Sermon: The Past is Key to the Present: Deut 4:1–40 (Part 5)


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“The Song of Moses” Charles Horne and Julius Bewer, The Bible and Its Story, Volume 2 (New York, NY: Francis R. Niglutsch, 1910).


What is the result of all of this? What conclusion is to be drawn from these claims and from this theologically oriented interpretation of history?

Moses tells us in vv. 39-40, which in the Hebrew is the conclusion.

know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”

What is the proper response to the knowledge that the Lord is the Lord over all: that He has assigned the created order to the nations, but has chosen Israel out of all the nations to be his special inheritance?

What is the proper response to the knowledge that the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt?

What is the proper response to the fact that the Lord has made a covenant with each and every generation of Israel?

What is the proper response to the recognition that the way one treats the Lord’s commands is a reflection of the way one treats the Lord himself?

The proper response is 1) right thinking and 2) loving obedience.

1) First, note the strong theological statement in v. 39.

“So acknowledge today and take to heart that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.”

The statement is remarkable, among other reasons, because Moses makes this a conclusion of God’s revelation to Israel through history and through his sovereignty over the nations.

The similar statement in v. 35 confirms this: Why did the Lord bring Israel out of Egypt with great signs and wonders? So that He might make Himself known to Israel.

This we know, both from the Old Testament and the New Testament, that God has revealed Himself in a general way to the whole world both through His creation and through His actions. But is this enough? NO.

2) For second, we note in v. 40 that Israel is to respond to what it has seen and experience with obedience. Israel has been selected from all the nations to receive the revelation of the Lord.

And yet it is all too easy here to fall into the trap of commanding obedience for the sake of blessing or out of fear of reprisal. We should instead, here, understand obedience as the proper response to the Lord because it shows a receptivity to God’s love and grace and a responsiveness of love.

For to obey God is an act of love.

What is the reason for obedience in this chapter of Deut?

It is not blessing.

It is not out of obligation.

It is not out of fear.

All of these are present within this chapter, no doubt.

But no, the overwhelming reason for obedience according to this chapter is that obedience is the proper response to what God has already done for Israel. What has he done?

The Lord has made His commandments and Himself known to Israel.

1) He is offering to have a relationship with Israel. How remarkable it was when the Lord revealed His name to Moses. This is His essence and identity. He then at Sinai descended upon the Mountain to make himself known to the entire nation. Then on top of that, he entered into the Tabernacle so that he might even dwell among his people.

2) He also gave Israel a collection of laws and statutes by which they should live and worship him. We saw in vv. 1-8 that there is a connection between how someone treats the Lord and how someone treats his commandments are related.

The Lord is offering Israel Himself and His laws.

Take it or leave it.

If Israel takes it, there is blessing in store. If Israel leaves it, there are curses in store. The good life, the blessed life, the full life is to be found in responding to God’s actions by choosing to be in relationship with Him and choosing to obey his commands.



Sermon: The Past is Key to the Present: Deut 4:1–40 (Part 4)


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Hear, O Israel

“Hear, O Israel” by Charles Horne and Julius Bewer, The Bible and Its Story, Volume 2 (New York, NY: Francis R. Niglutsch, 1910).


What do I mean by this title?

Well, let’s take a look at what Moses says in vv. 15–38

His statements can be summed up in vv. 15–16

15 Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female,…”

Isn’t that amazing! Listen, when God gives the second commandment that forbids idols, he does so on the grounds that he is a jealous God. God never says, “you shall not make idols because I am a spirit and have no form which can be copied.”

We take this for granted, but this is something that Moses interprets from the historical event. That is not something that should be missed or passed over quickly. In fact this entire section of Moses’s speech is filled with theologically oriented interpretations of the events at Sinai.

In vv. 19–20 Moses does it again.

19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. 20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.”

Did you catch that?

  1. First he says that the hosts of heaven have been given to the nations as an inheritance for their worship.
  2. Then he says that Israel had been given to the Lord as His inheritance.

This shows us the vital importance of interpreting the past through the lens of God’s revelation, in the light of God’s character, on the basis of his word.

In this case, Moses tells Israel, “You should not be surprised when other nations worship the created order, but that is not who you are. The Lord rescued you from the furnace of trials that was your life in Egypt. He brought you out and your identity is the people of God. You belong to him. Your devotion belongs to him.”

Moses does the same in vv. 32–38

He calls upon Israel to consider the past, “Has any other people heard the voice of God and lived?” “Has any other god brought his people out of slavery?”

The answer of course is “no.”

But why does he ask?

Because he wants to teach Israel how to interpret the past theologically. He wants Israel to learn to ask important questions about the nature of the past and their part in it.

He wants the nation to learn to think about what God has done for them and how to respond correctly. Which is our last point.


Sermon: The Past is Key to the Present: Deut 4:1–40 (Part 3)


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Mount Sinai

Mt. Sinai


There are two features that interest us here.

1) First, Not seeing is not not believing (vv. 9–14)

In order to understand the power of Moses’s message to Israel in Deut 4, it is important to recognize one important thing: As depicted by the text, the vast majority of Moses’s audience here was not alive when Israel stood at the foot of the mountain. 

We know this, don’t we? We know this because we remember the importance of that rebellion at Kadesh Barnea when Israel, incited by the bad report from 10 of the spies, rebelled against the Lord and refused to enter the good land that God was giving to them.

You remember how the Lord said in Numbers 14 that not one of that generation from 20 years old and upward who grumbled against Him would be allowed to enter into the land. You remember how Israel suddenly had a change of heart, (didn’t they?), and tried to enter the land. But they were rebuffed. They were defeated and were forced to wander through the wilderness until that generation was dead.

And this fact is also essential to the book of Deuteronomy as well. For in Deut 1, Moses reminds the nation of this event with these words from God:

“Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers…”

To make this point even more clear, he notes in 2:14 that,

“the time that it took for us to come from Kadesh-barnea, until we crossed over the brook Zered, was thirty-eight years; until all the generation of the men of war perished from within the camp, as the LORD had sworn to them. 15 “Moreover the hand of the LORD was against them, to destroy them from within the camp, until they all perished.”

