Sunday, September 1, 2013

Review: The World of Jesus

Over the summer, thanks to Bethany House, I've had the chance to read and review The World of Jesus, by Dr. William H. Marty.  It occurred to me as I was writing this review post that I have read another book by Dr. Marty, The Whole Bible Story.  I did not find that book to be a good fit, though reading about it I wonder if it might work better in our lives now.  Fortunately, I didn't realize that until after I had requested this title, as I have loved The World of Jesus.

From the publisher:
Know Jesus Better by Understanding What Shaped His World
Sometimes it’s hard to find your bearings in the New Testament, as you enter the time and place of Jesus and His disciples. There are confusing practices, new people groups, and even unexplained religious conflicts. How did it all come about?
Dr. William Marty walks you through the history leading up to the arrival of Jesus in order to help you better understand His life and teachings. He answers such questions as:
• Why did "Israelites" start being called "Jews"?
• What's a "synagogue" and what happened to worshiping in the temple?
• Who were the Pharisees and why was Jesus so upset with them?
• Why didn't anyone like the Samaritans?
Get to know the times in which Jesus lived, so you'll better understand His teaching and ministry. And along the way, discover how God prepared the world for the One who would turn it upside down.
This book is a very readable presentation of the history of the Jewish people from 539 BC to 70 AD.  Most of this is covering the 400 years between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament.

The first chapter, Homeward Bound: The Persian Period, covers the end of of the Old Testament, roughly 539-331 BC.  This chapter contains a fair amount of material that would be familiar to you if you've read your Bible -- from the fall of Judah onwards.

While the first chapter was interesting and informative, I found the next chapters to be more worthwhile.  Starting with Alexander, and ending with the destruction of the temple in 70AD, the rest of the book fills in a lot of the political events of the times as they pertain to the Jewish nation.  Yes, I've learned a lot about Alexander the Great, and even a bit about him in relation to Jerusalem.  But what does Hellenism (the civilization and culture of Ancient Greece) have to do with the rise of the Pharisees?  I had no idea there was a relationship.

My bottom line:  Most of my students (grades 2-9) are studying world history this year.  This book is going to be a part of that.  Dr. Marty ties together the regular history with fascinating information about how that impacted the Jewish culture.  I'm not sure the 2nd and 4th grader will get much from this book, but the 7th and 9th graders most certainly will. And even though he is studying a completely different time period, my 11th grader will be sitting in on this book too.

Disclosure:  Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

No comments: