7 Reasons to Study the Cultural Backgrounds of the Bible

Posted by on 04/24/2017 in:

1. Understand the audience: Grasping the original audience’s perspective helps us understand the setting to which the inspired authors communicated their message.

2. Understand how the text communicates: A text is ideas linked by threads of writing. Each phrase and each word communicates by the ideas and thoughts that they will trigger in the reader or hearer.

3. Biblical writers made assumptions: Biblical writers normally could take for granted that their audiences shared their language and culture; some matters, therefore, they assumed rather than stated. Think about what happens when later audiences from different cultures read the text without the same un-stated understandings as the original audience.

4. Understand the differences: We can see the differences between [ancient people] and us. To better understand how they would have interpreted what was being shared to them.

5. Understand what issues were being addressed: When we hear the message in its authentic, original cultural setting we can reapply it afresh for our own different setting most fully, because we understand what issues were really being addressed.

6. Prevent imposing your own culture: If we know nothing of the ancient world, we will be inclined to impose our own culture and worldview on the Biblical text. This will always be detrimental to our understanding.

7. Fill in the gaps: As each person hears or reads the text, the message takes for granted underlying gaps that need to be filled with meaning by the audience. It is theologically essential that we fill [the gaps] appropriately.

Originally posted at Bible Connection.


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Making Space for God

Posted by on 04/13/2017 in: ,

When I was a sophomore in college, I studied abroad in the British Isles for three months in a group led by four professors. We spent most of our time in cities: London to York to Edinburgh to Glasgow to Manchester to London again. Occasionally the subjects we studied—Wordsworth and Roman ruins—would take us into the countryside where we could reconnect with soft earth and silence. This trip laid the foundation for my later realization that I am a nature-loving, silence-seeking introvert. In cities, I would find parks and churches. Quiet spaces. Places that would lessen both the external hustle and bustle of the city and my internal noise as I tried to take it all in.

A month after I returned home from England, I was at a snowbound camp called Tall Timber living like a monk for a Christian Spirituality course during my school’s three-week January Term. After the relentless pace and variety of travel, the monastic schedule was jarring in its routine. Our days were anchored by a modified Divine Office, specific times of prayer and worship that define the day in some monastic communities. Our daily rhythm was this: worship, breakfast, lecture, personal study time, worship, lunch, chores, lecture, free time, worship, dinner, small group, worship, free time, and bed.

The days were full, perhaps even as full as when I was abroad. But there was suddenly freedom in the day that had been lacking on my study abroad sojourn. The freedom I felt was linked to the structure of our daily routine. Each activity had its allotted time, so there was time for fellowship and time for solitude. There was time for activity of the mind and activity of the hands. And most importantly, we had time for God through our personal study and journaling, through our small groups, and through the rhythm of worship four times each day.

As I reflected, the word finally came to me: space. We had space at Tall Timber, both physical space in that quiet corner of the world and mental space. Studying abroad had felt cramped. We lived in tight quarters in hostels, cities were crowded with people, and my mind was busy with processing the experience. Even spending time with God had been pushed into the margins. Time itself was squeezed to wring out every minute of every day. At Tall Timber, the strictness of our daily rhythm led to the space I craved to think and reflect.

I had another transition on returning to a regular college semester in the spring. The time at Tall Timber had been charmed; the demands of life were so physically and emotionally distant. Normal life could feel more like the pace of studying abroad than the spacious rhythms of Tall Timber. I learned that I had to be flexible with the structure I created for myself as life changed.

In the nearly 10 years since that quasi-monastic experience, I try my best to create a structure that gives me space: space for God, space for relationships, space for my own reflection. I’ve embraced the liturgical year, which has its own structure to help us attend to the story of Christ and our place in that story. The Lenten and Easter seasons are particularly meaningful for me because I take more time to journal and read Scripture. With Holy Week upon us, when we remember Christ’s suffering and death, I pray you’ll find your own space to be with the crucified and risen Christ.

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Reactions to the Resurrection

Posted by on 04/12/2017 in:

Taken from Feasting on the Word:

John 20:1-18
Pastoral Perspective

The narrative here seems almost two separate stories, that of the woman Mary and that of the two men, Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.