Why am I telling you this?

Why is this important?

Well let’s have a look at how Moses speaks to Israel? Let me read it again!

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— 10 how on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ 11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14 And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them in the land that you are going over to possess.”

Moses take this generation that is made up of people that were not there or were too young to understand these events and he places them in the shoes of their parents.

He says that these are events that they saw with their eyes.

They saw the smoke and the fire and the dark darkness

He says that they heard the voice of God speaking with them.

They heard the very words of God speaking the words of the covenant.

Deuteronomy is very special in this presentation of Israel actually hearing the voice of God. Exodus presents it as a conversation between God and Moses, but Deuteronomy makes this event appeal to the imagination of Israel by putting Israel there.

Moses take this generation that is made up of people that were not there or were too young to understand these events and he places them in the shoes of their parents.

In Deut 5:3–7, Moses says that,

“The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today. The LORD spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire, while I was standing between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain. He said, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Did you catch that?

Moses says that it was actually not with the fathers that God made this covenant, but with this generation that was standing on the banks of the Jordan. He also puts this generation at the Mountain where they, not their fathers, hear the Lord say, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Of course, it was not this generation that was slaves in Egypt, but their parents.

In other words, what is taking place is that Moses is speaking to a nation with a collective identity. What God does for one generation, he does for all generations. God’s covenant people have a collective identity.

He says, in ch. 29: “I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us this day before the LORD our God and with those who are not with us here this day.”

This means that no future generation can say that this covenant does not require their obedience because they weren’t there. Instead, the Lord makes this covenant with every generation. Every generation can essentially say that they were there. That they saw the fire and smoke. That they heard the voice of the Lord and that they entered into the covenant with the Lord.

2) Second, the past is worth teaching!

The second thing that I want us to see in vv. 9-14 is the twice repeated command to teach children. In the first case, it is a command to teach the children about the events at Sinai. In the second case, it is a command to teach the children to fear the Lord, that is, to respect and trust him.

Why are these commands so important?

Why is it so important to remember what happened?

Because so much of our faith and obedience is based 0n responding to what God has done for us.

When God is loving and gracious to his covenant people, it is not so as to put us in His debt, but because he seeks to establish a relationship with us. The Lord is kind and gracious. He acts out of love towards those with whom he desires to be in a relationship. We his people respond out of gratitude in a loving response.

History works in this way: each generation of Israelites can tell their children, “This is what God did for us. We were slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out and made a covenant with us, and that includes you son.”

Each generation of Israelite can say, “The Lord has been gracious to me, therefore I will be faithful to Him.”

But there is more to learn from Moses’s discussion of the past, which we will take up next time.



Sermon: The Past is Key to the Present: Deut 4:1–40 (Part 2)


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Moses Rehearseth

“Moses Rehearseth the Story of Israel’s Passage through the Wilderness” Woodcut by Hans Holbein (c. 1497-1543)

First, LET US RECOGNIZE THE COMMAND: Treat God and his Commands with Reverence (vv. 1–8)

The main point in this portion of the text is that there is a connection between how someone treats God’s commandments and how someone treats God Himself.

Let’s take a look at the text. In vv. 1 and 2 we have the explicit command to listen to the statutes and the ordinances and to obey them.

1And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.”

But more than that, Israel is commanded not to add to them or take away from them. God has given them all that they require to live in the land that He is giving to them.

Then we have vv. 3 and 4.

Your eyes have seen what the Lord did at Baal-peor, for the Lord your God destroyed from among you all the men who followed the Baal of Peor. But you who held fast to the Lord your God are all alive today.”

We all remember what happened there don’t we.

Numbers 25 tells us what happened. While Israel was camped at a place called Shittim, Israel was enticed by the Moabites to “yoke” themselves with Baal. At the end of the day 24,000 Israelites were dead who had “yoked” themselves to Baal.

We then learn in Deut 3:29 that Israel is currently standing “in the valley opposite the House of Peor.” In other words, they are still standing in the vicinity of where this mass idolatry took place.

Imagine it: Moses can literally point to the place where this event took place and say, “Yours are the eyes that saw what the Lord did there to those who followed after Baal, how he destroyed them.”

“But you” he says, “who held fast to the Lord are alive today.”

“They followed after Baal and are dead. But you held fast to the Lord and are alive.”

Why does Moses remind Israel right now of Baal Peor?

Well notice that it comes right after the command to keep the laws and right before a promise that these laws and these statutes are the nation’s wisdom in the sight of the nations.

This creates a parallel between how Israel treats the Lord’s commands and how Israel treats the Lord himself. In other words adding to or taking away from the words of the Lord is like following after Baal, whereas preserving and obeying the words of the Lord is like holding fast to the Lord.

In the end, the former leads ultimately to death.

The latter leads to life.

But more than merely physical life, God promises Israel life to the fullest. He offers them a blessed life, the good life.

He promises them that despite their small size and wealth, they will be the envy of all the nations. Why?

  1. Because Israel will be a wise and discerning nation
  2. And because Israel has a God that is near and who hears when Israel calls upon Him.

And there are those two elements once again: God’s laws and God Himself. You see, God is not just giving Israel a body of laws. No, He is also offering Himself. He is offering to be near to His people.

God is not some far off creator who set the world into motion and stood back to watch. Nor is he some authoritarian dictator who gives laws and enjoys watching his people fail so that he can punish them.

No, He is a God who is close. He is near to His people. He offers Himself. He gives Himself. He gives law and instruction, but they are part and parcel to His self-revelation and self-giving.

You see, God is not just giving Israel a body of laws. No, He is also offering Himself. He is offering to be near to His people.

He is offering Israel a life that is governed by a relationship with Him through adherence to His laws. This is the good life. Not just life, but blessedness. Of all the other possibilities, of all the other nations, Israel is elect and blessed with righteous and just laws and with a God who is near.

