Book Giveaway

This week I’m offering Christian Dogmatics by Michael Allen and Scott Swain. Here’s the catalog description and table of contents:

“This one-volume introduction to systematic theology draws deeply on the catholic and Reformed heritage to present the major doctrines of the Christian faith, displaying the power of theological retrieval for the church’s renewal. Leading Reformed theologians offer the “state of the question” on standard theological topics and engage in both exegetical and historical retrieval for the sake of theological analysis. Christian Dogmatics represents the exciting new theological trajectory of Reformed catholicity and will serve professors and students in systematic theology or Christian doctrine courses well. It will also be of interest to pastors and church leaders.”

Introduction  Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain
1. Knowledge of God  Michael Allen
2. Holy Scripture  Kevin J. Vanhoozer
3. Divine Attributes  Michael Allen
4. Divine Trinity  Scott R. Swain
5. Covenant of Redemption  Scott R. Swain
6. Creation out of Nothing  John Webster
7. Providence  John Webster
8. Anthropology  Kelly M. Kapic
9. Sin  Oliver D. Crisp
10. Incarnation  Daniel J. Treier
11. The Work of Christ Accomplished  Donald Macleod
12. The Work of Christ Applied  Richard Gaffin
13. The Law of God and Christian Ethics  Paul T. Nimmo
14. The Church  Michael Horton
15. Sacraments  Todd Billings
16. Kingdom of God  Michael Horton

Cover Art

Leave your name in the comments section by NLT Friday, June 17th. I’ll draw the winner’s name that day. If I don’t hear back from the winner within seven days the book will go to another entry.

Does Mark 16:9-20 Belong in the New Testament?

Achieving a consensus among scholars is always difficult. I would say there is close to a consensus among New Testament textual critics when it comes to the long ending of the Gospel of Mark. They would almost unanimously concur that it does not belong in the New Testament. The title of our post is also the title of a new book from Wipf and Stock Publishers. Does Mark 16:9-20 Belong in the New Testament is by David Hester and while I’ve just started it I think it’s going to challenge a lot of contemporary thinking on this issue. Could the tide be shifting? Here’s the catalog description:

“For almost fifty years, much has been written concerning Mark 16:9-20. During the same time period, evidence once counted against Mark 16:9-20 was shown to be otherwise. In this study, David W. Hester surveys modern scholarship (1965-2011) surrounding the passage. He examines the passage itself–the external evidence, with particular attention paid to the manuscripts and the patristics, especially those of the second and third centuries; and the internal evidence, featuring details that are problematic as well as those that favor Markan authorship. Finally, a proposal concerning the origin of the passage is presented. The first edition of Mark’s Gospel ended at 16:8, resulting in the manuscript tradition that omits the passage, but this was not his intended ending. Later, his associates attached Mark’s notes and published a second edition of the Gospel with the last twelve verses. This led to its inclusion. Given that the passage is cited by second- and third-century witnesses and attributed to Mark, along with the biblical prohibition against adding to or taking from Scripture, it is doubtful that an anonymous second-century author could have been successful in adding his own composition and it being widely accepted by the early church.”

Consider these two endorsements:

“Dr. Hester’s position on Mark 16:9-20 differs from the prevailing view that these twelve verses are not part of the original Gospel of Mark. After setting forth his arguments against their authenticity, he passionately presents the case for the other side–citing evidence he is convinced will persuade the open-minded critic that to omit these verses is to omit a part of Scripture.”
Rodney E. Cloud, Dean of the Turner School of Theology, Amridge University

“Though covering well-worn ground, Dr. Hester highlights historical clues often overlooked or even ignored. If Mark 16:9‒20 was added to the text, then why did no early Christian writer ever voice any opposition? Why did the early church tacitly accept these verses as canonical? This careful and thorough review of the ancient evidence and of modern scholarship helped me reexamine the whole question afresh.”
David H. Warren, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, Faulkner University

David W. Hester is Lecturer for the V. P. Black College of Biblical Studies and the F. Furman Kearley Graduate School of Theology at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama. He is the director of the Faulkner Bible Lectureship, and coeditor of the graduate journal, ΠΝΕΥΜΑΤΙΚΑ. He is the author of two books: Among the Scholars (1994) and Tampering With Truth (2007).

Does Mark 16:9-20 Belong in the New Testament is a paperback with 176 pages and sells for $23.00.

Does Mark 16:9-20 Belong in the New Testament? - By: David W. Hester

Book Giveaway

This week I’m offering Paul as a Problem in History and Culture by Patrick Gray. Here’s the catalog description:

“As one of the most significant figures in the history of Western civilization, the apostle Paul has influenced and inspired countless individuals and institutions. But for some, he holds a controversial place in Christianity. This engaging book explores why many people have been wary of Paul and what their criticisms reveal about the church and the broader culture. Patrick Gray brings intellectual and cultural history into conversation with study of the New Testament, providing a balanced account and assessment of widespread antipathy to Paul and exploring what the controversy tells us about ourselves.”

