross can still capture the public imagination, as the recent film by Mel Gibson shows—-a film that opens by quietly quoting part of Isaiah 53. But the best use of Mel Gibson’s work will take place when, as a result of watching his film, viewers turn to Scripture to find out for themselves what the primary sources actually say. And here, in this study of the Gospel of Mark, Dr Peter Bolt is an enormously engaging and informed guide. Section after section of the Gospel comes into sharper focus, as more and more of Mark is read in the light of the movement and direction of its thought. Interwoven with the exegesis is a great deal of useful interaction with a wide range of well-chosen literature, and incisive meditation on what this cross-saturated text says to us today. Dr Bolt combines careful reading and profound theological synthesis, all of it shaped to issue a clarion call to eschew idolatry and abandon mere ‘religion’. The result is a book that will stimulate and edify any serious Christian reader, and will doubtless become the grist for countless sermons on the Gospel of Mark.
19. Craig L. Blomberg, Contagious Holiness: Jesus' Meals with Sinners (2005).
In the unlikely event that they do not know him from his long list of publications elsewhere, readers of this series will recognize the name of Dr Craig Blomberg from his earlier contribution to this series, viz. Neither Poverty Nor Riches (vol. 7). The topic he addresses here may not be as 'hot' as questions about poverty and wealth, but perhaps it deserves to be. The people with whom we eat say a great deal about us. Even if 'table fellowship' is not as intrinsically freighted with symbolism in Western culture as in cultures in other places and times, much more is being said than the numbers of calories we are taking in. Dr Blomberg not only addresses current disputes about the 'table fellowship' practices of the historical Jesus, but traces out the historical and theologically-laden implications of table fellowship across the canon of Scripture and issues a call to contemporary Christians to reform their habits in this matter. And, once again, Dr Bblomberg accomplishes all this while simultaneously engaging with the most recent literature and writing with the limpid clarity for which he has become known.
20. Timothy Laniak, Shepherds After My Own Heart: Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible (2006).
Some books give insight at multiple levels. This is one of theme. Entirely in line with the goals of NSBT, Dr Laniak develops a biblical theology of 'shepherd' imagery throughout the Bible. This entails careful listening to a large number of remarkably disparate texts, with the aim of understanding how shepherd imagery functions in each book and corpus of the Bible. Then it demands a careful attempt to delineate how such imagery develops over time. Even the slightest acquaintance with the Bible calls to mind numerous passages (e.g. the beloved Psalm 23) and themes: in the Old Testament, God is the shepherd, the king is the shepherd, religious leaders are shepherds. Carefully adjusted, shepherd imagery is used to describe both good and bad shepherds—-see, for instance, Ezekiel 34. All of us remember that John's Gospel portrays Jesus as 'the good shepherd'—-and inevitably that raises questions about the nature of the imagery that feeds into this assertion. But pastors are shepherds: that is what 'pastor' means. What bearing does the Bible's extensive choice of such imagery have on how we think of church life?
So at one level, this biblical theology develops one line of 'messianic' development, and pushes for a nuanced but holistic reading of shepherd imagery as it develops across the canon of Scripture. But there are enriching and humbling practical entailments: so extensive is this imagery in the domain of Christian leadership that it contributes a great deal to what Christians ought to understand about leadership itself, and how they will practise it. That is no small matter: it is part of faithfulness to Jesus Christ, who alone is the chief shepherd, not only commanding his undershepherds, but demonstrating in his own life and death and resurrection what Christian leaders are privileged, and morally obligated, to become.
21. Mark D. Thompson, A Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture (2006).
It is a pleasure to include in the Series this volume by Dr Mark Thompson. I suppose one might initially question why his work has been included in a series devoted to biblical theology. His earlier work on Luther was essentially an historical study; the present work, it might be argued, belongs at least as obviously to the domain of systematic theology as to biblical theology. But that is just the point. NSBT is interested in how biblical theology contributes to related disciplines, and while this present work addresses historical and dogmatic questions, on several fronts its fulcrum is responsible biblical theology.
Certainly there are few topics more pertinent in the first decade of the twenty-first century. A strange combination of collective theological amnesia and an uncritical acquiescence in the least disciplined forms of postmodernism have made many Christians highly suspicious of hearing any sure or clear Word from Scripture. The ‘perspicuity of Scripture’ (often designated claritas Scripturae) has fallen on hard times. Dr Thompson’s clearly written and robust articulation of the clarity of Scripture will help many people think about these matters knowledgably, crisply, faithfully, pointedly. The purpose of such an exercise, of course, can never be an end in itself: the purpose is to handle Scripture itself with greater wisdom and confidence. That is why this book deserves the widest circulation.