What a remarkable blessing this is. Other nations could never be sure that their God could hear them or wanted to act. But Israel knows that their God is near. Israel knows that their God hears. Israel knows that their God can and does act in history. But we must first understand the nature of history.



Sermon: The Past is Key to the Present: Deut 4:1–40 (Part 1)


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How do we pass on our faith to the next generations?

Ok…I realize that I am the youngster in the room, but let me be honest with you. As soon as my wife Beth and I started having children, I could not escape this one nagging question: How can I pass on this faith that was “once for all delivered to the saints” to my sons? That consuming question is why I am studying the Book of Deuteronomy for my PhD. That question is why I am studying our passage today for my PhD. I was desperate to know what the Bible has to tell us about how we can participate as parents in the work of God to make Himself known to the world and to redeem sinners for His glory.

ANE family

ANE Family

At the same time, however, we know from Scripture that God is sovereign in salvation. And yet, God has chosen to use us. God has equipped and commissioned His church to make disciples. For when Jesus told his disciple, “As you are going, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that I am commanding you,” he prefaced this with, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me,” and he concluded it with “I am with you always.” He has commanded us and equipped us to participate in His work of redemption and reconciliation.

So what does this all have to do with our text this evening? Well, quite a bit actually. Let’s begin by establishing some important context for our text.


Setting the Scene

As you know, Deuteronomy is a series of speeches to the Israelites on the banks of the Jordan River on the Plains of Moab. Moses does not know exactly when he will die, but he does know that he will not be crossing over the Jordan with Israel. He knows that he will die in the wilderness without entering the land to which he has led the nation.

For this reason, many interpreters have called Deuteronomy a series of sermons. Moses is preoccupied with the question with which I have been preoccupied: How can I help pass on this faith to the next generation?

For Moses, he knows that the stakes are extremely high. Moses has been with the nation from the beginning. He has led Israel to Mount Sinai, he received the laws and communicated them to the nation. He oversaw the building of the Tabernacle where God descended and dwelt among his people. He interceded for the nation when God wanted to wipe it out and start over. He led them through the wilderness for nearly 40 years. And now they are on the edge of the Promised Land.

Moses addresses the nation for the purpose of changing their hearts. He calls upon the nation to choose YHWH. He calls upon Israel to respond to the Lord’s loving acts toward Israel by living obediently out of a grateful heart.

Moses knows the hearts of the people. He knows that they are stiff necked (9:6). He knows that they do not have a heart to know, or ears to hear, or eyes to see (29:4). He knows that they will not walk in the ways of the Lord forever. He knows that Israel will turn to idols and be punished by the Lord.

So what does Moses do about it?

Moses addresses the nation for the purpose of changing their hearts. He calls upon the nation to choose YHWH. He calls upon Israel to respond to the Lord’s loving acts toward Israel by living obediently out of a grateful heart.

You see, the entire book of Deuteronomy is built on the understanding that the past matters, that the past should influence the present. This is evident all over the book of Deuteronomy, but it can be easily seen in 10:12-16 where Moses follows a discussion of what happened at Sinai with these words:

12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

You see, the past matters. God’s love for us in the past matters to the present. We love God because he first loved us do we not?

This is the theme for our message this evening. And although much more could be said about Deuteronomy 4, our focus tonight is Moses as a teacher and what he can show us about how to think about the past well, and by extension, how we can teach others to think about the past. What can we learn from the past and how? Additionally how should we respond to the past?

We will proceed with the following headings:

1) The Command (vv. 1–8)

2) The Nature of the Past (vv. 9–14)

3) Interpreting the Past (15–38)

4) Responding to the Past (39–40)



Review of The Old Testament by Richard Hess


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9780801037146Richard Hess, The Old Testament: A Historical, Theological, and Critical Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016). xiv + 801 pp. Hb. US $49.99. ISBN: 9780801037146.

Richard Hess has published a great deal in the area of Israelite religion as well as the ancient Near Eastern context in which Israel existed. Thus, it is not surprising to learn of this new and ambitions project: a comprehensive introduction to the Old Testament.

Hess is professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary and is firmly situated within the broad evangelical camp. He has degrees from Wheaton College, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Hebrew Union College (PhD). He is also a full and active member of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Whereas these qualifications in the past might have branded Hess as a certain kind of Evangelical, the landscape of Evangelicalism as changed quite a bit over the years. Hess is unquestionably a firm believer, committed to interpreting the Scriptures for the life and wellbeing of the church, but he does not always take the traditional view of date and authorship. However, it must be said that he is on the whole more conservative than most biblical scholars. He often defends the unity of books, though, for example with Isaiah and Daniel, Hess does not subscribe to single authorship.

The text itself is helpfully structured. It contains an introduction and a chapter for each book of the Old Testament. The book contains black and white illustrations throughout and also has a centrally located quire of four glossy pages with full color pictures.

The introduction covers very important topics that, in my experience, are all too often left unaddressed in introductory classes. These topics include the various textual witnesses to the Old Testament. This issue very helpfully segways into other important issues such as the shape and scope, as well as the formation process, of our canon. These issues are particularly challenging in the field of Old Testament study, but are nonetheless essential for students to consider.

The chapters themselves are also very helpfully organized, and Hess provides much for the reader. He begins with an outline and summary of each book and then moves on to inform the reader as to the history of interpretation in specific modes of reading. He begins this survey with Premodern Readings and then moves on to Higher Criticism (a term that critical scholars no longer use), Literary Readings, Gender and Ideological Readings, Ancient Near Eastern Context, and Canonical Context. In almost every case, Hess presents these interpretive approaches and concludes by assessing their strengths and weaknesses. Part of the reason for this is to avoid isolating his readership and avoid controversy. Another aspect is that such an approach allows instructors to teach what they want without having to compete with Hess.

