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Book Review: ” Letters for the Church: Reading James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude as Canon” by Darian R. Lockett

Darian R. Lockett provides an introduction to numerous books of the Bible in Letters for the Church: Reading James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude as Canon. These books of the Bible are often entirely overlooked or skimmed through simply for the sake of proof texts or quotes, but Lockett makes a case for reading them canonically–that is, set within the whole of Scriptures. To that end, he provides summaries of each book along with discussion of major themes, specific points of instruction and other interest, and more.

Lockett tackles several of the more difficult issues related to these books of the Bible throughout. Authorship is a major question, and he largely presents the evidence for who is thought to have authored the book, what evidence we may have for that, and his own conclusions. Another example of Lockett dealing with a more difficult issue is with Jude’s use of non-canonical works to make points in its own text. Jude clearly uses 1 Enoch in Jude 9, and this raises the question of whether Jude saw 1 Enoch as an authoritative or inspired work. Lockett notes that it has been a thorny issue through much of church history before outlining a few major points. Ultimately, this reader wonders whether the specific interest in whether Jude lends to making 1 Enoch inspired or canonical is a kind of anachronistic concern with reading over our ideas onto the text. Lockett’s own analysis could yield that, as he notes that what we can ultimately say is that 1 Enoch was “an important part of [the author of Jude’s] argument and [that author] does not distinguish it from other prophetic texts from the Old Testament–beyond this we can only speculate” (205).

Lockett also doesn’t shy from some of the more hotly debated texts within the books he’s writing about. For example, the question of wives submitting to husbands in 1 Peter 3 is discussed at some length (77-80). Lockett notes the context regarding doing so for the sake of Christ, and ultimately aims at the notion that such submission could potentially win non-Christian spouses over, which makes more sense of other parts of the book as well. Reading 1 Peter 3 as an intentional way to tell all wives to submit to all husbands in all circumstances, as is often done, is therefore a mistaken reading of the text.

Letters for the Church is a strong introduction to numerous books of the Bible that are often skimmed over. No matter where readers come from theologically, it is an enlightening, challenging read. Recommended.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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