A Theology of Mark’s Gospel: Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God (Biblical Theology of the New Testament Series) (4/4)

The gospel of Mark may be the shortest gospel, but you will not believe how much one is able to discover and understand from the gospel of Mark.

A Theology of Mark's Gospel: Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God (Biblical Theology of the New Testament Series)David E. Garland has written a definitive book on the theology of the gospel of Mark. Garland starts with an elaborate introduction to the gospel of Mark. He covers the historical framework of the theology of Mark and also the literary nature of Mark’s gospel. This introduction takes close to 25% of the book and will be a value resource for anyone doing research on the book of Mark.

For the rest of the book, Garland then traces different themes through the gospel of Mark. This will be a section that pastors will find helpful as they preach through Mark. Pastor who are interested to showcase a certain topic within the gospel of Mark will find this section especially helpful. I especially like the chapter where Garland covers the secrecy motif in the gospel of Mark. I must say this is one of the questions I always have when reading through the gospels, why Jesus do not want some to proclaim his identity to the masses. I found Garland especially enlightening in this area and have been helped by his in-depth research on the gospel of Mark.

This book is certainly not a walk in the park, and most will probably not buy a copy of this book. But if you are currently researching on the gospel of Mark, or intends to do serious research work on the gospel of Mark you really should consider this book. You will be able to find many gems and treasures within this book. Garland has published a great reference material on the gospel of Mark that will benefit many in the years to come.

Rating: 4.75 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – The Biblical Hebrew Companion for Bible Software Users: Grammatical Terms Explained for Exegesis (16/2)

For someone who is illiterate on Hebrew yet have access to resources on Logos, I often console myself that these expensively resources are investments that will reap it’s rewards in the future when I finally master the language. This was the case until I found this book.

The Biblical Hebrew Companion for Bible Software Users: Grammatical Terms Explained for ExegesisMichael Williams has written this book to help those who are very new to Hebrew and who has access to resources on bible software. Within the book, Williams explains and teaches some of the grammatical issues of the Hebrew language. As he does it, Williams shows the readers examples of how this affects the exegesis of a passage in the bible. I found this very helpful. This helps the readers to see immediately the importance and application of what they have just learnt.

However, as one who does not know Hebrew, I cannot say that I understood everything within the book. This book does require you to have some basic knowledge of Hebrew. I foresee myself using this as a quick reference guide the next time I’m studying Hebrew. This small and quick guide will surely be helpful to those who at least have some basic understanding of Hebrew and access to great bible study resources.

Rating: 4 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping).

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

P.S. A really good beginner’s guide will be English Grammar to Ace Biblical Hebrew, get it here and here (free international shipping).

Book Review: Faith Alone – The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught…and Why It Still Matters (11/2)

One of the most fundamental tenants the christian faith is the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. That remains to be one of the sweetest promise and doctrine that God has offered to the world. As such, it should deservedly be proclaimed and defended with zeal and vigour. That is exactly what Thomas R. Schreiner has done in this book.

Faith Alone - The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught...and Why It Still MattersInitially I was skeptical whether a book solely on faith alone would be something worth reading. I have been steeped in the reformed tradition and having read ‘Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace’ by James Montgomery Boice (an excellent introduction to the 5 solas), I was not sure if it was a topic that had warranted a book for it. Having read this book, I have to say that this book certainly deserves wide reading.

Schreiner starts by giving a brief introduction to the doctrine of justification by faith alone and some objections that have been raised against this doctrine. Next, Schreiner tackles the first objection against the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Schreiner shows convincingly that justification by faith alone is not a 16th century discovery, rather it is doctrine that has known since the earliest church has exist. Schreiner then skilfully trace this doctrine through history and highlights several nuances of a few key christian leaders.

Next, Schreiner shows readers how the bible teaches us justification is by faith alone. Within this section Schreiner goes to the original languages and highlights and explains key words. Schreiber demonstrates that a faithful reading of scripture will no doubt lead readers to the justification of faith.

Lastly, Schreiner brings the readers up to date on contemporary arguments against justification by faith. Crucially Schreiner gives brief answers against N. T. Wright’s New Perspective on Paul. Pastors who are new to the topic can have a quick overview on this issue through reading this book, but they will be wise to consult other book length responses written by the same author.