The intended audience for this book is clearly university and seminary students. Indeed, it is perfectly formatted for such an application. Its survey approach and wide scope of material will also be a welcome aspect for many Old Testament instructors. This strength is also its greatest weakness. It is so broad, that it is not very deep. The text will serve well as an introduction to the whole Old Testament, but the footnotes are barely adequate and would not serve the student well as a first step in research.

Hess has undoubtedly provided evangelicals with an immensely accessible and helpful book. He addresses each book of the Old Testament in turn and gives due treatment to all. Hess should be commended for addressing such a wide range of interpretive background for each Old Testament book, and this information will no doubt prove helpful to many students. More conservative evangelicals will struggle with his acceptance of many critical theories of composition, however the instructor will find in Hess a breadth that is unmatched in this decade.


Review of Two German OT Introductions


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RomerThomas Römer, Jean-Daniel Macchi, and Christophe Nihan, eds., Einleitung in das Alte Testament: Die Bücher der Hebräischen Bibel und die alttestamentlichen Schriften der katholischen, protestantischen und orthodoxen Kirchen. Trans. by Christine Henschel, Julia Hillebrand, and Wolfgang Hüllstrung. Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 2013. xiv + 888 pp. Hb. € 62.




Christian einleitung 9th edFrevel, et al. eds., Einleitung in das Alte Testament. 9th edition. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 2016. 728 pp. Pb. € 34.



How can a biblical scholar stay abreast of current trends in research? To draw out the specific challenges that I have in mind, allow me to ask the question a bit more pointedly, how can specialists in wisdom literature remain informed about discussions and developments in pentateuchal studies? The challenge is obvious, yet it remains a genuine obstacle that shows no sign of reversal: the rate of publishing is staggering and anyone attempting to stay informed can feel overcome with texts. The challenge becomes even more pronounced when we consider how language and geographical divides act as barriers to the exchange of ideas.

In the present review, which focuses on the field of Old Testament study, I hope simply to argue for the value of consulting German introductions to the Old Testament and inform the reader of two recent contributions to the genre.

In the first case, allow me to state the obvious: introductions to the Bible are meant to be reader-friendly overviews of key issues and major themes. Introductions are especially helpful when reading up on a field in which you are not a specialist as they provide great refreshers on all of the essential information that you forgot after seminary or your first graduate course. Additionally, if you are a bit out of touch with a particular field, introductions offer helpful bibliographic information that is, in theory, up-to-date. This feature of introductions is especially helpful in recent years as the proliferation of publications has become unmanageable.

Introductions also become a valuable method for keeping abreast of developments in other academic contexts. In pentateuchal scholarship, for example, a number of important projects have been launched or recently completed that have as their goal the building of dialog between different schools of thought and geographic regions. Over the years, the English, German, and Hebrew speaking worlds have gradually moved beyond previously held “consensus” views in importantly distinct ways.

Let us consider an example: If an American New Testament scholar were keen to understand development in the pentateuchal research within the German speaking world, he/she could pick up the recent Mohr Siebeck volume The Formation of the Pentateuch, but this would likely provide more information than the average New Testament scholar’s passing interest justifies.

Instead, our imagined New Testament scholar might consider picking up the latest German language introduction written for the undergraduate level. Not only does this guarantee an overview of the history of scholarship, but it will do so at a reading level that more readily accommodates our American scholar. At the risk of painting with too broad a brush, German biblical scholars are usually very thorough when it comes to literature reviews, and I have found this to be the case with the present introductions in view. Such literature reviews are invaluable in the case of foreign research contexts as they will often discuss scholarship that has not yet made its way into English translations or else the debate has remained contained within the German realm.

The first introduction in mind is a German translation of the French volume Introduction à l’Ancien Testament (2d. ed.; Geneva: Editions Labor et Fides, 2009). Although originally published in French, many of the contributors are Germans, thus we can still consider this a German introduction, however with the added benefit of encompassing the worlds of French and Swiss scholarship. As a Deuteronomy specialist, it was Thomas Römer that first attracted me to this introduction, as he makes the contribution to the chapters on the overview of pentateuchal research and the Deuteronomistic History. The book also has such esteemed contributors as Martin Rose, Konrad Schmid, and Christoph Uehlinger.

As the German subtitle suggests, a particularly noteworthy feature of this volume is the attention given to the Deuterocanonical and Pseudopigriphal texts, not a common feature in most American and British introductions to the Old Testament. Further, the books of the Protestant Old Testament are organized employing the traditional divisions of the Tanakh: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. Within each of these literary divisions, the editors have provided an introduction to discuss major interpretive issues and the history of scholarship. For example, Römer has excellent introductions to the Pentateuch, the Deuteronomistic History, and the wisdom literature; Schmid introduces the form and genre of the Latter Prophets; Macchi introduces the Book of the Twelve; and Christoph Nihan introduces Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. These have proven to be very helpful contributions again and again.

The second introduction that I wish to discuss is the Kohlhammer Einleitung in das Alte Testament. Without a doubt, this introduction is a standard text for German undergraduate students (especially within the Catholic tradition), evidenced by the fact that this is now the ninth edition since 1995. Begun under the editorial supervision of Erich Zenger, it has since his death, passed into capable hands of Christian Frevel. Like the previous introduction, this volume has all of the features that you would expect from an Introduction to the Old Testament: discussions of canon, textual criticism, and an overview of the content and research history of each book of the Old Testament. It also contains a helpful glossary of key terms and a timeline of Israel/Palestine in biblical times.

The text only discusses the books of the Protestant Bible (including Apocrypha) and does so according to the following genres: Pentateuch, Historical, Wisdom, and Prophetic. This organization reflects the German context in which those students studying theology in their undergraduate course will have the specific intention of entering the local parish ministry of the Lutheran or Catholic churches. The overall emphasis is on reading from a Christian perspective, although the specific hermeneutic that is demonstrated within the text is decidedly historical and not explicitly Christian.

