Book Review: Ten Women Of The Bible

Ten Women Of The Bible:  One By One They Changed The World, by Max Lucado with Jenna Lucado Bishop

This book, plain and simple, is a cash grab.  Perhaps at some point Max Lucado was a good writer, but at this point his writings are all cut-and-paste disappointments [1].  When one can read a great many excellent works by and/or about women [2], why would you want pale imitations like this one?  That is the question faced by any potential reader of this book.  This is not only the sort of book that is not worth paying for, it is the sort of book that may disappoint many people to get for free.  One wonders to what extent the author himself is aware of the works that are being published in his name, given the fact that this book is so disappointing.  I hope that someone on the author’s team, whether the author himself or his agent or publisher, can let him know that his brand name is simply being hurt too much by films like this to let it go on.  Someone has to pull the plug and let his career be over before his work becomes something to actively avoid rather than merely find redundant and unnecessary.

Those who are familiar with books about women will not be surprised at the way this book is organized.  The author chooses to talk about ten women, and woman gets five days worth of studies, making this a fifty-day devotional study, unless this is meant to be done over teen weeks, only including the week-days.  The women chosen include many of my favorite women in the Bible:  Sarah, Rahab, Abigail, Esther, Mary the Mother of Jesus, the Samaritan Woman, the Canaanite woman at the well, Mary of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, and the one baddie of the lot, Sapphira.  The chapters themselves include biblical scriptures on the far left and right sides, but include a lot of material that barely has anything to do with the subject at hand.  Even though all of the chapters are named for women, the accounts themselves focus far more on the men involved than the women, to the point where there are times that more than half of the material barely even mentions the woman who serves as the unifying principle behind the section.  At times, it would seem, it is too much trouble for the author and his faith assistant/daughter (?) to keep track of who the material is supposed to be about.  At least the questions asked in the material is generally worthwhile.

So, why would someone get this book?  It’s a mystery to me.  How many people are going to rush out a book because it has Max Lucado’s name on it?  Anyone at this point who considers his name as a selling point for a book needs to become acquainted with better books.  This book is meandering, tedious, and filled with all kinds of material which is largely irrelevant to the stories about the women who are the nominal subject matter of the book.  It is perhaps no surprise that the titular author would have little involvement with the work, given the wide variety of his sources that are combined together to make this frankenbook.  It is more of a surprise that the added material was from a woman, someone who presumably would understand and be interested in what the Bible has to say about women, and still not be able to add enough material about the biblical women to make this a more interesting book.  How does a book fail so ineptly?  At least the women themselves and what the Bible has to say about them is good, however poorly the author and his faithful assistant present the biblical material.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

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Book Review: Miriam’s Well

Miriam’s Well:  Stories About Women In The Bible, by Alice Bach and J. Cheryl Exum

In reading a book like this, I wonder why it it exists.  This is not to say that the book is bad, exactly.  It is marginally competent biblical fan fiction focusing on dynamic women (both good and evil), filling out the details in stories, but biblical fan fiction is not among the most notable genres of literature these days and the book does not appear to be a popular one.  The authors themselves state that this book is written in order to give a better understanding of women in the Bible, but then the authors undercut this by not providing very much of interest in terms of their approach to the works and then by engaging in two contradictory tendencies, one of them not regarding the Bible very seriously, and other being to regard Jewish midrashim and apocryphal works like Judith too seriously.  The result is among the more muddled books one can read about biblical women [1], and that is saying something as the subject is one that tends to be quite hazardous for many writers to deal with effectively.

This book is made up of short stories, and then a closing chapter of even shorter vignettes, about “biblical” women.  The authors invent some characters, but generally follow biblical incidents even if they often fail to do anything interesting with them.  After an introduction, the authors talk about Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel, MIriam, Eluma and Hannah, Naomi and Ruth, Michal, Abigail, the wise women of Tekoa and Abel, Esther, and Judith in detail, and then give smaller discussions of women like Jezebel and Rizpah.  After this the authors give suggestions for further reading if a liberal Jewish approach to biblical woman is your cup of tea.  I must admit that I was disappointed with the book, but that I was not actively hostile to it.  The book may not have much of a reason for existing, but it is not the sort of book that is worthy of hostility.  The authors made a lot of puzzling choices, to be sure, but while these choices are worthy of criticism and commentary, they are not the sort of choices that lead to hostility.

