Understanding the Ecology of the Bible-An Exciting New Carta Introductory Atlas

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If you’ve had the privilege of reading some of these attractive introductory atlases published by Carta, you know how rewarding they can be. This latest one on the ecology of the Bible by prolific writer Paul H. Wright, who excels on works of Bible geography, history, and even a major Bible Atlas, is one of the best yet. Mr. Wright has already produced in this series of introductory atlases works that include an overview of the New Testament, one on geography, one on biblical kingdoms and empires, and one on biblical archaeology. Mastering these works by Mr. Wright will greatly expand your Bible study.

Don’t for a minute think of 48 large pages on the ecology of the Bible as an esoteric effort. So much is missed in Bible passages when you miss these details. For many of us, the natural world and ecology we live in are so different from that of the Bible that we can easily miss even the main flow of the story itself. I believe a thorough perusal of this work would be the equivalent of a college class. Fortunately, the writing is accessible and even beginners can glean so much here.

It’s thorough enough to be effective as I didn’t see any ecological or natural world item that was overlooked. The pictures were so beautiful that I would catch myself thinking, wow, I’d like to be there! The maps are all top-notch and what we’ve come to expect in any work bearing the Carta imprint. Again, I especially adored this title and I’m a fan of all these Carta introductory atlases. Look this one up!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Jeremiah and Lamentations (Reformation Commentary on Scripture)

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Don’t think of this as a curiosity piece. There’s real value here as previous generations have distinct contributions they can make to our understanding of the Bible. The Lord has spoken in every generation. This large, beautiful volume is the latest release in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series. Covering Jeremiah and Lamentations, this book of 600 large pages makes many important observations that can enrich our Bible studies.

I can’t imagine the amount of research that was required by J. Jeffery Tyler to produce this volume. Without a doubt, this book also has great historical value. The trends in the Reformation become clear as a more careful return to the text of Scripture is apparent in their work. My only problem with calling this a historical work would be a possible misinterpretation that you couldn’t use it as a commentary. For my time, this volume’s expository light is its greatest asset. In addition, the Book of Jeremiah is always one of those where you would appreciate a little more help.

All of this is not to say that you will fail to enjoy the historical contribution this book makes. There is a general introduction that overviews the Reformation and explains what this commentary series is trying to accomplish. There’s also a wonderful introduction to Jeremiah and Lamentations in the Reformation. I enjoyed reading it. There were the names I was very familiar with and those I had never heard of it at all. All facets of the Reformation were fair game for this work and even the Anabaptists were brought into the commentary. Some of those unknown names reminded me that all of our heroes are not household names. Many more than we know are worth knowing. When the introduction explained the main themes that the Reformers often discussed it’s easy to see that those probably are the true themes of Jeremiah and Lamentations. Maybe new is not always better!

Every passage gets an overview and commentary from the Reformers in the commentary section. Again, it must’ve taken so much sifting to cherry pick for us readers the best of the bunch. The editor doesn’t excessively quote any one Reformer and that variety strengthens the work.

I’ve only reviewed a few of the volumes in this series so far, but I really like this one! When complete, this series will be a force to be reckoned with. In the meanwhile, don’t miss this great commentary on Jeremiah and Lamentations!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Understanding the Twelve Tribes–A New Carta Resource!

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This volume is another of the outstanding, profusely illustrated resources published by Carta. At this point, they have several of these large paged (9 X 12”) in a similar design that will provide the opportunity for much pleasurable study for Bible students. This new volume by Menashe Har-El is a fascinating treatment that will open up your thinking to all kinds of new things you didn’t know. The author is a biblical geography expert who has taught and written widely. This work illustrates several biblical passages that only gets a cursory look in other volumes. The word “fascinating” is not an exaggerated description.

The subtitle “Boundaries and Surrounding Nations” articulates the value of this book. After a broad introduction, the geographical division of the land among the tribes at the time of Joshua is explained. Some boundaries were natural landmarks while others were erected with piles of stones or fences. There’s further development of the tribe of Dan because it went to the coast and interacted with the area that the Philistines came and possessed. Dan also inhabited the far north of Israel.

From there, the book surveys the boundaries and major neighbors of Israel. First, we have a fascinating look at Egypt. From there we learn about the Amorites, more details about Egypt because of the interaction with Moses and the Exodus, Dedan and Tema (modern Saudia Arabia), and the land of Edom (later called Petra).

Several other people groups and nations are mentioned, and many Scriptures are quoted. These places are too quickly skimmed over by Bible students. In truth, they impact a large swath of Scripture and this book gives incredible help to our understanding.

