Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

Tupamahu (2023), Contesting Languages: Heteroglossia and the Politics of Language in the Early Church, OUP. Pages: x+255. ISBN: 978-0-19-7581-12-4.

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 30•23

Tupamahu, Ekaputra. Contesting Languages: Heteroglossia and the Politics of Language in the Early Church. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2023.

In his book Contesting Languages: Heteroglossia and the Politics of Language in the Early Church, Ekaputra Tupamahu investigates the role of language in the early Christian community in Corinth. Tupamahu argues that the city of Corinth was a multilingual city, and that this multilingualism had a significant impact on the way that the Corinthians understood and practiced their faith.

Tupamahu begins by challenging the traditional interpretation of speaking in tongues as an ecstatic, unintelligible phenomenon. He argues that this interpretation is an invention of German romantic-nationalist scholarship, and that it is not supported by the text of 1 Corinthians. Instead, Tupamahu draws on Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories of language to argue that speaking in tongues is a heteroglossic phenomenon, meaning that it is a way of speaking that incorporates multiple languages and voices.

Tupamahu then goes on to argue that the Corinthians’ use of tongues was a site of political struggle. He argues that the centripetal force of monolingualism, which attempts to force heterogeneous languages into a singular linguistic form, was at work in the early church. This force was used by the dominant group to control and subordinate minoritized languages. However, Tupamahu argues that the Corinthians’ use of tongues unleashed a centrifugal force that challenged the dominant group’s control over language.

Tupamahu’s book offers a new perspective on the role of language in the early church. He argues that the Corinthians’ use of tongues was a way of resisting the dominant group’s control over language. This resistance opened a space for the Corinthians to imagine a new socio-linguistic vision, one that was marked by unending difference.

Tupamahu’s book is a valuable contribution to the study of language and religion. It provides a new perspective on the role of language in the early church, and it challenges the traditional interpretation of speaking in tongues. Tupamahu’s book is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of language, religion, and power.

Kleinig HEBREWS, 2017

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Oct• 25•17

Kleinig, John W. 2017. Hebrews. St. Louis: Concordia Pub House. Pages: 815, ISBN: 9780758616036.

9780758616036This commentary follows the pattern of other titles in the same series. The tradition of the series where scholarship is brought to the level of the pews continues in this volume too. It has to be noted that the same author wrote the commentary on the Book of Leviticus in this series as well. Leviticus and Hebrews share many concepts, imageries and language.

Kleinig presents to us an almost word-by-word commentary of the Book of Hebrews. Each section provides deep insight into the text. Each section has a fresh translation, textual notes, word studies, theological themes, etc.

Kleinig argues that the Book of Hebrews is a written sermon.

The detailed introduction which precedes the commentary has discussions on the audience of the Book of Hebrews, the date, etc which is part of any standard commentary. Besides these standard elements, Kleinig offers the readers a detailed rhetorical analysis of the book. He has a section on the rhetorical character of the book and another on the rhetorical techniques used. He also offers a discourse analysis of the book. Another noteworthy feature of this commentary is that it has a treatise on how the Book of Hebrews uses the Old Testament.

This is in every sense a monumental work on the Book of Hebrews hitherto published. The scholars and the pastors will be ever grateful to the author and the publishers for this great achievement.

Visit the publisher, Concordia Publishing House for more titles.

Weinrich. John 1:1-7:1, Concordia Commentary, 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jun• 19•16

9780758603197Weinrich, William C. John 1:1-7:1. Concordia Commentary: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2015. Pages:li+863. ISBN: 9780758603197.
This is another volume in the news series of commentaries in the series titled Concordia Commentary: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture by the Concordia Publishing House. This volume deals with first six chapters of the Gospel of John.
All the commentaries in this series are detailed, in-depth treatment of the scripture. This volume also has a detailed introduction to the Gospel of John that deals with patristic testimonies on the origin of Gospel of John, its uniqueness, the purpose and major themes, the place of writing, etc. The author Weinrich is not only an NT scholar but an expert in patristics too.
The commentary is so detailed and analytical but even a non-specialist will find it very reader friendly. The six chapters are dealt with in 863 pages. Like all the volumes in the Concordia Commentary series each section is marked according to their relevance and themes using symbols. This makes it a useful reference tool for scholars and preachers.
See also Das, Andrew. Galatians
Visit the publisher’s site

Das. Galatians 2014 (Concordia Commentary)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Nov• 18•14

Das, A. Andrew. Galatians. Concordia Commentary: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014

Das GalatiansBeing a seminary professor and pastor lay leaders and pastors approach me to recommend a commentary that they can use for their teaching and preaching. Though I have a list of commentaries ready, I find myself at a loss as to what to recommend. There are scholarly commentaries but they are too detailed, require knowledge of biblical language and critical skills. Then on the other end of the spectrum are very simple but shallow treatments of the biblical text. However, this commentary on Galatians by Andrew Das fills this gap as it is aimed at pastors but is very scholarly—where current biblical scholarship is presented in a ‘non-threatening’ way!