Let us comment, though, on these odd choices.  For one, book equates the Bible with the Hebrew scriptures + the apocrypha, and so they do not include any of the women of the New Testament, among whom there are many outstanding examples that would have made this book better and longer (every Mary and Martha and so on).  Additionally, the authors add a lot of information from sketchy sources.  The Hebrew midrash are not the most reliable source of information to begin with, but the authors use them to flesh out details in a very workmanlike fashion.  As a person who reads and even writes literature based on the Bible, the plot and characterization here is rather thin, not rising to the level of Racine or even Lynn Austin.  The biblical stories on their own are fine, and most of them give a lot of credit to the women involved.  The authors appear to have been motivated for reasons of politics and worldview to write about women from the point of view of women who do not have a great deal of respect for the Bible, but do so without any particularly literary talent or flair.  If you want to write because of reasons of critical scholarship, write critical articles and other material.  Writing fiction requires a certain imaginative flair and an ear for dialogue and plot that these women do not have, and this book, sadly, suffers much from its confusion of purposes and approach.

[1] See, for example:

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Book Review: Twelve Extraordinary Women

Twelve Extraordinary Women:  How God Shaped Women of the Bible and What He Wants To Do With You, by John MacArthur

Having read books by the author before [1], I was prepared to like this book.  But I must confess that this book was far better than I expected.  As I an engaged in an extended study of maternal ancestry in the Bible [2], I found this book to be more or less exactly what I was looking for as an example of a gentleman who had some insights on the high regard of the Bible for women.  To be sure, this book is not precisely a work of genealogy, but rather the sort of book that ought to please many women and fair-minded men, and represents the sort of book I like to read about the Bible.  The author has taken an area that is somewhat neglected and presented a biblical view that gives honor to both men and women and that defends the biblical concern with the honor of women as well as their roles within the families of God and men.  I cannot recommend this book enough, not least because I have written about many of these women and have a high degree of regard for them myself [3].

The book is organized rather simply and straightforwardly.  After acknowledgments and a preface and introduction that define the reason for the project as a complement to a previous book (that I have not yet read), the book contains eleven chapters on twelve extraordinary women:  Eve, Sarah, Rahab, Ruth, Hannah, Mary, Anna, the Samaritan woman, Martha and Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Lydia.  In all cases the author does not fail to comment on their extraordinary faith and virtue, the way that they are mentioned in scripture, the outpouring of grace upon flawed human beings, and the way that the stories of this women show the high regard of the Bible for godly women.  The author neither shies away from pointing out the importance of women as wives and mothers nor the way that the faith and insight of women is also a matter of great biblical importance, and he shows some immensely shrewd insights on Boaz that mirror my own understanding of his character and my own [4].  After the main contents of the book, the author includes extensive study questions to help readers think and ponder on the material of the book even more, which is also of value.

Although the author’s focus and my own are different, and although this book gave little in terms of new factors or information, this book was a pleasure to read.  As someone who tends to find myself frequently reading books that have offensive and ungodly worldviews, or that have agendas full of bitterness and resentment to push, this book was a refreshingly straightforward book that took the Bible seriously and wrote to convey a balanced biblical perspective on a matter of interest to many readers.  If I can find a reasonably priced version of this book available, I would happily add it to my own personal library for occasional rereading.  Many books are not worth reading once; this book is worth reading more than once, not least because it provides the material for enjoyable reflection and potential future sermonette messages, something that I always greatly appreciate seeing in any work.  I cannot recommend this pleasant book enough.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

[4] He says, specifically:  “If Boaz had ever been married, Scripture does not mention it.  According to Jewish tradition, he was a lifelong bachelor.  He may have had some physical imperfection or personality quirk that stood in the way of a suitable marriage arrangement.  At the very least, he desperately needed prodding.  Although he obviously took a keen interest in Ruth from the moment he first saw her, it does not seem to have entered his mind to pursue the goel’s role on her behalf.  By his own testimony (Ruth 3:10), he was surprised that Ruth didn’t deem him unsuitable for marriage.