In all, these volume are eminently readable and have proven useful for my research on numerous occasions. Such volumes are excellent ways to refresh one’s understanding of key interpretive issues, as well as to learn of recent developments in biblical studies. These texts also demonstrate a growing attempt within the world of biblical studies to stem the tide of new form-critical and redaction-critical theories and instead move toward a sustained period of synthesis and re-evaluation. Accordingly, these volumes not only act as surveys, but as serious efforts to examine the history of Old Testament scholarship and to make claims about what has been helpful and what has not.


Review of NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible


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NIV bibleNIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible – Red Letter Edition. Edited by John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016. Hb. US $49.99. ISBN: 9780310431589.

At the end of 2016, Zondervan released a brand new NIV study Bible. I am happy to be reviewing that for you here. The reader would not be slated for thinking that there is, at this point, no need for another study Bible on the market. After all, how many choices do we need? I am counted among those who think that we passed the point of having too many study Bibles nearly a decade ago. But in this case, there is something genuinely distinctive about the editors’ approach. I will begin by describing that approach. I will then turn to the actual content of the study notes before speaking of the quality of this Bible and offering a final evaluation.


Most study Bibles focus on doctrine or application. Editors learned a long time ago that if they focus on application, they would be able to both be more specific with their target audience and publish more books. Thus, we have study Bibles that focus on doctrine from any and all denominational standpoints as well as application focused study Bibles for men, women, children, students, teens, etc., etc., etc.

So how can there possibly be a need for another study Bible? The editors of the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, however, have adopted a new and exciting focus – the cultural backgrounds of the Bible. This approach, as the editors point out, flips the standard approach to producing a study Bible on its head. Readers of the Bible intuitively understand their own cultural contexts, and they will almost intuitively know how to apply the principles of the Bible to their own contexts. The challenge, however, is to understand the context of the Bible, as John Walton points out, “the Bible was written for us, it wasn’t written to us” (pg. iii). The approach adopted for this study Bible aims to help bridge the cultural gap between then and now.

And yet, the effort to understand the Bible in its context is increasingly under threat. The adoption of reader response hermeneutics has contributed to the overall de-emphasis on the authority and sufficiency of God’s word. The approach adopted in this study Bible, therefore, is a welcome contribution to the important task of understanding the Bible in its original context. How was it read and understood by its original audience? This is an important question that needs to be asked.

One other issue regarding this approach needs to be addressed. That issues is the historical perspective of the comments themselves. This relates to the fact that in most historically focussed commentaries, the author places the texts within the context in which they presume the texts were written. For example, many scholars argue that the book of Deuteronomy was written during the reign of King Josiah and was intended to argue for devotion to Yahweh alone at the Temple of Jerusalem alone. Therefore, they interpret Deuteronomy within this context. Many evangelicals, on the other hand, would interpret Deuteronomy within the context of Moses’ last speech to Israel before the nation entered the Promised Land. Both of these approaches, though very different, are focused on the author’s intention — they simply disagree fundamentally about who and when that author was. In order to avoid these disputes, the editors of the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adopt a text centered focus. They simply deal, on a descriptive level, with the text as it stands. We will now turn to the content of the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible.


The notes in this Bible are copious and thorough. There are thousands of relevant notes that cover a full range of topics. There are also chronological charts when relevant. There is a list of key theological terms for the New Testament and even a list of key Hebrew terms that are difficult to translate into English. Throughout the Bible there are extended excursuses including, for example, ones on “Ancient Law Codes and Leviticus,” “Balaam,” “Combat by Champions,” “Psalm Titles,” and “The Crucifixion.” There is also an extended section on the intertestamental period. These notes are not simply relevant and interesting, but they are engaging. They draw the reader in and are situated within the text in a way that makes there importance apparent to the reader.

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is also full of maps both at the end, as expected, but also throughout the Bible. All of the maps are easy to read and in full color. Another great feature of the maps is that there is an index of geographical names with a map number and coordinates for finding that cite on the map. This index is both helpful and easy to use.

This Bible also has dozens of charts that cover topics such as “Old Testament Festivals and Other Sacred Days,” “David’s Family Tree,” “Timeline of Paul’s Life,” and even the “Qualifications of Elders/Overseers and Deacons.” These charts are all in full color as well, and they are easy to read. They seem to appear and assist the reader’s understanding just as the reader is losing clarity.

Finally the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible is full of incredible images. In most cases, these images are of relevant archaeological findings. These include both archaeological dig sites as well as contemporary literature. In most cases, these images are included in an explanatory excursus. For example, 1 Sam 16:16, 18 speaks of David playing the lyre. At this point, there is an excurses explaining what the lyre is as well as a photograph of a jug on which is drawn a man playing a stringed instrument. All of these photos are relevant and work not only to point to the ancient nature of the biblical text, but also to increase my own interest in the Bible itself.


The overall print quality of this hardback Bible is poor. The paper is thin and bends easily. It also suffers from a great deal of bleed through (called ghosting) from the other side of the page. Zondervan used a couple of techniques to try to minimize the ghosting such as using colored paper and matching each line of text with the one on the reverse side of the page. These efforts helped some, but in many cases (such as when there is a color picture on the reverse) the ghosting is quite distracting.

Another consequence of thin paper is that you can almost never take your own notes. On this paper, which feels like a thin magazine or the ads in your Sunday newspaper, writing with a ball point pen would leave indentions, and writing with a fountain or gel pen would bleed through profusely. In fact, even my high quality pigment ink pen blead through the thicker paper of the signature page. But ink bleeding through may not be an issue for most readers, as the margins are so small that there is no room to make notes.

The text block is of adequate quality. The Bible lies flat no matter what page to which you turn, a very important feature for Bibles.

Final Evaluation:

In my final evaluation I am happy to own this Bible, will be happy to read this Bible for years to come, and I am happy to recommend this Bible. Although I was in my past, I am no longer a fan of the NIV translation, especially in its 2011 edition. However, it is a readable version of the Bible, and as I once heard from a wise pastor, “The best translation of the Bible is the one you will read.” I intend to give this Bible to my son and I know that he will love the photos within and will also learn a great deal that will help him to understand the biblical text with more clarity.


