Category: Product Reviews

What’s Inside the Archaeological Study Bible?

Posted by on 11/20/2017 in: ,

When I first heard about the Archaeological Study Bible, I wasn’t sure what to think.  My initial thought was how could there be an entire Bible devoted to archaeological study?  And honestly, how could a study Bible devoted to archaeological study not be a snoozer?

So, I got a copy of the Archaeological Study Bible and began looking through it.  Wow, was I impressed (and wrong)!

WHAT MAKES IT GREAT?

The Archaeological Study Bible is a great resource.  There are 520 articles covering five main categories:

  1. Archaeological Sites
  2. Cultural and Historical Notes
  3. Ancient Peoples and Lands
  4. Reliability of the Bible
  5. Ancient Texts and Artifacts.

IT’S  ENHANCED!

Additionally, our app enriches the Archaeological Study Bible. As you read through your Bible, the Study Center will keep you synced with your reading. If this study Bible has content related to the passage of the Bible you are reading, the Resource Guide will let you know.

Here’s an example of an article on the Zealots and Essenes:

SO MANY PHOTOS

Also included are almost 500 full-color photographs throughout the text.  Here’s two examples:

Throughout the text there are detailed charts like this one:

At the end of the Archaeological Study Bible there are several maps that help you get an idea of the placement of biblical events:

The authors of the Archaeological Study Bible also included detailed book introductions for every book of the Bible. Other study tools include a glossary, extensive concordance and several indexes to help you find articles relevant to your study.

LEARN MORE

As you can see, you can spend hours learning the historical background of the Bible and the settings in which biblical events took place.  The articles and pictures will give you insights into the Bible and make you feel like you could have been there. Interested? Check out the Archaeological Study Bible in our store.

Continue Reading

NEW! NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible

Posted by on 11/17/2017 in: ,

ANSWERS FOR TODAY

Have you ever wished that the Bible spoke directly about controversial issues we face today? The NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible hopes to bridge the gap between God’s instruction and today’s questions. But how?

The goal of this Bible is to inspire believers to Christlike thought, belief, speech, and action. It is intended to help Christians from all walks of life to live their lives according to biblical principles, using information and encouragement based on a wealth of resources from around the glove and from ancient times up to the present day.

Normally, when you have a question about a present-day issue, you have to thumb through your Bible hoping to find a passage that relates somehow. Or, it’s the other way around. Reading the Bible doesn’t always seem to speak to things related to today, and you’re stuck trying to make connections on your own.

With this study Bible, you can be pointed in a good direction, without leaving your Bible app.

WHAT’S INSIDE?

There are eight subject areas covered in this study Bible:

  1. Church
  2. Corruption
  3. Economics
  4. Education
  5. Family
  6. Government
  7. Sanctity of Life
  8. Virtue

Emmanuel A. Kampouris, the publisher of Kairos Journal, wrote this study Bible. The notes and features of the NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible are based on his extensive online resource. Each of the listed subject areas contain articles regarding controversial topics such as: Taxation, Evolution, Parenting, Abortion, and more.

Here is an example!

Here is a list of everything included in this resource:

  • Book Introductions: Provide key passages and background information for each book
  • Articles: Over 220 articles placed near relevant Scripture passages bring keen biblical insight to the current issues of the day
  • Quotations: Over 60 quotations from historical figures help you understand, first, that the issues of the day are not new; and second, that wise people throughout history have been challenged to live by biblical standards, just as we are today
  • Unapologetic Profiles: Over 40 profiles of historical figures inspire you with biblical faith lived out in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances
  • Indexes: Categorize each of the above features to assist you in a topical study
    of the issues that matter to you

HOW IT WORKS IN THE APP

As expected, this study Bible works in our Resource Guide. As you are reading the Bible in the main window, the Resource Guide will show you what study Bibles notes (and any other notes or articles!) from the NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible line-up with what you are reading.

Additionally. this study Bible can be used with any translation you own, unlike a paper Bible.

Meaningful Bible study can happen now, with just a tap.

LEARN MORE

Visit our website to learn more about the NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible.

