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For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Bible Resource Spotlight: The Illustrated Guide to Bible Customs and Curiosities

posted by Mike Nappa

Reader Appeal: Pastors, Students, Nerds

Genre: Bible Reference

FBSN Rating: A

 

Don’t be deceived by the “pocket” size of George Knight’s book, The Illustrated Guide to Bible Customs and Curiosities. Sure, it looks small compared to the thick commentaries and weighty dictionaries that take up space on your Bible reference bookshelf—but that’s OK. This book packs in more than its weight in lively exposition of cultural backgrounds that influenced beliefs and behaviors of our ancient forebears.

This book is a lot like a mini-Bible handbook, written in a “just-the-facts” style that eschews obfuscation and tells it like it was. Arranged to correspond to all the books of the Bible, Knight has made it easy find something that’s relevant to whatever it is you’re teaching or reading in your own private world. Each chapter highlights several, nugget-like treatments of interesting (and often alien) customs of the people of antiquity. For instance:

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Do you know why Shamgar (one of ancient Israel’s judges – see Judges 3:31) was able to defeat 600 Philistines using only an ox-goad? Do you even know what an ox-goad looked like? If you had The Illustrated Guide to Bible Customs and Curiosities, you would. An ox-goad was a sturdy pole about eight feet long, with a sharpened point on one end and a metal plate on the other. In Shamgar’s hand, that mundane farming tool became a deadly two-sided weapon, a combination sword and spear that he used to defeat Israel’s enemies.

And do you know why Peter prayed on the roof when he stayed at the house of Simon the tanner (Acts 10:9)? Well, in that day, a roof was often a place of rest and relaxation, and a place to cool off after a hot day. It was a lot like a modern-day patio—an escape on top of the house instead of beside it. So when Peter wanted a little alone time with God, it was natural for him to climb up to the roof/patio and start praying.

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As I said, this little book packs a large amount of information into its small pages and tiny print—in fact there are more than 700 more little tidbits like these here. Plus it includes hundreds of full-color photographs and illustrations to help visual learners like me. In all, I was very impressed (except for that part about the tiny print!).

The Illustrated Guide to Bible Customs and Curiosities is easily recommended—just don’t forget your glasses.

 

The Illustrated Guide to Bible Customs and Curiosities by George W. Knight

(Barbour Books)

 

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About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Bible Resource Spotlight: Discovering Romans

posted by Mike Nappa

Reader Appeal: Pastors, Small Group Leaders

Genre: Bible Commentary / Sermons

FBSN Rating: B+

 

When S. Lewis Johnson was a college man in the 1930s, he had little interest in God, let alone in preaching the Bible. All he cared about was golf. He competed in many amateur tournaments and entertained notions of going pro. Still, he was in college and so had to take a foreign language class—but the German courses offered interfered with his golfing tee time. He signed up for the one language class that would accommodate his golf ambitions: Classical Greek.

Well, Johnson became a Christian in the 1940s, went to seminary, became a pastor and a seminary professor himself. And, thanks to his golf game, he was fluent in Greek. He found he could read and study the New Testament in its original language. Using a Greek New Testament as his text, over the years Dr. Johnson taught verse by verse through the book of Romans some 40 times. He passed away in 2004.

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Fast-forward to 2011. Dr. Mike Abendroth, a pastor and adjunct professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was riding his bicycle, listening to one of Dr. Johnson’s sermons on Romans 5. He was reminded that Dr. Johnson had published only one book in his lifetime. Abendroth decided to collect and edit S. Lewis Johnson’s work on Romans into a book. Thus was born the recently-published commentary/sermon collection, Discovering Romans.

All that to say…this is a pretty darn good exposition of the book of Romans. It reads like a series of sermons because, well, that’s what it is, but the verse-by-verse nature of each sermon lends itself to commentary purposes. Johnson and Abendroth bring to bear a wide variety of sources in expositing the Scripture, including Biblical history, Christian history, language studies, and more.

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Discovering Romans lends itself best to thoughtful, sustained reading that starts at the beginning and progresses to the end. Still, if your prefer (or are just busy) the functional organization of the sermons means this book can also be used like a traditional commentary, skimming to the passage you are studying and gleaning insights from that section alone.

In all, I was pleasantly surprised by Discovering Romans. I’d never heard of S. Lewis Johnson before, let alone read the one book he published in his lifetime. After seeing this one, I’ll certainly be looking for more of Johnson’s work to come out of Dr. Abendroth’s study in the years to come.

 

Discovering Romans by S. Lewis Johnson Jr., adapted by Mike Abendroth

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(Zondervan)

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Bible Resource Spotlight: 30 Events That Shaped the Church

posted by Mike Nappa

Reader Appeal: Bible Students, Pastors, Pew-Sitters

Genre: Christian History

FBSN Rating: A

 

It’s rare to find a book that could appeal to both a Bible Study Nerd and the average pew-sitter, but Alton Gansky has made one anyway.

30 Events that Shaped the Church takes a unique approach to Christian history. Instead of giving a broad overview of thousands of years between us and them, he spotlights specific moments in our shared past, choosing only the ones that he sees as having the most influence on our belief and experience today. That’s interesting, if only for the concept. Thankfully, Gansky (a former pastor and now a prolific novelist) is a superb writer as well. Add to that his well-researched information and a critical-thinker’s eye, and you’ve got a book that works.

