Encouraging Lament

When Pain Is Real and God Seems Silent (Foreword by Mark Dever): Finding Hope in the Psalms by [Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever]Title: When Pain Is Real and God Seems Silent:
Finding Hope in the Psalms
Author: Ligon Duncan
Genre: Theology/Biblical Studies/Poetry
Pages: 58 (big type, widely spaced)
Rating: 4.5 of 5

The book of Psalms contains some brutally honest poetry in which the psalmist records his suffering and accompanying feelings of abandonment and despair. In this little book, Ligon Duncan shows how these laments can be a source of encouragement. He focuses on Psalms 88 (probably the bleakest of the Psalms) and 89.

I had one very minor quibble with his theology where he dips into the Reformed idea of the “covenant of grace” (a concept not directly taught in Scripture) rather than simply talking about the faithfulness and grace of God. That aside, this is a very encouraging read. It serves as a reminder that God’s children do not have to wear an “I’m a happy little Christian” mask all the time, but neither do we have to despair in painful circumstances. Highly recommended!

Using Biblical Hebrew Responsibly

Exegetical Gems from Biblical Hebrew: A Refreshing Guide to Grammar and Interpretation by [Hardy, H. H. II]Title: Exegetical Gems from Biblical Hebrew –
A Refreshing Guide to Grammar & Interpretation
Author: H. H. Hardy II
Genre: Biblical Studies / Translation Theory
Pages: 224
Rating: 4.5 of 5
Future Publication Date: 7/16/19 (Thank you to the author and publisher for a free eARC via NetGalley. This in no way affects the content of this review)

A Couple months ago I reviewed the companion volume to this book (Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek) and strongly recommended it. Pretty much everything that I said about that book goes for this one. It is an excellent resource for second year (or maybe even second semester) biblical Hebrew students or those (like me) wishing to brush up on what they studied back in college/seminary.

Each short chapter provides a sample verse and discusses one major aspect of grammar and interpretation. It shows the proper way to use your knowledge of biblical Hebrew rather than the “gold nuggets” approach that reads way too much into every little nuance of the language. This book did seem to have a little more technical jargon in it than its Greek counterpart, but it may just be that my Hebrew is way rustier than my Greek, so I can’t say for sure.

The eARC that I read had some serious formatting issues with the Hebrew font (it frequently read left-to-right with no vowel pointings). I am assuming that this will not be the case in the finished product. With that assumption, I highly recommend this book to anyone in the middle of learning biblical Hebrew or who needs a little refresher course.

Using Koine Responsibly

Title: Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek –
A Refreshing Guide to Grammar and Interpretation
Author: Benjamin L. Merkle
Genre: Biblical Studies / Translation Theory
Pages: 192
Rating: 4.5 of 5
Future Publication Date: 6/16/19 (Thank you to the author and publisher for a free eARC via NetGalley. This in no way affects the content of this review)

This book targets a specific audience: people who have already studied at least a semester or two (or equivalent) of koine Greek. If that’s you and you’re looking to enhance your understanding and/or brush up on your long-neglected biblical Greek, I highly recommend this book (also this youtube video). If you don’t fit into that category (which might be almost everyone who regularly reads this blog…sorry to bore you!), this probably isn’t worth your time. It might give you a basic overview of the kinds of things that knowing koine Greek can (and can’t) help you with in New Testament exegesis, but the frequent Greek text and technical jargon will probably make it an exercise in frustration.

The book is divided into many short chapters that cover grammatical issues related to case, tense, voice, mood, etc. Each chapter describes the concept under discussion and provides an example of how understanding it can help in accurate interpretation in a sample passage. There were a few times where I would have liked to see a little bit more thorough argumentation in the interpretation section, but that is the price of brevity I suppose. I appreciate that the author carefully avoids reading more information into a grammatical construction or vocabulary choice than is actually warranted. The whole book illustrates how a knowledge of biblical Greek should be used in ministry, avoiding the pitfalls of common exegetical fallacies.

Overall, this is an excellent resource for sharpening your understanding and use of Koine. If I were a professor of biblical Greek this would be at the top of the collateral reading list for second year (or maybe even second semester) students.