22. Trevor J. Burke, Adopted into God's Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor (2006).
While some of the volumes in this series have offered fresh insight into biblical themes commonly studied in almost every generation, this contribution from Dr Burke offers a fresh and probing look at a strand often overlooked and sometimes misunderstood. Christians who read the writings of Paul soon become famliar with terms such as justification, sanctification, reconciliation, redemption, and election. They soon learn, too, that they are children of God—-or 'sons of God', as a more pedantic rendering puts it. But what additional theological weight is carried by the five passages where Paul tells believers that they have been adopted as sons? Or even, as one passage puts it, that they will be adopted as sons at the last day? Such questions must be addressed not only by understanding the sociolegal customs of Paul's day (in other words, the questions have an historical dimension), but also by examining in some detail how this adoption terminology is carefully integrated into a variety of theological categories. Not only the importance of God's family but also the enormous privilege of belonging to it are powerfully underscored by Paul's understanding of what it means to be the adopted sons of God. With such themes in view, a wide array of pastoral implications soon springs to light. In other words, this volume not only probes a neglected theme—-it also edifies.
23. Paul R. Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God's Unfolding Plan (2007).
One of the major trajectories that ties the Bible together is the theme of covenant. Indeed, only because of the misadventure of doubtful translation do we say that the Bible has two ‘Testaments’ rather than two ‘Covenants’. Many Christian thinkers across the centuries have made ‘covenant’ the organizing principle by which they understand the Old Testament, or even the entire Bible. Dr Williamson has given us a fresh reading of the many passages that contribute to this theme. The task is enormous, of course, since the material is not only plentiful, but in many passages much disputed. Inevitably, not every reader will be persuaded by every bit of exegesis in this book. But few will be the readers who will not learn a great deal from it, and who will not appreciate the firm but respectful way Dr Williamson disagrees with his dialogue partners. And perhaps some of those who are much too indebted to atomistic exegesis, unable to see how the Bible hangs together, will glimpse something of the comprehensiveness and wholeness of God’s self-disclosure in Scripture, and find their worship of the covenant-making God enhanced.
24. Andreas J. Köstenberger and Scott R. Swain, Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John's Gospel (2008).
One trap we would not want a series devoted to biblical theology to fall into is a kind of implied depreciation of systematic theology. Biblical theology and systematic theology are differentiable but overlapping and complementary disciplines. The former tends to ask theological questions about individual biblical books and corpora and about the trajectories that run right through the biblical corpora; the latter tends to ask theological questions that are primarily atemporal (e.g. ‘What is God like?’ and not ‘What does the Gospel of John tell
us about God?’). For those of us who hold that Scripture must be the norming norm, both disciplines, to be responsible, no matter how much they learn from each other and from other contributing fields such as historical theology and philosophical theology, must ground themselves in the exegesis of Scripture. And of course, that exegesis is itself shaped, inevitably, by antecedent theological understanding.
This present volume is the joint product of a Neutestamentler and a systematic theologian. In their collaboration they have simultaneously attempted a detailed exegetical and theological understanding of what the Fourth Gospel says about God, using the categories of that Gospel itself, and mature understanding of the links between that text and the systematic formulations of what came to be called the doctrine of the Trinity. In what sense is it proper to think of the doctrine of God in John’s Gospel as trinitarian? Some are so suspicious of links between biblical exegesis and systematic theology that they will deplore any ostensible connections between the two, afraid that the latter will domesticate the former and stain it with anachronism, or that the former will dilute the latter and render it insipid. Drs Köstenberger and Swain, thankfully, are not numbered among them. For those who want to know what they ought to believe – surely one of the functions (though not the only one) of constructive systematic theology – out of God’s self-disclosure in Scripture, this book will be a stimulating delight. In addition to its contribution to Christian understanding of God (can there be any higher subject?) it stimulates serious thought about how we move from careful study of biblical text to theological formulation. Nothing would please us more than if this book were to become a model for a lot more theological work of the same order.
25. Graham A. Cole, God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom (2009).
Few if any themes are more central to the Bible than atonement. The evidence depends on more than Paul’s asseveration to the Corinthians, ‘For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2). The sacrificial systems of tabernacle and temple, the significance of Passover and Day of Atonement, the dramatic way in which all four canonical Gospels climax in the cross and resurrection (some wag has said they are all passion narratives with extended introductions), the nuanced arguments of Hebrews, the fact that the Apocalypse depicts the triumph (of all things!) of a slaughtered Lamb, all combine to provide powerful support for the centrality of the theme explored in this volume.
Even to begin to do justice to this theme one must attempt at least five things: (1) The way the theme of sacrifice and atonement develops in the Bible’s storyline must be laid out. (2) Equally, the way this theme is intertwined with related themes (the holiness of God, the nature of sin, what salvation consists of, the promise of what is to come, and much more) must be delineated, along with (3) more probing reflection on a selection of crucial passages. These first three items belong rather tightly to biblical theology. Of course, (4) how these themes have been handled in the history of the church’s theology must not be ignored. (5) Equally, if the volume is to speak to our generation, it must engage some of the more important current discussion.
Dr Graham Cole is well qualified to address all five of these dimensions. My hope and prayer is that this volume will become a ‘standard’ contribution in the field, informing and enriching its readers as to what God achieved by sending his dear Son to the cross on our behalf. Eternity itself will not exhaust our wonder at these truths. This book, I am sure, will establish many in the right direction.