Here we have a commentary which trained academics will cherish and pastors and lay persons without much training will love to read. It is amazingly detailed. The commentary on the six chapters of Galatians are presented to us in 656 pages! For example, the detailed discussion on the fruit of the Spirit runs many pages. The explanation of ‘love’ in this passage has taken up two full pages with ten footnotes documenting modern authors and ancient writers. Each verse, and word is so thoroughly treated and the reader gets the feeling that there is no leaf that is not unturned.

This includes a very sumptuous introduction that deals with topics that widen the readers’ understanding of the situation in Galatia that Paul addresses, Pauline chronology, rhetorical analysis of the epistle, etc. Besides this there is a detailed up-to-date bibliography, scripture and subject indices. Non-academic readers will find the three-page glossary of terms a blessing. Besides the commentary there are a number of excursus that are really a treat for the learners. Look at a sample: ‘Modern Perspectives on Conversion’, ‘The extent of Paul’s Arabian ministry’, ‘The metaphorical and social context of Galatians 4:1-7’, ‘The elements of the cosmos’, etc.

This easy to read but profound commentary on Galatians will be welcomed by both academics and lay persons as ‘The Commentary on Galatians’ for many years to come!


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Sep• 05•14

Pagola, Jose Antonio. 2009. Jesus, an Historical Approximation. Miami, Fla.: Convivium Press.

This is the English translation of Pagola’s book on Historical Jesus originally published in Spanish in 2007.  Studies on historical Jesus are plenty but Pagola’s work stands out among them as he attempts to reconstruct Historical Jesus from a faith perspective.
To quote: ‘In any case, an encounter with Jesus is not the fruit of historical research or of doctrinal reflection. It only happens through personal commitment and faithful following.’
Though Jesus re9781934996096constructed through historical research is not essential for our faith, the faith demands that we use the methods available to us to have a better understanding of his historical dimension and his concrete human life. Pagola argues that this is required because Jesus Christ was incarnate in our history and he is a person of history.
However, Pagola’s work is not just a pious retelling of the story of Jesus of Nazareth. But throughout this book he interacts with other Jesus scholars and sifts in an immense amount of insights on the Roman and Jewish world of first century produced by contemporary scholarship. The result is: ‘a profound and extensive scholarly theological reflection about Jesus’ as the blurb claims and any reader would discover. It is certainly a feast to the mind and to the heart!

See also: Pagola, Jose Antonio. The Way Opened Up by Jesus: a Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. 1st ed. Convivium Press, 2012. Pages: 256. ISBN: 978-1-934996-28-7.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jan• 03•14
9781934996201Vanhoye, Albert. A Different Priest: The Letter to the Hebrews. Miami, Fla.: Convivium Press, 2011.

Though it is popularly known as “the letter to the Hebrews,” Scholars were divided if this book is a sermon or a letter. It seems to show the characteristics of both. Vanhoye has a very simple solution to this debate. According to him the book is a homily and the writer is an itinerant preacher. However, the sermon is written down and sent to Christian communities far and wide by adding epistolary material (13:22-25) after its conclusion (13:20-21). Take the epistolary intrusion away, it is a great sermon.

This understanding of the book as a homily from beginning to end is the basis of the rhetorical analysis of in the present work. Being a homily, it is rhetorical in nature. However, the rhetoric of the book of Hebrews is not very much in line with that of the Greco-Roman world. Vanhoye argues that the author/preacher has Judaeo-Hellenistic education. However, his rhetoric style is very much Semitic in style.

Albert Vanhoye is a French Jesuit who taught scripture in a number of schools and is a noted biblical scholar on the Book of Hebrews. He was appointed Cardinal by Pope Benedict xvi in 2006. This book is the fruit of his many years of work on the study of Hebrews.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Dec• 04•12

Pagola, Jose Antonio. The Way Opened Up by Jesus: a Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. 1st ed. Convivium Press, 2012. Pages: 256. ISBN: 978-1-934996-28-7.

