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Chris Of The OT (South West of England)

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Work and Leisure in Christian Perspective
Work and Leisure in Christian Perspective
by Leland Ryken
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, thought provoking & important - and very easy to read, 27 July 2010
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Leland Ryken's `Work & Leisure in Christian Perspective' is a hugely readable, often inspirational and occasionally provocative investigation into the whole issue of Christian attitudes to working and leisure.

Ryken divides his 250-page work into two parts containing eight chapters:

Part 1 - Issues in Work and Leisure
1. Understanding Work and Leisure
2. The Contemporary Crisis in Work and Leisure
3. A History of Attitudes toward Work and Leisure
4. The Original Protestant Ethic

Part 2 - Work and Leisure I Christian Perspective
5. A Christian Theology of Work
6. The Ethics of Work
7. A Christian Theology of Leisure
8. The Ethics of Leisure
Conclusion: Work, Leisure, and Christian Living
Indexes follow

Ryken's introduction begins, `... We feel guilty about our work, and we feel guilty about our leisure. We don't understand either of them very well.' I did a Christian Ethics module for my biblical theology course which included, sexuality, death penalty, divorce, drugs, abortion, war - the hardest of the hard things to get you head around. But the issues of work and leisure really revealed a level of pain and hurt in people - intentionally, or not - which, amazingly, far out-weighed all the other ethical issues!

It was, therefore, with great interest (and trepidation) that I read Ryken's work. While Ryken's obviously vast theological understanding and experience shows all the way through his `Work & Leisure', his writing style is very smooth and easy.

Ryken carefully explores the secular understanding of work and leisure, as well as the Christian perspective, but his historical investigation emphasises strongly how all these views have changed over time. (Shockingly!) Ryken's biblical emphasis is key to the impact of this book - especially where he relates the whole idea of work and leisure to God's act of creating. Powerful stuff.

I found myself disagreeing with Ryken (and others, like John Stott and Dorothy L. Sayers) very profoundly in two areas: while Ryken rightly notes that `what is needed is an upgrading of the dignity that leisure holds in the Christian world' (p37), his mere three page investigation of `Play in the Bible' (p198-201) is miserably inadequate. And while he emphasises the importance of `Sabbath rest', he massively dilutes the `rest' element (as do Stott & Sayers - to the point of non-existence).

However, this is point of order regarding (what one tutor described to me as) `critical engagement': i.e. I just disagree with these mighty theologians. (Gasp!) Still, Ryken's `Work & Leisure' is superb, not least because there are precious few quality titles available in this area. His honest, occasionally impassioned arguments are designed to get the reader to think about the issues for themselves. I whole-heartedly recommend this title.

Note:
There are also some useful sections on work/leisure/rest in these ethics books:
John Stott's `Issues Facing Christians Today' (chapter 8);
The utterly wonderful Old Testament Ethics for the People of God by Christopher Wright (chapters 5 & 6 emphasise Wright's inspirational understanding that `the land' (Canaan/Israel) holds in OT ethical issues);
And (to a lesser extent) Stassen and Gushee's `Kingdom Ethics' (chapter 20 - though it's a bit short).


The City in Ancient Israel (Biblical Seminar)
The City in Ancient Israel (Biblical Seminar)
by Volkmar Fritz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £37.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly Tom Clancy (!) but a useful, readable resource, 27 July 2010
Volkmar Fritz's `The City in Ancient Israel' is a very readable investigation of the archaeology of Israel. Fritz studies both the city structures - walls, streets and building layout, etc. - as well as a good deal of individual building remains, everything from palaces to storage pits.

Fritz divides his 200-page work into ten chapters:

1. City and State in Ancient Israel
2. The Beginnings of Urbanisation
3. The Canaanite City
4. The Early Iron Age Settlements
5. The Cities in the Period of the Monarchy
6. Capital Cities and Residences
7. Building and Dwelling
8. The Water Supply
9. Economy and Administration
10. Everyday Life
Very short indexes follow

It is important that Fritz's writing style is comfortable to read because this work represents a (very) brief archaeological over-view of ancient Israel which could have easily descended into dry academia. Fritz avoids this and makes his work even more accessible with the inclusion of dozens of very simple line drawings & illustrations.