The book is filled with incredible Carta maps! Without doubt, Carta maps are the best in print today. They are colorful, accurate, use miles/feet for measurement, and specifically illustrate what the author is discussing. The map of ancient routes in the holy land and the one showing the boundaries of the Tribes are exceptional. Other maps effectively bring alive the boundaries of Israel. Additionally, the pictures are beautiful and outstanding throughout.

Do you love digging in your Bible studies? You will want this book!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Old Testament Wisdom Literature by Bartholomew & O’Dowd

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This book exceeded the expectations I had when I picked it up. Not that I imagined it wouldn’t be a good volume, but that it would just be another introduction to the poetic sections of the Old Testament. What I found instead was a look at only those poetic books that could legitimately be called wisdom literature – Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. The unique contributions of those three books, as well as wisdom in the Old Testament as a whole, the ANE background, how Jesus both carried on and fulfilled Old Testament wisdom, plus all the theological implications of wisdom, are found in this well-written book.

The book begins with an introduction that explains why the subject of Old Testament wisdom is important. Chapter 1 introduces Old Testament wisdom itself including its historical background. Chapter 2 tackles the ancient world wisdom. I often think those discussions are overblown by scholars because they always mistakenly assume the Bible draws from other sources rather than the other way around, but the scholarly review is still well done here. Chapter 3 ties wisdom into the genre of poetry in the Bible and explains a lot of technical aspects of parallelism and other devices of poetry.

When the book reaches chapter 4, in my opinion, it really blossoms. The chapter on Proverbs that reviews structure and design, and how wisdom is essential to it, makes for revealing reading. I loved it. Chapter 5 is a continuation as it looks at what the authors call “Lady Wisdom” and “Dame Folly”. These two chapters together really added something to my understanding.

Chapter 6 on Job was just as provocative. They dug in with so many wonderful thoughts that would help someone who was diving into the book of Job. Chapter 7 probes the scholarly debate over Job 28. I personally don’t see the problem that many scholars do, but it’s well explained here. Though it is likely just a matter of personal taste, I didn’t get as much out of the discussion on Ecclesiastes as I did on Proverbs and Job. I disagreed with both some presuppositions as well as some conclusions. Still, there were nuggets to find.

Chapter 10 took us to Jesus as the Wisdom of God. Wisdom as a controlling focus in the New Testament is not one I can accept to the degree that some people do, yet it’s equally true that wisdom has not vanished from the discussion when we enter the New Testament. You can do your own weighing of the subject in this chapter. The final two chapters are about theology. There’s much to gain as you read these two chapters, plus they give some guidance on how our Western eyes often miss the point.

Bartholomew and O’Dowd really pulled off the production of a good book here. It’s my new favorite introduction to Old Testament wisdom literature.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels

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I call this book a discovery. What is uncovered is the fact of how much we need this book though I had no idea of its importance until I saw it. There’s an incredible amount of geographic information in the Gospels that affect the understanding of passages. This attractive volume will be a handy reference to answer every question about geography, questions that even major commentaries often overlook, that you will encounter as you read the Gospels.

A fine team has been assembled to put this book together. Barry Beitzel, who has already produced well-received Bible Atlas materials, is the editor and head writer in a group that includes Paul Wright, Todd Bolan, J. Carl Laney, and John Beck among others. You might call that something of a dream team.

A quick scan of the contents page will show you the Scriptures addressed in the commentary. Once you peruse these chapters you will quickly see how central geography’s role was in each one of them. In addition to the fine writing, there’s plenty of helpful maps, diagrams or illustrations, and pictures. As one who owns most every Bible Atlas in print today, I’m pleased to report that the maps and pictures are not just repeats from other works. In other words, it will truly give you an additional benefit beyond your favorite outstanding Bible Atlas. I especially appreciated some of the pictures of modern archaeological dig sites too.

The book achieves quality scholarship, copious footnotes, and real theological development of the geographic material. The first thing I thought when I picked it up was – this volume looks nice! Using it only strengthened that assessment. I suspect that this will become a greatly-loved and widely-used resource.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

A Mentor’s Wisdom by Moyer

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This is a special kind of book. It’s not hard to read. In fact, you may find it relaxing. By that I don’t mean it’s fluffy in any way, but that it’s reflective. Larry Moyer reflects on things he picked up from his mentor, Haddon Robinson, and it’s a journey that will likely help you reflect on your own life. If you happen to be a preacher like both the author and his subject, the scope of your ponderings will be even greater.

