The Paroikos Bible Blog exists as a resource to those interested in Biblical studies and Koine Greek. It is hoped that this blog will simultaneously provide food-for-thought to the reader while pointing him or her in the direction of valuable resources, both in print and on the internet, that will further help his or her studies in the Word.

Dec 29, 2012

Book Alert: Peter, Paul, and Prepositions

“Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12, kjv). Ah, if only the Preacher knew how true this would be in the modern era! Today we are overly-blessed (or cursed, perhaps) with a seemingly infinite influx of new books each year, and 2012 is no exception. Naturally, some books are more worthy of attention than others. While it is ultimately impossible to give a nod of recognition to every book in Biblical studies that deserves it, I’d like to highlight four noteworthy books from 2012 that caught my attention (and, subsequently, my credit card).
Note: the following are not reviews (though I might review one or all of them later), but rather just brief descriptions designed to pique the reader’s interest.
1. First of all, we have Larry R. Helyer’s The Life and Witness of Peter (Downer’s Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2012; 329 pages including indices).  To a certain degree, this is the book I’ve been waiting for the past few, ever since I decided to focus on Petrine studies. If you threw a stone, you could probably hit a dozen Pauline theologies or studies, but works focusing on Peter’s theology and writings are comparatively rare. Now Helyer’s book is not a pure Petrine theology per se, but rather a comprehensive study of both Peter and his writings (part of the book, then, is a Petrine theology; e.g., chapter 7, which deals with “Peter’s Christology”).  Much of The Life and Witness of Peter focuses on Peter’s role in the early church, but Helyer also devotes two chapters to 1 and 2 Peter, chapters which serve a similar role to their equivalent chapters in a standard NT Introduction (i.e., discussing issues of authorship, date, key themes, etc.). Other chapters, as mentioned above, deal with specific theological themes in Peter’s writings. Ultimately, The Life and Witness of Peter fills a very important, oft-neglected niche in scholarship. Furthermore, Helyer is a better writer than most; The Life and Witness of Peter is very scholarly but not at all stuffy, usually finding that right balance between overly-simple and too technical. This is a characteristic he carries over from his other  works, as well. In the doctoral seminary “Second Temple Literature,” Dr. K√∂stenberger required us to read Helyer’s Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period (as well as George Nickelsburg’s excellent Jewish Literature Between the Bible and the Mishnah), and I remember being struck by how enjoyable Helyer’s book was compared to most required textbooks.
2. Secondly, we have my own advisor, Dr. David Alan Black’s, revision of an earlier monograph (and his dissertation) Paul, Apostle of Weakness: Astheneia and Its Cognates in the Pauline Literature (Eugene, Oreg.: Pickwick, 2012; 193 pages including indices). Throughout this book Black examines the concept of “weakness” in the Apostle Paul’s writings and how it is developed throughout. Chapter 5 contains both an excellent overview of “weakness” in Paul’s theology (culminating in the conclusion that Paul’s concept of weakness is "markedly theocentric," p. 161) as well as a very valuable section on “Pauls’ Relevance for Today” (a welcome  addition to any academic monograph!) with the following thought provoking statement, “Too many Christians are disheartened over their infirmities, thinking that only if they were stronger in themselves they could accomplish more for God. But this point of view, despite its popularity, is altogether a fallacy. God’s means of working, rightly understood, is not by making us stronger, but by making us weaker and weaker until the divine power alone is clearly manifested in our lives” (pp. 161-162).
Like Helyer, one of Dr. Black’s strengths in writing lies in the fact that his works are generally easily accessible and often enjoyable (the reason Learn to Read New Testament Greek remains one of the most popular 1st year Greek textbooks). Even Paul, Apostle of Weakness, which is a monograph (and should, by definition, be incredibly dull!), still manages to be both interesting and surprisingly easy to follow. Despite the occasional citation of untranslated German (he did, after all, get his doctorate at the University of Basel), this is a book that most Christians, even those without much education, can get some value out of (especially chapter 5).
Let me emphasize again, then, that accessible, enjoyable writing is a skill that should be prized in Biblical studies. Now, granted, it’s not like we want our scholars making their academic works read like the next Michael Crichton novel (although, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad idea . . . [Zondervan, give me a call! I’ve got a great idea for Minnesota Mounce and the Participles of Doom!]) Yet the fact remains that academic works in Biblical studies do not have to be dry! (two of the best examples of enjoyable NT writers, in my opinion, are Michael Bird and N. T. Wright, regardless of whether or not one agrees with them).
3.Thirdly, we have a book that is already making quite the splash within Biblical scholarship. Murray J. Harris’ Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament: An Essential Reference Resource for Exegesis (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2012; 293 pages including indices) does not represent a new area of research per se, but is itself, to a certain degree, a refinement or expansion upon Harris’ essay in volume 3 of Colin Brown’s New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Harris provides a thorough overview of the Greek preposition in the New Testament, helpfully discusses “Dangers to Be Avoided in Any Examination of New Testament Prepositional Usage” (ch. 3), and then proceeds to examine every proper and improper preposition that occurs in the NT, paying special attention to important and/or controversial usage. At this point, Harris’ work does indeed seem to be turning into what the title promises: “An Essential Reference Resource.” See my friend Craig Hurst's review here. 
4.Finally, here’s a fantastic idea that makes you wonder why nobody thought of it sooner: Devotions on the Greek New Testament: 52 Reflections to Inspire & Instruct, ed. by J. Scott Duvall and Verlyn D. Verbrugge (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2012). This book is exactly what the title suggests: devotional treatments of Greek texts, basically Our Daily Bread for seminary students. The authors write in a casual, occasionally personal manner (sometimes including stories). Each writer focuses on one Greek text (a verse or two) and unpacks it, pointing the reader to its practical application in the Christian life. The authorial lineup is a partial “who’s-who” of New Testament scholarship (Darrell Bock, George Guthrie, Lynn Cohick, Ben Witherington III, to name a few) with a few “rising stars” (such as my friend Alan Bandy, recent doctoral graduate from SEBTS).
Well, there’s a whole lot more books worth reading from 2012, but hopefully these will prove to be helpful to those interested in New Testament studies. Looking forward to what 2013 will bring!


  1. It was not until I read through this a 2nd time that I noticed you linked to my review of Prepositions & Theology - thanks!