From the contents list above, it can be seen that Fritz approaches his subject from a broadly chronological perspective, focusing on biblical Israel (with many relevant biblical references), but also noting the pre-Israelite Canaanite origins of Palestine: thus he notes that `the process of urbanisation [first] took place... in Early Bronze Age II... (2950-2650 [B.C.])' and continues his investigations up to the exile, c.587 B.C.

So, an interesting work offering a useful over-view. At just 200 pages, it's not too much to digest but I did often find that a little more filling in would have been nice. All the drawings are useful but often too simple: for instance, p54 offers a (typically simple) but very helpful `reconstruction of houses in Iron Age I' - the sort of thing that TV programs like `Time Team' will do with CGI now. Fritz's offerings may be simple but they really do help you understand and visualise the buildings being described. Unfortunately there are far too few of these. While there must be 50-odd examples of excavated sites in plan view, these offer only a very sterile visual example of what's being explored.

Still, Fritz's `City...' is a useful resource and while I may belly-ache about it being short, that very brevity makes it easily accessible. (3½ stars)


Panasonic SD60 Full HD Camcorder With SD Card Recording, X35 Intelligent Zoom, X25 Optical Zoom, Wide Angle Lens, iA + Face Recognition - Black
Panasonic SD60 Full HD Camcorder With SD Card Recording, X35 Intelligent Zoom, X25 Optical Zoom, Wide Angle Lens, iA + Face Recognition - Black

208 of 214 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb design and function - just about worth the (huge) outlay, 27 April 2010
The Panasonic SD60 HD camcorder is a triumph of modern design - beautifully functional and, well, beautiful to look at.

We bought this for my wife's birthday and because her brother is getting married next month. She is a keen photographer (see the Canon 450D Digital SLR and reviews, including ours) and wanted, first, full High Definition camcorder but with a good zoom and stills ability - but it must be small and light too! This Panasonic covers all the bases, pretty much.

The unit is amazingly small & light. This was very important but has a knock-on effect on functionality because all the buttons are small. However, after reading (a good portion of) the manual, it quickly becomes intuitive so even my ample digits manage. The view screen is stunning, though direct sunlight washes the image away - but it's still light-years ahead of other screens we've used, giving bright, clear and crisp images.

The video images are superb too, even managing in poor light to deliver watchable footage - but at this price, I was expecting that! The sound is much better than I'd thought it would be, it's even stereo. The only limiting thing we've found so far is the constant `panning too fast' we keep getting told off for, but that's easily compensated for (as long as you remember!).

The things I don't like are:

The recorded video format is specifically Panasonic which means you need to install the supplied software onto you PC to download footage. Very annoying, but the software works very well and it's easy to use. It takes a long time to copy over videos - perhaps half as long as the original video so a half-hour clip will take 15 minutes or more to copy. (We take the SD card out and copy direct to the laptop.)

The battery will last about 1¼ hours, and takes just over two hours to charge. With a 16GB SD card, this will need re-changing at least once if you want to fill the card which means buying another battery & (presumably) a charger too. We got the Panasonic Accessory Kit for the outrageous price of eighty quid, making this - with the SD card - a half-grand purchase.

Also, as a keen photographer, my wife really misses not having a view finder, not least because the screen is limited in bright sunshine. The stills are okay, but not outstanding.

Still, it gets five stars because it's so good at what it does. The 25X zoom is surprisingly effective - better than I'd thought - but still lagging behind standard definition camcorders. It remains an amazing technical achievement for Panasonic who seem to be stealing a march on the tech in our house. Maybe half a star can be deducted for the high price - especially for the essential accessories - but it's still superb.