Admittedly, a book of this design would have little hope of success unless it had what this one does – a full-orbed life with Christ where both a deep immersion into the Bible and a life of trying with all its trial and error. Mr. Robinson is just such a man. Mr. Moyer had decades of interaction with Mr. Robinson and he was able to strike the perfect balance between admiration and reality.

Mr. Robinson has written some of the most influential books on preaching in print today. For that reason, he has an automatic respect by many preachers who will pick this book up and hear what he had to say. I suspect that even those who are not familiar with his writings will find respect easy to grant on these pages.

The book contains 45 statements that the author heard Mr. Robinson say at different points of their relationship. They range from the author’s school days all the way to Mr. Robertson’s last days. Mr. Moyer gives the background for when the statement was made and with additional insights that he had from their frequent association brings the statement alive. None of the statements or explanations ever came across as forced, trite, or corny. There’s even a Bible verse with every saying that matches what it’s trying to say. In a way, these sayings and their explanations were like devotionals throwing light back on the Bible.

The statements are arranged in categories with life lessons, work counsel, spiritual advice, public speaking and preaching, leadership, and evangelism. The advice ranges from broad help for life to detailed counsel. A preacher will carry away a few extra gems, but any Christian will receive thoughtful help. There were a few that I’ve heard people say that I now know they got from Mr. Robinson!

The author was real on these pages. At times he would describe how he initially struggled to accept what Dr. Robinson had said. There was inside to be gained and how his own wrestling’s brought him around to see things the same way Dr. Robinson did.

I liked all the sayings, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be number 9 (“time is your enemy. You must work to make it your friend”).  The Bible verse was Ecclesiastes 3:1. As I read that section, the thought struck me that there is enough time to do what God wants me to do.

This is not an academic book. This will be a book for you – your life, your spirituality, your heart. If you are like me, you know you need a few books like that along the way, and A Mentor’s Wisdom: Lessons I Learned from Haddon Robinson is just such a book.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

BibleWhere: An Exciting New Online Resource

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Here’s one of the best digital tools that has ever come down the pike for Bible study. Not only for your own Bible study, this resource is also an extraordinary tool to add visual content to your teaching. Biblewhere is Carta’s Browser to the Scriptures. If you are like me, you have been using Carta atlases, maps, and publications for years and are aware of their sterling quality. I’m a Bible Atlas junkie, I own most that are on the market, and I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Carta has the best Bible maps in existence. Now their treasure trove of resources is available in a searchable online collection.

On the homepage, you can access their most popular content. Even better, you can select any passage in the Old or New Testament and pull up all their content at one time. As a bonus, you can even access references to the works of Josephus. There’s also the option to do a keyword search if you are doing more of a topical study. It’s even possible to filter your results by content or historical epochs.

The content, which is clearly identified with icons, comes up as articles, photos, videos, and maps. The articles are excellent for your own personal study and understanding. The photos and videos are visually stunning and can be easily pulled into your own visual presentations. The program’s designers anticipated the need of those using in church settings, lectures, or meetings. Carta intends for subscribers to be able to use this resource in a wide array of situations, pretty much anything short of copying or pirating. The videos were well done and of documentary quality. Some were only 30 seconds long and could be easily worked into your presentation. And then there are the maps! As I sit in my office, I’ve used Carta resources so extensively that I can easily remember where to find the best Carta map. Now with the Biblewhere you will be as proficient as me with one quick search. You will love these maps! Be sure to check out the map of the Sea of Galilee from the ministry of Jesus (it’s my favorite Carta map).

The best way to check out this amazing resource is to go directly to their site: www.biblewhere.com.

I’ve been told that they have an Affiliate Program too if that would be of interest to you. As for me, I am not compensated for this review beyond the use of the resource itself. I sincerely just wanted to make this fine resource known for pastors and Bible students like me!

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The Gospel of John by Frederick Dale Bruner

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Here’s a commentary that’s just a little different. The author, Frederick Dale Bruner, who was well known for his earlier two-volume commentary on Matthew, has a writing style that is at once thoroughly academic and personally chatty. How else could I describe this commentary of over 1200 pages where Mr. Bruner seems to be having such fun? I’ve reviewed a lot of commentaries and I don’t think I’ve ever before described the author as having fun. But that is my distinct impression in this case.