This is not an exPagola. Matthewegetical commentary but a homiletical one. This means that the readers will not find lengthy discussions on the background, critical issues, theology, lexical or word studies here. It is based on the simple, plain message of the scripture. In his treatment of the Gospel of Matthew, Pagola first of all shows the reader what a given passage means. Then he goes on to show us how these passages challenge the modern Church and its adherents. It offers in-depth, incisive critique of our modern society.

For example, the focus of the commentary on Matthew 16:13-20 is not a study of the concepts or words but narrows down to the question of Jesus: ‘Who do you say that I am?’ The commentator suggests that this question should not be understood philosophically or theologically. It is not on the identity of Jesus but about the identity of those to whom the question is directed. ‘… that question, more than a test of our orthodoxy, is a call to a Christian way of life.’ Then he goes on to explain that Christian way of life expected from our modern world. Or, take for example his treatment of Matthew 5:13-16 where he sharpens the focus on being the salt of the earth. Then he helps us to understand how the Church could add more flavour to our world, the world where the driving force is profit and with corruption at its foundations.

Don’t expect a verse by verse commentary of the entire book of Matthew. This is a commentary based on selected passages. The basis of selection is those passages that ’emphasize the Good News of God proclaimed by Jesus, an inexhaustible source of life and compassion for all.’ Not only the passages selected but the passages omitted will show us that the Pagola like to present the book as a book of hope that challenges the modern believer. For example, 11:12-124 which has condemnatory tones are included, especially woe sayings against the cities.

This is not a surprise anyway; in the introduction, Pagola has already stated that his purpose in life is, not ‘…to condemn, but to liberate. I do not feel called by Jesus to judge the world, but awaken hope. He has not sent me to quench a flickering flame, but to light a candle of faith that is trying to ignite.’ This does not explain why the significant portion of the passion narrative 26:1-27:38 is left out as well as some other passages that are not condemnatory at all.

This book is of great value for those who would like to know the contemporary significance of the Gospel of Matthew. Pagola’s analysis of the contemporary context is thorough and incisive. Those who struggle to bridge the gap between the world of Jesus and of our own from the pulpit will find this extremely helpful.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Feb• 15•11

Meynet, Roland. A New Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels (Miami, Florida: Convivium Press, 2010). ISBN: 9781934996119

This title is the English translation of the French Une nouvelle introduction aux evangiles synoptiques (2009).

This rhetorical critical study of the Synoptics is based on a notion that rhetoric is not just Greco-roman as the West understand but there is Hebrew Rhetoric which is very different from that of Greek and Roman. The New Testament follows this Hebrew Rhetoric and so this could be called Biblical Rhetoric which is akin to Akkadian, Ugaritic and other ancient texts. This Rhetoric is shared by not only Hebrew Bible or New Testament but also the Quran.

Meynet deviates from the traditional approach to the study of Synoptic Gospels where the pericopes are put in parallel columns but he insists that one should study the whole pericopes, the sequences and subsequences. He likens his approach to the study of three architectures of a building than comparing the stones of three similar buildings.

He applies this study to a number of selections from the Synoptics.

This is indeed a trail-blazer in Synoptic studies. The fact that the French original is made available in English within a year of its publication is remarkable. This means that the influence of this novel approach to the Synoptics will be farreaching in the scholarly community.

Arrington. LIFE IN THE SPIRIT (1999)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 05•08

Arrington, French L. and Roger Stronstad (eds), Life in the Spirit, New Testament Commentary  (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999)

Life in the Spirit, New Testament Commentary was previously published under the title, Full Life Bible Commentary to the New Testament. The publishers claim that this one-volume commentary offers distinct Spirit-filled perspective on the New Testament; in other words, this is meant for the Pentecostal, Charismatic or empowered evangelical. Seventeen scholars including the two editors have contributed to this volume. The authors stress the importance of the presence and gifts of the Holy Spirit in addition to their belief in the inerrancy and authority of the scripture.