EDIT (3.5.10):

Having looked into the infuriating editing problem, it seems to be a Microsoft problem(among many others):

`... We are currently looking into the issue you raised. We will be making additional post to this thread as soon as we have more information' (from the MS Answers site 11.12.09, thread: 6f1340e0-3fa2-4299-a268-f97eb1b68d30 - no answer at time of writing).

The only advice so far is to update all (Panasonic & Windows - particularly Movie Maker) drivers, etc., but the upshot is that Microsoft applications and many other video players and editing programs do NOT recognise or support AVCHD: MTS/M2TS files even though most new cameras record in that format. Unless we spend even more money on new software (!) it means we can't edit the footage shot with these Panasonic camcorders. Fantastic.

Also, in correcting myself, the file format (M2TS) seems to be an AVCHD standard, not a specific Panasonic one. My mistake!
Comment Comments (21) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 4, 2011 2:55 PM BST


Old Testament Ethics for the People of God
Old Testament Ethics for the People of God
by Christopher J. H. Wright
Edition: Hardcover

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good offering - it makes the most tedious, boring bits of OT law relevant and even vibrant, 16 April 2010
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C. J. H. Wright's `OT Ethics for the People of God' offers a wonderfully readable and engaging explanation of the ethics of "The Law". I bought this to compare and contrast (as they say) with Stassen and Gushee's `Kingdom Ethics' because Stassen and Gushee focus their ethical exposition specifically on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. I'm a much more of an OT orientated fella' so was keen to see how Wright's volume measured up.

`OT Ethics' is a `fully revised, updated and integrated edition of [Wright's earlier works] `Living as the People of God' and `Walking in the Ways of the Lord'.' As such is represents a very polished and thorough presentation of OT ethics while retaining the essential readability that some theological books lack. Wright divides his work into three large parts of fourteen chapters:

Part One: A Structure for OT Ethics
1. The theological angle
2. The social angel
3. The economic angle

Part Two: Themes in OT Ethics
4. Ecology and the earth
5. Economics and the poor
6. The land and Christian ethics
7. Politics and the nations
8. Justice and righteousness
9. Law and the legal system
10. Culture and family
11. The way of the individual

Part Three: Studying OT ethics
12. A survey of historical approaches
13. Contemporary scholarship: a bibliographical essay
14. Hermeneutics and authority in OT ethics

Appendix, bibliography and indexes follow

In comparing Wright with Stassen and Gushee, the most significant difference is that the later focus on the practicalities of how to apply Jesus' ethical advice from the Sermon on the Mount to our daily lives. Wright's aim seems more focused on explaining and expounding OT ethics as they were applied to the ancient Israelites. That's not to suggest that Wright neglects expounding how OT ethics should be applied to twenty-first century Christian values (far from it!), but Wright's work reads much more like a commentary than Stassen and Gushee's, which reads more like a (sometimes, specifically North American) self-help book. Wright's `OT Ethics' seeks to thoroughly unpack OT ethical understanding and clarify and correct the misconception of a miserable, vengeful OT God v. a cuddly, fluffy NT God. And he succeeds wonderfully!

Wright's `OT Ethics' is an easy to read, deeply penetrative investigation of OT ethical systems, well and logically laid out with bold main headings and bold italicised sub-headings with indented text or bullet points where necessary. Wright is hugely successful in changing the erroneous perception of two different Gods (OT v. NT), and two different legal/ethical understandings in the testaments. In the end, I found Wright's work more satisfying (and better laid out) than Stassen and Gushee's, but the later is more effective if you want to know precisely how to apply their ethical understandings to your life. Both titles are excellent and offer a hugely useful comparison, but if you only get this one, you'll not be disappointed: you've just got to admire anyone who can make the likes of Leviticus interesting AND relevant!