I call the disciples “men,” but the word that comes more quickly to mind is “boys.” There seems such a childish competition between them. When they get word of the missing body, they run to the tomb, but their racing is not presented just as a run to arrive: it is reported as a race, with care taken to tell that the “other disciple,” the one with whom the author identifies, outran Peter and got there first. He won the race, even though Peter, typically brash, was the one who forged first into the tomb. So yes, the common claim that Peter was the first of the male disciples at the actual site of the resurrection may have some truth, but only by a technicality. The other one, John, was really first, and the faster runner. Besides, he was the one whom Jesus loved. Perhaps I overstate the comic quality of John’s account here, but it is hard to ignore at least the suggestion of such childish, such boyish, competition between these two iconic figures.

The story of Mary Magdalene, on the other hand, has nothing of such comedy. Arguably, there is something of comedy in the classic sense in the confusion about Jesus and the gardener, but that is very different from the boys-will-be-boys rivalry that brings a smile of recognition at the footrace. What we have in the Magdalene story, rather, is deep and intimate emotion. Unlike the empty-tomb stories of the other evangelists, John’s account gives us just one woman, one who comes to the tomb alone. She comes out of her own desire to be where the body of Jesus is. She is bereft that he has been taken away, not just by death but by the disappearance of his body. She grieves, she yearns, she weeps. Her words are poignant, and we can feel the hurt and longing in them: “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” (v. 13).

Try as I might, I cannot help but hear a resonance of the Magdalene’s voice in Jesus Christ Superstar, that of the amazed and devoted lover of the man who has moved her so deeply. Volumes have been written on all that is problematic with that tradition of imagining Mary Magdalene, both as it has diminished her likely importance as an apostle in her own right and as it has played out as a paradigmatic male fantasy about women. This story, like other images of feminine devotion to a messianic male figure, is fraught with danger, with both a history of and a potential for misappropriation. Let the teller of the tale take care! Cognizant of such risk, however, I am moved once more by this woman who loves with such longing for a lost beloved. Lurid legends or prurient speculation about the Magdalene set aside, this does seem the depiction of an intimate and deeply embodied affection.

Is it not both curious and wonderful that these two stories—one of the boys and one of the woman, the comic and the passionate—sit here, one within the other? While we might opt to preach primarily from the one or the other, why not let both play upon us, reminding us that the encounter with the resurrection can be experienced differently by different people at different times, its music in different keys and danced in different ways?

The empty tomb found by the disciples is a place pregnant with potential meaning not yet understood. What it means is still unknown, but what it will mean transforms both past and future for the eager disciples who run to it. They see nothing within but empty wrappings, the leavings of one who left, and only later will they understand what presence that absence bodes.

Mary, on the other hand, has not raced with curiosity or hope, but has come to pay grief’s necessary homage to one she loved. When she looks in, she sees not only the emptiness but the angels who make the slab no longer a mere place of absence but a vision of the mercy seat and the ark of God’s presence (Exod. 25:17–22). Yet, after responding to the angels and telling her grief, Mary turns away from the tomb; even with angels, with religious symbolism, with supernatural promise and implications, it cannot hold her interest. It does not compensate for the reality of Jesus, does not dissolve her grief. He is not there, and she turns away. It is when she turns around that she encounters the one whom she seeks, in reality and not just potential. At first she does not recognize him—we may think of all the different reasons we also do not recognize our Christ—but he calls her by name. Then she sees and exclaims her greeting in return, “Rabbouni, my teacher.”

There is tenderness of affection here and the joy of a real presence, but there is finally that Noli me tangere and a new incompleteness: she may not hold on to him, perhaps not even touch him. He is going away, and as she seems to reach for him, he retreats from her. She will be his apostle to the disciples, but he does not stay to be held. That withdrawal is also part of the story.

There is much that may engage our reflection here, much familiar from our parish experience—comedy and devastation, symbol and realities, encounters and absences, the dance of nearness and distance in relationships—all of it laid out, not as the tired story of human life through the generations, but as it shines in the transfiguring light of the resurrection morning. May we preachers see it, and show it, so freshly new.