All in all, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. He has accomplished what a good theological book should do, give readers a biblical and historical understanding of the topic and engages the readers with contemporary issues. Schreiner has set a very high standard for this series and I certainly look forward to the other 4 books in this series.

Rating: 5 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

P.S. As mentioned, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace will be a great introduction to this topic for anyone, get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle

Book Review: The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing (26/12)

Evangelism has to be one of the most difficult task a christian has to do. I know I find it difficult to initiate a conversion and somehow share the gospel with my friends. Often, there is an unspoken sense of guilt that comes over me when I know I have missed a “golden opportunity”  to share the gospel. This is why I have found this book helpful for myself.

The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth BelievingJonathan K. Dodson anticipates that many have this unspoken burden and wants to lift this burden off their shoulders. Dodson very carefully helps readers think beyond the “golden opportunity” mindset. Rather he encourages christians to use both their lives and speech to be good witness for Jesus. He helps readers see that sharing the gospel can be a process that flows naturally, rather than always having a project or achievement mentality.

Having set the mentality a Christian ought to have about evangelism, Dodson then sets out to highlight what the gospel is. He helps christians see the gospel with new eyes. This sections is especially helpful for those who have been numb to what the gospel means for their lives. While reading these 3 chapters, Dodson hopes to let the gospel be good news once again to his readers.

Having shown the gloriousness of the gospel, Dodson then brings out 5 themes that will allow christians to share the gospel. These themes being common to everyone makes perfect sense why Dodson will want to write on these topics. As I was reading this section, I envisioned myself taking the same approaches in trying to share the gospel to the people around me. This section was helpful in letting me thinking through the various channels I can use to share the gospel. This section also helped me see how the gospel is relevant to my everyday life.

I found the book helpful to those who are new or are already familiar with evangelism. If you find evangelism to be a difficult task, why not give this a read and see if it’ll help you deal with it?

Rating: 4 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

P.S. You might also be interested to get Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel Wholly by Grace Communicated Truthfully & Lovingly, I found this book helpful in helping learn and understand how to do evangelism. Get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Book Review – Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (30/11)

Living as a young christian, I’ve always been taught that christian life is full of passion and zeal for the Lord. However, my life experience has taught me that zeal and passion comes and goes very quickly. I really will not be able to keep myself in the christian faith is that is all to Christianity.

Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless WorldMichael Horton has observed the same problem in the christian circles and wants to bring believers back to the what the bible has to say about being a disciple of Jesus. His message to christian is quite simple, let us seek the ordinary means of grace in our pursuit of Christ in our christian life.

Horton first sets up the problem with the current teachings of the church at large. He highlights some of their problematic and wrong teaching. For example, he shows how the word ambition, which was previously referred to as a vice but has now change to be something virtuous. More crucially, Horton shows how the church has moved towards a very short-term view of christian discipleship. We have trained up a group of christians who live on passion and instant results. In the long run, they will eventually leave the church. Simply because the church will never be able to outperform the world in such areas.

Having listed out the problems, Horton then moves the readers on to the historic teaching of the church. He helps readers see the importance of the ordinary means that God has already promised and provided — the church, the preaching of the word of God, the Lord supper, and baptism. The christian discipleship process is like the life of a tree, it is not the high-and-lows the trees has in it’s life everyday that makes it big and strong, rather it is the routine daily nurturing of the sun’s ray and rain that slowly makes the tree sturdy.

After reading this book, I’ve had a deeper appreciation of the ordinary means of grace that the Lord has given to us. I have a greater anticipation of what the Lord will do as I gather each week in the church listening to the word and partaking of the Lord Supper. I’m not disheartened or discouraged when I can see no observable change in my zeal or passion because I’m assured that the Lord has promised to use those means to help me grow. The growth may be subtle and minute, but as I grow slowly week by week, I know that God is surely helping me grow slowly, but surely to be more and more like Jesus.

This book is certainty one I will recommend for any christian, especially if you think the christian life is only about being zealous to God. I hope you will see that the bible’s teaching is certainly not about zeal but about growing sustainably in the word of God. We need no other source nor do we need anything to zest it up.