Win Home Server For Dummies
Win Home Server For Dummies
by Woody Leonhard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Very helpful, easy to follow, short and cheap: a typically good Dummies book, 13 Jan. 2010
Woody Leonhard's `Windows Home Server for Dummies' is just what you'd expect if you've ever read any Dummies title before: which makes many of the criticisms here unwarranted.

The 357 pages are organised into 7 large parts consisting of 21 chapters with the 16 page index following. The `Click to Look Inside' feature shows this clearly. Leonhard guides you through all the basics of setting up Windows Home Server (WHS) - including `Positioning the Server in Your Home of Office' - up to Remote Access or restoring individual files from Backup, etc. If you've never used WHS before (or any sort of server), this is a hugely useful title and if you decided against it, you'll still need to used another title.

The strengths are common to all the Dummies titles, so it's very accessible: technical jargon is explained simply, or avoided; and the text layout is injected with a multitude of pictorial symbols, headings, screen shots and formatting variations which make it very easy to follow. While it is a short volume (especially for a computer book) it still covers pretty much all the issues you'll need to get your server running. And it's cheap!

But it also suffers the same weaknesses as all the other Dummies titles: most significantly, when you do have a complex problem, these titles don't take you far enough towards an answer. But it's the nature of the beast. If you want bells-and-whistles, go for Sams `WHS Unleashed' - but that will cost two or three times as much.

While it's also easy to criticise this Dummies title for being `out of date', all WHS titles published in 2007 will now be out of date. This means sections like `Wake on LAN' and, more significantly, Windows Media Centre (WMC) are not up-to-date (it's now quite straight forward to enable WMC features on WHS): I can view photos and videos stored on the server instantly through my Xbox, though this edition of the Dummies book was no help here!

I'm sure Leonhard will be publishing a second edition `WHS Dummies' book soon (however, I'll be purchasing `WHS Unleashed' when the second edition arrives). I bought an old desktop to convert to a server and this `WHS for Dummies' was, quite simply, indispensible for getting it up and running. This is well worth the (small) cost: recommended (an updated second edition would be 5 stars).


Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context
Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context
by Glen H Stassen & David P Gushee
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A deceptively informal and sensitive discussion of Christian ethics but still deeply scholarly. Helpful and challenging., 18 Nov. 2009
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Stassen and Gushee's `Kingdom Ethics' is a powerfully incisive study with a strongly conservative and evangelical point of view. While it represents a massive scholarly enterprise, Stassen and Gushee still manage to write in a clear, comfortable and informal way: that alone marks this title as a remarkable achievement.

A quick search for this title on Amazon US (.com) will reveal a number of alternative reviews, as well as Amazon's excellent `Search inside' feature. The authors have chosen to view Christian ethics quite specifically through Jesus teachings as recorded in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), although that is very much seen in conjunction with Jesus emphasis on the Old Testament - especially Isaiah - as well as the rest of the Gospels, and some of Paul's teachings.

This focus on the Sermon on the Mount makes for a very original and interesting approach, and the authors' handle many difficult topics with common sense coupled great sensitivity (often from their own personal experience - including divorce, abortion, gender bias, etc.).

My criticisms would include nit-picky things like inconsistent formatting: occasional bold, inset text or shaded text boxes seem superfluous (if not inexplicable) and the frequent use of italics is certainly superfluous. I got impatient on a couple of occasions when I felt the premise was proved but the authors kept labouring away, and I also found one or two parts felt more like an Americanised, self-help book; for instance chapter 22 on prayer.

In the end though, this is a fine book on Christian ethics, even with my nit-picky criticisms. Stassen and Gushee address the most difficult issues of the modern world even if in some areas - like politics - I found less help here than I had hoped. The unbridled US American world view can be irksome (to a Brit, at least) but sometimes it is a positive boon - like the frankly shocking discussions on the death penalty (chapter 9). (Remember that not many countries still practice capital punishment so the authors' US perspective was especially helpful here.)

