Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

Idestrom. SHOW ME YOUR GLORY. Pickwick (2023)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Sep• 22•23

Idestrom, Rebecca G. S. Show Me Your Glory: The Glory of God in the Old Testament. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2023. Pages: 325. ISBN: 978-1-4982-1795-8

The Bible is about the glory of God, whether it mentions the word “glory” or its synonyms. In his speech minutes before martyrdom, Stephen said that the God of glory appeared to Abraham, though the text of Genesis does not explicitly say so. However, Idestrom guides us through specific passages where the glory of God is mentioned to help us understand how this vital concept unfolds through the traditions in the Old Testament.

The author takes us through selected passages in Exodus to elaborate on how Israel experienced the glory of God first through her experience of deliverance from Egypt. Then, in the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, which describe their wilderness wandering, the glory of God shaped them as the people of God.

As the people redeemed by the powerful display of the divine glory settled in the promised land, the glory of God was manifest in the Temple. We are invited to join the journey to explore this theme in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. The glory of God was physically manifest in the Temple as the glory filled the Temple at its dedication. The Temple worship through music and dance was the celebration of God’s glory present among his people.

This jubilant celebration of the divine glory forms the crux of the Book of Psalms. Its response to the glory is multifaceted; the celebration of glory is not limited to the people of God. The nations and the creation all stand in awe of God’s glory.

While prophet Isaiah talks about the glory of God that would manifest in Zion, Ezekiel motivates the exiles in Babylon that though they are defeated, God’s glory dwells among them.

Just as the glory of God redeemed the people from the Egyptian bondage and led them through the wilderness, it would restore his people when exile was a thing of the past. This forms the core of the message of Habakkuk, Haggai, and Zechariah.

Idestrom’s work, which took about 15 years to complete, is thorough and outstanding.

Averbeck, OLD TESTAMENT LAW, IVP, 2002

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Nov• 30•22

Averbeck, Richard E. 2022. The Old Testament Law for the Life of the Church: Reading the Torah in the Light of Christ. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. ISBN: 9780830841004. Pages: xvii+382


averbeck OT LawThis book is based on the author’s teaching experience over 25 years.

First, the author discusses the various Christian theological views on the Old Testament Law. This includes the reformed view, dispensational view, and the position that the Law is guidance for holiness.

The author argues that the Old Testament Law is still relevant for Christians today since all scripture including the Law is inspired by God. He presents his argument using three foundational theses. First, the Law is good. Second, the Law is weak, and third is a unified whole. He says, “all three correspond to significant statements about the law in both the Old Testament and the New.”

He develops the argument in eleven chapters falling into three parts as: “covenant and context”, “The Old Testament Law in context, and the Old Testament Law in the New Testament.

Though it appears to be bulky, it is packed with details and insights that a graduate student and a research scholar on Old Testament cannot ignore if they are committed to know the Bible. The work is so serious that its impact will last for many decades to come.

Hilber, John W. Ezekiel: A Focused Commentary for Preaching and Teaching. 2019

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Aug• 28•20

9781498294218Hilber, John W. Ezekiel: A Focused Commentary for Preaching and Teaching. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781498294218; Pages: 268

By this work, Hilber has demonstrated how to write commentary for pastors and teachers who are the major consumers of Bible commentaries. Many commentaries very technical the ordinary pastors and students of the Bible. On the other extreme are commentaries who compromise exegesis for detailed suggestions for application. What is unique about this commentary is that it has a proper balance between exegesis and application; and is not too technical for the non-specialist.

What makes this a very user-friendly commentary is its structure. In the short introduction, the author gives us an overview of the Book of Ezekiel. He also offers some advice on how to divide the book into ‘teachable units.’ This is followed by suggestions on how to apply the text to the context of the preachers and their listeners.

He divides the Book into teachable units. The key themes of each unit are presented in the form of bulleted lists. He then presents the specific context of this passage in the wider context of the Book of Ezekiel. In the section that follows titled ‘Interpretive Highlights’ comments on the significant verses are given. So, we don’t have comments on all verses and words or phrases! Only what is essential for our understanding of the key themes of the passages are discussed. Besides these, all units also have a section called ‘Theological Bridge to Application’ where the key themes of each unit are seen in the light of the larger Biblical theology. In the last section, titled ‘Focus of Application’ the author makes broader suggestions as to how that particular section speaks to contemporary situations that we live in.

