Book Review: Early Jewish Literature

Wright, Archie T., Brad Embry and Ronald Herms. Early Jewish Literature: An Anthology. 2 Volumes. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. Click Here To View

This book is an anthology that is made up of two separate volumes.  Each volume is well over 500 pages long and includes early Jewish works from the second Temple period.  For those unfamiliar with this period, it extends from 516 BC to 70 AD with the destruction of the temple by the Roman empire.  It is a crucial period, not only in Jewish history, but in the development and early years of Christianity.

Volume one details scriptural texts and traditions, this includes additions to Daniel, danielic texts recovered in Qumran, and the Maccabean books.  Each book has a detailed introduction detailing how it relates to the second temple period, who the likely authors are, and the theology behind it.  It is very fascinating a  must read for scholars of the Old and New Testament.  This volume also details the romanticized texts such as Tobit, and lastly delves into the Dead Sea scrolls and their importance during this period.

Volume two begins right away with ancient wisdom texts like Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon.  Next it describes ancient apocalyptic literature such as the books of Enoch.  Lastly delving into Testamentary literature.  Volume two is laid out the same at volume one with detailed introductions, theologies, and excerpts that the reader can enjoy.

Works like this are important because it gives us an idea of what shaped Jewish thought during these pivotal years of the Second Temple period.  Students and scholars will benefit from the brief, but detailed introductions that this anthology provides.  If you like big books, then this one is for you.  It is well worth it.

{Note:  This book was provided free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review: The Maxwell Leadership Bible

The Bible is full of examples when it comes to leadership.  As a Christian it would only make sense that there be a Bible devoted to the issue.  After all, we are all leaders of some kind.  Whether at work, home, or in our churches there are circumstances in which we are a leader.  John Maxwell has been a pastor of a large church, and he is also one of the most sought after speakers and authors on the topic of leadership.  His notes about leadership in this volume are second to none.

The Bible itself is the New King James translation of scripture.  The translation itself is great, and the only qualm I have is that the deuterocanonical books are not included (I’m Catholic…what can I say).  The notes in this Bible are amazing.  As previously stated, Maxwell has notes and articles on leadership throughout this volume.  He lists the 21 laws of leadership, 21 qualities of a leader, a detailed index that point to leadership issues, as well as over 100 biographical profiles.  If you are a leader of any kind, and we all are, this is a great addition to your library…if only for the notes and articles alone.

[Note:  This book was received free of charge from Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review: Moments Til Midnight

Studying the life of St. Paul is a special joy for me.  Perhaps it is because I can identify with him in some small way.  I am nowhere near the evangelist or leader he was, but I did persecute the church of God at one point.  Reading his story of redemption is one that inspires me to be a better Christian.  In his second letter to Timothy we read his last letter to his protégé.  What were those hours like?  In his book Moments Til Midnight, author Brent Crowe seeks to answer those questions.

To be clear this book is a work of fiction with scripture woven in.  The author seeks to reconstruct what he thinks the last 12 hours of Paul’s life were like.  Topics from grace, friendship , leadership, and conversion are discussed.  It is really unique and stands out from other books about Paul.  It is a different take on Paul, and quite frankly, one that is a breath of fresh air.  This is not a historical work, but it is one that the reader will learn from.   On a scale of one to five stars I give it a solid four.

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge from B&H in exchange for an honest review].

Book Review of The Case For Christ: Daily Moment of Truth

Jesus said that we must love him with all of our minds, heart, soul, and strength (Matthew 22:37).  There are many devotionals out there that focus on loving Jesus with heart and soul, but very few address loving him with our minds.  The Case For Christ: Daily Moment of Truth by Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg is one that fills the void, and does so very effectively.

I have little doubt that you have either read other work by Lee Strobel, or seen the popular film The Case For Christ.  This devotional follows a similar format, and examines why we are here.  It does so in very general terms at first then moves into more advanced apologetics content.  Each apologetics devotional is only around two pages long.  As a result, topics are only discussed very briefly.  It would behoove the ready to look into longer works that go into detail regarding these more complex subject.  The book is 360 pages long and includes subjects such as science meeting scripture, reincarnation, the divinity of Christ, and historical evidences for the faith.  There is very little uncovered, and wets the appetite of these subjects.