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Gansky chooses some of the standard moments you’d expect: Pentecost (when the church was officially born), the Council of Jerusalem (when we realized Christianity wasn’t just a Jewish sect), Titus’ destruction of the Jerusalem temple (which caused Christianity to spread into the entire world), and even the first Council of Nicaea (which solidified and preserved basic Christian doctrine for us today). These chapters are worth reading, but might not be new for those who have studied church history with any sincerity.

It’s Gansky’s unexpected choices of key events in our history that make this book stand out: the declaration of papal supremacy in 1302; John Smyth baptizing himself in 1609; Bishop Ussher’s attempt in 1650 to date the age of the Earth; the writing of the Bill of Rights in 1789; the Jesus Movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and even the rise of new atheism that we are experiencing today. These events aren’t the ones professors spend a lot of time teaching about in seminary, so it’s refreshing to explore them here. And, while you may or may not agree with everything Gansky says, he certainly will make you think.

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Like I said, it’s rare to find a book that appeals to both nerds and normals alike, but this could be one. Check it out for yourself, and afterward share it with a friend. Who knows what great conversations you’ll have as a result?

 

30 Events That Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky

(Baker Books)

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

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Matthew 9:27-34; Jesus Heals the Blind and Mute (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Who is the “prince of demons” referenced in Matthew 9:34? Jesus’ enemies were pretty familiar with that guy—so much so that they felt confident accusing Christ of being his evil pawn. So who were they talking about?

The “prince of demons” was a title for a high-ranking, fallen angel derisively named “Beelzebul” by the ancient Jews. He appears in the Jewish pseudepigraphical work the Testament of Solomon, where he is overpowered and imprisoned by King Solomon.

The name itself originates from the insulting Hebrew term, “Baalzebub,” which referred to the false god, Baal, and means alternately “Lord of the flies” and “Lord of the dung heap,” Some have assumed Beelzebul to be another name for Satan, which could be the case, but that assumption is inconclusive; the name could also refer to a lesser demon in the service of Satan but who wields some measure of authority over the demonic realm.

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In any case, this “prince of demons” is a vile, contemptible being, a force intent on wreaking evil—and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day knew that. Given that knowledge, it’s unlikely that their accusation of Jesus was a serious one. Beelzebul would never free people from demonic possession and captivity; it simply isn’t that being’s nature, nor is it consistent with the goals of the supernatural enemies of God. (Jesus made clear that obvious thinking in Matthew 12:25-29.)

It’s much more likely the Pharisee’s accusation was simply a desperate smear attempt by people who hated Christ. Convincing people that Jesus was associated with the infamous “prince of demons” would have been both a contemptuous personal insult (calling Jesus lower than a big pile of feces) and an attempt to discredit his reputation as a holy man and prophet.

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The tragic irony was that, in calling Jesus a slave to Beelzebul, the Pharisees discredited themselves instead of Christ—and entrenched themselves as allies of the so-called “prince of demons” that they claimed to despise.

 

Works Cited:

[BKB, 249; ZP1, 505-506]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Previous Posts

Bible Resource Spotlight: The Illustrated Guide to Bible Customs and Curiosities
Reader Appeal: Pastors, Students, Nerds Genre: Bible Reference FBSN Rating: A   Don’t be deceived by the “pocket” size of George Knight’s book, The Illustrated Guide to Bible Customs and Curiosities. Sure, it looks small compared to the thick commentaries and weighty diction

posted 12:00:16pm Mar. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Bible Resource Spotlight: Discovering Romans
Reader Appeal: Pastors, Small Group Leaders Genre: Bible Commentary / Sermons FBSN Rating: B+   When S. Lewis Johnson was a college man in the 1930s, he had little interest in God, let alone in preaching the Bible. All he cared about was golf. He competed in many amateur tournaments

posted 12:00:15pm Mar. 25, 2015 | read full post »

Bible Resource Spotlight: 30 Events That Shaped the Church
Reader Appeal: Bible Students, Pastors, Pew-Sitters Genre: Christian History FBSN Rating: A   It’s rare to find a book that could appeal to both a Bible Study Nerd and the average pew-sitter, but Alton Gansky has made one anyway. 30 Events that Shaped the Church takes a unique

posted 12:00:14pm Mar. 23, 2015 | read full post »

Matthew 9:27-34; Jesus Heals the Blind and Mute (Cultural Commentary)
Who is the “prince of demons” referenced in Matthew 9:34? Jesus’ enemies were pretty familiar with that guy—so much so that they felt confident accusing Christ of being his evil pawn. So who were they talking about? The “prince of demons” was a title for a high-ranking, fallen angel d

posted 12:00:59pm Mar. 20, 2015 | read full post »

Matthew 9:27-34; Jesus Heals the Blind and Mute (Word Studies)
“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Jesus is recorded asking two blind men in Matthew 9:27-30. When they responded, “Yes Lord,” he said, “According to your faith will it be done for you.” And their sight was instantly restored! That’s a lot riding on one little word, “Fait

posted 12:00:58pm Mar. 18, 2015 | read full post »

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