A Greek guide for the book of Luke and a FREEBIE too!

How’s your Greek? I’ve got a book review as well as a freebie that might peak your interest.

Christmas will be here before you know it, and taking the effort to work through the Greek text of the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke might help kickstart a habit that will bless you and your ministry for years to come. And if you need a recommendation to get you started, look no further than the volume on Luke in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) series.

In the interest of full disclosure, I asked Broadman and Holman to bring Christmas to me early this year by sending me a review copy, but that’s because I’ve already invested in a few of the other books in the series.

Luke was written by Alan J. Thompson. He’s got strong academic credentials, having studied under Eckhard Schnabel and D.A. Carson. He also has a few academic books on his resume, including an upcoming volume on Acts in the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series.

Like other volumes in the EGGNT series, Luke begins with introductory materials covering authorship, date, audience, and purpose—standard commentary fare—though the extensive outline at the end of the book (five pages, single-spaced) is more of what you would expect from a much larger commentary.

Once you get past the introductory materials, the real fun begins. Because of size limitations (the book is over 400 pages), there’s no full Greek text or English translation. A Greek New Testament or an interlinear necessary to make full use of the book. Thompson works verse-by-verse through the Gospel of Luke, providing comments on grammar, syntax, textual variants, and translation options. It truly is a comprehensive guide to the Greek text of Luke.

Using this and other volumes in the EGGNT series has brought my Greek back from the brink. It had been a couple years, and I had forgotten so much, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pick it up again. When I saw how helpful one book was, I bought another, and another…

It was a little unwieldy for me at first because of all the abbreviations, but a few visits to the section listing abbreviations, and it didn’t take long to adjust.

Now for the freebie! Rob Plummer does a daily video working through a verse in the Greek New Testament on his website Daily Dose of Greek. Starting November 6 he will begin working through Philemon. As a special incentive, you can download Philemon from the EGGNT on My Word Search Bible, a website from Broadman and Holman for FREE. Check out his post for the details here.

A Baptist’s Bookshelf: Song of Solomon

A Baptist minister’s bookshelf is sacred. It bears the weight of centuries of thought from people of all different backgrounds and faith traditions. A Baptist minister often relies on the recommendations of others when deciding what books to add to his library. That’s why I do periodic book reviews of new titles I’ve added to my library. My reviews are written from the standpoint of being a Baptist in the SBC.

Focus on the Bible
I am a big fan of the Focus on the Bible commentary series. They’re relatively short—the ones I’ve read were under 200 pages. This makes them accessible to everyone. There’s a reason I’ve never read all the way through my 1,000+ page commentary on Acts. It’s too long for that!

SOSI recently had the privilege of reading through a review copy of their newest volume on Song of Songs by James M. Hamilton, Jr. The author happens to be a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where I am currently studying for my M.Div, but as of now I’ve yet to take any classes with him. He’s written numerous books including God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment, a popular-level commentary on Revelation, and a commentary on Ezra-Nehemiah. Hamilton writes not only as a professor, but also as a pastor. Song of Songs was born out of a sermon series he preached, and a quick Google search would likely lead you to the recordings that form the foundation of his book.

The book’s subtitle is telling: A Biblical-Theological, Allegorical, Christological Interpretation. Those are probably the biggest words in the book, so don’t let that scare you off. What he means is that his commentary looks at how Song of Solomon fits into the whole Bible. He takes a more traditional view of the book as an allegory; first, referring to God and Israel in the Old Testament, and second, referring to Christ and the Church. The book comes on the heels of other popular explanations that view the book as little more than a celebration of love and sex within marriage. Mark Driscoll, who was a controversial yet popular pastor until his resignation last year, preached a very explicit sermon series on the book that led to criticism from John MacArthur, another pastor, in a multi-part blog series titled The Rape of Solomon’s Song. A commentary that addresses the text without sounding like a bunch of over-sexed boys in a men’s locker room is a welcome reprieve.

Much of what Hamilton says, especially after the first few chapters, is insightful and helpful for understanding this book of the Bible. His explanation of the allegory squares with many sermons and messages I heard growing up in a small, traditional Baptist church. I’m just not convinced by everything (and in some sections, hardly anything) he says from the allegorical approach. My disagreement is merely a matter of degrees in some instances, but other times I wholly reject Hamilton’s insinuations. I agree that there is definitely a parallel between the groom and the bride and God and Israel. Yet Hamilton presses in on the details and makes assertions that stretch the bounds of reason.

For example, at one point the groom, in praising his bride, says that her eyes are like doves. Hamilton says, “With all the land imagery in this passage, perhaps this comparison is meant to recall the dove that Noah sent out from the ark after seven days to see if the waters had receded from the new creation after the flood.” Apart from the word “dove,” in what way and for what reason would this passage be hearkening back to the story of Noah? As my father likes to say, “Evel Knieval couldn’t make that jump!”

Early on he states, “I don’t remember being taught to read the book as a member of the bride of Christ waiting for Jesus the bridegroom. As a Christian, that came naturally.” It may come natural to someone raised in a Christian environment who is trying to understand Song of Songs in terms of what he’s already seen in the Bible. But many of the places where Hamilton sees Solomon alluding to another passage is only visible to people who want to see it. It’s telling that his first chapter has footnotes about other, more detailed commentaries, stating, “I disagree with Garrett’s suggestion…” and, “I say this in spite of the fact that…” and, “Against Estes…” Garrett, who is also a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written two commentaries on Song of Songs, both of which are much more in-depth. Although I haven’t read either of his commentaries, I’m much more inclined to check them out before returning to Hamilton’s volume.

If your leaning is more towards the allegorical approach, however, I don’t think you’ll find a more straightforward and concise treatment of the book from a trustworthy theologian than this one.

All links to Amazon result in a small kickback to me. It’s not much, but it defrays a small portion of the cost of my books for Seminary.