I would never have considered reading a book about Christian ethics were I not doing a distance learning course and this book represents the `if you only get one book on Christian ethics, get this one' choice. Statssen and Gushee aim to enable us to practice what we preach in our ethical decision making and using the Sermon on the Mount as a guide is surprisingly helpful: Recommended.

(Because `Kingdom Ethics' is strongly NT focused, I am reading Christopher J. H. Wright's Old Testament Ethics for the People of God next: it is going to be interesting to compare the two!)


Forza Motorsports 3: Prima's Official Game Guide (Prima Official Game Guides)
Forza Motorsports 3: Prima's Official Game Guide (Prima Official Game Guides)
by James Mazurek
Edition: Paperback

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good guide which builds on previous improvements, 17 Nov. 2009
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Having used and loved game guides since the highly rated Piggyback Gran Turismo 3 Guide for the PS2, I was very interested to see how this new Prima Official Game Guide to Forza Motorsports 3 measured up, especially compared to the (poor) Prima Official Guide to Forza for the first Xbox, and the subsequent, much improved Prima Official Guide to Forza Motorsport 2.

The most irksome and disappointing aspect of the original Forza guide for me was that: `I want a reference book, not a comic'. Fortunately, more modern guides that I've purchased have improved greatly (inlcuding the last shoot-em-up guide I bought, Call of Duty 2:BRO for the Xbox, even if it was a little unnecessary). This FM3 guide continues the `improved' trend.

Following the brief Introduction, its 250+ pages are divided into 8 chapters and 7 appendices:

Chapter 1: Professional Driving Techniques (p7-15) - describing driver assist options, drivetrains (Front engine, rear wheel drive, etc.), cornering, etc.

Chapter 2: Upgrades (p16-22) - lists all the available engine, aero, tire (etc.) upgrades and how they affect the car (even includes 2 pages on weights of different wheels!).

Chapter 3: Tuning (p23-32) - everything from gear ratios, ride height, toe, camber, etc. with `Pro Tips'.
Upgrades & Tuning was one section in the FM2 guide but comprised 24 pages to this guide's 16 pages. The information is better laid out and clearer in the FM3 guide but it's not as fully explored. For instance, in the FM2 guide there is a hugely useful double-page spread (p164-5) of the developers' step-by-step upgrading of a Lexus IS300 from a standard D-270 to a `track-eating dominator' S-948! Each individual upgrade is listed with the cost, change in PI, speed, acceleration, HP, etc. It's a real shame there's nothing equivalent in the FM3 guide.

Chapter 4: Car Customization (p33-36) - painting and vinyls (I'm not into painting at all but I imagine this could be much larger section...)

Chapter 5: Career Mode (p37-42) - difficulty levels, events, etc. Not quite as much here as I'd have liked but it's okay.

Chapter 6: Online Experience (p43-48) - listings of Advanced Rules, Overrides, etc. Again, useful but very brief.

Chapter 7: Tracks (p49-99) - All the tracks listed clearly in a fairly standard track guide section. Clearer and improved over the FM2 guide, with a brief `Track Profile' for the real world tracks.

Chapter 8: Cars (p100-164) - Good, clear easy to navigate description of all the cars, except General Motors (Chevrolet, Vauxhall, etc.). A standard omission due to `licensing issues' or `non-participation'. (I'm not sure how a bankrupt company can have any quibbles here - or why GM have never `participated' in any racing game guide I've ever bought. Sad and bizarre, but true.)
The car pictures here are all much smaller but considerably clearer than in the FM2 guide as are all the stats (i.e. FM3 listings are much smaller but much neater).

Appendix A: Master Car List (p165-189)
Appendix B: Master Track List (p190-193)
Appendix C: Driver Level Rewards (p194-195)
Appendix D: Car Level Rewards (p196-203)
Appendix E: Career Mode Event List (p204-251)
Appendix F: Xbox 360 Achievements (p252-253)
Appendix G: Unicorns, Limited Edition and VIP Cars (p254-255)

All the appendices are basically large tables/spreadsheets offering all the information about tracks, cars, rewards, etc. but without any graphics (although the Master Car List does have coloured banner titles for each manufacturer with national flags which helpfully breaks it up). These tables makes it quicker to find specific information (like, `VW Golf GTi Mk6 weighs 3,265 lbs...).