This indeed is a commentary where the reader gets what they need to preach and teach without having wade through mind-boggling details. Every reader would long for similar volumes from Hilber on other books of the Bible.

Nelson, JUDGES, 2017

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 18•17

Nelson, Richard D. Judges: A Critical & Rhetorical Commentary. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2017. Pages: 376. ISBN: 9780567673091.

Nelson JudgesThis is part of the series, ‘Critical and Rhetorical Commentary’ published by Bloomsbury. As the name suggests, these commentaries present us a critical study of the text and a rhetorical analysis.

The Judges commentary offers a fresh translation of the MT unit by unit. This is then followed by detailed notes that explains the translation. Then the structure and rhetoric of the unit follows. Finally, the genre and the composition of the unit is discussed. This pattern is followed throughout the 21 chapters of the book.

This thus serves the purpose of a critical commentary as it analyses the text, the grammar and usages of the Hebrew text. The critical analysis goes beyond the analysis of the language of the text to the text’s formation and transmission as well. According to the author chapters 2:6-10 and 3:7-16:31 is the oldest portion of the book while Judges 2:11-3:6 is later.

Then rhetorical anaylsis which follows careful analysis of the structures within the text offers us insight into what the text tries to do to the readers.

According to the author, the Book of Judges is divided into three parts as 1:1-2:5 (incomplete conquest), 2:6-16:31 (stories of the deliverers in a cyclical pattern) and finally 17:1-21:25 which is an account of the non-monarchic anarchy.

On the whole this serves the purpose of critical commentary for any student of the Hebrew Bible. In addition, it introduces the students to the praxis of rhetorical criticism. On every count, this is a valuable resource.

Chalmers. Interpreting the Prophets, 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 27•15

Chalmers, Aaron. Interpreting the Prophets. London: SPCK, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-281-06904-0

9780281069040There is no lack of books on Old Testament Prophets. Quite a lot of surveys of prophetic books, critical studies and commentaries are in the market. However, it is true that even after acquainting oneself with all the critical knowledge and content of the books students and preachers may still find it difficult to interpret these books.
This book is a beacon of hope in this regard. It is entirely different from the surveys that are currently available in the bookstores. The author claims that his ‘… goal is to equip the readers with the knowledge and skills they need to be competent and faithful interpreters of the prophetic books themselves.’ So, it is not a commentary nor a survey of literature; nor it is a academic work that focus solely on critical issues that leads the interpreter nowhere. However, it is a work that in fact synthesizes the best of scholarship to help the interpreters in their tasks.
To achieve his goal the author deals with four aspects of the prophetic literature. First of all, a general picture of Old Testament prophets is given in the first chapter. This also contains a section of what an Old Testament prophetic book is. This summarizes the movement of the prophetic utterances in oral form to written stage and then the formation of the prophetic books. Second chapter has to do with the ‘historical world of the prophets.’ This is a brief survey of Israelite history from the eighth century to the exile. Two sub-sections of this chapter guides the interpreter as to how to analyze the historical world of the prophetic books and the dangers to avoid in the process. The third chapter deals with the theology of the prophets. He deals with major themes like, Sinaitic covenant, Zion, God as king, the Davidic covenant, etc. This chapter also concludes with suggestions on how to analyze the theologial world of the prophets. The fourth chapter has to do with the rhetorical aspects of the prophetic books. This deals with the literary forms and rhetorical features of the prophetic books.
Two more chapters takes the readers further. The fifth chapter deals with the apocalyptic literature, which is often considered as an extension of the prophetic movement. The author helps the readers to distinguish prophecy from apocalypse and highlights its salient features. This chapter also has a section on guidelines on interpreting apocalyptic literature and the potential problems to avoid.
Readers will find the last chapter ‘Guidelines for preaching from the prophets’ quite useful. This section has quite a lot of useful principles extremely useful to preachers. The author suggests that in interpreting the OT prophets the witness of the New Testament must be taken into account.
There are quite a number of illustrations and the book is complete with additional help with further reading in each section. Scripture index and subject index does enhance the book’s usefulness. This must be a must for any preacher and teacher of the Word.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jun• 10•14

CASCADE_TemplateGriggs, Robert W. A Pelican of the Wilderness. Depression, Psalms, Ministry, and Movies. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2014.