Continue Reading

Spurgeon Study Bible

Posted by on 11/03/2017 in: ,

“Spurgeon had a phenomenal grasp of theology, and his reading had afforded him a breadth of insight matched by few, but when it came to opening up the Scriptures, he was a master of clarity and simplicity. He warned his students about going down among miners with technical theological terms and high-sounding phraseology. To do so, he said, was to act like an idiot.” – Alistair Begg

SPURGEON’S STUDY BIBLE

The day has finally come! The Spurgeon Study Bible is designed, formatted, and available for download. We’ve been waiting to tell you about it all month long.

Why are we so excited about this study Bible? What makes it worth the read, different than the rest, and helpful in your study of God’s Word? Here’s three reasons.

1) IT’S SPURGEON

If you don’t know much about Charles Spurgeon, you’re missing out. For nearly two centuries his nickname has been “The Prince of Preachers,” and for good reason.

Spurgeon was born in Kelvedon, Essex, England in 1834. Growing up, he was influenced by both his father and grandfather who were nonconformist ministers. He loved to read Pilgrim’s Progress and learn about theology, although he never attended seminary. Spurgeon was one of a kind—insistent on the Bible’s power, continuously doing ministry, and an incredibly humble man. In his lifetime, he wrote over 135 books, founded an orphanage, and pastored a church that could hold 5,600 people. Without a doubt, Spurgeon was the most popular preacher in England.

Like the quote states at the beginning of this blog, Spurgeon’s fame didn’t encourage him to flaunt his wisdom. Instead, he always made sure to speak humbly and clearly. With this study Bible, you’ll get to soak up all of Spurgeon’s wisdom—with ease.

If you’re interested in learning more about Charles Spurgeon, Alistair Begg wrote a short biography as the introduction to the Spurgeon Study Bible. That’s where I found some of the details I shared above.

2) THE EXTRAS

SPURGEON QUOTES – Nestled inside Spurgeon’s commentary are thought-provoking quotes. This way, you get some of his most famous sayings, even if they aren’t directly related to a section of Scripture. (Click on the images below to enlarge them!)

SPURGEON ILLUSTRATIONS – Along with quotes, you’ll also find full illustrations that Spurgeon used while preaching. This is yet another way that Spurgeon will get you to think more deeply about Scripture and your relationship with God.

SPURGEON’S LOST SERMONS – There are twenty of Charles Spurgeon’s earliest sermon manuscripts from The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon: His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854. Also, you’ll find hand-written notes by Spurgeon!

3) USE WITH ANY BIBLE, ANY TIME

Now, this is only true with our digital version of this study Bible. There are paper versions out there, and in order to use them, you have to open multiple books if you want to see any other study Bible notes or translations.

But, when we sell study Bibles, we only sell the notes because they can be opened alongside ANY translation that you have in our app. So, if you’re doing a little reading while you wait at the bus stop or the doctor’s office, and Spurgeon had something to say about the passage you’re reading… the Resource Guide will show it to you. Just tap, and then you’re immediately reading the notes—without wifi.

You can take the wise words of the Prince of Preachers with you anywhere and read them at any time.

LEARN MORE

Excited to learn from Charles Spurgeon and the Spurgeon Study Bible? You can read more about the resource by visiting our website. Feel free to ask us any questions you have below or at support@olivetree.com.

See this video by the publisher of the Spurgeon Study Bible to learn more:

Continue Reading

About the Passion Translation

Posted by on 11/02/2017 in: ,

This article is provided by BroadStreet Publishing Group, the publishing house for The Passion Translation.

The Passion Translation is a groundbreaking attempt to re-introduce the passion and fire of the Bible to English readers. The Passion Translation is a new, heart-level translation that expresses God’s fiery heart of love to this generation using Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic manuscripts, merging the emotion and life-changing truth of God’s Word.

Dr. Brian Simmons—linguist, minister, Bible teacher, and former missionary—serves as lead translator for The Passion Translation. As a missionary, he and his wife, Candice, pioneered church plants in Central America. As a linguist, Brian co-translated the Paya-Kuna New Testament for the Paya-Kuna people of Panama. He and his wife have started numerous ministries, including a dynamic church in West Haven, Connecticut. He is also a gifted teacher of the Bible who has authored several books and serves churches worldwide through his teaching ministry.

Brian began his biblical studies with The New Tribes Bible Institute and continued on to earn his doctorate with Wagner Leadership Institute, with a specialization on prayer.