Since I generally liked the FM2 guide, and since this FM3 guide is generally smarter and neater, I have to like it. And as it's going to be regularly used for the next couple of years, it also represents excellent value: recommended.


Dictionary of Biblical Imagery: An Encyclopaedic Exploration of the Images, Symbols, Motifs, Metaphors, Figures of Speech, Literary Patterns and Universal Images of the Bible
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery: An Encyclopaedic Exploration of the Images, Symbols, Motifs, Metaphors, Figures of Speech, Literary Patterns and Universal Images of the Bible
by James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III (editors) 'Leland Ryken'
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £39.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top quality, often surprising, always hugely useful and interesting, 10 Oct. 2009
IVP's `Dictionary of Biblical Imagery' is a surprisingly useful and interesting reference source. The idea of focusing specifically on the images used in the Bible may not seem immediately helpful (it wasn't to me), but it really is!

The Introduction emphasises that this 1000 page dictionary `explores the fascinating and varied world of [biblical] imagery... [because] the Bible speaks largely in images.... The stories, the parables, the sermons of the prophets, the reflections of the wise men, the pictures of the age to come, the interpretations of past events all tend to be expressed in images which arise out of experience.'

The Introduction also notes that some images and motifs are universally recognised and accepted, like the image of light (light=truth, light verses darkness, etc.). But many biblical images are not nearly so easy to understand and it gives the example of left-handedness (e.g. Ehud in Judges 3:15-30). The article `Left, Left-Handed' begins:

The left side and left-handedness play a distinctively negative role in many languages. The word "sinister" derives from the Latin term that means "on the left side..." In the Bible we find both neutral and negative uses.

This all helps to emphasise what a wonderful and original concept this dictionary is built on. The execution and presentation are also excellent, with clear, well written and usually concise articles which are easy to read and understand. There is the usual high standard of IVP cross-referencing with links to many other relevant articles; in the digital version these are all red-highlighted hyperlinks.

This dictionary really helps you unpack the Bible by illuminating hidden (but essential) meanings and nuances. IVP are a great and loyal source of biblically related literature and this title only adds to that wonderful heritage. While it is not directly related to the superb IVP family of dictionaries listed below, it is in the same style and certainly compliments them:

Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels
Dictionary of Paul and his Letters
Dictionary of New Testament Background
Dictionary of the later New Testament and Its Developments

All these amazing titles, including the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, are available digitally, and more cheaply, as part of the fantastic new edition of The Essential IVP Reference Collection CD-ROM (or on download from Logos Bible Software).

These are also in the wonderful IVP `Dictionary...' family, and are (or will be) available digitally:

Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch
Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books
Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry and Writings


Dictionary of the later New Testament and its developments (Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship)
Dictionary of the later New Testament and its developments (Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship)
by Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids (Editors)
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £44.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Supreme quality scholarship and presentation make this indispensable for NT study, 6 Oct. 2009
IVP's wonderful `Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments' is the third in IVPs four-ship dictionary series - the other three are listed below and are all equally superb.

This title constitutes over 1300 pages of top scholarly information and the excellent cross-referencing system (which also references the other three titles in the series) make this a very user-friendly resource.

Inside this treasure trove of biblical information you'll find articles on, the Apostolic Fathers (the first generation of Christian leaders, and their writings, after the Apostles), Apocalyptic writings (like Revelation), discussions on highly significant Christian theological terms (like Logos), as well as lots of discussion about the (hugely important) contacts & tensions between Judaism and Christianity.

