Andreas J. Köstenberger. Handbook on Hebrews through Revelation. Handbooks on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020. 304 pages. $34.99 (hardback).
The Handbooks on the NT series, edited by Benjamin Gladd, seeks to bridge the gap between the 40,000-foot overview of a NT introduction and the detailed minutiae of a commentary. The second installment, written by Andreas Köstenberger, Research Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at MBTS and Director of the Center for Biblical Studies, covers the books of Hebrews through Revelation in the New Testament canon. Köstenberger writes with an approachable tone that would not intimidate the layperson or student, but he also brings insightful commentary that will be useful for the pastor and scholar. In addition to the lengthy bibliographies at the end of each chapter, the handbook also includes interaction with key resources in the footnotes. They won’t overwhelm the reader, but the inclusion of footnotes is a welcome change from the first volume in this series, which had none.
In several places, Köstenberger highlights insights from the Greek text, such as the alliteration in Hebrews 1:1 and the linguistic connection between Joshua and Jesus in Hebrews 4:8. The treatment of the General Epistles’ placement in the canon was particularly enlightening. Peter, James, and John were all key leaders in the early church, and it makes sense that the early church might place their epistles closer to the book of Acts to represent the message of their ministry. The date of the letter of James also plays a key role in Köstenberger’s excursus on the relationship between faith and works: since James’s epistle was written before any Pauline treatment on faith and works, interpreters should not read Pauline themes into James and assume there are contradictions. Köstenberger’s treatment of 1 Peter stands out as another highlight. He describes an illuminating paradox: though Peter’s readers are “unmistakably Gentiles” (pg. 99), he urges them to keep their “conduct among the Gentiles honorable” (1 Peter 2:12). He makes clear that Peter is not espousing a “replacement theology” but rather that “Peter expands OT categories for Israel and applies them to all of God’s people” (p. 104). Köstenberger also brings out pertinent points from the life of Peter himself, showing how Peter’s own story illustrates the theology of the letter (pp. 105–6).
The chapter on Revelation is worth the price of the book alone. Köstenberger has given a tremendous gift to pastors and Bible teachers by offering a clear picture of Revelation. He explains that the genre of the book is a “prophetic-apocalyptic epistle” and is best organized by the fourfold repetition of the phrase “in the Spirit” (pp. 218–19). Furthermore, he asserts that the purpose of the book is not to create complicated end-times charts but to address the question of theodicy, that is, “the vindication of the righteousness of God in the face of the apparent triumph of evil in John’s day” (p. 220). This chapter is a feast for the heart and the mind.
Overall, scholars, pastors, and students alike will want this book on their shelf. As a handbook to Hebrews through Revelation, it stands unrivalled.
CBS book notices provide brief descriptive summaries and assessments of new publications in biblical studies and biblical theology. CBS book notices are not full academic book reviews. The present book notice was written by Mark Baker (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary), Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies and Deputy Director of the Scarborough College, Darrington Campus.