This book is good if you are wanting a brief 5-6 minute overview of scripture and apologetics content.  IF you are looking for an in depth explanation about the proofs of the resurrection this is not the book, and this is not the intent or design of the book.  It is meant to strengthen one’s faith with basic apologetics that will assist in one defending Christianity.  With that is does a pretty good job.  4/5 stars.

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review: The Beauty of the Mass

One of the things I had trouble with during my journey to the Catholic Church was what went on at Mass.  I can’t begin to tell you how frustrated I would get as everyone sat and kneeled while I was left wondering what was going on.  As I started to understand the theology behind the Mass, I started to see a whole other issue entirely.  I started to notice how some who have been immersed their whole lives have no idea about the beauty and majesty that they are partaking in.

In his book The Beauty of the Mass:  Exploring the Central Act of Worship author Charles S. Johnston takes an in depth look at the Mass.  The book is brilliantly laid out and describes exactly what is happening with every aspect of Mass.  From the initial sign of the cross, to the final blessing, and everything in between the author lays out the reasons why we do what we do.  Even ore importantly, at least to me, is that the Biblical basis is given for it.  There is so much scripture in the Mass!  As if having all the scriptural backup wasn’t enough, the author strengthens his research using church documents and writing from the early church fathers.

Would I recommend that you check out this book?  Absolutely!  It is solid and is good for those who are coming into the church because it gives a great explanation of the Mass.  It is also good of those of us who have been around and I’m sure you will discover something that you didn’t know.  The book is well written and is written in a style that everyone will be able to understand it.  Check it out!

Please visit the author’s website at Nowthatimcatholic.com to learn more about his work.

You purchase the book here.

[Note:  This book was provided by the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review: All The Pope’s Men

All The Pope’s Men was an interesting book.  When I started reading it I was expecting more of a theological expose of how the Vatican works, but to my surprise this was not the case.  This was not a bad thing, but a very good thing.  It allowed me to step back and see the church in a whole new light.  As Catholics we see the Vatican as this holy place, which it is, but it is so much more.  It is literally a country of its own, and it has diplomatic relations with other countries.  I think that is one of the reasons for the book’s popularity.  It gives detailed insight into the different aspects and offices that comprise the Vatican.  I found it particularly fascinating that the various offices of the Vatican are totally autonomous from each other.  They each have their own separate leadership.  In the pages about the Roman Curia Allen wrote about how one office was comprised of two people who spoke two different languages.  This was done so they would not develop a favoritism toward each other.

Another reason for the book’s popularity is that it is not a theological treatise or a church history book about the importance of the Vatican.  Allen strives and succeeds in my opinion, between the roll of the Holy See and its relationship with the rest of the world.  A third reason for the books popularity is that it acts as a myth buster about popular conspiracy theories about the Vatican.  I recommended this book to a non-Catholic friend for those pages alone.  They are filled with sources that can be easily obtained.  Allen’s views on the American and Vatican perspectives is also interesting, and if you look closely you can see them play out pretty regularly.  In America we want things done the way we want yesterday (immediately).  The Vatican doesn’t work that way.  It is a 2,000 year old Institution that moves slowly.  It isn’t because it doesn’t care, but because it is concerned with Catholics worldwide not just in Los Angeles, CA.  Because of that there are times where relations between the two seem strained, but overall relations are good.  Overall I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

You can check the book out here.

Book Review: A Call To Mercy

She had untold influence in her community, the church, and the world.  She gave up worldly comforts to comfort those who had nothing.  The book A Call to Mercy documents the life of Mother Teresa.  There have been many books published about this wonderful woman, but this one is different.  This one is testimonials from those closest to her, and a lot of the book is in her own words.

Though she is known best for her work in Calcutta, the book includes her work from around the world.  No matter where she was she sought to serve.  One such story is when she was honored with the Nobel Peace prize in Oslo.  It is customary to have a large banquet, but she had a glass of water and asked that the banquet be cancelled and the food given to those in need.  There are many such stories in the book that will challenge every reader to live out the words of Christ in Matthew 25:40.  That passage of scripture states, “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

The book is arranged in a way to correspond with the works of mercy.  At the end of each chapter are passages of scripture for reflection, and a prayer to assist the reader in implanting what was read.  The book is humbling and is one that will change your outlook on those around you.  We encounter those who are hungry, hurting, and just need someone to show them love and mercy on a daily basis.  This book will challenge one to assist however they can.

[I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.]

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