ESV Archaeology Study Bible – A Review

ESV arch study bible

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.


3 Things Mary Knew… Gospel Coalition Article

I’m excited to say I have an article up on the Gospel Coalition website exploring connections between Mary’s song/psalm and the Old Testament Scriptures. You can take a look here:

I view this as the beginning of a larger study of the first chapters of Luke’s Gospel and the OT connections that are implied. I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Verses – Matthew 2:1-8

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.

Christmas Verses – Luke 1:26-28

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:26-28.

Gabriel, who would be known from his appearances in Daniel 8 and 9, appears now to Mary to announce Jesus’ birth. Jesus will be a descendent of David, and born to a virgin. God was about to do amazing things, and this announcement was just the beginning.

Trinity Wars (Pt. 1)

A Review of The Rise and Fall of the Complementarian Doctrine of the Trinity, by Kevin Giles.

The doctrine of the Trinity has always been one of utmost importance for Christians throughout church history and across denominational divides. From the first century onward Trinitarian debates have led to fiery contentions and bitter rivalries. Many times these theological debates have served to separate the orthodox from the heretics. Kevin Giles contends that evangelicalism recently experienced one of these Trinity wars in his book The Rise and Fall of the Complementarian Doctrine of the Trinity.

Giles, an Australian Anglican minister, is both an avid advocate for an egalitarian approach to womens’ roles in the church, and a leading opponent of what he terms the “complementarian view of the Trinity.” This view argues that Jesus the Son eternally submits to the authority of his Father in their intra-Trinitarian relationship, and that this divine submission has implications for human relationships in the home and church. Giles has argued against this view of the Trinity for over twenty years in his many books and articles on the subject. His position was vocally supported by only a handful of theologians until the summer of 2016, when “civil war broke out in the evangelical community,” (35) His most recent work looks to drive the nail in the coffin of his theological opponents and lay any talk of relational submission in the Godhead in the grave for good.

Giles as Trinity War Historian
The first two chapters reconstruct the events that led to the Trinity debate of 2016. Giles walks his readers through a history of the modern connection between the doctrine of the Trinity and women’s roles in the church and home. His contention is that prior to the work of George Knight III in 1977 no one had used the terminology of “role subordination,” (9). Popular authors Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware picked up on this idea of role subordination in the Godhead and popularized the notion in evangelicalism.

This understanding of the Trinity was dominant among evangelicals and organizations like the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood until June of 2016. Prompted by the writings of Reformed bloggers Rachel Miller and Aimee Byrd, “Liam Goligher, the respected and able senior pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, made a blistering attack on complementarian teaching on the Trinity,” (35). Goligher in a series of blogs sharply rebuked Grudem and Ware for their position on the eternal subordination of the Son, ultimately calling for their resignation and accusing them of false teaching. With these blogs, Goligher sent a shockwave through the evangelical world that opened the floodgates of blogs and tweets for the next several months.

Over the course of the debate, patristic scholars like Lewis Ayres and Michel Barnes “spoke very disparagingly of the Trinitarian theology of Grudem and Ware,” (38). Giles presents the theology of complementarians who advocate roles in the Trinity as being “judged by their peers as a blatant denial of the creeds and confessions,” (38-39). The debate came to a head at the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in November of 2016. Giles and Millard Erickson represented evangelical egalitarianism in a plenary forum on the Trinity, while Grudem and Ware represented the complementarian position (44). Giles summarizes the discussion by saying, “I think at the ETS conference in November 2016 everyone present realized that Dr. Grudem and Dr. Ware had met their Waterloo,” (47). In his estimation, the war was over; the Son cannot be eternally subject to the Father because that teaching runs contrary to the orthodox creeds and confessions of church history.