Sermon: Lamentations 3


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Zoie Lafis, Threnouses [2005]

Zoie Lafis, Threnouses [2005]

Lamentations 3: Hope because of the LORD:

(A Sermon given on September 10, 2017 at Langley Park Baptist Church, England)

 Why study Lamentations?

Many of you will have read, and perhaps even studied, the book of Lamentations several times. BUT, you would be the exception that proved the rule. The truth is that the majority of Christians these days seem to be exceedingly illiterate when it comes to the Bible, especially the Old Testament, not to mention a book like Lamentations.

But why is Lamentations so challenging? I think it will be helpful to consider some factors.


  • The Old Testament is challenging
    • It is so long ago
    • It is often neglected by preachers, especially in churches with a liturgy.
  • The Old Testament is often more challenging to preach.
  • Lamentations is never quoted in the NT, which makes Lamentations appear to have nothing to offer Christians when it comes to understanding the work of Christ, church life, or the doctrines of Scripture.
  • Hebrew Poetry
  • Very timely…singular event, singular audience Jerusalem’s destruction 
  • It’s so sad!
    • Why would we want to read such a sad book?

Well, yes it is. It is a very sad book. It has made me cry on more than one occasion. But there is strange comfort in know that others have suffered too. If I am able to show that there is applicable theology for the church today then Lamentations can be a source of great comfort to those in trying times.

Is there anything for the church to learn from Lamentations?

Yes, I believe so, and I believe that understanding the historical setting of Lamentations will bring this out.

Fortunately we know a great deal about the setting of this book from the Bible itself.

Historical Setting

  • We know that it is about the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.
  • Timeline of events:
  • 605 The Babylonians invade Judah (2 Kings 24:1–2) king: Jehoiakim
  • 605 First wave of deportation of Jews to Babylon (2 Kings 24:1–2; Chron 36:6; Dan 1:1–2) including Daniel
  • 597 Babylonians capture Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:10) king: Jehoiachin
  • 597 Second wave of deportation to Babylon from Judah. (2 Kings 24:12–16) including Ezekiel
  • 588 Famine in the land (2 Kings 25:3)
  • 587 The Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and the Temple (2 Kings 25) king: Zedekiah and the Third wave of Jews deported to Babylon (2 Kings 25:18–20)

Now let’s talk about authorship

Most English speaking believers will almost instinctively ascribe the authorship of Lamentations to Jeremiah. I think that this is probably right, but when we look at the ancient manuscripts, we discover that this ascription to Jeremiah as the author was not added to the actual copies of Lamentations until about 300 years after it was written.

What’s the point?

My point is that if we focus on Lamentations as a book by Jeremiah, we will be tempted to read chapter three as about Jeremiah, and only about Jeremiah. However, if we recognize that the book is anonymous, then we realize that any Israelite living through the destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent exile can pick up this song of lament and sing it. Every man, woman, and child, could pick up this lament and express their anguish to God.

And that’s exactly what they would have done.

We know this because of the genre and poetic artistry evident in this book.

The book of lamentations is what is known as a city lament.

This simply means that Lamentations mourns the loss of Israel’s major city, Jerusalem.

In fact, during this period, there were hundreds of city laments being written. World powers were rising and falling, as you know. First the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, then the Persians, then the Greeks, and then the Romans. As these nations were rising and falling, cities like Jerusalem were captured and destroyed.

  • 1–4 are in the form of an acrostic.
    • Why? It functions as a memory aid.
    • These chapters all go through the Hebrew alphabet.
    • 1,2,4 containing 22 verses with the first letter of each verse beginning with the next Hebrew letter
      • 3 has 66 verses with 3 for each letter of the alphabet. They were intended to memorize it and teach their children the poems while they are in exile.
      • Why? To teach the exile generation a theology. Lamentations will teach them how to view the exile and the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple.
  • 5 is usually understood as a community prayer.

So what did Lamentations teach Israel and what does it teach us?

Well, aspects of this answer are found throughout the entire book, but the centre of the book is here in Lamentations 3.

You see, the structure of the book means that the centre of all of its message and theology is here in chapter three.

This is because Lamentations, as a brilliant piece of poetry was written as in what is called a chiastic structure. This simply means that the whole book is symmetrical.

  • The outer chapters (1 and 5) deal broadly with the nation of Israel and her destruction
  • The middle chapters (2 and 4) take the reader into the streets of Jerusalem so that he can see what the destruction looks like. The reader is given a picture of how bad things are.
  • The central chapter zooms in even closer and focusses in on the individual person who is having to go through this disaster. It begins with “I am the man”


  • Chapter 1
    • Major theme is the abandonment of Jerusalem
    • The city is personified as a woman being punished for her many transgressions (1:5)
    • She has no one to comfort her (1:9, 17, 21)
    • This motif is intensified when the woman is no longer being spoken of, but becomes the speaker (1:9).
  • Chapter 2
    • Whereas ch. 1 focused broadly on the event, that it occurred and that it was indeed terrible, ch. 2 seems to focus in on the specific actions of God (ex. 2:1–9).
    • God is involved in this event.
    • Really focuses in on how bad the situation got and the city is really pleading with God for answers (ex. 2:20)
  • Chapter 3
    • Clearly spoken from the perspective of a person; the prophet? Everyman?
    • Communal prayer for return to Yahweh (vs. 40–47) o Prayer of supplication for God to respond (vs. 48–66). Prayer for God to punish his instruments of judgment (Jer 51:6 on Babylon; Isa 13:1, 4, 11 on Babylon, Ezekiel, etc.)
  • Chapter 4
    • Viewpoint of someone in the midst of the events. Things are really bad.
    • 22, the punishment has been completed. Waiting for restoration…
  • Chapter 5
    • Prayer for restoration, but still waiting for restoration…
    • Notice the open ending. Not going to happen until the Millennium.
    • Books written later tell us that God is present. But we know that they are still waiting for this restoration.