JOHN K. STENDAHL


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Discover the 5 Covenants in the Bible

Posted by on 04/06/2017 in: ,

This is a guest post from Bible Connection

Content adapted from the NIV Zondervan Study Bible. Don’t own your own copy? Click here to view your buying options.

Covenant is one of the most important theological ideas in biblical theology. It is reflected in the traditional labels Old and New Testaments, i.e., covenants. The concept exists at significant points in the Bible’s storyline and is the theological glue that binds promise to fulfillment. So the biblical history of salvation and the unfolding of God’s covenants are almost synonymous.

Although the Bible does not explicitly mention a covenant until Gen 6:18 (when God announces that he intends to establish a covenant with Noah), many believe that God made a covenant with Adam (cf. Hos 6:7; see NIV text note there). They refer to this covenant with Adam as “the covenant of works” or a “covenant with creation.” Others, however, while not denying that God had a relationship with Adam involving mutual obligations, distinguish this from a covenant, which involves additional formalizing elements such as a sworn and/or enacted oath. Understanding covenant in the more formal sense, the first divine-human covenant is the one God established in the days of Noah (cf. Isa 54:9). That covenant affirms God’s commitment to creation after the flood.

However, while the concept of a covenant may not appear until after the flood, the major divine-human covenants (Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and the new covenant) all support and advance God’s creative (and redemptive) goal. Each covenant provides further divine assurance that God will realize his purpose for creation in general and humanity in particular by fully establishing his kingdom on earth.

The Universal/Noahic Covenant

While God announces his covenant with Noah and all creation prior to the flood (Gen 6:18), he establishes it after the deluge subsides (Gen 8:20—9:17). The first mention of this covenant simply highlights God’s plan to preserve Noah and the others in the ark (Gen 6:18). God’s covenant with Noah reaffirms his original creational intent that the flood had “disrupted.” So he solemnly promises that a suspension of the natural order will never again interrupt (Gen 8:21–22; 9:11–15) the fulfillment of humanity’s creational mandate (cf. Gen 1:26–30; 9:1–7). Moreover, the additional commands (Gen 9:4–6) emphasize the value of human life in particular, which further highlights the primary rationale for this covenant: preserving life on earth without further divine interruption. It is at least implicit from the scope of this covenant that God’s redemptive goal will ultimately encompass the whole creation. That global emphasis in Gen 1–11 is not lost in the subsequent chapters of Genesis and beyond, despite their narrowing focus.

The Abrahamic Covenant

The promises encompassed by the patriarchal covenants (those God established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) are recorded in Gen 12:1–3. The essence of these divine promises is that God would bless Abraham in two ways: (1) God would make him into a great nation and so make his name great, and (2) through him God would mediate blessing to others (i.e., all peoples on earth). Significantly, each of these two aspects are subsequently ratified by covenant: (1) the national dimension of God’s promise is the focus of Gen 15, where God establishes (lit. “cuts”) “a covenant with Abram” (Gen 15:18); (2) the international dimension of the promise is apparently ignored in Gen 15, but it is alluded to in Gen 17 (cf. vv. 4–6,16), where God announces an “everlasting covenant” (Gen 17:7), the so-called “covenant of circumcision” (Acts 7:8). While many hold that the latter simply elaborates or enhances the covenant already established back in Gen 15, the different circumstances and emphases at very least suggest that this is a significant second stage in God’s covenant history with Abraham. Indeed, if Gen 17 is read in conjunction with Gen 22 (see below), these chapters arguably present a second covenant—one that is distinct from, but related to, the earlier covenant established in Gen 15.

The first of these covenants (Gen 15) formally ratified God’s promise to make Abraham into a “great nation” (Gen 12:2), thus the primary focus is on how God will work out his creative goal in Abraham’s biological “offspring,” subsequently identified as the sons of Jacob (Israel).

This, however, was only the preliminary stage in God’s unfolding plan of redemption. The second stage relates to how Abraham, through that great nation descended from him, would mediate blessing to “all peoples on earth” (Gen 12:3). This seems to be the main focus in Gen 17 and 22.

