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.

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Jonah and the Golden Calf

 

800px-The_adoration_of_the_golden_calf_1633-36

“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

Christmas Verses – Luke 2:1-7

Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7.

Luke records the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem at the command of Caesar Augustus. Notice how God sovereignly adjusts human history, working in the heart of the Roman Emperor to stir his thinking to demand a census so that Mary and Joseph would return to Bethlehem, thereby fulfilling OT prophecy (Micah 5:2). Notice also that Mary is still said to be engaged to Joseph here. Since the engagement period normally lasted a year, it is reasonable to believe that all of these events from the angel’s appearing to Mary to Jesus’ birth took place very quickly (within a year).

Jesus would have been born not in a palace as he deserved, but lowly in a manger, the place where common domestic animals fed. There was no room for the family in the inn, probably due to the influx of people for the census. Just as there was no room for Jesus’ family in the inn, so there would be no room for Jesus in Pharisaic Jewish society, no room for a king in Israel, no room for a suffering Messiah, and no room for his people as strangers in a foreign land today.

Also, contrary to many Sunday School Christmas pageants, the text does not present this account as though Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem and the same night she gives birth. Luke writes, “and it came about while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth…” This gives the sense that they needed to remain in Bethlehem for some time for census purposes, and that while they were residing there, she gave birth during that time.

Christmas Verses – Micah 5:2

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” Micah 5:2.

This verse gives the birthplace of the Messiah. He will be, like David, from Bethlehem, a small Judean village often considered insignificant and unimportant. This shows again that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,” (1 Cor. 1:27).

The Messiah, from Micah 5:2, will go forth from God, will be ruler in Israel, and has an ancient heritage, even stretching back into eternity. Jesus is both God and man perfectly united in one person. As man, He was born in a manger to a human mother in a temporal moment and spatial location. As God, He had always existed with the Father in eternity. This verse speaks of His humanity while hinting at His deity.

Christmas Verses – Hosea 11:1

“When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.” Hosea 11:1.

There is much debate about how this verse relates to the birth of the Messiah in its original context, or whether Matthew adds new meaning to this verse. I think it best to see in the name Israel the concept of corporate solidarity: what is true for the nation of Israel as a whole is true for the perfect Israelite, the Messiah. Jesus’ personal history, then, mirrors Israel’s history in that He was taken down into Egypt in His youth and then came up out of Egypt later. Jesus also would be God’s chosen one to deliver His people from their sins, a greater deliverance even then when God delivered His people from Egypt.

Matthew uses this text to point to Jesus’ Messianic connections and His identity with His people. Remember, the name Jesus means “He will save His people from their sin,” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus is Savior first for Israel, and then for all people everywhere.

Perhaps Matthew also uses this text to make clear that Jesus is the Son of God. As the Son of God, He is the descendant of David, the divine ruler with the right to power and authority.

Christmas Verses – Isaiah 9:6-7

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6-7.

These wonderful verses, given 700 years before Jesus’ birth, predict the coming of the Messiah and the ultimate fulfillment of the promise of an everlasting kingdom made to David. The child born would have divine titles, showing His connection to and empowerment by God.

In Jesus’ birth this promise finds its ultimate focus. Christmas means the kingdom promised by God is coming near in the person of its king, Jesus the Messiah.

Christmas Verses – Isaiah 7:14

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

The sign of Immanuel would have been for King Ahaz of Judah to know the Lord was with him, protecting him.

The promise of the child Immanuel meant God would deliver His people from their oppressors. In Christ, who is the final fulfillment of this prophecy, God has promised to deliver His people from their ultimate oppressor, the very sin that resides within them.

The coming of Christ is the coming of a Deliverer, a Savior.