Qumran: A Carta Field Guide by Hanan Eshel

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Let’s load up the buses and ride! I want to visit Qumran after seeing this fine book by Hanan Eshel. Somehow I missed visiting Qumran when I was in Israel, and now I regret it after seeing what the site has to offer. This Carta field guide covers history, biblical archaeology, and serves as a nice tour guide as well.

Eshel was a professor in Israel and has the historical and archaeological credentials to be the ideal writer of this book. He has personally led several excavations in Israel and knows how to lead the reader around a site of archaeological significance.

There’s a short introduction that outlines the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Next, we get a thorough description of the near turbulent acquisition of the scrolls. That story would make a movie and it must’ve been the providence of God that they were attained!

As it turns out, there were 11 caves involved (see the map on page 83) so there’s a lot of stories to tell. The photos are gorgeous throughout! By page 96, the book shifts focus to helping you plan a trip to Qumran. Without this book, you would miss so much of what can be seen at Qumran National Park. Don’t miss the panoramic view provided by the photo on pages 138-139.

As you would expect, you will also find those awesome Carta maps and illustrations throughout. This book is the second Carta field guide that I’ve seen (En Gedi being the other) and I think we need these field guides done for every major site in Israel. I assure you that whenever I get to visit Qumran, this book will be in my hand!

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.

Ein Gedi: A Carta Field Guide by Hanan Eshel

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I want to go back! Ein Gedi was one of the most beautiful and interesting sites for me when I visited Israel. Now that I’ve had the chance to look at this Carta field guide by respected author Hanan Eshel, I realize I missed so much.

This attractive resource with its sumptuous photography, fine illustrations, and superb maps as you would expect in a Carta title enables you to have an intense tour of Ein Gedi from your armchair. I will review this work again before any subsequent trips.

The book begins with a topographical map and introduction that gives a broad overview. The first half of the book is an outstanding historical survey of the site. The history is placed within accepted archaeological periods and the archaeological evidence is carefully presented. The section that covers the biblical period is, for most of us, the most insightful. Don’t miss the map of David’s wanderings on pages 16 and 17. Beyond David’s time, Ein Gedi’s archaeological evidence continues to unlock its history all the way to the Hasmonean Period.

The second section provides an actual tour of Ein Gedi. A map covering pages 72 and 73 show the extensive possibilities of a visit to the site. The photo on page 76 that gives an aerial view of Ein Gedi looking west is breathtaking. What follows is a thorough coverage of all that can be seen there. There’s a final section that covers things to visit that are nearby to Ein Gedi.

This is a perfect title for either Bible students or travelers to Israel. I can’t imagine ever studying or planning to visit this site again without turning to this volume. It’s beautiful in every way.

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 New Testament: An Introductory Atlas

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Over the last few years, Carta has developed an outstanding set of introductory atlases. This title is one of the earliest releases. While I feel that later titles continue to get better, this earlier entry is a thorough success and one that I would recommend you study first if you choose to work through these atlases. A careful study of these titles would be the equivalent of an awesome college class though these titles are accessible enough for any Bible student. This title gives a broad sweep of important background material for the New Testament in the beautiful Carta style.

After an initial physical map of Israel, you have the succinct and pithy overview of all the books of the New Testament. Next, you have a breakdown of the different areas in Israel where the varying climate impacts its history. From there, you spread out to the larger New Testament world including the areas that Paul carried the gospel to throughout the Roman Empire. There’s an overview of the Intertestmental Period including some great charts on the early Caesars and Herods of that time. There’s also a chronological discussion of the Gospels from a geographic standpoint followed by one for the early church.

The maps are of the sterling quality you’ve come to expect from Carta products. Some of the maps are those you may have seen in some of their larger, beloved Bible atlases. Once you’ve studied this title you can also find others on the Old Testament along with others on archaeology, history, and geography. There’s not a dud in the bunch and I highly recommend them all including this fine title on the New Testament.

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 Geography of the Bible: An Introductory Atlas by Wright and Har-El

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This title in 40 large, attractive pages really pulls off a fine presentation of the geography of the Bible for students at any level. If you will take the time to study this introductory atlas, you will quickly understand how the geography in Bible lands dramatically impacts events. This title goes well with other introductory atlases in this series that give an overview for the Old Testament, the New Testament, kingdoms in and around Israel, and biblical archaeology. These two authors have contributed several of these outstanding titles and Carta has perfected the art of presentation.

Carta never fails us with its maps and pictures. Their titles are always a visual smorgasbord. Don’t miss the charts and maps that show annual precipitation, mean temperatures, climatic regions, principal geological features, and major routes.

The text is highly instructive as well. You will gain a working knowledge of the climate and geography of the entire Middle East where the discussion is especially thorough on prominent areas of the Bible. The range of climate and geography being so small an area is incredibly pronounced and has a distinct impact on those living in the particular areas. In my view, this knowledge is critical background information for any sort of Bible study.

At this point, I’ve seen all of these introductory atlases, and this one is one of my personal favorites. Don’t miss it!

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.