While Brian serves as the lead translator for The Passion Translation, the translated text and the numerous footnotes are evaluated by respected scholars and editors to ensure The Passion Translation is faithful to the original text and heart of God.

So why another translation?

Many wonderful versions of our Bible now grace our bookshelves, bookstores, software programs, even apps on our phones. So why add one more? The reason is simple: God longs to have his Word expressed in every language in a way that unlocks the passion of his heart. The goal of this work is to trigger inside every reader an overwhelming response to the truth of the Bible, revealing the deep mysteries of the Scriptures in the love language of God, the language of the heart.

God refuses to meet us only in an intellectual way. God also wants to meet us heart level, so we must let the words go heart deep—bringing words that go through the human soul, past the defenses of the mind, and into the spirit. There is a language of the heart that must express the passion of this love-theology. That’s why The Passion Translation is an important addition to peoples’ devotional and spiritual life with Christ.

Bible translations are both a gift and a problem. They give us the words God spoke through his servants, but words can become very poor containers for revelation—they leak! Over time the words change from one generation to the next. Meaning is influenced by culture, background, and many other details. You can imagine how differently the Hebrew authors of the Old Testament saw the world from three thousand years ago!

There is no such thing as a truly literal translation of the Bible, for there is not an equivalent language that perfectly conveys the meaning of the biblical text except as it is understood in its original cultural and linguistic setting. Therefore, a translation can be a problem. The problem, however, is solved when we seek to transfer meaning, and not merely words, from the original text to the receptor language.

That’s the governing philosophy behind The Passion Translation:

to transfer the meaning of God’s original message found in the biblical languages to modern-day English. We believe that the meaning of a passage should take priority over the form of the original words, so that every English speaker can clearly, naturally encounter the heart of God through his message of truth and love.

To transfer the meaning of the biblical narrative from one language to another requires interpretation. Undoubtedly, the process of Bible translation cannot be considered a perfect science, but more of an artistic, Spirit-led production. Dr. Simmons has sought to faithfully carry over the meaning of the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic into modern English along with the nuances of the Scripture’s poetry and prose to make it come alive to the reader.

If you’re hungry for God and want to know him on a deeper level, The Passion Translation will help you encounter God’s heart and discover what he has for your life.

THE PASSION TRANSLATION & OLIVE TREE BIBLE APP

Now, the Passion Translation New Testament contains not only the ENTIRE New Testament, but also Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Songs! If you purchase this Bible through Olive Tree, you will also receive the I Hear His Whisper devotional reading plan by Brian Simmons.

Already own a volume of The Passion Translation?

If you have already purchased a volume of The Passion Translation, you can upgrade at no additional cost on our website! Learn more here.

Continue Reading

ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible

Posted by on 11/01/2017 in: ,

This week is the week for new titles. Our second release of the week is the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible! Some very well-seasoned. and well-respected, theologians put together this study Bible: J.I. Packer, Michael Horton, Kelly Kapic, Michael Reeves, David Wells, and more. We have the full list of contributors on our website.

Since this is a brand-new release, we figured you might want to take a peek inside. In this blog you’ll learn about systematic theology, how this study Bible is put together, and how it works inside our app.

WHAT IS SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY?

Theology is the study of the nature of God and religious belief. There are two popular ways to study and write about theology, though: biblical and systematic. What’s the difference?

Biblical Theology is a ground-level approach. Scholars who write biblical theologies go verse-by-verse looking for themes and characteristics. When these findings are documented, authors will spend a lot of time explaining a passage and then make theological statements.

Systematic Theology is an eagle’s-eye approach. Imagine yourself up-high, looking across the whole landscape of the Bible, discovering theological connections across the entire book. When these findings are documented, authors write extensively about one theological tenet. Then, they use several verse references as their proof.

The ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible applies thoughts on core, theological topics to specific passages—making it a great resource for getting both a ground-level and eagle’s-eye perspective on Scripture.

SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY + STUDY BIBLE

Study Bible notes fall into one of ten categories: the attributes of God, revelation, mankind, sin, Jesus Christ, salvation, the Holy Spirit, church life, the Christian life, and the end times. The information will emphasize the historic doctrines of the Christian faith, while also respecting different views on secondary issues such as baptism, spiritual gifts, and details concerning last things.