Naomi had sized up the situation correctly, though, and she instructed Ruth on what to do.  Naomi’s scheme was bold and utterly unconventional.  Of course, Ruth, as a foreigner, could always plead ignorance of Jewish custom, but if Naomi’s plan had been known in advance by people in the community, the propriety police certainly would have been up in arms.  Of course, the scheme did not involve any real unrighteousness or indecency.  Naomi certainly would not have asked Ruth to compromise her virtue or relinquish godly modesty.

Still, what Naomi advised Ruth to do was shockingly forward.  (Even to enlightened twenty-first-century minds, it seems surprisingly plucky.)” (80-81)

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Under Intense Scrutiny

One of the gentlemen in our local congregation gave an excellent sermon yesterday on the parable of the talents [1] and on some of its many implications.  Among the more intriguing things he said was that commentators of the Bible have pointed to a couple of reasons why Jesus spoke in parables.  The reason given in the Bible is that He wanted to speak in a way that would confuse and disguise his message for the people, meaning that people would have to ask if they wanted to know.  Few people asked, and few people ask today when they see a message they don’t understand.  They just assume that people are boring and talking over their heads, and lack the curiosity to find out more.  Another reason given was that Jesus was under intense scrutiny and couched his daring and controversial thoughts in a way that would be less immediately offensive than laying them openly before his audience.  This is a motive I can definitely understand.

As it happens, I had spoken with this gentleman at considerable length at the Tacoma Weekend while the dance was going on about the subject of this sermon.  We both come from backgrounds that are similar in at least one respect, and that is that we are heirs of those who came to the knowledge of God’s ways and grew up having learned and practiced those ways ourselves.  There is a difference in perspective between those who encounter the truth and see the dramatic change in their lives it makes, who make drastic sacrifices as a result of having seen a precious gift of salvation and understanding, and the generations that follow after them and who grow up in the knowledge of God’s ways, and not infrequently in the earnest desire to obey from one’s youth.  Growing up in a faith as unusual as that I have lived in my life, one tends to feel as if one lives under intense scrutiny among the outside world, that one is marked as different and as an outsider, and thus consigned to misunderstanding and a great deal of hostility.  Likewise, when one knows that the blessings that come from understanding and obedience have not been earned, but have been passed on as a legacy, there is a feeling that one is under a great burden to live worthy of the gifts that one has been given, since those gifts were by no means given by merit.

Church services were fairly busy, but in an ordinary way that hardly attracts much in the way of reflection.  I arrived at church in time for our choir practice and sound check and got to chat a good bit with some people, make some jokes and generally enjoy myself.  After that I set up for the ensemble and chatted a bit more.  I got to talk to one of my friends and relative neighbors with whom I do not get to chat as often as I would wish.  We discussed feast plans, hers and mine, and I commented some on the way that certain people are friendly in private but not friendly at all in public because it is admittedly not cool in certain circles to be seen as being friendly with me.  She said, rather sensibly, that in light of the experiences I have had that it is my cross to bear.  Or at least one of them.  After that it was time to perform, to make note of the tendency of one of my close friends and sermonette speakers to reference country songs in his sermonettes, something I teased him about gently during dinner, and then sing in choir.  The performance was not perfect–and one part was certainly a bit rough–but overall it went well.  Our guest tenor was generally well appreciated as well [2].

After church I snacked a bit, chatted a bit, and found other people generally surprised that I was not going to the barn dance.  I helped look for someone’s lost cell phone that had been lost under the clutter near them, and then it was time to head to dinner.  I was wondering if anyone would ask me why I didn’t go to the barn dance, but although some people seemed to have assumed that I would go, I did not feel as if I was invited or considered welcome by the host.  As it happens, I had conversed at some length with the host of the barn dance last Sabbath, and when the dance was being referred to, the audience was spoken of as they and not you.  I tend to be more than usually sensitive to the choice of words by other people, and as the audience was assumed to be a third person audience, I felt as if my presence around the young folk of the area, some of whom came far and wide to go to the dance, was not particularly welcome, even if there are at least a few people I may have danced with had I gone.  I have frequently felt beleaguered by the pressure and scrutiny I face as an awkward single man with few good prospects for dating, much less marriage, that I can see around me.  Sometimes it is better to not intentionally increase the stress of a life that has more than enough already.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

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Book Review: How We Forgot The Cold War