Even though the promise of nationhood is not altogether absent in Gen 17 (cf. v. 8), stress is placed on “nations,” “kings,” and a perpetual divine-human relationship with Abraham’s “offspring” (Gen 17:4–8,16–21). Significantly, particular focus is placed on Isaac (Gen 17:21; cf. Gen 21:12) as the one through whom this covenant will be perpetuated, highlighting what was at stake in the divine test of Gen 22. There Abraham’s obedient faith (Gen 22:16b,18b) met the demands of Gen 17:1 (cf. Gen 18:19; 26:5), thus prompting God to ratify the promises of Gen 17 (cf. Gen 22:17–18a; 26:4) by a solemn oath (Gen 22:16a; cf. 26:3).

Thus understood, two distinct covenants were established between God and Abraham. The first (Gen 15) guaranteed God’s promise to make Abraham into a “great nation.” The second (anticipated in Gen 17 and ratified by divine oath in Gen 22) affirmed God’s promise to bless all nations through Abraham and his “offspring.”

The Mosaic Covenant

God established the Mosaic covenant just after a significant development anticipated in Gen 15 had taken place: the emancipation of Abraham’s descendants from oppression in a foreign land (cf. Gen 15:13–14; Exod 19:4–6; 20:2). The focus at Sinai is less on what Abraham’s descendants must do in order to inherit the land and more on how they must conduct themselves within the land as the unique nation that God intended them to be (Exod 19:5–6). In order to be God’s “treasured possession,” “kingdom of priests,” and “holy nation” (Exod 19:5–6), Israel must keep God’s covenant by submitting to its requirements (i.e., the stipulations set forth in Exod 20–23). By adhering to these and the subsequent covenant obligations given at Sinai, Israel would be manifestly different from other nations and thus reflect God’s wisdom and greatness to surrounding peoples (cf. Deut 4:6–8).

By such means, Abraham’s descendants would not only follow in the footsteps of their ancestor (cf. Gen 26:5) but also facilitate the fulfillment of God’s promises (Gen 18:19). Thus, like Abraham, Israel must “walk before [God] faithfully and be blameless” (Gen 17:1). Failing to do so would undermine the very reason for Israel’s existence, a lesson that the golden calf incident so graphically illustrates (Exod 32–34). Although God reestablished the covenant (Exod 34), this was an act of grace rather than justice (Exod 34:6–7). Moreover, by reissuing the same covenant obligations at the end of this incident, God demonstrated that Israel’s responsibility had not changed.

Israel had to obey God in order to fulfill his purpose for delivering them from Egypt and subsequently giving them the promised land: They were to be his priestly kingdom and holy nation. By reflecting God’s holiness (Lev 19:2), Israel would showcase true theocracy and thus serve as God’s witnesses to a watching world. Moreover, since human rebellion threatened to jeopardize God’s ultimate objective (i.e., blessing all nations through Abraham’s “offspring”), the Mosaic covenant also encompassed the means by which the divine-human relationship between Yahweh and Israel could be maintained: Sacrificial worship, particularly on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16), would ritually atone for Israel’s sin and symbolically express God’s forgiveness. Therefore, just as the Noahic covenant guaranteed the preservation of human life on earth, so the Mosaic covenant guaranteed the preservation of Israel, Abraham’s great nation, in the land. Such was crucial for the next stage in fulfilling God’s promises: establishing a royal line through which Abraham’s ultimate “seed” and covenant heir would eventually come (cf. Gal 3:16).

The Davidic Covenant

After Sinai, the next major covenantal development comes with Nathan’s message to David (2 Sam 7; 1 Chr 17). David intends to build a “house” (i.e., temple) for God, but God promises to build a “house” (i.e., dynasty) for David. Neither 2 Sam 7 nor 1 Chr 17 explicitly describes God’s promise as a “covenant,” but several other texts do (cf. 2 Sam 23:5; 2 Chr 7:18; 13:5; Ps 89:3; Jer 33:21).