In these notes, there are cross-references. These will point you to other study notes that address similar themes. This is done so that you learn to see a holistic account of the Christian faith, drawn from the entirety of Scripture. Additionally, there are 28 separate articles that succinctly explain the main tenets of the faith, expanding on the content of these study notes.

Lastly, this resource comes with two indexes. You can look through a canonical list which outlines every study note in the order it appears in the Bible. Within the app, you’ll be able to simply tap on this reference, and you’ll be taken straight to the entry. The second index is topical. If there is a theological topic you would like more information on, search through this alphabetical list. You’ll be shown the verse reference where Scripture and the study notes address this topic.

SEE FOR YOURSELF

If you’d like to read the above snippet, just tap or click on the image and it will be enlarged for you.

In Titus 3:4-6, all three persons of the Trinity are mentioned, and I underlined them in my reading. The ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible notes not only explain the relationship between the three, but gave me an understanding of how they are working together in this passage. If I tap the references there on the side, the split-window immediately takes me other entries on God’s triune nature.

I also found more information on this topic by going to the articles and choosing the one titled “God.” Here there is a lot of helpful information about God’s attributes with links to Scripture references.

LEARN MORE

What makes this study Bible useful? It gives you clarity on the attributes of God and Christian faith that are echoed across the pages of the Bible—without flipping a page. As always, this resource works in our Resource Guide, letting you know when a passage you are reading (in any translation!) is discussed in this title. It’s all right there, ready for you to read, no matter where you are.

If you’re interested in growing in your understanding of God’s characteristics and the theological themes of the Bible, check out the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible.

Continue Reading

A Reformed, Christ-Centered Commentary

Posted by on 10/27/2017 in: ,

With the 500th anniversary of the Reformation next week, we’ve been looking for helpful resources for our Reformed folk—and we found one that we think some of you will enjoy greatly. The Reformed Expository Commentary Series is edited by Richard Phillips and and Phillip Ryken: two Reformed pastors dedicated to Christ-centered preaching paired with a vigorously Reformed doctrinal stance.

A LITTLE BACKGROUND

Phillips and Ryken were both proteges of James Montogomery Boice. Sound familiar? Not too long ago we had the Boice Expositional Commentary Series on sale. Boice’s commentary set contains 27 volumes—that man knew how to write!

So, when Phillips and Ryken decided to produce their own commentary set, it was very important to them that they didn’t simply copy Boice. They wanted to make sure that their resource would be fulfilling a need.

A COMMENTARY THAT ANSWERS A NEED (OR 3)

Here are three needs that Phillips and Ryken want to fill:

1. There a few commentaries that extend from exegesis into exposition (answering technical questions while also applying the passage)
  • But this commentary set proclaims, explains, and applies the whole text within each set—perfect for sermons and Bible lessons
  • It also includes information on exegesis, text criticism, theology, and historical studies, but it shares the information in a way that can be used directly in a sermon
2. There are even fewer commentaries that teach a Christ-centered message that reflects Reformed doctrinal stances
  • But this commentary is consistently using a Christ-centered message is every passage of Scripture
  • And it is also staunchly Reformed, relying on the Westminster Confessions heavily
3. And lastly, barely any commentaries give real examples of their teaching being used in the pulpit
  • But this commentary organized as transcripts of sermons used by the authors—they were required to preach anything they included in this set!
  • And the information is so applicable, that even the editors continue to use this resource for their daily devotions

Most of this information was gathered from an interview conducted by Tim Challies, which can be viewed here.

BUT HOW DOES IT WORK?

First, we have to let you know that this resource works with the Resource Guide. If you’re in a passage of the Bible that this commentary references, our app will let you know. Just tap on “Reformed Expository Commentary” to access the information in the split-window.

Here’s what I found! The beginning of this sermon starts with an attention-getter, referencing The Lord of the Rings (automatic bonus points!). Then, it transitions into explaining how we can believe the miracles presented in the Bible and an explanation of the passage. Click on the images to see them enlarged.

LEARN MORE

Interested in Reformed theology, sermons, and Christ-centered teaching? Learn more about the The Reformed Expository Commentary Series by visiting our website.