Life in Biblical Israel by King and Stager

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I love this type of book. Though this book has been around for a while and often receives glowing recommendations, somehow I had overlooked it. I’m glad that’s no longer the case. I don’t subscribe to the authors’ chronology or critical assumptions, but there’s much treasure to be found in what they’ve put together here.

The authors provide a fine introduction that explains the importance of everyday life, what must be worked with to arrive at an understanding of that everyday life, and an overview of archaeology and other things. The next extensive chapter covers an Israelite house and household. Homes, family members, meals, and medical information are all addressed. The next chapter looks at farming, climate, vegetation, water sources, arts and crafts, travel, transport, and trade. From there, there’s a chapter that looks at the city, water systems, and warfare and armies. There’s a helpful chapter on culture that looks at dress and adornments, music, literacy, and education. The last chapter covers religious institutions including temples, shrines, objects associated with these places, religious practices, death, burial, and the afterlife.

The maps section is a little weak, but the bibliography, the indices, and the photography and illustration throughout the work are superb. This is a fine resource where you will find many opportunities in your studies to consult. Warmly recommended.

 

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.

Everlasting Dominion by Eugene Merrill

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I’ve used the works of Eugene Merrill throughout my entire ministry. He’s known for quality conservative academic work. Somehow I had overlooked this work for a long time. I’ve used several of his commentaries to great advantage, so my curiosity was piqued when I saw this volume described as his “magnum opus”. At least we can say that a major work of biblical theology requires more interdisciplinary mastery than most other theological work. Mr. Merrill’s humility is such that he almost sheepishly approaches this work in the preface. To my mind, however, he has the skills to tackle this task.

In chapter 1 he overviews what Old Testament theology is. That chapter includes a look at the winding path scholarship has taken on Old Testament theology. Much of it has been so absurd that we welcome this conservative effort. In chapter 2 he discusses the Old Testament as the autobiography of God and covers a wide range of theological concepts that you might find in a systematic theological approach. Chapter 3 upholds that the Old Testament is the revelation of God. Chapter 4 looks at what the works of God are as found in the Old Testament. Chapter 5 concludes part one with a discussion of the purposes of God.

Part two backs up and approaches the Old Testament from the perspective of mankind, who is made in the image of God. That will include chapters on the fall, redemption, and the creation of Israel.

Chapter 3 discusses the kingdom of God and in this section, we began seeing work on the individual books of the Old Testament. You may find his order of approaching Old Testament books a little unusual, but all are covered beautifully. We reach the wisdom literature of the Old Testament in chapters 18 and 19 before we find one concluding chapter that returns us to the big picture and anticipates the New Testament.

I don’t see how you could do serious work on Old Testament theology and not consult this book. It’s clearly one of the top volumes on the subject and I highly recommended it.

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 Biblical Archaeology by Wright

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At this point, Carta has several introductory atlases that could serve as a personal class on some important topics of Bible study. Paul Wright has contributed several of these outstanding introductory atlases covering the New Testament, geography, biblical kingdoms, important people groups mentioned in the Bible, as well as writing a well-received major Bible Atlas. This title gives an excellent overview of biblical archaeology. When you finish this book, you will have a working knowledge of what biblical archaeology is and what has been discovered in Israel from various archaeological periods.

Other works may probe more deeply the broader assumptions of archaeological work while this one focuses more on what we have found. These findings are presented through clear text, gorgeous pictures, and effectively chosen Bible maps. This book could have a secondary use as a guide to what archaeological sites might be worth visiting on your next trip to the holy land too. For example, on a trip, I did I enjoyed immensely visiting biblical Shechem of which there’s a fine picture on page 15.

The diagram on page 9 is worth pages of text in describing how we have such levels of archaeological finds available at many sites in Israel. We also find there an overview of archaeological periods.

The balance of the book takes us from the Early Bronze Age through the Early Roman or Herodian Era. Fortunately, there have been many wonderful archaeological finds in every major era between those two and none are given short shrift here.

This book is worth your time and I highly recommend it.

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.

The Bible and Archaeology by Richelle

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Here’s the perfect book for either pastors or Bible students to get a clear overview of the connection between Bible and archaeology. This book succeeds because it strikes the perfect balance between archaeological detail and basic understanding. In other words, you will not drown in the minutia of archaeology, but you will have an informed grasp of both the value and limitations of archaeology in your Bible studies.

Matthieu Richelle, a respected professor of Old Testament, has a nice list of credentials to be able to produce this work on archaeology. I appreciated his respect of the Bible, his academic integrity, and his civility toward other archaeologists with whom he might disagree. In the same vein, while I might disagree with him on a few points myself, I respect greatly what he has produced here. To take something as complex as archaeological methodology and make it accessible to a popular audience is a gift. It’s a gift that’s present in this book. He will walk you through some subjects you might normally dodge, but he will guide you in a way that you can both learn and easily comprehend.

