Reformation Commentary on Scripture (NT XIII) on Hebrews and James

book ref heb jam

Though several titles have been released in this Reformation Commentary on Scripture series, this is my first opportunity to review or use one of its volumes. Immediately I’m impressed by the hardback volume and its attractive dust jacket. Since this series is different than most that I use, I really appreciated the guide to using the commentary that was provided at the beginning of the volume. That is followed by a general introduction to the whole series that explains what its producers are hoping to accomplish. The editors are seeking to help modern interpreters and preachers, as well as furthering historical understanding and Christian scholarship. There’s a great deal of helpful information on that history and how exegesis fared in Reformation times. It was thrilling to see a sympathetic view of Anabaptists from that time as well.

Next, we have an introduction to Hebrew and James that reviews things as they stood in the Reformation period. The commentary itself is easy to follow. The person quoted is always listed at the beginning with a more detailed bibliographic entry at the end of the periscope. Hebrews and James are tricky for totally different reasons, and that makes this step back to Reformation times even more interesting. There were some authors quoted that I’ve read Spurgeon loved that I’ve not seen anywhere else that was icing on the cake for me too.

It’s all really fascinating. It’s a terrible mistake to assume that only our generation has anything to say. Though the years aren’t equal, the Reformation seems like the midway point between New Testament times and today in my view. It’s great to see what was believed at that time. Plus, you must respect the men who returned to the Bible at such cost in their generation. What they have to say is at least worth listening to.

I think I’ll be checking out other titles in this fine series. IVP is to be commended for providing us today with such a valuable asset.

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.

Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology

book arc h

This Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology is a real gem. Not only is it attractive, but it assists in the very area that many Bible students struggle: archaeology. Randall Price has both taught and participated in archaeological excavations, and is the perfect candidate to produce this book. H. Wayne House, a prolific biblical writer, assists.

Whatever you do, don’t skip the introduction to biblical archaeology provided in this volume. It defines terms, helps you see were biblical archaeology is today, explains the major difference between minimalists and maximalists, explains the limitations of archaeology, its value, and its methodology. There’s a good description of what archaeology contributes to biblical studies too. That’s followed by a fascinating explanation of an archaeological site. It really brings archaeology to life. The introduction ends with an overview of archaeological periods.

The book is divided into three main sections, you have archaeology in the Old Testament, archaeology and the intertestamental period, and archaeology in the New Testament. This enables the reader to approach the Bible chronologically and apply archaeology to it.

You will love all the vivid, color photos, the helpful charts and diagrams, and the text itself. As a bonus, each of the main sections has a detailed chart of archaeological discoveries from that time. There are several helpful color maps at the end, as well as a thorough glossary.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book and highly 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.

The New Testament in Antiquity by Burge, Cohick, and Green

book nt antiq

This book is a fine new entry on the market for New Testament introduction. This attractive, well-illustrated volume by Gary M. Burge, Lynn H. Cohick, and Gene L. Green is an up-to-date survey of the New Testament. Its special emphasis is to provide that introduction within the cultural contexts, whether Jewish, Hellenistic, or Roman cultures. That viewpoint helps bring the New Testament to life. The book is designed as a textbook, and the publisher provides both instructor and student resources for it, but any Bible student could learn much from it.

Chapter 1 begins with a broad look at the issues involved in studying the New Testament. The reader is reminded of the importance of context, geography, history, and as said before, culture. Chapter 2 discusses the historical setting of the New Testament. It begins by explaining the post-exilic times, continues through the Hellenistic period, and ends by explaining the Roman era. (Notice the chart on page 38, which is one of the most creative I’ve ever seen explaining the family of Herod). Chapter 3 narrows its focus to Israel and the time of Jesus. Chapter 4 expands the discussion to the Mediterranean world of the Apostle Paul. Chapter 5 discusses sources for the Gospels – I find that chapter off target, but it’s exactly what you’ll find in most modern New Testament introductions.

Chapters 6 – 11 cover the life of Christ and the four Gospels. It’s helpful to view the Gospels collectively as a life of Jesus and then examine the uniqueness of each gospel. Chapter 12 overviews the book of Acts while chapter 13 gives an overview of the Apostle Paul. Chapters 14 through 26 survey the rest of the books of the New Testament. A concluding chapter discusses the preservation and communication of the New Testament.

