Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Dawn of Christianity by Robert J. Hutchinson

book cover
The Dawn of Christianity
by Robert J. Hutchinson

ISBN-13: 9780718079420
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: March 14, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher through BookLook.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
The Dawn of Christianity tells the story of the last week of Jesus' life and the first few years after his death and resurrection. Using the most recent studies by top Christian and secular scholars, Robert Hutchinson reconstructs all of the known accounts of the witnesses to the resurrection and the initial years afterward, when they spread the word about what they had witnessed.

My Review:
The Dawn of Christianity is a "narrative retelling" of the last week of Jesus' life and of the first few years after his death and resurrection. The author used direct quotes from the Bible, summarized what happened, or created a fictional narrative of what might have happened. However, this is a commentary rather than pure narrative.

While talking about events, the author provided information about the political situation of the time and archeological discoveries. For example, he described what the temple looked like and the likely location of the crucifixion along with details about crucifixion. The author also talked about what skeptics of the Bible have thought and now think about various passages.

While he usually said "some skeptics doubted" or similar phrases, a few times he said "scholars doubted"--like anyone who believed the accuracy of the Bible couldn't be counted as a scholar. He also tried to explain away the supernatural elements. If Jesus raised someone from the dead, that person wasn't really dead but asleep and Jesus just revived them. (Happily, Jesus' resurrection was not explained away using this argument.) According to the author, Jesus just assumed that anyone criticizing the system would end up dead--yet he held out hope he'd avoid death and considered running away to a foreign country. He also had Jesus secretly arranging things like the use of the donkey and the Upper Room and keeping this information from his closest followers for security reasons.

The part about the first few years of the early church was mostly a summary of events described in Acts along with some political background information. The commentary effort was mostly spent on the events right before and after the crucifixion. There are plenty of books that cover that material and do so in a way that's easier to read (as this had a more academic tone).

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Alive in Him by Gloria Furman

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Alive in Him
by Gloria Furman

ISBN-13: 9781433549779
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Crossway
Released: March 31, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
God's grand plan for the redemption of creation has been in motion since before time began. The book of Ephesians lays out this glorious vision, highlighting the coming of Christ's kingdom on earth--a kingdom that will soon arrive in full.

In Alive in Him, Gloria Furman leads us deep into the biblical text, exploring the book's main themes and showing us how the blessings we have received in Christ empower us to walk in a new way. Designed to be read alongside the book of Ephesians, Alive in Him draws us into the plotline of Scripture, directing our gaze to the love of Jesus Christ--a love that has the power to transform how we live.

My Review:
Alive in Him is a thematic study of Ephesians. Rather than studying Ephesians verse-by-verse, the author took a section at a time and explored its theme. She assumed you will read the text in your Bible before reading this book. The first half is about what Christ has accomplished through the cross, and the second half is about how we can walk in the light of that reality. I liked how she pulled verses in from other parts of the Bible to help us better understand the points made in Ephesians.

While the author is very enthusiastic about the topics covered, this is a dense book as she didn't use many stories to illustrate her points. I normally prefer this style, but there were times I'd have to re-read sentences and was still left unsure exactly what she meant. It sounded profound but needed more or clearer explanation. Overall, though, I enjoyed this study of Ephesians.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Jesus by A. W. Tozer

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by A. W. Tozer

ISBN-13: 9780802415202
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Released: March 7, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Tozer helps to high thoughts of God brought low—yet no less moving—for the common reader. Jesus: The Life and Ministry of God the Son features selections from Tozer’s writings on the God-man, Jesus Christ. It follows the chronology of Christ's earthly life and explores classic themes of Christology, helping readers better comprehend and appreciate Jesus’ person and work.

When you set out to study Christ, you want to behold His splendor the best you can. Read Jesus and appreciate anew the Savior of the world and the power of the written word to glorify His name.

My Review:
Jesus is a collection of 17 sermons or essays by A. W. Tozer that are organized by periods of Jesus' life. The first essays tended to focus on the character and work of God and Jesus, and I enjoyed these. Some of the later essays got sidetracked into pointing out the errors of belief in certain Christian (or non-Christian) groups rather than focusing solely on the work of Christ. While interesting in a historical way (especially as some of these errors are still around), I didn't enjoy these as much.

The questions at the end of each chapter generally helped me to think over and process that chapter. Tozer tends to dig deep on a topic. He's not difficult to understand, though he often explained things in a way I'm not used to. I usually needed to stop and think things over as I read it so I could contemplate his full meaning. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting collection, especially to those who enjoy Tozer's writings.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Story Travelers Bible by Tracey Madder

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The Story Travelers Bible
by Tracey Madder
Illustrated by
Tim Crecelius

ISBN-13: 9781496409157
Hardcover: 356 pages
Publisher: Tyndale Kids
Released: March 1, 2017

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Join Lana, Munch, and Griffin on the adventure of a lifetime as they travel through the Holy Land and learn about the stories, cultures, people, and places of the Bible. High-quality illustrations, engaging sidebars, and scripture passages draw kids into the narrative.

The Story Travelers Bible teaches kids that the Bible is more than just a bunch of tales told by parents and Sunday school teachers, but the Bible documents God's work in and for His people from the beginning of time. The Story Travelers Bible will take kids on a ride through 85 Bible stories.

My Review:
The Story Travelers Bible is a children's Bible story collection for grades 3 - 7. The stories were told in present tense since the modern main characters (Lana, Munch, and Griffin) watch from a time-traveling bus as events happen. They started at creation and ended with John's revelation about the new heavens and new earth. The stories were usually tied together with a summary of what happened between these stories, so it reads as one continuous story.

There were side bars providing simple memory verses, some commentary about the events, and information about the various countries mentioned. Overall, the stories were retold pretty faithfully to the biblical versions. They skipped over things that parents might not want to explain, so Ruth simply goes to Boaz and he wakes up--no lying at his feet--and Rahab's occupation was never mentioned. Jael "quickly and quietly kills Sisera" without the details of how it was done.

The illustrations were simple in style yet looked more like real people than cartoons. They were also reasonably accurate in terms of what the people and things may have looked like. However, the illustrator didn't do a good job with early Genesis. It's hard to take the Noah account seriously as literal history when the illustration made it look like only a few animals would fit in the boat. Then the toy-like boat landed, apparently about to fall off off the top of a small mountain peak, with no way for the animals and people to get off the Ark.

Eve was shown sitting against the forbidden tree while she tells the serpent that they can't eat from the tree or even touch it. Oops! And both text and illustration had Adam asleep in Eve's lap, so he ended up eating the fruit without knowing where it came from. That's the one addition made to the biblical text that had theological ramifications, and I don't think the biblical text indicates that to be true. Anyway, except for early Genesis, this was one of the better children's Bible story collections that I've read.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.