In the introduction, he describes his disdain for sensationalists and his desire to give us the tools to understand the clearly divisive controversies of biblical archaeology. Chapter 1 explains what archaeologists are looking for, or at least what they usually find. He guides us through archaeological sites, he explains what a “Tell” is, and uses some popular Bible sites to explain. He explains why these “Tells” have developed the way that they have and why they make it possible for archaeological discoveries. He explains the important difference between relative and absolute chronology and commonly accepted archaeological periods. He describes the main tools that archaeologists use to make their conclusions. Further, he explains what they tell us about the people, the architecture of the time, and what can be learned about life in ancient Israel.

Since chapter 1 only took us through what can be learned about life in general, the rest of the book must take us into the things that archaeologists discover that help with the more critical subjects of dating and verification of historical information. You will learn about the principal types of inscriptions and the difficulties of epigraphy. He doesn’t hide the dark side of the archaeological world that includes things like forgeries and other unscrupulous behavior.

Chapter 3 is outstanding and proves his balance. In this chapter, he discusses the limits of archaeology. He confesses the lack of certainty that exists, how that sometimes we can only say what is possible and not what is proven, and that there is much interpretation of the findings that can truly be biased. He talks about other natural limitations like the fact that what is excavated is ruins in the first place.

Chapter 4 finally broaches the subject of the Bible and archaeology. He is very gentle in this chapter and explains some of what I would call the more radical beliefs in the archaeological world. Those radical theories show a true bias to the Bible. He’s almost fair to them than seems reasonable, but he lays out the information so kindly that you will be able to come to the right conclusion. Chapter 5 is a case study involving David and Solomon. Because of their centrality to the story of Israel, their historicity is commonly attacked. Chapter 6 is a little more technical in that it describes writing in the times of David and Solomon and how that might help arrive at dating. The conclusion is short and to the point yet is reasonable. There’s a final listing for further reading if you’re interested in extending your studies.

This book is a complete success in what it sets out to do. Not only is it a perfect book for pastors and Bible students, but I imagine for most of them it will be all they want or need.

 

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 Biblical Kingdoms & Empires

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These Carta introductory atlases are a lot of fun. This title introduces and compares the biblical kingdoms and empires that framed the Old and New Testaments. It’s written by Paul H. Wright who has produced a major atlas and other of these introductory atlases. I’ve found all his works accessible, helpful, and well-written. This title is no exception.

After briefly describing the world of the Bible on a physical map, he describes the origin of the people of Israel as well as the earlier kingdoms around them that influenced their history. From there, he gives a good overview of the rising kingdom of Egypt as well as their famous interaction with Israel. After that interaction, Egypt, as you well know, greatly declined and Israel went from a tribal nation to a monarchy. The heights of her glory were the empires of David and Solomon. This is all well described. Next, we have the Assyrian Empire (after this point Israel always had to deal with the dominant world power to some degree) and Israel’s divided kingdom. You will learn about the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, the Persian Empire, and Israel’s trials during these periods. Perhaps lesser-known to some Bible students, you will then learn of the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great, the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires as well as the Hasmonean Kingdom. The balance of this book of 40 attractive pages introduces us to the Roman Empire that brings us into the New Testament.

The work is the expected Carta experience. Beautiful photographs, timely illustrations, and the best maps in the business. When you factor in the essential nature of understanding the kingdoms that affected Israel during the Old Testament, this book meets a real need and I highly recommend it!

I received this map 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 Holy Temple of the Old Testament

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Leen Ritmeyer is my favorite modern writer on the Tabernacle in Israel’s earlier history and the Temple from Solomon’s Temple all the way to Herod’s Temple. His earlier major work, The Quest, is the gold standard on the Temple from either a historical or an archaeological perspective. Now Carta gives us one of their fine introductory atlases (They have a whole series of these helpful books) on the Holy Temple of the Old Testament. For this colorful, attractive work Mr. Ritmeyer is joined by his capable wife, Kathleen, to produce this helpful book that you will find incredibly enlightening.

The book begins with an introduction that reminds us that holiness is a key element in thinking about the Tabernacle. That’s followed by a section called the Genesis Sanctuary as the authors describe what they call the Proto-Tabernacle. That’s an interesting perspective that I hadn’t thought of. Next, we have some information on Melchizedek and Abraham, followed by great information on the Tabernacle. Every major component is explained and profusely illustrated. There’s even a section on the journeys of the Tabernacle and how that was done.

Solomon’s Temple is carefully explained, as well as the differences we find in its description between Kings and Chronicles. There are some great explanations of the rock at the top of Mount Moriah and its relation to the current Dome of the Rock. They will explain Hezekiah’s Temple as well as Ezekiel’s Temple and the Temple Scroll. Next, we will learn about the Post-exilic Temple, the Hellenistic Temple Mount, and the Hasmonean Temple Mount.

This book is the perfect way to learn a clear overview of the Tabernacle and Temple in 48 large pages. The word that comes to my mind for this book is “ideal”. You will want to look up its companion volume, Understanding the Holy Temple Jesus Knew, which is also an outstanding asset.

As with any Carta resource, there are outstanding pictures and maps. What stands out especially in this book is the diagrams of the Temple as well as pictures of reconstructed models. This book is well done!

I received this map 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.