The Davidic covenant continues the trajectory of both the Mosaic and Abrahamic covenants. God’s plans for David and Israel are clearly intertwined (cf. 2 Sam 7:8–11,23–26). Moreover, significant parallels link David to Abraham:

  • God promises both a great name (Gen 12:2; 2 Sam 7:9).
  • In the future both will conquer their enemies (Gen 22:17; 2 Sam 7:11; cf. Ps 89:23);
  • Both have a special divine-human relationship (Gen 17:7–8; 2 Sam 7:24; cf. Ps 89:26).
  • A special line of “offspring” perpetuates both of their names (Gen 21:12; 2 Sam 7:12–16).
  • The descendants of both must keep God’s laws (Gen 18:19; 2 Sam 7:14; cf. Pss 89:30–32; 132:12).
  • The offspring of both would mediate international blessing (Gen 22:18; Ps 72:17).

The Davidic covenant thus identifies more precisely the lineage of the “offspring” who will mediate international blessing: He will be a royal descendant of Abraham through David.

This covenant therefore introduces a subtle but significant shift in focus. With the great nation promised to Abraham now firmly established (2 Sam 7:1), attention zooms in on his royal progeny (cf. Gen 17:6,16). This royal line, already traced explicitly in Genesis (cf. Gen 35:11; 49:10; see also Gen 38; Ruth 4:18–22), culminates in an individual, conquering “offspring” who fulfills the promise of Gen 22:18 and the hope expressed in Ps 72:17.

The New Covenant

Persistent failure to live according to God’s covenant requirements led to inevitable disaster for both the nation and its monarchy, culminating in judgment: the destroyed temple and Babylonian exile. This might have spelled the end had God’s plans for Israel not been crucial for fulfilling his covenant promises. The exile of the nation and the demise of the monarchy had to be overcome for God’s creation plan to be realized. Covenant history thus continued through the prospect of a “new covenant”—one that would be both continuous and discontinuous with those of the past.

Though referred to explicitly as a “new covenant” only once in the OT (Jer 31:31), several passages, both in Jeremiah and elsewhere, allude to it. In Isaiah this everlasting covenant of peace is closely associated with the servant figure (Isa 42:6; 49:8; 54:10; 55:3; 61:8). It is inclusive in that it incorporates even foreigners and eunuchs (Isa 56:3) but also exclusive in that it is confined to those who “hold fast to” its obligations (Isa 56:5–6; cf. 56:1–2).

While Jeremiah and Ezekiel use different terminology to describe it, both anticipate a fundamental change taking place in the covenant community: Jeremiah speaks of internalizing the Torah (Jer 31:33), whereas Ezekiel speaks of spiritual surgery and radical transformation (Ezek 36:26–27). For both prophets, this inner renewal would result in the ideal divine-human relationship, which this and earlier covenants express in terms of the covenant formula “I will be their God, and they will be my people.” In this new covenant, all the hopes and expectations of previous covenants will attain climactic fulfillment and eschatological expression.

It is unsurprising, therefore, that the New Testament (“covenant”) declares that all God’s covenant promises are realized in and through Jesus (cf. Luke 1:54–55,69–75; 2 Cor 1:20), the long-awaited Davidic Messiah (Matt 1:17–18; 2:4–6; 16:16; 21:9; Luke 2:11; John 7:42 Acts 2:22–36). As the ultimate offspring of Abraham (Matt 1:1; Gal 3:16) and royal offspring of David (Matt 1:1; Luke 1:27,32–33; 2:4; Rom 1:3; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 5:5; 22:16), Jesus also fulfills the role of Isaiah’s servant (Acts 3:18; 4:27–28; 8:32–35)—not only in redeeming Israel (Luke 2:38; Acts 3:25–26; Heb 9:12,15) but also by mediating God’s blessing to an international community of faith (Acts 10:1—11:18; 15:1–29; Rom 1:2–6; 3:22–24; 4:16–18; 15:8–12; Gal 3:7–14,29).

According to the NT Gospels and letters, the new covenant was ratified through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross (cf. Matt 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25). In the inaugural Lord’s Supper, Jesus alludes to both the forgiveness linked by Jeremiah to the new covenant (Matt 26:28; cf. Jer 31:34) and the blood associated with the establishment of the old (i.e., Mosaic) covenant (Luke 22:20; cf. Exod 24:8. Accordingly, the NT emphasizes the forgiveness of sins, something only fully attainable under the new covenant (Acts 13:39; cf. Heb 10:4), as the primary benefit of Jesus’ death (e.g., Luke 1:77; 24:46–47; Acts 2:38; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18; Rom 3:24–25; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; Heb 9:12,28; 1 John 1:7; Rev 1:5; 7:14; 12:10–11).