How We Forgot The Cold War:  A Historical Journey Across America, by Jon Wiener

The way this author goes on about progressives and insults the conservative view of the Cold War, which he oversimplifies and mischaracterizes, he should be called John Whiner.  Having been familiar with this work, I was aware of the author’s worldview, which brings discredit to any authority he cites (including the New York Times and WaPo [1]).  One thing to understand about this work is that many people reading this, if they can get through the nearly 300 pages of fake leftist history, is that they will probably hope the author gets cancer or becomes sterile from all the radiation he experiences in traveling to various cold war monuments, many of which are related to dubious atomic projects and seek to reassure the public of their safety.  An example of the bogus worldview of the author is the way that his perspective triangulates between leftists (fellow travelers like himself), liberals, and conservatives, which apparently is anyone remotely right of center–moderates are barely even mentioned in this account.  When one’s view is as far left as the John Birch Society is right, it is hard to have any useful political insights, and this book predictably suffers as a result of the author’s whining over the cruel fate dished to the Hollywood 10 who refused to snitch on their fellow reds, and deserved a far more serious fate than they received.

The book consists of the author’s tour around the country, roughly organized in a chronological fashion, with one exception, in that the author begins by positing a straw man argument for the other side and ends with various progressive sites, slanting the argument in his favor.  The book is divided into five parts, looking at two sites that deal with the end–the Reagan Library and the abortive Victims of Communism museum, then goes back to sites connected to the beginning of the Cold War, the 1950’s, the 1960’s and after, and “alternative approaches” that include Rocky Flats, a leftist CNN Cold War retrospective, and the Harry Truman museum.  The author is such a cheerleader for his own view that it is impossible to take the writing seriously, given the fact that the author never fails to misrepresent the view of the American people concerning the Cold War and booster for his own particular bogus worldview.

Indeed, the most important insight, and perhaps the only worthwhile aspect of this book, is the way that the author unintentionally reveals the mystery he searched for in vain across America.  There are at least two reasons why Americans have largely forgotten the Cold War and have not viewed it with the same triumphalist spirit as the Civil War and World War II have been viewed.  For one, the United States has not tended to celebrate either wars that are draws (War of 1812, World War I, Korea) or America’s “small wars” of counterinsurgency.  Related to this is the fact that once the Cold War was largely won on the large scale, it became a war of counterinsurgency between the forces of the Left like the author and patriotic Americans like those who elected our current president.  As that war is not over by a long shot, it is likely that any such triumphalist feelings on the part of Americans will require a decisive victory in the larger cultural war, which would likely require the reduction of influence of leftist professors and other public employees on efforts of culture and education.  That fight remains to be won, and as the author does not desire to look outside of his own echo chamber of bureaucrats and leftists, it is unlikely he will ever find anything worthwhile in America concerning any subject matter.  He who does not seek will never find.

[1] See, for example:

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Book Review: Historians In Trouble

Historians In Trouble:  Plagiarism, Fraud, And Politics In The Ivory Tower, by Jon Wiener

This book was disappointing. It took until the very end of the book for the author to be honest about his leftist agenda to the reader:  “The real need over the longer term is to find ways to counter the excessive power of right-wing advocacy groups (213).”  Quite the contrary.  It is scarcely to be imagined just how much this book fails under any standard, and how it excites in those readers whose political worldviews are antithetical to his own the strong desire to defend those who are libeled by the author in this left-wing hack job and to join whatever lynch mobs right-wing advocacy groups are starting against the left-wing professors guilty of academic high crimes and misdemeanors whom the author wishes to whitewash because of their ideological agreement with him on various matters of Marxist philosophy.  The concern of historians with legitimacy is nothing new [1], but all this author does is make it more necessary for those opposed to the author to speak out in defense of right thinking and right behaving, even if the situation in academia is one that few people ought to be proud of on any side.

Much of the material discussed in this book is not worth the dignity of even referring to regarding to names.  The author appears like an unseemly blackmailer pouring out garbage against people in order to smear them as unworthy historians, and it would not be surprising if the author was not himself the subject of some particularly nasty and particularly expensive libel suits given how he plays fast and loose with the truth and writes largely to score points with his fellow travelers among the left with little regard for decency or historical accuracy.  In this book we see the author taking aim at plagiarism, but only by those historians the author deems as being of right-wing approach, and there are other allegations, including of racism, sexual harassment, and even child molestation, that are far more unseemly than that.  In addition, just to keep the account even more slanted and biased, the author then seeks to defend the reputation of three left-wing historians who had some trouble because of their own misdeeds, because it is not enough to smear those judged as conservative but one must defend radicals because what is at stake is not truth or justice or equity, but rather a bogus political worldview that is unworthy of receiving any taxpayer support for whatsoever.