For instance, looking up `Jewish Wars', you are directed to `Christianity and Judaism: Partings of the Ways'. This article looks at the `healthy Jewish-Christian dialogue' and is divided into five parts:

Jesus, the Apostles and the New Testament Writings
Christianity's Gentile Mission
The Divinization of Jesus
Historical Factors
Jewish and Christian Polemic

The larger parts are then further sub-divided with bold-type indented titles making it easy enough to navigate. The second section, for instance, notes that one significant factor in the split from Judaism was the Christian insistence on `removing the yoke of Torah' which the Jewish leaders could not tolerate: `the councils depicted in Acts 11 and 15 exemplify the nature of the problems brought on by early Christianity's aggressive Gentile mission'.

This book then is for anyone `who has felt the need for scholarly and sympathetic guidance... This Dictionary will, we trust, put the readers in a position to see the ways the formulation of the Christian message developed from the Synoptic Gospels... up to about... A.D. 150.'

I particularly like the emphasis on `sympathetic' scholarship - it makes this dictionary (and whole set) very accessible: we are not faced with a mountain of dry academia here.

If you are keen to understanding the greater New Testament, and how the church began to develop after Jesus death and resurrection (and the subsequent deaths of all the apostles), then this dictionary is indispensable. If you have more cash and want to go further (within the superb IVP family of dictionaries), the other three are just as good and as valuable:

Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels
Dictionary of Paul and his Letters
Dictionary of New Testament Background

All these amazing titles are available digitally, and more cheaply, as part of the fantastic new edition of The Essential IVP Reference Collection CD-ROM (or on download from Logos Bible Software).
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Dictionary of New Testament Background (Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship)
Dictionary of New Testament Background (Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship)
by Craig A. Evans & Stanley E. Porter (eds.)
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £44.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely useful for understanding the NT in its historical context, 3 Oct. 2009
IVP's `Dictionary of New Testament Background' (DNTB) is a `must have' resource for studying the NT. IVP have long been ardent supporters of biblical and theological study and DNTB is one in a series of four superb dictionaries specifically aimed at NT study (see below for the others).

My edition (2000) is over 1000 pages, but the new 2008 edition stretches to over 1300 large format pages, so the size alone indicates the breadth of modern scholarship being made available.

The editors' aim with this dictionary was to `situate the New Testament and early Christianity in its literary, historical, social and religious context... [Therefore,] readers will find discussion of... recent archaeological finds... [and] important figures... such as Caiaphas, Hillel, Shammai, Simon ben Kosibah and the Roman governors of Palestine--as well as exotic ones, such as Apollonius of Tyana, Jesus ben Ananias or Jewish holy men' (from the Preface).

The DNTB is also excellently cross referenced to relevant internal articles - hyperlinked in the digital version - but also to articles in the other dictionaries in this IVP series.

If you look up `Dead Sea Scrolls', for instance, you'll find a lengthy (about 15 pages) and fascinating discussion divided into four sections:

Dead Sea Scrolls: General Introduction
Description of Contents
Interpretation of the Finds
The Dead Sea Scrolls and the NT

I was surprised to find how controversial the scrolls became - because of the delayed publication of the scrolls (about 875, apparently) and because of alleged `scandalous scholarly conduct' (whatever that was). There were even several `bootleg editions'!

Following this article (as with all the articles) there is a `See also' note which lists other especially relevant articles within the dictionary. This list is especially large as many individual scrolls have their own specific article entry as does Qumran itself. There follows a (usually) massive bibliography.

If you are serious about understanding the greater New Testament and the whole context of scripture, this dictionary is indispensable: I cannot recommend it enough. If you have more cash and want to go further (within this superb IVP family of four dictionaries), these are just as good and as valuable:

Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels
Dictionary of Paul and his Letters
Dictionary of the later New Testament and Its Developments

All these amazing titles are also available digitally, as part of the fantastic new edition of The Essential IVP Reference Collection CD-ROM (or on download from Logos Bible Software).
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