Continue Reading

10 Literary Features of the Bible

Posted by on 10/17/2017 in: ,

The following content can be found in the introduction notes of the ESV Literary Study Bible.

The Bible is not a totally unique book. In general, its literary forms function in the same way that these forms function beyond the Bible. A story is a story, whether in the Bible or beyond it. A metaphor is a metaphor. Nonetheless, it is possible to make generalizations about characteristic literary features of the Bible, with no implication that these features do not exist elsewhere. Below are ten literary qualities or preferred literary techniques that we often find in the Bible.

1. A UNIFYING STORYLINE

Although the overall genre of the Bible is the anthology of individual books and passages, the Bible possesses a unity far beyond that of other literary anthologies. The technical term for a unifying superstructure such as we find in the Bible is metanarrative (big or overarching story). In the Bible, the metanarrative is the story of salvation history—the events by which God worked out his plan to redeem humanity and the creation after they fell from original innocence. This story of salvation history is Christocentric in the sense that it focuses ultimately on the substitutionary sacrifice and atonement of Christ on the cross and his resurrection from death. The unifying story line of the Bible is a U-shaped story that moves from the creation of a perfect world, through the fall of that world into sin, then through fallen human history as it slowly and painfully makes its way toward consummation and arrives at the final destruction of evil and the eternal triumph of good.

2. THE PRESENCE OF A CENTRAL CHARACTER

All stories have a central character or protagonist, and in the overarching story of the Bible God is the protagonist. He is the unifying presence from the beginning of the Bible to the end. All creatures interact with this central and ultimate being. All events are related to him. The story of human history unfolds within the broader story of what God does. The result is a sense of ultimacy that comes through as we read the pages of the Bible.

3. RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION

The subject of literature is human experience, and this is true of the Bible, too, but a distinctive feature of the Bible is that it overwhelmingly presents human experience in a religious and moral light. Events that other writers might treat in a purely human and natural light—a sunrise, a battle, a birth, a journey—are presented by the authors of the Bible within a moral or spiritual framework. Part of this moral and spiritual framework is the assumption of the biblical authors that a great conflict between good and evil is going on in our world and, further, that people are continually confronted with the need to choose between good and evil, between working for God’s kingdom and going against God.

4. VARIETY OF GENRES AND STYLES

Every literary anthology of the Bible’s magnitude displays a range of literary forms, but the Bible’s range may well top them all. We need to be alert to this, because the religious uses to which we put the Bible can easily lull us into assuming that the Bible is all one type of writing. The list of individual forms, if we include such specific motifs as the homecoming story or trickster or love poem, keeps expanding. The variety that we find in the Bible stems partly from the large categories that converge—history, theology, and literature, for example, or prose and poetry, realism and fantasy, past and future, God and people.

5. PREFERENCE OF THE CONCRETE OVER THE ABSTRACT

While the New Testament contains a great deal of theological writing, the general preference of biblical authors is for concrete vocabulary. This is especially true of the Hebrew language of the Old Testament. In the Bible, God is portrayed as light and rock and thunder. Slander is a sharp knife. Living the godly life is like putting on a garment or suit of armor. Heaven is a landscape of jewels. To read the Bible well, we need to read with the “right side” of the brain—the part that is activated by sensory data.

6. REALISM

The prophetic and apocalyptic parts of the Bible give us a steady diet of fantasy (flying scrolls, for example, and red horses), but the general tendency of the Bible is toward everyday realism. The Bible displays the flaws of even its best characters (Oliver Cromwell famously said that the biblical writers paint their characters “warts and all”). Although the Bible does not delineate the sordid experiences of life in the extreme detail that modern literary realism does, it nonetheless covers the same real experiences, such as violence, murder, sexuality, death, suffering, and famine. Of course the Bible differs from modern realism by showing us that there is a realism of grace as well as a realism of carnality. In other words, the Bible is not content to portray the degradation of a world that has fallen into sin without also portraying the redemptive possibilities of a world that has been visited by the grace of God and is destined for glory.