Ultimately, this book is unlikely to convince anyone who is not already convinced of the author’s perspective.  The bias in this book is so overwhelming, the author’s own misguided advocacy too obvious, to make this book appealing to anyone who is not a radical leftist.  And unless they are given recommendations to this book by other radical leftists, it seems unlikely that anyone would read this book expecting anything other than what I did, namely a takedown of a profession that is far too leftist in its general orientation, and that is not what is found here at all.  What a disappointment that is, that the author shows himself not only to not give what the reader expects, but to be as unpleasant and disgusting about his offensive worldview as possible.  Given the flames on the cover of this book, it is surprising more copies of this garbage have not been consigned to the flames where they belong.  There are many more useful purposes for paper than serving the purposes of promoting this author’s quest to libel rival historians.

[1] See, for example:

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Games Of Logistics

As someone who likes to find greater insight and meaning into the habits and hobbies of people and which may often escape wider notice, I find it deeply intriguing just how common games of logistics are.  Those who spend too much time playing games [1] are very familiar with the rash of free online games that involve resource gathering.  I am sure you have likely played such games yourself, or at least known people who have.  Many of them operate under similar principles.  You build a small settlement with different types of buildings and resource constraints, you level up through quests and jobs, you gather wood and stone and iron, you increase the level of buildings, you build ships for trade, sometimes you must defend yourself and at other times the game is more peaceful and is based on trade.  Many of these games seek to trade upon some sort of ideal of the world, whether one is looking at the development of a settlement through an imagined past, or one is constructing a steampunk influenced transportation empire or is working to build a seaport or a shipping line between Trondheim and Edinburgh against all comers.  What all of these games share is a deep concern in logistics.

I have long found logistics to be a fascinating subject, of great relevance in my own life and in our world.  Yet it is not a very popular subject by any means.  Logistics is a matter of supreme importance in our world, but it is a subject seldom understood and a word seldom used, and often mysterious when it is used.  Do we mean by logistics the shrewd management that allows for raw materials to be brought from all over the world and assembled at the lowest priced and shipped to far flung customers in such a way that it profits some people and not others?  On the one hand, logistics involves powers of the mind, including the desire for economic security in a world of threat and danger and scarcity.  On the other hand, logistics involves a strong focus on material things and stuff, and how they are shipped and stored by what means along what routes for how long and for how much.  In a world where we are haunted by insecurity and deeply acquisitive, it is little wonder that our games should encourage us to hoard resources and protect them from rivals and trade them for profit and advancement, considering the course of our lives.

Yet logistics has long been a staple of games, even if in ways that have not always been recognized.  It is not surprising that many games that human beings have played have had a relationship with warfare.  Even our games today take on ominous hints of conflict, and where there is not actual fighting over games and their results, games are at least simulated warfare where beautiful women encourage men to fight over territory.  Logistics has long been seen as important in warfare, as many empires knew it was wise not to spend too much treasure fighting over marginal areas with fierce inhabitants who wanted to be left alone.  Certain places have been fought over again and again because they sat astride trade routes and supply lines that had to be secured.  Armies were only as effective as their arms and morale and vigor, and these were kept up through supply lines along land and water routes.  While air routes have been added to this, airlifts have been expensive to use in comparison to more established means of supply.  Likewise, those with superior logistics have long used attritional warfare when no other means appeared sufficiently promising.  We have seen this technique work in games like chess, where advantageous sacrifices as well as strategic pawn promotion often lead to a decisive edge in pieces and a resulting victory.