Leave your name in the comments section by NLT Friday, June 10th. I will draw the winner’s name that day. If I don’t hear back from the winner within seven days the book will go to another entry.

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In Memoriam – John Webster, 1955-2016 and Kenneth Bailey, 1931-2016

It seems appropriate, though unfortunate, on this Memorial Day to remember two Christian scholars that have passed away this past week. Kenneth Bailey was the author of the very popular book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (IVP Academic). During my time at the store I can say sometimes it was hard to keep his books on the shelf. They enjoyed wave after wave of popularity as people were introduced to him and his writings. You can read more about him here.

Kenneth Bailey

John Webster was Anglican British theologian and was the Chair of Divinity at St. Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, Scotland. I was introduced to the writings of Webster in just the past few years. Scholars who wrote in areas of his interest knew they had to interact with his thinking. I think he was just starting to break through to the awareness of the educated lay reader. You can read about him here.

John Webster

We will keep their family and friends in our prayers. May the writings they left behind to the church be used mightily by God.


“Jesus Before the Gospels” by Bart Ehrman – First Impressions

Bart Ehrman is a scholar who knows how to write so the layperson can understand what scholars are talking about. In his newest book, Jesus Before the Gospels (HarperOne), Ehrman sets out to show what recent studies on memory demonstrate about the accounts of the life of Jesus. He says, “I’m interested in knowing which memories of Jesus are historically probable.” (p. 47) Take for example the commonly held view that many of the traditions in the Gospels were memorized. Ehrman cites the popular study by the Scandinavian specialist in New Testament and early Judaism Birger Gerhardsson, Memory and Manuscript (Eerdmans). This is a book is often cited in books that I’ve read. Ehrman quickly disarms this by saying “[u]nfortunately, very few scholars find Gerhardsson’s views convincing. In part that is because there is almost no evidence for them.” (p. 68)

Another scholar that is commonly cited by conservatives is Kenneth Bailey. Again, Ehrman is not impressed. “For one thing, on the very basic level, one might wonder what evidence Bailey cites to show that early Christians came together to recount their community tradition in the manner of the haflat samar. In fact, he doesn’t cite any at all. So far as I know there is no evidence.” (pp. 72-73) But what about eyewitness testimony? In particular what about the research done by British scholar Richard Bauckham in his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans)? Ehrman says that ‘[o]utside the ranks of conservative evangelical Christians, very few if any biblical scholars have found Bauckham’s case persuasive. It founders on numerous grounds, not the least of which is its steadfast refusal to take seriously scholarship on eyewitness testimony undertaken for more than a century by such experts as legal scholars who see the real-life importance of the question.” (p. 101)

Ehrman says many of the things we’ve been taught about memory such as people from oral cultures have better memories, the early church memorized events from the life of Jesus and carefully and accurately passed them on, people have better memories when it is a very significant event in their life personally, and so on are all no true. Our memories simply don’t work that way. And they are notoriously unreliable. Eyewitness testimony is also no guarantee of accuracy. But it would be wrong to conclude that Ehrman thinks everything in the New Testament regarding Jesus is the result of a false or distorted memory. He clearly says, “I am decidedly not saying that all of our memories are faulty or wrong. Most of the time we remember pretty well, at least in broad outline. Presumably, so too did eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.” (p. 143) The Gospels are probably fairly accurate when it comes to “gist memories of Jesus”. (p. 144) The challenge is how does one determine “if a memory of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels is accurate, by which I mean that it is something that in fact did not actually take place?” (p. 151) Ehrman offers two criteria: accounts that contradict each other can’t both be right so one of the accounts is a distorted memory and some things are just have “inherent plausibility.” (pp. 151-57)

The book is a tour de force and ought to be engaged in a serious fashion by those who will no doubt disagree with the implications of his thesis. Ehrman spent a couple of years studying the research surrounding the issues of memory. Any response to Ehrman will have to take that research into consideration.

Jesus Before the Gospels is a hardcover with 336 pages and sells for $27.99.

Bart D. Ehrman is one of the most renowned and controversial Bible scholars in the world today. He is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is the author of more than twenty books, including the New York Times bestsellers How Jesus Became God; Misquoting Jesus; God’s Problem; Jesus, Interrupted; and Forged. He has appeared on Dateline NBC, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CNN, History, and top NPR programs, as well as been featured in TIME, the New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and other publications. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Jesus Before The Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior  -     By: Bart D. Ehrman