Welcome once again to Eerdmans All Over, a Friday roundup of all the Eerdmans-related news, reviews, interviews, and other interesting online content we can gather in a given week.

Coming Soon from Eerdmans





Poems compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Helen cann




News from Eerdmans . . .

  • Congratulations to the winners of our textbook giveaway! Each will be receiving a textbook of their choice. Check back again next month for another chance to win free Eerdmans books!
    • Richard H.
    • Spencer
    • Cliff V.

. . . and elsewhere.

  • Kierkegaard's Concept of FaithMerold Westphal was interviewed on the Christian Humanist podcast about his latest book, Kierkegaard’s Concept of Faith.
  • Author Jen McConnel featured a fabulous interview with Linda Vigen Phillips (Crazy) in McConnel’s weekly blog feature, Writers on Wednesday.
  • You may have noticed that we’re pretty proud of the diversity of our kids’ books. One form of diversity that doesn’t get much press is disability. The University of Michigan’s Dyslexia Help website published a list of books that are good resources for helping kids with dyslexia learn how to read, including Back to Front and Upside Down by Claire Alexander.
  • The Nerdy Book Club posted a list of the “Top 10 Picture Books for Activists in Training,” including Four Feet, Two Sandals (Karen Lynn Williams, Khadra Mohammed, and Catherine Stock).
  • Jago has an Etsy store where you can buy signed prints of the gorgeous illustrations from Thank You, God (written by J. Bradley Wigger)!
  • Rupert Shortt (Christianophobia) commends Rowan Williams (Being Christian) as a gently persuasive advocate for Christian faith against the new atheists in the Telegraph.
  • The Right WordKids heading back to school? According to Reading Today Online, librarians recommend The Right Word (Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet): “This picture book biography of list-maker Peter Roget is at the top of my list. It is fabulous, amazing, brilliant, gorgeous, stunning, and informative.” Middle school librarians Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan of the Bookends blog have posted their own glowing discussion about it too.
  • The American Booksellers Association has announced the titles for its 2014 ABC Best Books Catalog. Check out the six EBYR titles on the list:
  • An article by Richard Mouw (Called to the Life of the Mind) for Faith & Leadership discusses the contextual nature of leadership.

Have we missed any news, reviews, or other online miscellany dealing with Eerdmans or EBYR books or authors from the last week? Please let us know in the comments. You also can post items on our Facebook timeline, mention us on Twitter (@eerdmansbooks or @ebyrbooks), or write to us directly: webmaster@eerdmans.com.


Rachel Bomberger

Rachel Bomberger

Rachel Bomberger is EerdWord editor for Eerdmans. She loves reading, writing, and sneaking off for long runs by herself. 

* * *

It is not good that the man should be alone.

The Bible tells me this, and deep down, I know it’s true. I was made to live in community with God and with my fellow image-bearers.

And I’m thankful — I really am — that I have the opportunity to belong to many wonderful communities: school and church communities that I love (and that love me back); a work community full of clever, fun Eerdfolk; even a boisterous household community that I share with my husband, our four children, my parents, two stuffed tigers, and a raggedy little pigtailed dolly who’s been looking somewhat the worse for wear lately.

If being alone is not good, then my life should, I reckon, be just about as good as it gets. I’m so neck deep in community that I’ve almost forgotten what it is to be alone.

And yet . . . and yet . . .

Why, then, don’t I go around singing “Everything Is Awesome” every day? If all this community is supposed to be so good for me, why do I spend so much of my time feeling anxious and overwhelmed — as run down and worn out as my daughter’s poor, raggedy, longsuffering little dolly?

Could it be because living in community is hard?

(Don’t answer that.)

As essential as community is to all our well being, living into it takes work. It takes grace. And when our communities break down, as they so often do, the fallout can leave deep, painful scars on everyone involved.

Christine Pohl knows a thing or two about community. You could say she wrote the (2012) book on it: Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us. Pohl knows how vital strong communities are to human flourishing, and she knows, too, how much community breakdowns can hurt.

“We’re been there,” she writes.

“We remember the feelings of hurt, helplessness, betrayal, and anger. . . . When these breakdowns happen in Christian communities, the costs go beyond the shattering of valued relationships, important projects, or a shared future. . . . The character of our shared life — as congregations, communities, and families — has the power to draw people to the kingdom or to push them away. How we live together is the most persuasive sermon we’ll ever get to preach.”

Pohl could have left her readers at that — with the grumbling and complaining, the gossiping and hypocrisy, the betrayal and broken promises that are the marks of a community in disarray. And I would still have pursed my lips, nodded firmly, and given her a resounding, “Yes. Amen. You’ve nailed it. That’s exactly what’s wrong with the communities in my life. Shame on us.”

There are lots of books out there, I’d venture to guess, that offer this sort of “see, here’s your problem” approach to resolving community complications. And it is fun (isn’t it?) to stew over all the ways in which our communities and the people in them are failing. Meditating on the bad stuff isn’t ultimately all that helpful, though — and this is why and how Living into Community has been such a refreshing, worldview-altering journey for me.