Thus, according to both Paul and the writer of Hebrews, the new covenant is far superior to the old (i.e., the Mosaic covenant). Such is already implicit in the use of the adjective “new” in 1 Cor 11:25 (cf. Luke 22:20), which clearly alludes to Jeremiah’s negative contrast (Jer 31:31–32). Paul is even more pointed, however, in 2 Cor 3, where he explicitly contrasts the new and the old covenants, highlighting the vast inferiority of the old in comparison with the surpassing glory and permanence of the new. A similar, negative comparison is also made by his “figurative” contrast between Hagar and Sarah in Gal 4:21–31.

Analogous conclusions are drawn by the author of Hebrews. Having noted the superiority of the new covenant in Heb 7:22, the writer elaborates his point through an extended comment on Jer 31:31–34, which forms a literary bracket around much of the argument in Heb 8–10 (cf. 8:9–12; 10:16–17). Not only does Jesus exercise a permanent, perfect, and heavenly priesthood (Heb 7:23—8:6), but the covenant of which he is mediator “is established on better promises” (Heb 8:6b), explained in terms of an “eternal redemption” (9:12) and “eternal inheritance” (9:15) secured through the blood of Christ (Heb 9:11—10:18)—later described as “the blood of the eternal covenant” (Heb 13:20). Like Paul, therefore, the contrast is not between something bad and something good, but between something good (but temporal) and something better (because, unlike the old covenant, the new is unbreakable and eternal).

While these new covenant realities are in many respects already present (cf. Heb 9:11), it is nevertheless true that the best is still to come. Just as Israel’s restoration hopes were not exhausted in repatriation after the Babylonian exile, neither were they fully realized in the first coming of their Messiah. While in Jesus—the promised “seed” of Abraham (Gal 3:16), the anticipated prophet like Moses (Acts 3:22–23; cf. Deut 18:15; Matt 17:5), King David’s greater son (Matt 22:41–46), and the mediator of the new covenant (Heb 8:6)—God’s covenant promises for both Israel and the nations have come to fruition, the ultimate expression of God’s creative and redemptive goal awaits fulfillment in the eschatological reality of the new creation. Only then will the hope expressed in the age-old covenant formula be most fully experienced (Rev 21:3), for “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him … And they will reign for ever and ever” (Rev 22:3,5).

Content adapted from the NIV Zondervan Study Bible. Don’t own your own copy? Click here to view your buying options.

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What is a Bible Dictionary and How do I use it?

Posted by on 04/03/2017 in:

The term Bible Dictionary probably makes you think of a fairly boring and dry reference book.  However, a Bible Dictionary is truly invaluable in helping you unpack God’s word. Unlike a normal word dictionary a good Bible dictionary will not only give you the definition of a word,  person or a place but you can often read a short article, access verse cross references, or see things like images and maps. The insight it gives can help you explore the world of the Bible like never before! Watch this short video to see how they work in The Olive Tree Bible App.


Click HERE to view all dictionaries available for The Olive Tree Bible App.

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Look Inside: The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible

Posted by on 03/29/2017 in:

The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible includes more than 7,500 articles, hundreds of full-color and black-and-white illustrations, charts, graphs and maps from 238 contributors from around the world.

With this much content, how can you sort it all out to see what’s relevant for your Bible study?

Here are three ways the Olive Tree Bible App makes the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible even more powerful:

ONE:

Open your favorite Bible in the main window. (I’ve got the NIV open in this example.)  Tap the split window and drag it to a width or height you like.  As I scroll through the Bible text, the resource guide keeps up with me and searches through all the books in my library for content related to the Scripture passage in the main window.

If you scroll down the resource guide results, you will see the section headings “People,” “Places,” and “Topics.”

Tap or click on the person/place/topic you want to learn more about.  I chose “Altar” in this example.  The Bible Study App then brings you results from within the resources you have on your device.  This is where you will find results from the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible.