7. SIMPLICITY

Although the Bible is certainly not devoid of examples of the high style, especially in the poetic parts, its overall orientation is toward the simple. The prevailing narrative style is plain, unembellished, matter-of-fact prose. Shakespeare’s vocabulary is approximately twenty thousand words, Milton’s thirteen thousand, and English translations of the Bible six thousand. Biblical writers often work with such simplified dichotomies as good and evil, light and darkness, heroes and villains. Of course there is a simplicity that diminishes and a simplicity that enlarges. The simplicity of the Bible paradoxically produces an effect of majesty and authority.

8. ELEMENTAL QUALITY

The Bible is a book of universal human experience. It is filled with experiences and images that are the common human lot in all places and times. The Bible embraces the commonplace and repeatedly shows ordinary people engaged in the customary activities of life—planting, building, baking, fighting, worrying, celebrating, praying. The world that biblical characters inhabit is likewise stripped and elemental, consisting of such natural settings as day and night, field and desert, sky and earth. Even occupations have an elemental quality—king, priest, shepherd, homemaker, missionary.

9. ORAL STYLE

Even though the Bible that we read is a written book, in its original form much of it existed orally. This is true because ancient cultures were predominantly oral cultures in which information circulated chiefly by word of mouth. The literary forms of the Bible show this rootedness in an oral culture. The prevalence of dialogue (directly quoted speeches) in the Bible is without parallel in literature generally until we come to the novel. Everywhere we turn in the Bible, we hear voices speaking and replying. The spare, unembellished narrative style of the Bible arises from the situation of oral circulation of the stories. Additionally, many of the nonnarrative parts of the Bible show signs of oral speech—the prophetic discourses and oracles, the psalms (which were sung in temple worship), the epistles (which were read aloud in churches), and the Gospels (where the words of Jesus are a leading ingredient).

10. THE LITERATURE OF CONFRONTATION

When we read Shakespeare or Dickens, we find ourselves moved to agreement or disagreement, but we do not ordinarily feel that we have been confronted by someone or something that requires us to make a choice. By contrast, when we assimilate the Bible we feel as though we have been personally confronted with something that requires a response. While this choice is ultimately for or against God, the ideas of the Bible, too, require us to believe or disbelieve them. The Bible displays a vivid consciousness of values—of the difference between good and evil—with the result that it is virtually impossible to remain neutral about the ideas that confront us as we read the Bible.

LEARN MORE

Interested in learning more about the literary aspects of the Bible? Check out this resource in our store: The ESV Literary Study Bible! In fact, the content of this blog post comes straight from the introduction of this resource.

Continue Reading

Learn to Read Books of the Bible as Books

Posted by on 10/16/2017 in: ,

APPROACHING THE BIBLE AS LITERATURE

There’s no doubt you’ve realized that the Bible is a book, but have you ever thought about what that means? If you took a literature class is high school or college, you may remember that there’s a lot more to studying books than simply reading them. There’s a storyline, plot, characters, themes, motifs, genre and literary devices. Sometimes, the author’s intentions are easy to understand. And sometimes, the author’s intentions lie deep beneath the surface. Just like reading Shakespeare or Nathaniel Hawthorne, if we hope to understand the Bible, we have to understand how and why it was written.

But what will you gain by approaching the Bible as literature? First, you will be able to see the Bible as a metanarrative (a fancy word that means “one big story”). It’s incredibly neat to see patterns throughout not only books of the Bible, but the Bible itself. Secondly, you will be able to better understand and apply some of the more confusing books of the Bible—like Ecclesiastes.

WHAT RESOURCES DO I USE?

There are so many different ways to study the Bible, and it can be hard to know which resources will give you the information you want. Some study Bibles and commentaries are more vague, providing you with an array of different types of information. But recently we were able to add the ESV Literary Study Bible to our store—and it is the perfect resource for solving this problem.

READING THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES AS… A BOOK

Before you start reading Ecclesiastes, it’s probably good to get some background. The ESV Literary Study Bible loads their introduction notes with helpful information to get you ready. It covers the basics (such as format, patterns, rhetoric, and genres), but it also gives you a heads-up on some inferred literary intentions and theological themes.