How is it that we spend our lives wrestling with logistics, and often not succeeding very well, and even play games related to logistics in our free time in the hopes, perhaps, of mastering resource gathering in a virtual world enough to make it feasible in our real world, and yet we do not consciously recognize what we are about?  Is it that logistics appears too abstract given the concrete reality of the resources we deal with in our lives and about which we are so concerned?  Is it that we cannot visualize in space and time the importance of our own personal lines of supply, except when in song or in jest we comment on the distant nature of where things are made, and wonder about the implications of being so far from where things are created?  Or is it that we are so terrified and anxious and uneasy about how insecure our lives are that we do not want to dwell on those vulnerabilities more than is absolutely necessary, and that we cloak in games and leisure the matters that burden our soul, that rob us of sleep and peace of mind, and that make life such a wearisome chore?  We may play games of logistics, but somehow we know that we are counted by those who appear to matter in our world as no more than the units of items that we so casually acquire and move about in our games.  We play our games, and know we are being played.

[1] See, for example:

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Book Review: Mastering The Basics: James

Mastering The Basics:  James, by Lyman Coleman and Richard Peace

This is the only one of the entire series [1] I have read by the authors that was not about the epistles of Paul, and that alone gives this study guide to a most interesting book [2] a bit of contrast from the rest of the series.  It should be noted that there is a lot about the book of James that the author does not cover that is of interest, and two of these elements come fairly readily to mind.  One of them is that the authors seem not to note anything odd about James saying that he was writing to those among the twelve tribes in what is now remote eastern Turkey, in the area where the Israelites were put after the Assyrian captivity, interestingly enough.  Another omission is any mention of the way that Martin Luther thought of James, as an “epistle of straw” because he was greatly offended by the demand of James for ethical behavior, the fruits of faith, to be evident in the lives of believers.  This has the feel of a book that is not likely to be as popular because James is less known than the epistles of Paul in the antinomian world of the authors.

Obviously, this book is going to share a lot with the other books in the series, like its seven or thirteen week plan, its introductory materials, and the design of its lessons including text, study, group agenda, notes, and comments.  Some of the material in the book is worthy of additional commentary, as the book includes some excellent sources like Eusibius’ and Josephus’ account of James’ death, sort of.  There is a lot here of value, particularly the way that the author compares James to Proverbs (a common comparison) and notes that although James does not directly reference his half-brother, he uses the well-known technique of remez to reference much of Christ’s teaching [3].  The parallels between James and the letter in Acts 15 only increase the understanding that the two were written by the same person.  To be sure, this book has a lot to offer in its little details, showing that the authors at least endeavored to read a lot about this book when writing their Bible study on it, something that was an improvement over how they handled some previous books in the series.

As might be guessed, though, there is material here worthy of criticism.  Perhaps the most obvious area of criticism, aside from the aforementioned omissions above, is the fact that the authors are trying to curry favor with a Catholic audience by dancing around the issue of James’ paternity, not coming out clearly and stating that James was Jesus’ half-brother in order not to offend Catholics who believe that Mary was a perpetual virgin, in stark contrast to what the Bible actually says about her.  Apart from that and the fact that the this commentary, like all of the others, uses the inferior Alexandrian text for James, this is a relatively decent commentary.  To be sure, the authors do not know as much about James as they think they do, but they have at least tried to do their homework and that deserves a considerable amount of praise.  This is a lot better than the commentary of 1 Corinthians in this series, that is for sure, and is at least on the same level as the other two volumes I have read, and has some insights worth checking out.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

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Book Review: Mastering The Basics: 1 Corinthians

Mastering The Basics:  1 Corinthians, by Lyman Coleman and Richard Peace

This particular volume is the biggest of the series [1], about 120 pages, twice as long as the other volumes in the series.  Bigger is not always better, and that is certainly the case here, as this book would have been much better had the authors decided not to engage in speculation and show themselves to be largely unaware of the contents of the book [2].  One ought not to be surprised that 1 Corinthians would receive so much attention, but it is to be regretted that the authors do not appear to know what the book is about or the approach that Paul had to God’s law.  If there is any book in this series that demonstrates the tone-deaf quality of much of contemporary Christian commentary, this book is certainly a fitting reminder of the fact that without the correct view of God’s ways it is immensely easy to go astray.  And this book goes astray in ways that would be far more entertaining if the book was not about the Bible.  If this were a misguided book on any other subject I would not rate it any higher but I might at least find some humor in the misguided nature of the authors’ understanding.  The higher stakes makes this book a lot less enjoyable than it would be otherwise.