Rating: 4.75 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), kindle.

Book Review – Becoming Worldly Saints (25/8)

Can a christian have the best of both world? Michael Wittmer says yes! And he makes a strong case for it within this book.

Becoming Worldly SaintsFar too often, christians think that they have to choose between either enjoying the world or serving Jesus wholeheartedly, Wittmer however shows us that this either/or dichotomy is false. Wittmer does this by giving Christian the meta-narrative of the whole bible in 4 acts, creation, life, fall and redemption.

Within creation, Wittmer helps us see the purpose of creation. He talks about what it means to be created in God’s image, what is man’s purpose here on earth and also why everything we do here on earth matters to God. Wittmer reminds the readers that we are not to have a platonic understanding of the world — to see fleshly/physical things as “lower” than spiritual things. Instead, Wittmer points out that both are created by God, and can be used to glorify Him, there’s nothing inherently wrong with what is physical. What is wrong is the sin that is in the world and that is in us. Which is what he brings out in the next section.

Wittmer then brings the readers to what the fall is, and it’s effect on creation. Thereafter, he brings the readers to the redemption plan of God. Within this section, Wittmer then talks about what it means to live in a fallen world for christians. He talks about how christians are called to be int he world but not of the world and what it means for us to be “redeeming” the creation world that we live in. Within this, he also talks about the 2 kingdom perspective and the Kuyperian kingdom perspective. He shows the issues between the two perspectives and then proposes his own alternative view that sits between the two. Personally, I found this section most enlightening and enjoyable. I have not read much about both of these kingdom perspectives but Wittmer has given me a good concise introduction to it and has whet my appetite for it.

Overall, I found this book talks not only about theological issues, but at the same time brings about practical implications and applications into the reader’s life. I have found the thesis of the book refreshing and thought-provoking. If you are a christian who wants to live a faithful christian life in this day and age, I encourage you to give this book a read.

Rating: 4 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – Advances in the Study of Greek (18/8)

With so many advances in the various fields, one might ask whether there have been  any advances in the study of greek that should affect the way we understand the study of greek? Constance Campbell argues there have been much advances and he wants more preachers and scholars to be aware of them.

Advances in the Study of GreekA note before I start, I read this book with an extremely weak knowledge of greek. I can do only simple transliteration and has some knowledge of greek vocabulary. My greek grammar is almost non-existent  and thus please take my review as such. I would mainly be reviewing how useful this book would be for those who are extremely new to greek.

Campbell raises 8 advances that have happened in the study of greek. But before he goes to them, Campbell skilfully gives a short history of greek study. As someone who is not acquainted with history of greek studies, I thoroughly enjoyed Campbell’s history. I have gain much from this chapter and found this chapter most helpful to the non-greek readers.

Next Campbell moves to the most crucial advancement, which is the advancement of linguistics theories and lexical semantics. This has change much in the studies of greek. Again, I come from one who is terribly new to the linguistics studies, I have found this chapter to be very invigorating as I have gain much from this chapter with regards to the linguistics studies.

the next few chapters were chapters I read very briefing, they dealt with the technical aspects of greek studies and I have decide not to comment on them. I shall leave this task to those who are much more competent in the study of greek.

In summary would I recommend someone who is new to greek to buy this book? Sure! If you’re serious about studying greek, I found this book very helpful. First, Campbell covers things you would never find in any of the textbooks that teaches you greek. Next, if you want to be a good student of greek, then you should be aware of the advances in the study of the greek language. However, if you do not intent to study greek for a substantial amount of time, then this is not a book for you.

For scholars in greek, this is definitely one of the books you should consult soon. Similarly, if you are a pastor who is often consulting commentaries that interacts directly with the greek text and greek, then you too should give this book a greek. Hopefully this book will help you keep abreast of the advancements of greek and prevent yourself from making the same mistakes others have made in the past.

Rating:  4.25 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (5/7)

The letters of John are not difficult books, in fact when I was a young christian, I was told to study the Gospel of John followed by the letters of John. Needless to say, though I understood parts of it, I never really understood the whole letter of John.Yet as I grew in my faith, I can see how important the letters of John are to me, especially as a Reformed Calvinist.