This is not an academic book and thus doesn’t really qualify to be reviewed on this site! However, this is a book that every academic should read! This is about a pastor who holds degrees from Harvard Divinity School, University of Minnesota and Andover Newton Theological School who suffered severe depression to the extent of attempting suicide. So, this is a ‘must-read’ for all academics for a reality check and see where they are heading. There is a second reason for reading this book. In this autobiographical account Griggs has woven his academic knowledge and personal experience into a beautiful fabric. That is what makes Walter Brueggemann comment on the blurb that, ‘Robert Griggs has deftly transported them (the Psalms) into his own story of depression, anguish, and recovery of health, life, and faith.’

This is not just about Psalms. As the title indicates Griggs tells us how many contemporary American films helped him in his recovery. Thus he benefited from two resources that is available to all of us. The ancient text of the Psalms still maintain the power to help us cope with our present day realities of pain and joy. Then there is quite a lot of wisdom in the contemporary world as well. This comes in the form of books that interpret for us the modern society, culture and religion. Griggs has compiled a very useful bibliography as well as a filmography—a list of films that helped him.

With all the degrees and experience of serving the same church as pastor for twenty-six years Robert Griggs had lot of knowledge and helped a lot of people. However, he discovered in the Psych Unit that he is dried up—literally, because the chemicals that help people to keep their balance (like Serotonin and Norepinephrine) had dried up in his brain. These had to be replenished through rest and medications. He had to be trained to cope with life with the help of his doctors and fellow inmates over a period of five weeks that he was in the ‘loony bin.’ He had to readmitted for another week because he seems to have ignored the lessons he learnt.

In his depression he was like a ‘pelican in the wilderness’ (Psalm 102:6). He borrows the language of the Psalms to understand and cope with his situation. And he comes out of it finally as the prophetic fulfilment of the words of another psalmist: ‘They that sow in tears shall reap in joy’ (Psalm 126:5). In the process of narrating his story Griggs also helps us to understand the importance of making choices, struggles with issues of faith, hope etc. This story aptly illustrates what Brueggeman describes as ‘disorientation’ and ‘reorientation’ in the Book of Psalms: ‘From Pulpit to Psych Unit’ (first chapter) and ‘From Psych Unit to Pulpit’ (last chapter). For any academic this gives a very useful, helpful break from the daily encounter with the ‘heavy stuff.’

Hamilton Jr. What Is Biblical Theology? (2014)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Nov• 18•13

Hamilton Jr., James M. What Is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns

9781433537714Hamilton proposes a new method of doing biblical theology. In his opinion most of the biblical theologies that are written enforces a modern, rationalist world-view on the bible which mutes the biblical authors. The conservative scholars, those who stand for the unity and coherence of the Bible also used the tools and methods use by those whom they oppose. Both are wrong because they failed to see the world-view of the biblical authors.

In his opinion, biblical theology is done by sharing the world-view of the biblical authors and by trying to understand the scripture in that perspective.

The author’s convictions are deeply rooted in the divine inspiration of the Bible. This leads him to argue that the biblical authors share the same world-view. In other words, there is only one world-view that is shared by all the authors, though they lived in different places, different times and addressed different issues. That is the bible’s one story.

His treatment of biblical theology follows a three-fold pattern. To quote, “The rest of it falls into three parts: the first sets out the Bible’s story, the second looks at the way the biblical authors use symbols to summarize and interpret that story, and the third considers the part the church plays in that story. So the three parts of the books can be put in to three words: story, symbol, and church.

This book is innovative in its approach to biblical theology. Its attempt to navigate a third way between the “liberal” and the so called “conservative” biblical theologians let in a lot of fresh air. However, the assumption that all the biblical authors share one world-view ignores the multiple voices (sometime even contradictory but certainly complementary) that we find in the Bible. Moreover, though this method very well can accommodate the narrative sections, the poetry of the Bible and especially the wisdom tradition seems to fall out of its scope.