In many ways, the structure of this book is a lot like the rest of this series.  It contains the same introductory material, provides a thirteen or twenty-seven week plan for reading and understanding the book of 1 Corinthians, which would be helpful if the authors understood the book, and contain the same form for the lessons themselves with text, study, group agenda, notes, and comments.  In this book, though, the contents overspill their boundaries enough that the various sections can get more than a little muddled, which made it a bit irritating to read.  This, it should be noted, likely did not help me think more charitably about it.  The book at least gets a few things right, like the fact that we only have one side of the story (namely Paul’s letter), and that having only one side of the story (and that one a difficult one to understand, a problem as a letter writer I understand all too well), and the fact that the book appears to be divided between Paul’s strongly corrected dealing with problems reported to him from the congregation and his answering of questions asked of him, and when we are dealing with books like this we should take any insights as something worth appreciating and noting.

Obviously, there is a lot to criticize about the book.  From its muddled organization to the way that the authors use the inferior Alexandrian text, the book manages to have more problems than the rest of the books in the series.  A few are worth mentioning in particular.  For one, the authors manage to attempt to discuss the laws against incest in Leviticus 18 and the qualities that would keep one from entering into the kingdom in 1 Corinthians 6 and somehow completely fail to understand the importance of God’s laws and their continuing importance for believers.  Likewise, the authors read the introduction to this book (and the other Pauline epistles) and somehow do not fail to get the implications of there only being two beings listed in all of those introductions, namely God the Father and Jesus Christ our elder brother, which leads the authors to engage in all kinds of trinitarian speculation.  On top of this, the authors manage to read what Paul has to say about meat offered in heathen temples and manages to draw from this an entirely unwarranted approval of eating unclean meats.  Authors should not write commentaries of books that they manifestly do not understand.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

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Book Review: Mastering The Basics: Philippians

Mastering The Basics:  Philippians, by Lyman Coleman and Richard Peace

The second [1] book of this series that I had the chance to read, this particular book deals with one of the more irenic of Paul’s epistles [2], to a longtime congregation that had supported him and encouraged him for a great many years.  This is the sort of commentary and study guide that I am going to like a lot more than others, not least for the fact that the authors comment that the real point of Philippians is an urging of internal unity in the face of threats from false teachers, unity that is hurt because of the quarrels between two women who are leaders of the church.  Since few of the readers of this book that I know will consider that likely, it is probable that this book would be less appreciated by those whose view of the leadership roles of women in the early church is less egalitarian than my own views.  I considered the idea to be a possibility, and certainly something worth considering and musing over, though by no means a proven certainty.  Many readers are likely to be less charitable and as a result their enjoyment of this book will be lessened materially.

Like the previous volume of this series, this book has the same body of introductory material and the same structure of text, study, group agenda, notes, and comments in each of its lessons.  Like the preceding volume, the book is divided into a seven week plan (although there is also a thirteen-week option for those particularly slow groups or individuals).  However, there are some differences as well.  For example, the authors make as their focus the need for unity.  This concern pops up remarkably often in the Pauline epistles, and given the fractious nature of the Church of God, it is more of a surprise that we do not dwell more on what Paul has to say about unity and what lessons we can learn and apply in an effort to avoid further division or recover unity that has been lost because of our struggles with Christian ethics.  The structure the authors find in the book of Philippians is quite intriguing, with the vast majority of the material devoted to the need for unity and examples about unity in three relationships.  Likewise, the authors find in this book a personal letter full of an informal approach and the frequent change of subject and tone, making this book “the antithesis of Romans (11).”  All in all, this is a worthwhile book.

Again, although this book is a worthwhile one, it is not without faults.  The authors appear to desire to use this book as a way of attacking those who would hold to a pronomian view, and the perspective of the authors is certainly more than a little bit skewed when it comes to God’s laws.  Likewise, the fact that the authors use the Alexandrian text base makes this book somewhat incomplete compared to the superior majority text versions.  Apart from these flaws, this book is likely to be a polarizing one.  Your feelings about this volume will depend largely on the extent to which you are willing to entertain the possibility of the authors’ speculations on the importance of women in the Church of God in Philippi.  Those who find the role of women in the early church neglected will likely enjoy this book more than it deserves, and those who find the author’s willingness to consider the division of two women as the real, if somewhat indirectly dealt with, cause for the letter to be offensive will not like this book much at all.  Consider yourself duly warned.


[2] See, for example:

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