I recently received a copy of Crossway’s ESV Archaeology Study Bible. I want to give a short review of this excellent and up-to-date resource.
With a team of over 15 archaeologists and experts providing historical and cultural insight into the biblical text, this study Bible is a fantastic support for students of God’s word, pastors, and teachers who seek to present the Bible in its appropriate contexts. This Bible is loaded with beautiful images to help supplement one’s understanding of the ancient world in which the Scriptures were written. Controversial topics are handled in a fair and balanced way (see the discussion of the yam sup on page 106 for an example) while also taking intelligent positions on largely settled topics (such as the location of Golgotha, see pages 1584-1585). There is material included for each book of the Bible, which makes studying the archaeology of individual books much more accessible.
Many archaeological resources are strong in the OT but weaker in the NT. This does not appear to be the case with the ESV Archaeology Study Bible. There are strong insights not only into OT times, but also into the Greco-Roman world of the NT. As an instructor of NT archaeology, I have been frustrated at times to find contemporary information on the archaeology of Turkey, Greece, and Rome. This study Bible proves biblical archaeology is not for the OT scholar alone.
I can see myself using this Bible as a resource for both academic study and expository preaching in the days to come. I would exhort fellow pastors and teachers to approach this Bible as a tool for answering the important question “what was significant about the cultural and social world in which this text was written?” Texts do not exist in vacuums; they are written in time and space by individuals who are deeply influenced by their societies. Understanding the life and times of the original authors gives us invaluable assistance into correctly interpreting the texts.
Crossway has done evangelicalism a great service in compiling this resource. I would highly recommend it to any interested in biblical backgrounds, Bible geography, or biblical archaeology.
“The Adoration of the Golden Calf,” painting by Nicolas Poussin, 1663-1666.
There are many pictures that come to mind when thinking about the biblical book of Jonah: a prophet running from God, a powerful storm on the sea, a giant fish/whale/sea monster, the metropolis of Nineveh, multitudes on their knees crying out in repentance, etc. A golden cow is not typically one of those impressions. Yet the golden calf in the Sinai wilderness would have been perhaps the primary image in Jonah’s mind as he fled to Tarshish. Let me explain. Continue reading →
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” Matthew 2:1-8.
These magi may have been the Babylonian or Persian remnants of Daniel’s following from 500 years earlier. They follow a star, looking back to Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17. Herod the king wants the child put to death, but hides it by saying he wants to worship the king. The chief priests and scribes know about Micah 5:2, and apply it to the Messiah. They were not ignorant of OT prophecies, but read them through the hermeneutical lens that Messiah would be a warrior king, not suffering servant.
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:15-20.
The shepherds, upon hearing the announcement of Jesus’ birth, go to visit the baby in the manger. They tell Mary and Joseph what the angels have said. This event served as a sign for Jesus’ parents and all who heard it. Mary in particular wondered at the events, treasuring these things and pondering them in her heart.
The result is the glorying and praising of God by the shepherds. Even in his infancy, Jesus was directing human beings to give their praise and glory to God on high.
And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:8-14.
After Jesus is born, shepherds received an angelic announcement of the birth of the Messiah. Why did the Lord send angels to shepherds to announce the birth of the king? It may be a connection to Isaiah 40:11: “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs, and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” This verse speaks of the coming of the Lord with might and authority to rule, and is the “good news” proclaimed in v. 9. It may also continue Luke’s themes of the reversal of injustice: shepherds, normally the lowly of society, are the first to hear the blessed news of Messiah’s birth.
The baby born is “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” I have previously written about the significance of this verse in showing that Jesus was savior, Messiah, and God all in one. The angels give God praise for the birth of this child. The birth of Jesus means glory to God in the highest heaven, but also peace on earth among human beings, with whom Jesus was pleased to dwell.