Chapter 3 is an even more zoomed in look at the events that have just taken place. Whereas Ch. 1 was an overview, Ch. 2 was zoomed in at the particular aspects of the destruction of Jerusalem, Ch. 3 is zoomed in to the personal level.

Ch. 3 seems to be addressing the question: How can the individual respond to these events?

This might be why this chapter is written largely in the first person.

It is helpful for me to think of Lamentations as a recipe for a right response to God’s punishment. That recipe has two ingredients: humility and faith. 

Vs. 1–18: First ingredient: humility

Vs. 1–3

“I am the man”

Note how personal Jeremiah is. Consider also that any Israelite who learns and recites this poem would also be expressing this pain in a personal manner.

This chapter begins by saying that this individual has seen the affliction that was brought about by the rod of his wrath.

BUT, the author continues by stating that the individual is being driven by that rod. Same language, but opposite feeling of Ps. 23. Instead of being led gently, he is being driven. He is being led through darkness.

Vs. 4–9

The language here is siege language. The poet wants each Israelite to realize that they are being individually, and not just collectively, punished by God.

Each person, in a way, is responsible for this.

Just as Moses promised that this would happen in Deuteronomy 28, it has now happened. Israel’s unfaithfulness to the Lord has been met with punishment. It is a punishment on the nation as a whole, but there is a personal nature to this punishment.

Isn’t it true that when we go through trials and suffering, the human response is to ask, “Why is this happening to me? Where is God in all this? Doesn’t He care that I am suffering?”

Well, to these questions, Lamentations 3 teaches Israel that these terrible things are happening because of sin and rebellion, that God is not absent in their trials, but that he is very present. In fact he is the one that is acting through Babylon to punish his people.

Notice how often the Lord is the subject of the verbs in vv. 1–18.

Give examples…

  • He has driven me (vs. 2)
  • He has turned His hand (vs. 3)
  • He has caused my flesh and my skin to waste away, (vs. 4)
  • He has broken my bones. (vs. 4)
  • He has besieged and encompassed me (vs. 5)
  • He has walled me (vs.7)
  • He has made my [a]chain heavy (vs. 7)
  • He shuts out my prayer (vs. 8)
  • Etc., etc., etc.

The point is: When we go through suffering we often ask, “Where is God?” Lamentations answer to this question is, “God is right here.”

We ask, “Doesn’t God see what I’m going through”

Lamentations answers, “Yes, He sees what is happening, because He is causing it.”

Vs. 10–11

Here God is seen as a crouching lion and bear who has mauled Israel.

I will encounter them like a bear robbed of her cubs,

And I will tear open their chests;

There I will also devour them like a lioness,

As a wild beast would tear them.

(Hos. 13:8)


This is not a pretty picture and it shows just how desperate the situation is.

It also takes us into the very depths of despair, where feels as though he cannot even turn to God for help. God is the one who is causing this grief. God is the one that is tearing you apart limb from limb.

Vs. 12–13

Pictures YHWH as an archer and the individual Israelite as the specific target of God’s arrow. The shocking element is that it is the individual man who is the precise target of God.

Vs. 16–18:

To top it all off, the man feels as though God is forcing his face into the ground. God is making him lie in the dust and eat gravel.

The picture is of God shoving the individual’s face into the ground.  Thus forcing a spirit of humility.

But there is a turn here at vs. 19 and that is because the second ingredient is introduced: faith.

Vs. 19–24: The second Ingredient: faith

Vs. 19–21: notice the transition in focus

Begins “remember my afflictions…”

Continues, “I remember them…”

But he remembers something else…God’s loving kindnesses!! AND THEREFORE THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE

I.e. despite his feeling of being cut off and having no hope, he knows that the Lord is faithful.

What he knows is not really matching up with what he feels.

What he knows reframes how he feels. His faith in the character of God can totally reshape his understanding of what is happening.

You’ll notice in the text that this does not suddenly mean that everything is ok à The book of Lamentations has no happy ending!!

Our hearts long for a happy ending in this situation, but Lamentations offers no such happy outlook.

You’ll also notice that this does not mean that everything that he has said up to this point about God targeting him is not in reality the truth.

He still knows that life is a challenge. He remembers his affliction. The affliction has not gone away.

All too often we Christians can approach a suffering Christian and say, “well God works all things for the good of those who love him.” How many funerals have we been to that all to quickly jump to talk of “celebration” or of a “home going” without giving full recognition of the pain of loss, or of the heartrending reality that we live in a broken world and that death is wrong and an enemy of God.

NO, the individual here cannot ignore his pain and suffering. Nor should we! We should not ignore our pains and write them off. We should not ignore the pain of those around us.


Béla Uitz, Siratás (Lament), [1916]

Romans 8:28 can so often be used as a way to condemn those who are suffering and indicate to them that they shouldn’t be sad, because that would somehow demonstrate a lack of faith in God.

NO, we who trusts in the Lord should weep with those who weep knowing that sin has entered the world and has introduced pain and suffering into this world . . . and that is a problem!!

At the same time, however, those who trust in the Lord know that we can have a mature and full understanding of what is actually happening. You will notice that vs. 21 indicates that there is always hope! But from where does this hope come? The source of this hope is faith in God’s character, and as we will see in vv. 25–29, faith in the nature of God’s loving chastisement.

After all, vs. 24, If God is your portion than you need nothing else. If you have God and nothing else, you have everything that you need.

And we see that in vv. 25–29. In other words, with the two ingredients of humility and faith, the individual is able to see more clearly what is happening how to respond to what is happening.

Vs. 25–39: The result of these two ingredients is a complete and mature understanding of the nature of God’s Punishment Vs. 25–27:

In light of the previous recollection that God is the believer’s portion, there is no reason to worry or fear. The believer needs only wait and be steadfast.