Giles as Theologian and Patristic Scholar
In the next two chapters, Giles looks at Trinitarianism from the lens of both theologian and church historian. As theologian, he is critical of the “Bible alone” approach to theology. He says, “It is this understanding of theology that has undone complementarian theology,” (69). He advocates an approach to constructing theology that includes three sources: Scripture, tradition, and reason. These three are not to be given equal weight, however, as Scripture is “uniquely authoritative,” (75). Tradition Giles defines as “the exegetical and theological tradition” of the church (75), or what the church has said about the Scriptures over the generations of its history. Reason is “the facility that makes theology possible,” (78). The task of the theologian involves drawing from each of these sources to systematize the doctrines of Scripture.

Giles then turns to the development of Trinitarian doctrine using a series of eleven propositions about the Trinity. He begins by establishing God’s oneness, three-ness, and the relationship between those two. He talks about the eternal self-differentiating of God and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and then focuses on the identification and unity between the three: they are homoousios (one in being/essence/nature), working inseparably, possessing one will, and having one authority. Giles then writes in proposition 9 that there is an ordering of Trinitarian relations in eternity and in their operations in the world. He goes on to write about the Son’s subordination which happened during his incarnation, and wraps up his review by firmly stating that the Trinity should not be the model for our human relationships and roles.

Giles as Trinitarian Prophet
In the final chapter of his book, Giles asks the question, “where do we go from here?” To answer, he first affirms his conviction that the doctrine of the Trinity should not be used as evidence either for the complementarian view of roles in the church or for the egalitarian view. However, the fact that the complementarian understanding of the Trinity has been soundly defeated, for Giles, demands that the complementarian view of male and female roles in the church be reexamined. He is optimistic that this will allow for productive discussion between egalitarians and complementarians for the first time in decades: “It seems to me that we have exciting times ahead as complementarians and evangelical egalitarians learn from each in the quest to find a common mind on what the Scriptures teach on the status and ministry of men and women,” (114).

Giles’ arguments are well rehearsed, articulated clearly, and executed pointedly. Nevertheless, I am far from convinced that his account of the Trinitarian War of 2016 is definitive. In part 2, I will present a series of questions for Kevin Giles that have been raised by his book.

Why the Garden Tomb is [Probably] Not Jesus’ Tomb

HOLYLAND 2005 111Several years ago I was blessed to be able to visit the Holy Land with a former teacher and friend. Seeing the places where biblical events transpired was a truly life-changing experience. I do, however, remember being perplexed by the presentation of the two different popular locations for the burial place of Jesus. One site is contained within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Having grown up in a city with an abundance of Catholic churches and being familiar with the iconography and liturgy that accompanies them I was not impressed by the site. It was dark, dank, and devoid of joy, crowded with weeping pilgrims asking forgiveness, perhaps unsure if Christ would grant their petitions.

There was a great contrast between that first site and the Garden Tomb that we later visited. The Garden Tomb was situated in the midst of beautiful greenery in a quiet and quaint area inviting the meditation and reflection of visitors. There was even a sign on the recently added tomb door that read “He is not here. He has risen.” I will never forget my instructor standing beside me near the Garden Tomb with a smile on his face, saying facetiously, “This place just feels so good, this is where it had to have happened. Jesus had to have risen from the dead here, right?”

He was referring to the fact that in spite of how the two different sites may feel, the Garden Tomb is almost certainly not the place where Jesus was buried. Looks can be deceiving, and the look and feel of these two sites today convince many to trust their emotions rather than the evidence. In the following brief sections I want to outline three reasons why the Garden Tomb is likely not the place where Jesus was buried and rose again. Continue reading

Stop Labeling Him “Doubting Thomas”


In John’s gospel Thomas is absent from the larger group of disciples when Jesus makes His first appearance to them. As a result of this absence, Thomas does not see Jesus, and when the other disciples tell him what has transpired, he refuses to believe. In our day Thomas has been given the label “doubting” because of his lack of faith that Jesus had really risen from the dead. I would like to suggest that this label is misleading, over-simplistic, and ultimately unhelpful. Thomas has gotten a bad reputation in the church today for his doubt, but what if doubt wasn’t really the problem at all? Continue reading