The label I’ve heard (“mildly critical”) seems accurate. He follows a few critical theories that I couldn’t accept, yet in other instances he writes beautifully about the deity of Jesus Christ. His preface, again the most personal that I’ve read in a major academic commentary, almost reads like a stream of consciousness flowing happily along. You’ll read about his family and what must be an unusually large social network. He apparently loves people, and with all the interesting people that Christ will encounter in the Gospel of John, that probably makes him an ideal commentator.

There is no introduction to the Gospel of John, which is quite surprising for a major commentary. In any event, the publishers gave him all the room he wanted in the commentary itself. I don’t feel that the more academic subjects that are usually found in an introduction would be his strength anyway, as interesting theology is his forte. I’ve even read that some major reviewer’s think that he misfires occasionally on the exegetical level, but I believe that some well-done theological commentaries are excellent to use on the second pass after we’ve already used our exegetical ones. Maybe it would be fair to call him a modern, mildly critical Herman Ridderbos.

I’ll still reach for D. A. Carson, Leon Morris, and Edward Klink first on the Gospel of John, but I am genuinely happy to have Mr. Bruner on hand to draw out theological reflection and to give me something that the others will not. I found unique angles in every passage I surveyed. Eerdmans went all out with a nice hardback in a very attractive dust jacket. You should check out this lively, bubbling commentary!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

A W. Tozer: Three Spiritual Classics in One Volume

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It’s hard for me to find the words for how outstanding this volume is! Count me as one of those people who finds A. W. Tozer as one of the most penetrating, spiritual writers of all time. This beautiful, hardback collection of three of his spiritual classics can’t be missed. These titles have mostly been available as paperbacks in the past, but now we have something a little more worthy of these treasures. I wouldn’t be surprised if people call this one of the great publishing events of the year.

The first title, The Knowledge of the Holy, must be included in any list of the greatest Christian books of all time. It is, out of an impressive list, Tozer’s greatest work. This book impacted me several years ago, and it was a joy to go through it again. In conversational language he presents God Almighty in a way few ever have before. The theology is incredibly deep yet perfectly accessible. He astutely feels that so much of what’s wrong with Christianity today is our misunderstandings of God Himself. The attributes of God are shorn of any sort of dry, academic language and are presented in a way that makes you love, respect, and be in awe of God more.

The second title, The Pursuit of God, is another of his best-known works. He disdains our resting on the laurels of our conversion and pushes us to go hard after really knowing God. This book makes us thirst after our Lord and is a true masterpiece.

The third title, God’s Pursuit of Man, might fall slightly below the two mountain peak titles above, but it is a true sequel to The Pursuit of God. It moved me as well.

Not only is this volume with its three incredible titles worthy of the reading time of every Christian, I imagine it would change Christianity itself if it were widely read.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Righteous by Promise by Karl Deenick

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If you are like me, this book may shatter your confidence about your understanding of circumcision in the Bible. While I might have glibly thought I knew all about the subject, this book exposed the shallowness of my thinking. Karl Deenick has contributed a worthy volume to the multifaceted, highly-respected New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series, edited by D. A. Carson. Every volume I peruse in this series raises my overall impression of it, and this volume is no exception.

Even though this book strives to produce a systematic theological understanding of circumcision, its strength lies in the exegesis of a multitude of passages about circumcision. In other words, the author makes conclusions based on what biblical passages actually say. Whether you would agree with every conclusion or not, he has done all the necessary spadework for you to make your exegetical and theological conclusions.

The design of this book was a good one to broach the subject of circumcision throughout the Bible. Circumcision clearly is used in different ways, yet the author will take you to a feasible big-picture conclusion at the end.

He begins with an introduction that defines the dimensions of scholarly debate on the subject. As you will see, scholars have not been unified in their conclusions. The next chapter looks at circumcision in Genesis and sees the sign of the promise established. The following chapter looks at circumcision throughout the Old Testament as the sign is developed. We are taken through Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and a few other references. Chapter 4 enters the New Testament and entails a discussion of blamelessness and walking in the New Testament. Passages in Philippians, Colossians, and Ephesians are addressed. Chapter 5 is dedicated to the major discussion of circumcision in Romans 2-4. Chapter 6 does the same for Galatians. Chapter 7 is the aforementioned conclusion that looks at righteousness by promise, righteousness by faith, and righteousness through the promised seed. In this approach, the Old Testament is tied to the New Testament and the big picture view of circumcision emerges.

This book is valuable. You can use it for your own careful study of circumcision, or keep it on hand as a reference anytime a biblical passage mentions circumcision. In that case, you’ll have a fine exegetical tool. This book is well worth having!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.