1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)Karen Jobes has written a helpful commentary that aims to help preachers exegete the letters of John. Jobes deals directly with the greek text and diagrams out the structure of the passages within the Letters of John. At the end, Jobes also adds in a small chapter that shows the readers the theology of John’s Letter. I have found this chapter very helpful as I do not usually see this in other commentaries. With this added resources at the end, it really helps readers to see the key points that John is trying to bring out in his letters.

The introductions on the other hand, was relatively short, consisting of roughly around 30 pages. To be honest, I was expecting more introductory materials given that this was a commentary on the letters of John. But what was valuable in the introduction was how Jobes showed the similarities between the gospel of John and the Letters of John. This helps the readers to see the continuity between the gospel of John and the letters of John.

If you are a pastor, or a seminary student with a working knowledge of Greek, you will be interested in this commentary. It goes directly into the greek text and explains every nook and cranny within the greek text. After exegeting and explaining a section of passage, Jobes also adds in an application section that helps pastors to not only teach the text to his sheep, but also to apply it into their lives also. So if you’re looking for a commentary that goes into the greek text, do consider getting this commentary.

Rating: 4 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Book Review – Jonah: God’s Scandalous Mercy (Hearing the Message of Scripture: A Commentary on the Old Testament) (24/4)

Jonah is a book in the bible that almost everyone can read in one sitting and certainty one of the most read minor prophets. Written in a narrative format, Jonah can be easily understood by the young and the old.

Jonah: God's Scandalous Mercy (Hearing the Message of Scripture: A Commentary on the Old Testament)Kevin J. Youngblood has written a commentary to help pastors tackle this minor prophet exegetically. The commentary is spilt into 3 portion, first Youngblood gives us his own translation for the book of Jonah. Next, he gives the customary introductory materials you often see in commentaries and finally, the commentary on the text of Jonah.

What I found helpful within this commentary is how it helps to crystallise the text into a main sentence. I have found that often when I try to exegete a passage, I want to know if I am getting the right picture, and this certainly helps me check to see if I’m a similar path with the author.

A 2nd feature that I found very helpful in this commentary is how they highlight the structure of the book of Jonah. I must say this is one area I often overlook when studying a passage, and I am thankful for Youngblood for pointing out these structure, and highlighting the important points the literary structure wants to bring out.

If you are looking out for a verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Jonah, I would certainly recommend you to take a look at this commentary, or even to buy and use it. Do note that you would need to have a working knowledge of hebrew to be able to fully utilise it. But, even as one who does not have any knowledge of hebrew, I found it helpful in my own study of Jonah.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping).

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review


Here is the author introducing his commentary:

Book Review – The Case for Grace: A Journalist Explores the Evidence of Transformed Lives (4/3)

Today is Good Friday, and I find it apt to write this review for this book. Lee Strobel has added one more book to his “The Case for …” series. This time, he examines the case of how people’s lives has changed due to the grace God has for them.

The Case for GraceSimilar to the books within this series, Strobel interviews different individuals, hears what they have to say. and presents their side of the story to the readers. However, contrary to his previous books, Strobel does not interview the “experts” of grace. Indeed, one will not be able to find any of such  “experts” in grace. And so Strobel has instead. very helpful presented stories of people with varying backgrounds and upbringing. This makes the book accessible to everyone, since you might just identify yourself with one of the people interviewed within the book!

Each of these stories centred around how grace has changed them. All of them reads exactly like testimonies given by different individuals. They were not too detailed to bore the readers with unnecessary details, neither were they too brief to make it sound too generic.

I have found Strobel’s writing to be extremely readable and engaging, and this book has certainly not been a disappointment. I have been encouraged by what I have read within this book and has come away thankful to God for what I have read. I especially like his chapters on “The Professor”, “The Prodigal” and “Empty Hands”.

If you would like to have a book that is light reading, and has not yet decided on what to read, why not read this book? I’m sure you will find the stories you have read to be uplifting. Certainly a book that can be read by a young or old christian. This can also be a book that you might want to pass to a non-christian friend if he/she is interested in what good christianity is for.

Rating: 4.25 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review