One of the most helpful sections is called: “Ecclesiastes as a chapter in the master story of the Bible.” This resource always tries to teach you how each book of the Bible fits into the whole Bible. Here’s a snippet of what it shares:

“The book of Ecclesiastes has been called a Christ-shaped vacuum. Its contribution to the story line of the Bible is to record the longing of the human soul to find satisfaction and to point us toward the satisfaction of that longing in a Christ-centered experience of life. Jesus is the meaning of life, and if he is not at the center of our daily experience, we will find only futility and frustration.”

The Futile Quest to Find Meaning in Pleasure

Now, we’ll look at two examples of how this resource teaches you to read the Bible as literature and apply it to your life. Under this heading, you’ll find information on Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. In this passage, Solomon is telling his listeners about all the items he acquired in his search for pleasure. Because of his wealth, he was able to have anything he desired and yet, in the end, it was useless to him.

The study notes are helpful in revealing what is being communicated and how it applies to us:

 “The passage gives us a catalog of acquisitions and attempted avenues of pleasure. Even as we observe a courtly version of the acquisitive lifestyle, it is easy for us to see real-life applications: a fancy house and yard (vv. 5–6); possessions (v. 7); money, entertainment, and sex (v. 8). The passage asserts the paradox of hedonism: the more one searches for pleasure, the less of it one finds.

The World’s Most Famous Poem on the Subject of Time

In this section, the ESV Literary Study Bible covers the famous poem on time (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “a time to be born, and a time to die…”). Poetry definitely requires more literary analysis in order to understand. Here’s what the resource shares on this section of Scripture:

The poem illustrates the haunting and cumulative effect of Hebrew poetry: by the time we finish the poem, we are emotionally convinced that there is, indeed, a time for everything. In terms of the rhythm of the book of Ecclesiastes, the poem is positive in mood: within the given that we cannot control the events of life, the poem (a) implies that life is as much good as bad, (b) embodies a spirit of calm resignation rather than protest in regard to the time-bound nature of human life, (c) affirms an order to human life, and (d) asserts the positive theme of timeliness (if we cannot control time, we can plug into its flow).

LEARN MORE

If you’re using these notes and you come across a term you don’t know—that’s okay! Many of the literary devices are hyperlinked to a glossary. Also, all of the verses are hyperlinked for easy study.

Want to starting reading books of the Bible as literature? Check out the ESV Literary Study Bible.

Continue Reading

A Commentary You Can Apply to Your Life

Posted by on 10/08/2017 in: ,

There’s a reason students call seminary, “cemetery.” When I think of my Bible college experience, I remember the thick, dry textbooks. The information usually felt distant: arguments about authorship, textual criticism, definitions of the Greek and Hebrew. Although I learned a lot about the Bible (it was a priceless experience, believe me), I often finished my reading assignments wondering what any of it had to do with my personal life. This is why academic Bible study can feel like a graveyard; the Bible can quickly become only an ancient text to study, instead of the life-transforming book that it is.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF COMMENTARY

Not all commentaries neglect this important aspect. Recently, I was reading through Mark and thought it would be nice to have some extra input in my Bible study. I remembered that this week we have the NIV Application Commentary on sale, and I’ve never opened it before. So, I tried it out!

Every section of Scripture is explained in three ways: Original Meaning, Bridging Contexts, and Contemporary Significance. I’ll give you an example from my own study:

MARK 9:30-50

This passage is outlined in four sections: The Second Prediction of Jesus Suffering and Resurrection (9;30-37), The Unfamiliar Exorcist (9:38-40), Warning About Causing Others to Stumble (9:42-48), and Salt (9:49-50). For the sake of trying to keep this blog short, we’ll look at the Unfamiliar Exorcist.

John proudly announces to Jesus that they saw someone casting out demons in his name and they obstructed him. Their reason for intervening? “Because he was not one of us.” The complaint drips with irony. The disciples only recently bungled an exorcism, yet they do not hesitate to obstruct someone who is successful but who is not a member of their team. Jesus catches them by surprise when he does not commend them for their vigilance but instead reproves them: “Do not stop him” (9:39).

This response recalls Moses’ reply to Joshua. Joshua implored Israel’s leader to do something about unauthorized prophets, “Moses, my lord, stop them!” Moses answered, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Num. 11:26-29). Are the disciples jealous for Jesus or for themselves? Do they want to corner the exorcism market, which would make them indispensable and revered, whereas Jesus wishes that all were exorcists casting out Satan in his name?