You’ll see that the resource has the words “Article on ALTAR” underneath the book cover.  Tap/Click on the book cover and the App will take you directly to the article within the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible.  After you’ve tapped on the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, you can scroll down and read the entire article without having to leave your Bible text.

If there are scripture references in the article, just tap the verse and it will appear in a pop-up window.

TWO:

You can also utilize the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible as a traditional encyclopedia in the Bible App.  Just Tap/Click the “Go-To” button and scroll through just as you would a hard-copy encyclopedia.

THREE:

The Bible Study App Search feature takes the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible to another level. Tap/Click the “Search” icon (magnifying glass icon) and type the word you’re looking for to find all the references of that word in the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible.

The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible is on sale now!

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How to use the NIDNTTE in the Olive Tree Bible App

Posted by on 03/27/2017 in: ,

NIDNTTE picA standard and widely-used reference work for nearly 40 years, the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE) has been thoroughly revised and updated to aid today’s pastors, students, scholars, and teachers in their study of the New Testament.

The NIDNTTE offers a wealth of background and information on the meaning of Greek words in the New Testament—as well as related usage in classical Greek sources, the Septuagint, Jewish literature, and more

Here are Five ways to use the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE) in the Olive Tree Bible App.

ONE – Traditional Dictionary

Open the NIDNTTE in the main window. Tap the GO TO button. From here you can search for the word you are looking for as you would another other dictionary through the Table of Contents.

TWO – Traditional Dictionary Search

Similarly, with the NIDNTTE in the main window. Tap GO TO > Browse Dictionary > Enter the Greek Word you are looking for.  The Bible App searches the NIDNTTE for the Greek word. Tap the word and read the article.

These first two options require a working knowledge of Biblical Greek.  I’m sorry to say that my Greek is a bit rusty. Okay, it’s a LOT rusty. (Apologies to Dr. Walls, my Greek professor)  This is where the Bible App’s functionality and integration with original language resources really shines.

THREE – Strong’s Tagged Bible Integration

If you have a Strong’s Tagged Bible, using the NIDNTTE is a snap.  Open your Strong’s Tagged Bible in the Main Window (I’m using the ESV Strong’s Tagged Bible in this example). Tap the word you want to learn more about.  I’ve chosen the word “worship” from Romans 12:1 latreia. From the Strong’s Popup, tap “Lookup latreia”.

There you will find an article in the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis.  Tap the NIDNTTE book cover and you can read the article on the Greek word in the popup window.

You even have the option to open the article in the Main Window or Split Window.

FOUR – Original Language Integration 

Along the same lines is the integration with Greek Parsed texts like the NA28 with Parsings.

FIVE – Greek New Testament Interlinear Integration

Lastly, the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis integrates well with our Greek New Testament Interlinear titles.

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis is a great resource for going further in your understanding of biblical Greek.  Thanks to our partners at Zondervan, we’re able to offer a special price for the fully updated and revised 5 volume set, and the 10 volume bundle that includes it’s sister title the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDOTTE).  Hurry, because this is a limited time offer and we don’t know when we’ll be able to offer these discounts on these resources again.

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Making the Most of NIVAC

Posted by on 03/22/2017 in:

No matter your level of expertise with the Bible, there are certain things we all do when we come to a time of studying God’s Word. After reading the text, there are two things we always hope to walk away with from the text: 1) what does this passage mean, and 2) how does it apply to me? There are any number of good tools we can use to find these answers. The problem is that the majority of the tools available only do half the job. You either get really good commentary explaining the text, but little to no application; or, you get lots of anecdotes & application, but find it lacking when it comes to helping you understand what the passage says. The NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC) is a study tool that gives you everything you need to both understand and apply the text. Let’s take a look at how NIVAC can help you get the most out of any Bible passage.

Original Meaning

Before you can attempt to make any sort of application from Scripture you first have to understand it. This involves figuring out the author’s intent and how the original recipients would have understood what was said. Here you will find all the elements of traditional exegesis in concise form. NIVAC makes this incredibly simple with its easy to read commentary. Reading through this section brings forward all the historical & cultural background details needed to make sense of the text. Even when presented with original language or extrabiblical material, the commentary is still easy to follow and is never overly technical. Without a doubt, once you’re done with this section you’ll know what your passage means and how the original audience understood it.