Estes. Job, 2013

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Oct• 18•13

Estes, Daniel J. Job. Teach the Text Commentary Series. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013.Print

I was always at a loss when a pastor approached me for recommendations on the ‘best’ commentary. The ‘best’ in my list (as a seminary professor) were the highly academic ones filled with details that doesn’t really help pastors to prepare their Sunday School lessons or pulpit ministry. On the other hand, the ‘simple’ ones were too simple and shallow. The need for a commentary series where the technical details are kept to the essential minimum so that the pastors are not bogged down but still based on sound and contemporary scholarship is met by the Teach the Text Commentary Series. I haven’t had a chance to look at the other commentaries in this series except the one on the Book of Job. However, judging from this book under review, I can surely say that this series fills that great need.

The commentary is structured in such a way that all the academic issues in the study of the Book of Job are touched upon but in a non-intimidating way. Only those details that have some bearing on the preaching or teaching the book of Job are dealt with.

The commentary on each passage/chapter of the book of Job is divided into three sections as: ‘Understanding the Text’, ‘Teaching the Text’ and ‘Illustrating the Text.’ In the first part all that are necessary for a proper grasp of the passage are dealt with. This includes the context of the text, its historical and cultural background, etc. This takes the form of an almost verse by verse commentary. Key themes of each section are also dealt with. Suggestions as to how to teach the text follows. In the third section (Illustrating the Text), we find suggestions on how to relate each theme of the passage to the present context. For example, the author suggests that the stock market crisis of 1929 or something similar to that may help us to understand the magnitude and serious of the calamities that are reported in Chapter 1 of the book of Job. Then illustrations on the major themes of each section from literature, films, art etc are also suggested.

A simple introduction to the background of the Book of Job is useful. It looks at all the important critical questions like the place of Job 28 (the Poem on wisdom), the question if the Elihu speeches are later interpolations or not, etc. Detailed discussions are not allowed in order to avoid distractions and the author goes straight to suggestions on how the book in the present form (canonical shape) could be used for preaching. The question of the historicity of the book is also touched upon. However, the author suggests that the uncertainty on this issue need not deter anyone in appropriating in for teaching and preaching. The author concludes that the book could be historical or imaginative. However, this should not hinder preaching the book to contemporary audience; Since, ‘in the Bible, the Holy Spirit employed both historical narrative and imaginative literature to teach divine truth….’ The book is very well illustrated with photographs of places, people and archaeological artefacts that are related to the book of Job. Its layout along with the colour photographs makes it really attractive.

The book is complete with an index of scripture passages. The bibliography and the the scanty but annotated endnotes is for those who want to venture beyond what the book presents. Thus it is simple, but rich. It is a nourishing commentary: lean but wholesome; strikingly simple and pastor-friendly.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Apr• 09•13

Limburg, James. Psalms for Sojourners (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002) pages xiii, 128.
James Limburg is known for his two major works; the commentary on Psalms in the Westminster Bible Companion Series and that on Jonah in the Old Testament Library Series.
Psalms for the Sojourners is a simple introduction to the book of Psalms without  intimidating jargons and does not require any specialized training in the area. Limburg takes examples of each type of Psalms and illustrates the relevance of each of these poems. In this book Limburg has very aptly closed the gap that is there between Psalms scholarship and the ordinary person in the pews. The most commendable thing is that he does it without compromising valuable academic insights but also not being very patronizing.  In fact he harnesses scholarship for the service of those sojourners. Sojourners for Limburg are those who consider their life as a pilgrimage. He believes that the Psalms, “… address the days of our own lives, in times of hurting as well as times of happiness, helping us to learn how to pray and also how to praise.”
The message of the Psalms are made very clear and is significance for all of us in the modern world is evident in this treatment of selected Psalms. The style is anecdotal. The author tries to bring his point home by referring to stories from his life and of others. Such real life illustrations makes the message so relevant and something from which the readers can not run away from.
The format of this small book is as inviting  and unthreatening as its content. All those who love the Bible and particularly the Book of Psalms will find it reading this book exciting, relieving and building.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 24•12

Jacobson, Rolf, (ed). Soundings in the Theology of Psalms: Perspectives and Methods in Contemporary Scholarship. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011. ISBN: 9780800697396.