All three of these verses begin with “Good.” The focus is on the good

Vs. 28–30

These verses explain what it means to bear the yoke in his youth.

Vs. 28 – it means to not complain

Vs. 29-30 – it means to humble yourself and stop resisting the Lord’s work in your life

Vs. 31–36

Vs. 31–33

These verses are cluing us in on reasons for bearing the yoke.

They are explaining the nature of God’s punishment!

  • His punishment does not last forever
  • Grief is followed by compassion
  • It hurts the heart of God to inflict punishment
  • YHWH’s discipline is not characterized by the things that can so often characterize the punishment of mankind. But God is not vindictive or unjust.

AFTER ALL, God is sovereign (vv. 37-38)

This why in vv. 39 the poet is able to fully submit and accept the punishment of God.

The same word of “strong man” occurs here in vs. 39. It seems then that we have been witnesses to a journey toward humility and understanding. In vs. 1 the “strong man” views God as a cruel shepherd driving his sheep, but here God is perceived to be a just, sovereign, and even loving God who is judging sin.

This all leads to the fully baked, response to God in light of the poet’s pain, his humility, and his faith. The fully baked response is an honest, mature, and theologically informed prayer.

Vs. 40–66:

Vs. 40–41

This is a call for national confession and a return to YHWH.

They sinned. He did not pardon.

Imagine how this would shape and influence the national understanding of Jerusalem’s destruction and the horrors of war and exile!!

Jeremiah has provided the nation with a brilliant song that anyone in Israel can learn and sing. At the same time their understanding of these events would be shaped. They would be offering up a national prayer of confession and faith.


The brokenness of this world is displayed:

  • This world is not as it should be!
  • Every time someone dies, or when we suffer loss or hardship we need to remember that something is wrong with this world.

God’s faithfulness displayed:

  • Through His unfailing, loyal love
  • Through His righteous, loving punishment
  • Through His ever-present ear to hear the cries of His people

A right response displayed:

  • We also learn from this text how to rightly experience the discipline of God.

There will be pain when we sin and disrupt our fellowship with God, but . . .

  • God’s faithfulness is genuine and not a pipe dream.
  • God’s loving kindnesses never cease, therefore we can trust that God will


As Christians, however, what difference does Jesus make to all of this?

Why should Christians read Lamentations? After all, what is depicted here is God’s wrath against Israel for her sin, and our punishment for sin was placed upon Jesus at Calvary!!

While it is true that Christ was crucified for our sins and we will never have to experience this type of punishment for sin, it becomes a starling picture of the pain that Christ went through on our behalf on the cross.

There is also the starling fact that as we read Lamentations we begin to recognize, not only the pain of this life, but also the utter condemnability of our sin.

We must rejoice and praise God for his work on our behalf. Christ bore the wrath that we deserve.

We also realize that Christ perfectly demonstrated trust in the Father as he was the object of God’s wrath upon the cross.

We thus realize that Christ perfectly responded to the pain and suffering of the cross and gives us the power to do so as well.

If Christ could receive on himself the wrath for our sin and walk by faith and perfectly demonstrate the response to suffering that is described here in Lamentations 3 then as his disciples, we can walk in his likeness with the Holy Spirit in us.


Book Review: Remembering the Reformation


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remembering the reformationThomas Albert Howard, Remembering the Reformation: An Inquiry into the Meanings of Protestantism. Oxford: Oxford, 2016. Hb. xiv + 194. US $40.

With the quincentenary of Luther’s posting of the 95 theses against the sale of indulgences on the church doors of Wittenberg, there is much to ponder as Protestants. Much has changed since October 31, 1517, and not merely in the context of world Christianity. But there is another important truth to consider: we are not the first Christians to celebrate an anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Far from it, there is a long legacy of celebrating and remembering the inherited legacy from that very important period in Christian history, and world history for that matter.

It this legacy of remembering the Reformation that Howard addresses. The book itself is rather small in its dimensions and short in its breadth. The prose is simple (though not simplistic) and engaging. It contains a mere four body chapters along with an introduction and conclusion. The book also contains many self-evidently helpful images of realia from past celebrations of the Reformation. These objects include commemorative coins, postage stamps, posters, paintings, and sculptures. These images become essential aids in Howard’s account of remembering the past.

Essentially, Howard is interested in the remembered past rather than the past itself. He is not writing a history of Protestantism or an history of the transmission of Protestant ideas in the wake of the Reformation. Rather, Howard’s focus is on the acts of remembrance such as celebrations, dedications of statues, church gatherings, conferences, political rallies, university lectures, etc. These acts of remembrance were diverse and differed in important ways from country to country and from century to century.

The chapters themselves focus on 1617 and 1717 together; 1817; 1883 (the 400th anniversary of Luther’s birth); and finally the twentieth century. Throughout this treatment, many diverse understandings of Luther immerge especially when comparing the remembrance of Luther in Germany and the US. However, there are also several common threads throughout Howard’s treatment. One of these threads is growing sense that Luther changed the world and paved the way for many of the greatest developments in Europe and beyond including the Enlightenment. Howard catalogues a remarkable number of individuals who viewed Luther as the catalyst for all that followed him. A sense that Luther’s feeing the church from the papacy led to an all-encompassing spirit of freedom in the protestant world. This spirit of freedom in turn came to include the call for political freedom, freedom from oppression, and for some even freedom from religion.

In the conclusion, Howard offers many helpful thoughts for this current year’s remembrances of Luther. To be sure, however, the insights of Howard’s book are too wide ranging to be distilled into one short review. Suffice it to say, however, that each generation must struggle with the temptation to cast Luther in its own image. Simultaneously, each generation must be aware that its own cultural context shapes, for good or ill, its own reception of Luther. This is no less true now than in any previous generation. In the end, this is a fascinating volume that helps the reader understand, not only the history of Reformation commemoration, but also the legacy of the reformation in a secondary way.