In the ancient world, exorcists used whatever name of deities they thought would work. Jesus’ explanation for condoning the exorcist’s success in Mark’s account is practical, not theological. He argues that they cannot use his name to do mighty works and speak ill of him later. Anyone who recognizes the power of Jesus’ name will not accuse him of working by Beelzebub, as the teachers of the law from Jerusalem had done (3:22).

There’s more information on this passage, but we’ll stop here for now. When reading this, I was thankful for the cross-reference to Moses. I don’t think I would have put that together on my own! And this also helped me to understand why the disciples said what they did about the exorcist. But how does this relate to who God is?

BUILDING CONTEXT

Here’s how the NIV Application Commentary builds context to this passage (again, this is trimmed!):

A deep sense of lowliness understands that God can use anyone and applauds others who are successful for God, even though they may not be on our team. Jesus’ reaction implies that disciples who go along with him must get along with others. He not only opens admission to the reign of God to all and accepts any who come in his name, he sanctions anyone using the power of his name. The barrier between insider and outsider in this episode becomes nebulous. Augustine said: “Many whom God has, the Church does not have; and many whom the Church has, God does not have.”

CONTEMPORARY SIGNIFICANCE

Now, here comes the punch to the heart. How are we, today, making the same mistakes as the disciples? In what ways are we, too, separating and putting ourselves over our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Jesus has consistently avoided self-acclamation, but his disciples are all too ready to exalt themselves over others. If Jesus directed the same question to contemporary followers that he asked his first disciples, “What were you arguing about on the road?” the answer will be no less embarrassing. Christians still jockey for prominence. The unbridled will to power still surfaces in local churches and in denominational politics, destroying fellowship and eviscerating Christian love.

Little has changed. Seminary students who begin their studies with high ideals frequently grow disillusioned by the political gamesmanship that infests churches and denominations. Some ministers become so disillusioned by such machinations that they leave the ministry; others quickly learn to play the game; still others correctly recognize that Jesus does not reject ambition, but they sublimate it by aspiring to become the greatest servant in the church rather than the greatest overlord.

LEARN MORE

The information I pulled from the NIV Application Commentary is only covering two verses of Scripture and I had to trim it down! This is truly an in-depth resource that will also help you apply the Bible to your personal life. If you’re wanting to improve your Bible study, or struggling to make Scripture applicable in your teaching, this is definitely a commentary set worth looking into.

Currently, the NIV Application Commentary is on sale, and you can learn more about it here.

Continue Reading

The John Phillips Commentary Series

Posted by on 10/07/2017 in: ,

1) WHO WAS JOHN PHILLIPS?

Phillips was born in South Wales on February 11, 1927. He didn’t stay put there, however. He served in the British Army in Palestine, then moved to Canada, married the love of his life, and then found himself in the United States. For years he worked at Moody Bible Institute, serving as the Assistant Director of their Evening Extension School. Additionally, he directed the Emmaus Correspondence School, which was, at the time, the largest school of its kind in the world.

With this Doctor of Ministry, Phillips not only taught and organized academic study of God’s Word, but he wrote more than 50 books about the Bible, including complete sets of New Testament Commentaries, the Exploring the Bible Series and his Introducing People of the Bible Series

This man was a dedicated, hard worker who strived to teach others about God and His Word.

2) WHAT IS HIS COMMENTARY LIKE?

Currently, Olive Tree offers Phillips commentary collection that contains 27 volumes: 19 New Testament volumes and 8 Old Testament volumes. You can see the entire list by visiting our website.

Phillips uses the KJV translation of the Bible for all of his work, and speaks from an evangelical framework. He provides many illustrations and quotes, often applying the Bible to everyday life.

But what’s the best part of this resource?

The OUTLINES! Phillips made sure to make extensive outlines before he wrote content for his commentary. Here’s an example:

Not only does he break down large pieces of Scripture into shorter, easier-to-understand sections, but he works out of this structure through the entire commentary set. You’ll find Phillips thoughts and comments recorded in conversational sentences that make you feel as if you’re studying the Bible alongside him.

LEARN MORE

Wondering how commentaries work in the app, what books of the Bible are included in this set, or just want more information? Visit the the John Phillips Commentary Set’s product page for all that and more.

Continue Reading