26. Daniel C. Timmer, A Gracious and Compassionate God: Mission, Salvation and Spirituality in the Book of Jonah (2011).
I have scanned quite a few popular books on Jonah. Doubtless they have their place, but most of them are pretty unsatisfying. They do not probe the text very deeply, and very few believably tie Jonah to biblical theology. I have also read occasional technical monographs on Jonah. They are invariably stimulating but almost never think through what Jonah contributes to, or how it is aligned with, the canon. Daniel Timmer’s volume is exceptional: it engages in a close reading of much of Jonah, but keeps one eye pealed for legitimate canonical ties with what we would today call the mission of God. Dr Timmer thinks and writes clearly and succinctly, and biblical and theological issues come alive. This is a book to cherish.
27. Alan J. Thompson, The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke’s Account of God’s Unfolding Plan (2011).
Much contemporary theological reflection on Acts seeks primarily to answer questions arising from our own disputes: the role of the Spirit in Christian life, the continuity or otherwise of gifts like tongues, the place of prophecy in the life of the church, and so on. One must ask, of course, if those are the dominant concerns of Acts. True, Acts does in some ways address such questions, but the strength of Dr Thompson’s book is that it uncovers the main theological emphases of the book of Acts on the book’s own terms. Moreover, although this volume focuses on Acts, Dr Thompson wisely keeps an eye peeled for theological connections with Luke’s Gospel. This volume will be a treasure trove for all who seek to understand Acts better, not least those who teach and preach the book.
28. W. Ross Blackburn, The God Who Makes Himself Known: The Missionary Heart of the Book of Exodus (2012).
The God Who Makes Himself Known is a thought-provoking book. Initially, a subtitle such as ‘The Missionary Heart of the Book of Exodus’ is bound to raise a few eyebrows: has Dr Blackburn tumbled into hopeless anachronism? Yet while remaining sceptical about pieces of the argument here and there, I found the work strangely compelling, drawing me forward to the conclusion that there is much more to the thesis than one might expect. Careful reading of this volume demands frequent pauses for reflection on the inner-canonical connections that Dr Blackburn unpacks with stimulating verve. I am quite certain that most who work their way through this volume will never be able to read Exodus in the same way they did before doing so—and that is high praise.
29. Andrew G. Shead, A Mouth Full of Fire: The Word of God in the Words of Jeremiah. New Studies in Biblical Theology 29. Downers Grove: IVP, 2012.
It is extraordinarily rare for a reading of a biblical book to be simultaneously creative and convincing, but Dr Andrew Shead has managed it in this work on Jeremiah. It is even more extraordinary for a book that exemplifies careful exegesis and the best of one kind of biblical theology to speak authoritatively to the discipline of systematic theology, but Dr Shead’s work manages that, too. Characterized by tight and disciplined writing and careful thought, this volume deserves careful study. You will never again read Jeremiah exactly the same way you have read it in the past. No less important, as you work carefully through the pages of this volume you will see, in Jeremiah’s doctrine of the word of God, a convincing anticipation of one who is called the Word of God—but without the artificial links that frequently characterize attempts to read Old Testament books Christologically. This is an important and stimulating book.
30. Graham A. Cole, The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation. New Studies in Biblical Theology 30. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2012. 202 pp.
Books on the incarnation tend to deploy, early on in the discussion, the categories of systematic theology. The biblical proof texts that are adduced are mostly from the New Testament; much less effort has been poured onto tracing incarnation theology right through the canon. Although considerable effort in biblical theology has been devoted to such messianic themes as the Davidic monarch, the priesthood and the temple, relatively little has been devoted to the incarnation. This book by Dr Graham Cole takes steps to fill the need. Undoubtedly more can be said, but it is immensely satisfying to find an able systematician wrestling with the biblical texts—as it is to find biblical scholars tracing the lines from exegesis towards biblical and systematic theology—not least on a topic as central to Christian faith as this one. As I write these words, the world approaches the Christmas season, and around the globe, in their own languages, Christians will sing,
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell—
Jesus our Emmanuel.
31. Brian S. Rosner, Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God. New Studies in Biblical Theology 31. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2013. 249 pp.
Anyone who follows long-standing debates over Paul and the law, over the use of the Old Testament in the New (especially in Paul), over the cogency or otherwise of various theological systems (e.g. Lutheranism, various forms of covenant theology, dispensationalism), over the origins of the common tripartite classification of biblical law (moral, civil and ceremonial), knows that Paul’s understanding of the law lurks behind many other theological debates. Add to the topics already mentioned the relationships between Christian Jews and Christian Gentiles, the unity of the new humanity in Christ, Paul’s apparent flexibility when he evangelizes Jews in Jerusalem and Corinthians in Achaia, and, in historical theology, the validity or otherwise of the ‘third use’ of the law, not to mention the sheer avalanche of books and articles on these and related topics, and one readily perceives why a book on Paul and the law is likely to be of perennial interest.
So what is the distinctive contribution of the volume you are holding in your hand? Brian Rosner’s strength lies in showing with patience and clarity how the apostle Paul articulates an array of complementary but quite different stanc