Bridging Contexts

When you have a grasp on the passage & how the original recipients would have understood it, you must bring the text forward to the present day. NIVAC helps you do this with the “Bridging Contexts” section of their commentary. While God’s Word is timeless, it presents unique challenges in figuring out how passages relate to us. This section answers how the Bible fits into our world today. It helps you figure out what is timeless in a passage and what is not. Does a particular issue the recipients faced still hold true for us today? Was the instruction contained in a passage for that audience alone or does it apply for all time? These are the types of questions you’ll find answers to.

Contemporary Significance

One of the more difficult things about studying a passage is making application. How do you take what you’ve learned in the process of exegesis and speak to today’s problems? NIVAC has the solution. After you’ve identified what relates to the original audience & explored the contexts in which the text can be applied, you can then craft your application. The commentary does this in such a way that their applications don’t easily become dated. They don’t skimp on depth from the text at the expense of application. NIVAC’s goal is to put the tools in your hands so you can successfully make your own application for preaching, teaching, or personal edification.

It Helped Me & It Can Help You

The NIV Application Commentary series is a unique Bible study tool. It is a reference work in its truest sense, but helps you think through the process of making application, instead of giving handing you examples that will age with time. From beginning to end, NIVAC will help you get the most out of the biblical text. I’ve personally been blessed by this commentary. Whether I’m preparing a sermon or digging into the text for personal edification, NIVAC always has something for me. It has quickly become one of my go to resources for any type of study. Add it to your library and reap its benefits today!

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Look Inside: Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary

Posted by on 03/20/2017 in:

This week we’re able to offer some outstanding illustrated commentaries that are an amazing resource for use within the Olive Tree Bible App. The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary on both the New and Old Testament brings to life the ancient world in informative entries and full-color photos and graphics.

The resource guide of the Olive Tree Bible App makes using Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary a seamless part of your study.

In the screenshot below (taken from an iPad) I have my Bible opened to Daniel chapter 1. The commentary section of the resource guide then shows me which of my commentaries have related entries to this text.

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The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary indicates five entries so I’ll click on that commentary to see a preview of the those entries.

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Since this chapter talks about Daniel and his friends being placed in a Babylonian learning environment, I’m interested in learning more about what that may have looked like. I then click on the third entry that talks about the language and literature of the Babylonians.

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I can then read a fascinating article about historical Babylonian education that Daniel and his friends would have been exposed to. Thanks to enhanced commentaries like the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary I can easily gain some amazing insight that helps me view the Biblical text in new ways.

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Three ways to use the Split Window

Posted by on 02/27/2017 in:

Whether you’re on a phone or tablet, one of the main Bible study features of the Olive Tree Bible App is the split window.

In this blog, we’ll show you three ways you can use the split window for your Android smartphone, tablet, or Kindle Fire.
(Click here for iOS.)

First, to access the three features of the split window, do this:

Now you will see three different features you can access in the split window.

1. The first and most popular is the Resource Guide

The Resource Guide is your personal Bible study assistant. It looks to the main window of the app and pulls in relevant study helps such as people, places, topics, cross references, commentary notes, maps, and more. The more resources you have in your library, the more powerful the Resource Guide will be. Watch this video to see the Resource Guide in action.

2. My Stuff

Selecting ‘My Stuff’ allows you to access your notes, highlights, tags, notifications and more. A personal favorite is having my notes open in the split window next to my Bible text. Whether you’re journaling during your own devotion time or taking notes from the text as your pastor is speaking, having the ability to take notes in the split window is a convenient feature.

3. Library

This is the easiest way to set up a parallel Bible or put your commentary notes next to your text. Simply select a resource from your library and it will be side by side with whatever title you have open in the main window. If it’s an ‘enhanced resource’ like another Bible or study Bible notes, it will stay in sync with the resource in the main window.

If you are a regular user of any of these features in the split window, we’d love to hear what your favorite is. Comment below to share!

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