The maps and pictures are well chosen, beautiful, and quite enlightening. Some of the illustrations and reconstructions were especially eye-catching. The design of this survey is ideal. It is at once to the point and of sufficient depth to be a real asset to readers. I imagine this book will be the text of choice for New Testament survey classes for the next several years. Pastors and Bible students will find it worthwhile to check out as well. I 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.

A History of Israel (Revised Edition) by Kaiser and Wegner

book hist israel

We have here a massive revision of a much-beloved history of Israel textbook. Don’t allow the word “textbook” to cause you to think this book is only designed for college students. It’s an extraordinary resource for any Bible student or pastor. The amount of information is incredible. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. is known for his helpful conservative scholarship and has been a trusted name for many for years. You might say this volume has been made fresh with the addition of Paul Wegner as a co-author.  The addition of many color pictures and maps from the B&H Publishing collection helps immensely as well. It’s large 7” X 10” size allows the font and picture/map dimensions to add to its enjoyment. The only downside is the fact that it’s in paperback and that its type of printing removes some of the sharpness of the illustrations. My hope is that this volume will meet with such success that the publisher might consider an attractive hardback with slick pages. That is, though, the only shortcoming of this book that I found.

As much as I enjoyed the bells and whistles of this volume, it’s the well written conservative viewpoint that makes it stand out. I’ve seen most of the other histories of Israel in print by academic publishers today, and this volume far exceeds them all. The others may have some commendable features but always come with a pile of caveats because of their consistently twisted chronology and skeptical nature. This volume contains all the academic and biblical information on the history of Israel that a sincere Bible believer could desire.

After three introductory chapters that describe the scholarly mess that academia has made of the history of Israel, the book has nine major parts with 30 more chapters that take us from Israel’s beginning to the Intertestamental period. You might quibble over some date or conclusion, but you will greatly appreciate the bedrock assumption behind every conclusion drawn from the evidence found that the Old Testament is a trustworthy source and the basis of our study. I especially appreciated the archaeological proof of Israel and the Old Testament, which is substantial, that is presented in this volume.

Without a doubt, this volume will take pride of place in my library on the subject of the history of Israel. 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.

Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges

book grace

Jerry Bridges has a way of writing that requires you to deeply search your heart. While this volume might not be as famous as a few others he has written, it’s still a bestseller with good reason. He strives to make sure we don’t miss the amazing in grace. I preferred reading it one chapter at a time and then dwelling on what he had to say.

His first chapter on the performance treadmill pulls you in. So much of Christianity has degenerated to this unscriptural performance Christianity. He reminds us that we are so bankrupt, so spiritually bankrupt, that no amount of performance could ever get us anywhere anyway. He explains how we are legalistic by nature and how that warps our thinking. He also begins a discussion of what grace is that carries into the next chapter. There he explains who needs it. If you don’t already know, he makes it clear that you and I do. Chapter 3 discusses how amazing Grace is and chapter 4 uses a well-known parable of Jesus that Mr. Bridges entitles “the generous landowner” to further illustrate grace. That discussion continues in chapter 5 when he asked the question: does God have a right? He explains that we can never obligate God. This was one of my favorite chapters in the book.

Chapter 6 explains how we are compelled by love, not a list of “oughts”. Chapter 7 well explains how the proof of love is obeying Christ’s commandments. Chapter 8 is where Mr. Bridges connects one of the subjects he is most famous for writing on, holiness, with grace. Note the chart on page 121 too. Chapter 9 explains what true freedom is and that it springs from grace. Chapter 10 beautifully describes the sufficiency of grace while chapter 11 proceeds to remind us of the humility we should take on that subject.

Chapter 12 turns even more practical as he describes how to appropriate God’s grace. In that chapter, he describes how we must “die” to produce fruit. There’s more discussion of submitting to God in humility as well. He concludes with a chapter on the garments of grace.

There’s a nice, lengthy discussion guide added to this edition. You will want to check it out.

Reading this book just helped me decide that I need to read everything that Jerry Bridges has written. These newest editions are rather attractive, quality paperback volumes. I began this book wondering if he was even going to go too far, but he beautifully described grace and guided us between legalism and licentiousness. I don’t see how a Christian couldn’t be helped by reading this wonderful book. In fact, we would all be better off if we did.

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.