Living into Community

Living into Community

Pohl identifies and examines three (four, really) Christian practices that can help communities grow and thrive:

Against envy, grumbling, and self-seeking, Pohl offers the practice of gratitude.

Against abandonment, betrayal, and misplaced fidelity, she offers the twin practices of promise making and promise keeping.

Against lying, self-deception, and idle gossip, she offers the practice of truth telling.

And finally, in an insight-packed conclusion, she revisits the practice that “draws all the practices together” (and that is also the subject of her 1999 book Making Room): hospitality.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a borrowed easy chair on Beaver Island, an thirteen-mile-long wooded sand bar in the middle of Lake Michigan that is just about as remote as one can get and still be in the Midwest. Oddly enough, though, it is the perfect setting for reflecting on the practices that build community.

Many of the island’s several hundred full-time residents came here because they didn’t mind being a little inaccessible. The thought of being alone appealed to them.

There must be something, though, about getting stranded together for three months each winter in the middle of an icebound lake that does something to a group of stalwart individualists. Through its very inaccessibility, a strong community has been formed and maintained here. The deformations have been blown away (I presume by the icy blasts and drifting snow), and mostly it’s the good stuff that remains: gratitude, loving truthfulness, the trust that comes from promises made and kept, and heaping helpings of hospitality.

Now, as I close the cover on Living into Community and prepare to leave this place of peace, I hope to carry what I’ve learned — and with it, the mental image of a grace-filled community — back to my own wonderful, complicated, sometimes messy communities. At school fundraisers and in Sunday morning worship, during corporate meetings and around my own noisy dinner table, I want to be a person working to “cultivate the practices that sustain us.”

After all, as Pohl says:

We are not called to create ideal families, communities, or congregations. Building faithful communities of truth and hospitality, however, is at the heart of our grateful response to the one who “became flesh and lived among us . . . full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In the end, it is as simple and as complicated as “loving those whom God has set beside us today.”

It is not good that [Rachel] should be alone . . .

It is not good that [  ] should be alone . . .

Click to order Christine Pohl’s Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us or to read more about the book in an author guest post here on EerdWord. 

Michael F. Bird

Michael F. Bird

Michael F. Bird is lecturer in theology at Ridley Melbourne Mission and Ministry College in Australia and author of the new book The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus.

* * *

In the study of Christian origins, we tend to talk a lot about Jesus of Nazareth travelling  around Galilee and Judea in 29-30 AD announcing the advent of the “kingdom of God” (see Mark 1:14-15), but then, very often, we quickly skip forward some 150 years to an Asian bishop living in France named Irenaeus, who wrote that there can be no more and no fewer than four Gospels (see Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.11.8).

The question I’ve always been struck by, however, is this: how exactly did we get from Jesus to Irenaeus? Or, to put it another way: how did we go from Jesus’ kingdom-message to a book about Jesus as the crucified and risen Messiah?

Answering that question is basically the task I set myself in writing The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus.

The Gospel of the Lord

The Gospel of the Lord

The way I undertake that task in the book is this: first, I outline the nature of the problem and offering an extended excursus on the origin and meaning of euangelion – the word we now know as “gospel” (chapter one). Then I examine why the first Christians might have deliberately remembered and retold stories of Jesus and about Jesus (chapter two). Following that, I look at the various models for the transmission of the Jesus tradition in light of both ancient orality and ancient book culture (chapter three). Next I provide an introduction to the Synoptic problem and the origins of the Fourth Gospel (chapter four). After that, I discuss both the particular genre and the broad purposes of the Gospels in light of ancient literature (chapter five). Then, finally, I narrate the origins of the fourfold Gospel that became authoritative in the developing church (chapter six). The book, in a nutshell, is about how we got the Gospels and why they are what they are.

Why might The Gospel of the Lord be useful for teachers and students? Well, over the years of my teaching career I’ve taught dozens of New Testament studies courses, including NT Intro, Intro to the Gospels, Intro to the Synoptic Gospels, Exegesis of Luke, Exegesis of John, and the Quest for the Historical Jesus. My preference has always been to teach the story of the Gospels — stuff like kingdom, parables, ethics, prophetic critiques, Jewish debates over law, and, of course, good old fashioned exegesis. Great as that stuff is, however, I’ve found that students also need to cover more basic material about the origins of the Gospels, their sources, historical reliability, genre, and canonical reception. This book is my attempt to cover all the “preliminary stuff” in one volume. It serves not so much as an introduction to the individual Gospels, but, rather, as an introduction to the Jesus tradition and its crystallization into the fourfold Gospel as it now exists in the New Testament canon.

Although I first envisioned this project as a pedagogical aid to which I could refer my own students when we ran out of time to cover these important topics in the classroom beyond a cursory survey, I now have broader hopes for The Gospel of the Lord: that it will prove useful in introducing students everywhere to the what, why, how, and where of the Gospels.