Life in the Spirit, New Testament Commentary was previously published under the title, Full Life Bible Commentary to the New Testament. The publishers claim that this one-volume commentary offers distinct Spirit-filled perspective on the New Testament; in other words, this is meant for the Pentecostal, Charismatic or empowered evangelical. Seventeen scholars including the two editors have contributed to this volume. The authors stress the importance of the presence and gifts of the Holy Spirit in addition to their belief in the inerrancy and authority of the scripture. A unique feature of this one-volume commentary is the order in which the New Testament books are dealt with. The Gospel of John comes first followed by Mathew, Mark and Luke. This arrangement helps to connect the Lukan account of the life of Jesus with the Acts of Apostles for the sake of continuity.
Like any commentary, this volume too offers detailed introductions to each book of the New Testament, which includes purpose, background as well as outlines of contents. Introductory material also covers literary aspects, authorship, date, provenance, and theological themes. To give it a scholarly depth, the introductions also deal with certain critical questions: For example, the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles, or a discussion of the synoptic problem in the introduction to the Gospel of Matthew are dealt with. Of interest is that the author seems to support why insights from critical studies (in the case of Gospels, Source Criticism) are important for the interpretation and understanding of this corpus (p. 121). Trying to earth critical scholarship with practical use is certainly welcome. Here is an implied welcome suggestion that Critical study of the Bible and spirit-filled interpretation need not be mutually exclusive!
Another very impressive aspect of this commentary (unusual in one volume commentaries) is the extensive bibliographies under each book. A sampler is the commentary on Luke, which has one full-page bibliography appended to it. Numerous maps, charts, photos and graphs scattered throughout in appropriate places is another distinct feature of this volume based on the New International Version. For example, you will find the photograph of a flat-roofed housing on the same page where Peter’s vision on the rooftop is commented up on (Acts 10:1-48). A map of the ancient world showing the countries represented in the crowd that gathered when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples is helpful and informative indeed.
Distinct Pentecostal perspectives are visible in the emphasis on passages of Pentecostal/Charismatic importance. Acts 2:1-4 takes up almost two pages. In a one-volume work, it is significant space devoted to mere four verses! However, the discussion takes the form of theological discussion and supersedes the text as it goes on to the fourfold significance of the event. It seems strange the commentator on this passage conclude that “As well as the initial evidence of Spirit-baptism, tongues may be a sign of God’s displeasure” (p. 543) but he doesn’t explain how. There are a number of such unwarranted claims throughout this work. Another important passage is the baptism of Jesus in Luke 3:21-22 two verses that get an extensive treatment. The focus shifts to the descent of the Holy Spirit rather than the baptism of Jesus. The author calls Jesus here “Pentecostal.” “His Jordan River experience means that he is Pentecostal, charismatic–a man of the Spirit par excellence” (p. 408).
The same Pentecostal fervour is not maintained throughout. An examination of passages where the Spririt-filled people are at loggerheads with the dispensationists for example reveals this. For example, 1 Cor 13:8 usually quoted by the cessationists is commented upon without any reference to the arguments of the opposite camp. The commentator at this point does not explain how the “perfect” is understood by others and no attempt is made to substantiate his position that it has to be understood eschatologically.
The authors seldom do engage in conversation with other scholars and schools of thought. For example, Luke 4:14-30, commonly known as the Nazareth manifesto among New Testament scholars is interpreted spiritually. Leave alone the fact that the author is not engaging in a dialogue with scholars who have pointed out the possibility of reading it from liberation perspective, he won’t even mention such alternative readings are in use. A person who has some exposure to such knowledge will find this unilateral treatment unprofitable. The word “poor” is completely glossed over; the author does think it is important to explain whether it should be understood in its spiritual sense or material sense.
Another observation is the unevenness that exists between different books. Most portions of the commentary addresses lay people without any prior theological training. However, at times the details are so elaborate and resplendent with technical details, which theologically trained mind cherish, but amateurs have an aversion to. The commentary on John pays attention to the theological intentions and hermeneutical characteristics of John so much so that laypersons may find it formidable.
As a commentary aimed at the Spirit-filled Christians, one is tempted to look at how the concept of Spirit-filled life is handled in this and naturally one turns the pages to Galatians 5. The comment on page 1014 on the commentary on Galatians 5:13-26 is remarkable: “As Pentecostals we have done a good job of emphasizing the gifts of the Spirit. The importance of the fruit of the Spirit deserves more attention.” I think this advice applies not only to this passage but also to all texts and hermeneutical traditions of Pentecostals. There is great need to re-examine, and re-read the so-called “Pentecostal texts.” At points, we see this trend exhibited by the commentators of this volume.