Satellite Bible Atlas by Schlegel

book sat b atlas

This Bible Atlas is extraordinary. I’m a Bible Atlas nut, and own most all Bible atlases in print today. Somehow, I had missed this one until now. I’m so impressed with this volume, that if I were forced to have only two Bible atlases in my library I would pick The Carta Bible Atlas for its scholarship and coverage of many Bible events, and this volume by William Schlegel for its conservative viewpoint and typography as well is its coverage.

I’ve seen some other satellite maps of Bible lands, but they are much inferior to this volume. The author here has a much better grasp of what you really need in a Bible Atlas map. The satellite imagery allows you to see at a glance the typography that plays such a part in many Bible episodes. A majority of the maps take up a full-page, which makes them the perfect size. Color, information overlays like direction of movement, and good labeling make these maps ideal.

The text follows the Bible in chronological order and gives all kinds of wonderful information. There is information about the Bible story itself in some cases, plus other topographical information, as well as some discussion of where the Bible site is located and can be found today. Because the author “takes a conservative view of biblical chronology, accepting chronological numbers given in the Bible at face value”, I’d label this volume refreshing.

In addition to the maps and text, several photographs are interspersed throughout the text. Most of the photos are by Todd Bolen, who is one of the best photographers of Bible sites today. There are so many fine maps in this book, and several of them stand out. I especially enjoyed the maps of Jerusalem overlaid upon a topographical map. Don’t miss the regional map on page 148, nor the index to major sites that will be really helpful for more in-depth study.

This Atlas succeeds on all levels! It will make for pleasurable hours and effective study. I give it the highest recommendation!

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.

Photo Companion to the Bible: The Gospels–A Great Resource!

cd gospels

Wow! I hardly know what to say about this phenomenal collection of photographs on the Gospels. Over the years, I’ve seen attractive photos in books I have and noticed the name Todd Bolen in the photo credits. I had even heard others reference a website called BiblePlaces.com and talk about wonderful photo collections that could be purchased there. Now that I have Photo Companion to the Bible: The Gospels in my hands I know what all the hype was about. For the record, the hype was fully justified.

All 89 chapters of the four Gospels are covered by more than 10,000 pictures. I suppose the most common usage for this resource would be for those who want to create sharp PowerPoint presentations. For that use, there’s nothing free on the Internet that even comes close to what we have here. Putting up a slide for a sermon on some passage in the Gospels will now be greatly upgraded for those who possess this resource.

I see another use for this product that may not be as often discussed. There could hardly be a better resource for those who enjoy some visual learning mixed in. To me, there’s something incredible about seeing a picture of a Bible site for some spectacular story in Scripture. It gets my imagination fired up even more. Further, you will find photos here of cultural elements and even photos of artifacts from museums. There are some things that are simply not common in our day and culture that we need help visualizing. As an added bonus, I saw several historic photographs for those doing deep study.

I’m not as software savvy as some, but I found this resource easy to navigate. I have the disk, but saw where you can download a digital version as well if that fits your needs better. If you purchase this resource, you will be allowed to use it in teaching, preaching, and even church newsletters. If you want to use it in books, or other commercial products or websites, you can contact Mr. Bolen to set that up. Each photo has a brief note to explain what you’re looking at. Your purchase comes with free lifetime updates. Apparently, Mr. Bolen wants us to be pleased, and promises to work with anyone not completely satisfied.

One thing that really sets this resource apart is the pictures of places that are difficult to get to for the modern tourist. In other words, there are pictures here of places you will never see on the average Bible tour. I so appreciate this resource that I hope Mr. Bolen will put together future photo collections for some hard-to-find Old Testament locations (he has some of these pictures on his website). In fact, he ought to make one of those big beautiful coffee table books for Bible sites. The photos here are truly of that quality.

This is a special resource and I highly recommend it.

I received this resource 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 Week in the Fall of Jerusalem by Witherington

book week

Ben Witherington, scholar and prolific author, blazes a new trail in this work that’s quite a departure from what I’m used to by him. In this work, he still teaches as we would expect, but he uses a combination of historic fiction and scholarly sidebars into a wide array of subjects of Jerusalem at the time of its fall in 70 A.D. I would rate it as a success in its imaginative approach to that important background material.

The story begins in the smoke of Jerusalem. Though the story has fictional elements, some of the characters are actual characters from Scripture. They are older, of course, and look back on pleasant memories of the days of Christ that are already 35 years in the past. The story contained elements that I had never thought of, but that would make sense in that environment. Both the fear and the courage of the Jewish people affected are clearly displayed.