This volume of eight essays by noted Old Testament scholars is the outcome of the ‘Book of Psalms Section’ of the 2008 SBL meeting in the expanded and revised form. However, the papers of the SBL session were complemented by other solicited essays and reprint of Walter Brueggemann’s essay. This volume also has an ecumenical flavour since scholars from various traditions like Wesleyan, Catholic, Baptist, and Lutheran have joined the group that is predominantly Reformed.

 The first essay by Walter Brueggemann is a reprint (‘The Psalms and the Life of Faith: A Suggested Typology of Function’). Based on Paul Ricoeur approach Brueggemann suggests ‘the sequence of orientation-disorientation-reorientation’ to understand the use and function of Psalms.

 In the second essay, Harry P. Nasuti (‘God at Work in the Word: A Theology of Divine-Human Encounter in the Psalms’) argues that just as the description of God is a valid theological method in approaching the Psalms, an equally important method is to see the relationship between God and the believing communities. He argues that this relational aspect underlies the approaches that highlight ‘righteousness’ and the ‘righteous’ as the focal point of the Psalms.

Jerome F.D. Creach in his essay ‘The Destiny of the Righteous and the Theology of the Psalms’ argues that concern for the life and the destiny of the righteous  is a common theme of the Psalter that allows it to be read as book. Moreover, this theme also provides the theological context for other themes such as reign of God, justice and peace. The exploration on the methodolody and themes of the Psalter continues in the essay by J. Clinton McCann Jr. ‘The Single Most Important Text in the Entire Bible: Toward a Theology of the Psalms.’ He very convincingly argues that Psalm 82 is ‘crucially important for understanding the Psalms and especially for beginning to move toward a theology of the book of Psalms.’ He takes his cue from Dominic Crossan who remarked that, Psalm 82 is ‘the single most important text in the entire Christian Bible.’ He also suggests that in the context of violence, injustice and inequalities that we witness in our world today, Psalm 82 is very relevant for our times.

Violence and curses in the Psalms are the concerns of some of the essays as is the case of the essay by Nancy L. deClaisse-Walford ‘The Theology of the Imprecatory Psalms.’ She argues that the so called imprecatory Psalms are very much part of the Jewish and Christian canon. ‘We cannot summarily dismiss the imprecatory psalms and banish them to the periphery of the canon. They are integral part of the words of the Psalmists, rendered by their inclusion in the canon as the words of God and embraced by millennia of the faithful as part of the Scripture.’ Her persuasive arguments in favour of the imprecatory psalms end with how they can be incorporated in our worship.

 The same tone is maintained in the essay, ‘Saying Amen to Violent Psalms: Patterns of Prayer, Belief, and Action in the Psalter’ by Joel M. LeMon. He helps us to understand the violent imageries of the Psalms. This essay explores the ethical implications of the Psalms that have violent tones.

 The last two essays are again on the methodology of doing a theology of Psalms. In ‘“The Faithfulness of the Lord Endures Forever”: The Theological Witness of the Psalter’ Rolf Jacobson suggests that the dominant vision of the Psalms is the faithfulness of the Lord.  His essay is to elaborate on this theme which he thinks plays the central role in the Psalter. He explores the semantics, genre of Psalms where this theme is used, faithfulness as experienced in the history, means of God’s faithfulness, etc sufficient to convince us that the theology of Psalms can be centered around this.

 In the last essay ‘Rethinking the Enterprise: What Must Be Considered in Formulating a Theology of the Psalms?’ Beth Tanner, helps us to understand the whole enterprise of biblical theology in general and theology of Psalms in particular. Tanner begins with the nature of Biblical Theology and the ways of doing it. She affirms that, ‘… at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the biblical theological enterprise has become contextual, and thus canonical, transitory and pluralistic.’ She also insists that in doing a theology of Psalms its poetic nature should be given due place. She goes on to insights from neurosciences about the role of poetry in human emotions and behavior should be considered in doing the theology of Psalms. ‘The Psalms reach places in both the brain and the heart that other genres do not.’ Tanner’s explorations thus are really daring!

 This volume like other titles in the series pushes the edges of Psalms study further towards new horizons. All the essays are equally illuminative and take the readers to a new level of understanding the Book of Psalms, fresh, insightful and innovative.