Click to order The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus or to visit Michael F. Bird’s blog Euangelion

Want to win a free copy of this book (or any other textbook of your choice)? Enter our back-to-school Textbook Giveaway today!

Enter our contest for your chance to win the Eerdmans textbook of your choice!

We love textbooks. We love their in-depth research, their thoughtful writing and editing, their usefulness in training up the next generation of young scholars, their sheer heft and weightiness — even their generally no-frills covers hold some appeal for us.

We understand, though, that textbooks can represent a significant investment for students and scholars on tight book-buying budgets. After all, books filled with hundreds of pages of meticulously researched and edited scholarship from brilliant minds at the top of their fields do cost more than the average dime store paperback.

As a token, then, of our appreciation for all the budget-conscious scholars and students out there, we’re devoting this month’s EerdWord giveaway to textbooks.

Enter our giveaway now for your chance to be one of three lucky winners who will get to choose the textbook of their choice (up to a $50 value) from Eerdmans, or click to browse a selection of featured textbooks on Eerdmans.com.

Enter to win.

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The entry period for the giveaway begins at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, August 26, 2014, and ends at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, August 28. Three winners will be selected at random and notified by email by the end of business Friday, August 29.

Winners will be entitled to choose one textbook from the Eerdmans website (excluding Print on Demand titles) worth up to $50. If the winner chooses a book worth more than $50, the prize will instead be awarded as a $50 discount on the selected title, and the winner will be responsible for paying for the remainder of the balance. 

Poetic Heroes

Poetic Heroes

Mark S. Smith holds the Skirball Chair of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at New York University and is author of the new book Poetic Heroes: Literary Commemorations of Warriors and Warrior Culture in the Early Biblical World

* * *

I was inspired to write Poetic Heroes because warfare and warriors hold too powerful a grip on our imaginations. It is not only that we have witnessed wars on several continents, or that as Americans we have found our nation regularly engrossed in military conflicts abroad. There is something about the violence of war itself and about claims made about its necessity that make it feel all the more problematic — and more palpable. We use the language of sacrifice for war, as if life lost in war is a sacred loss.

This problem extends also to our study of war in the past. While there have been laudable efforts to counteract biblical images of violence, they still surround us. In our culture, biblical images fuel notions of future apocalyptic battles that are supposed to decide the course of human matters once and for all.

Biblical paradigms of violence are basic elements in many movies and novels. In the film Pulp Fiction, the assassin Jules recites Ezekiel 25:17 before executing his victims: “And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them” (KJV). The Matrix movies, which feature a paradigmatically messianic main character, also draw on a number of biblical terms: Zion is the name of the underground refuge for humans; Trinity is the main female character; the Seraph is the emissary and protector of the Oracle; and the Nebuchadnezzar is the name of the heroes’ ship.  Both in print and (especially) in film, The Chronicles of Narnia are famous conflict narratives inspired by the Bible — and marketed to children.

The dream of great warriors who serve as society’s saviors is an ancient one. The Bible recounts a succession of saviors in the book of Judges and in the figures of royal protectors, most famously David, elsewhere. The English word “messiah” is derived from the Hebrew for “anointed” (anointing with oil being part of the ancient coronation ritual that marked David and his successors as kings). Great literary classics of the Mesopotamian and Greek traditions, in particular the Epic of Gilgamesh and Homer’s Iliad, present their audiences with an array of heroes displaying attitudes about war and warriors that were found also in the biblical world. Given both the ancient concern for war and warriors and our own preoccupation with righteous heroes and sacred violence, a study of ancient heroic poetry, both in the Bible and beyond, provides an opportunity for critical reflection in Poetic Heroes.

Whether in ancient or modern contexts, warfare seems to exert a magnetic power, even a terrible attraction, not only by its valorization of glory, but also by its call to honor and duty. These values are supported by a separation and division of genders, with warfare and its planning largely considered the domain of men, and with women left on the side to endure its effects, to sing its praises, or to lament its losses. A male military also turns men into fictive brothers drawn together by bonds of common experience in victory and in defeat. While women have entered the military in the United States in modern times, the male military and its gender attitudes remain very much with us, and the effects of this situation has been a matter of considerable controversy since the 1980s. To address warfare — or more precisely, its glorification through the poetic commemorations of warriors — represents an opportunity to face what is a central problem in our society and to help root out what is represented as attractive about war.

If we are truly to face war’s terrible nature, we must first examine and come to grips with the way in which our biblical traditions have made war attractive, even alluring. Poetic Heroes explores a number of ancient Middle Eastern cultures and their attitudes toward war and warriors. My hope is that, through this study, we may also better understand our own.

Click to order Mark S. Smith’s Poetic Heroes: Literary Commemorations of Warriors and Warrior Culture in the Early Biblical World.