As you might imagine, the author must make some judgments on some things that are debated. His telling the story of Matthew wanting to write his gospel is a specific place where some of us might not agree. Still, this book takes material we often approach piecemeal and weaves it together in a story that makes it much more meaningful. The short blurbs, pictures, and maps dispersed throughout the text greatly enhance it.

There’s less of the horrors of Jerusalem’s destruction than I predicted, and the story ends more abruptly than most fiction works, but the book is still very interesting. I imagine it will be secondary reading in some Bible history classes, as well as a help to those doing individual Bible study. I’ve read that this book is one in a series of similar books being designed by IVP. It’s educational, not hard to read, and pleasant. I 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.

Israel Biblical Archaeology: A Carta Map

book archaeol israel

I wish I had had this map when I toured Israel! I can’t imagine a handier resource for either planning or touring Israel for one interested in Bible sites. With a quick glance, you can see all the archaeological sides of both the Old and New Testaments. As a bonus, you also see the sites of the Byzantine Era, crusader times, Middle Ages, and Islamic periods.

The map itself is well done in the usual Carta style. The legend used makes it obvious which period the site is from. Ancient main roads of Bible times are also added. Some modern roads are also given, but the map is never too busy. It’s eye pleasing in every detail. The areas of each of the Twelve Tribes is also highlighted with different colors, which adds another layer of information without detracting from the overall map. To the right and left of the map are columns of additional information about some of the most important archaeological sites. All of this is just side one!

Side two is a treasure trove of information for the Bible student or one touring Israel. There are several awesome Carta maps along with great information on the other side. There’s a map of the major archaeological sites in the old city of Jerusalem, one of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, one describing the economy of the Roman province of Judah at the time of Jesus, one about Jesus’ ministry around the Sea of Galilee, one of the major routes in the holy land in ancient times (exceptional), one describing Masada, another describing Herodian, and one on Quran and the Essenes. Additionally, there’s one describing the Perfume Route, another on Caesarea, one on the exile of Judah, another on Jericho, one on the Roman provinces in the First Century, and one final map on the Crusader Kingdoms of the Middle Ages.

This map is one every traveler to the Bible lands should have. While you’re at it, look up the companion Jerusalem Biblical Archaeology: A Carta Map, which is in the same outstanding style. I’m so impressed with this map and I think you will be too.

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.

The Quest by Leen Ritmeyer

book quest temple

This book is without doubt the preeminent resource on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem available today. Whether you desire the historical or archaeological perspective, this is your book. This book’s success likely springs from the fact that no one but Leen Ritmeyer could have authored it. Both from his long years of working in this field and his work as the architect of the Temple Mount excavations, as well as his other work on the Temple Mount itself, demands that Ritmeyer produce this extraordinary resource.

This book is filled with pictures from the earliest scholarly explorations of Jerusalem, other helpful pictures on a range of issues, extraordinary reconstructions, and the wonderful, accurate Carta maps. It’s hard for me to effectively portray the visual treat the reader will have in this book. The text is the equal of the visuals and gives the most up-to-date, scholarly, detailed information that can be found on the Temple Mount.

The book begins covering the Herodian Temple Mount walls. Since archaeology digs down into older time periods, chapter 2 provides a lengthy chapter on the Temple of Nehemiah’s day. Some of the reconstruction models in that chapter were extraordinary. After a chapter on the Hasmonean Temple Mount, he turns to the interesting subject of the underground cisterns of the Temple Mount. I’ve never seen better on that subject. Chapter 5 examines how Herod extended the Temple Mount. That includes things like how he had to expand the drainage system and some of the gates he added. Chapter 6 nails down the location of the Temple on the Mount and has some great pictures of the inside of the Dome of the Rock.

In chapter 7 we find a reconstruction of the First Temple. Again, the graphics and reconstructions were eye-catching and instructive. In chapter 8 we follow that up with reconstructing the Second Temple and all the history behind it. The book goes full-circle with chapters on reconstructing the Herodian Temple Mount as well as Herod’s Temple itself.

Readers are going to love this book. I can’t imagine anyone finding something they thought was left out on the subject of the Temple Mount and its history. Helpful, beautiful, and thorough – what more could you ask for? I give this book the highest possible recommendation.

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.